Goya aún aprendo
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The crisis of competence

C’est toi qui as change – 4 – 

In the last post was written that according to Jacques Rancière, the artist should be more like the ignorant schoolmaster who “does not teach his pupils his knowledge, but orders them to venture into the forest of things and signs, to say what they have seen and what they think of what they have seen, to verify it and have it verified”.

Perhaps an artist is both master and student. Artists are by themselves phenomenally curious, constantly following and expressing their interests. They are masters of experiment and exploration, accepting failure, gaining skills and abilities that they didn’t have before.

Pascal Gielen and Camiel van Winkel presented joint research on the hybridization of contemporary artistic practice. In an article, The Contemporary Artist as Role Model in a Crisis of Competence (published in the Dutch contemporary art magazine Metropolis M in 2010), they stated: “We see around us a real, overall crisis of ability. The most distressing examples of this have shown up in the financial sector, with banks, investors and insurance companies and major infrastructural projects that have stranded or failed completely.”

They continue: “In this context, the contemporary artist is an interesting role model. In a universe of increasing incompetence, only artists know how to make their lack of expertise productive. Contemporary artists are professionals without a profession, craftspeople without a craft, and dilettantes with infinite potential. Only artists routinely subject the professional content of their discipline to debate, as part of their everyday practice. With each new work they make, artists embrace the crisis of competence instead of shifting it to others, as is the case in most other domains. They accept complete responsibility, in defiance of the neoliberal tendency to delegate and outsource. By definition, the creation of a work of art entails a critical test of the criteria of creative competence and artistic skill.”

For the next time, let’s see how an artist may not be a teacher, but instead an ideal learner, focusing on the idea that the contemporary artist embraces his or her incompetence and takes responsibility for his or her creation process.

This blog post is part of the series C’est toi qui as changé dedicated to the topic of change, and subsequently, how art allows us to learn, to teach, to think, and thus, to improve ourselves.

Image: Goya aún aprendo
– An old man, leaning on two sticks, trudging onward, and above him the words “Aun aprendo”; “Still learning.” It’s one of Goya’s last works — he composed it at age 80 and would die two years later.

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