We are all Debtors, and the Debt shall Set us Free

Adeola Enigbokan // June 30, 2015 // 0 Comments

Picture caption: Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina, founded 1816 by freemen, including Denmark Vesey. In 1822, Vesey was hanged for his involvement in planning a revolt that would kill slaveholders in Charleston, free black people, and sail to Haiti, then the only black republic in the Americas. One Saturday morning in August 2002, I walked up a busy avenue in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn to Sista’s Place, a local gathering site for all of us who would board buses to Washington D.C. to attend the Millions March for Reparations. The [...]

Dismantling Art School

Nancy Popp // June 4, 2015 // 1 Comment

The role of educational institutions in shaping and defining artists is being questioned and critiqued by the very professors, students and alumni who make up these institutions. One of these critiques, the nationwide movement to organize and unionize adjunct and contingent university professors, has been building for nearly two years from late 2013. A second critique became public on May 15th with the withdrawal of the first-year class from USC Roski School of Art and Design’s MFA program who noted the ‘accelerating trend’ of their school’s reliance on adjunct faculty and the growth [...]

Roski Faculty, Students Call on USC to Prioritize Quality Education Over Profits

MFA NOMFA // May 29, 2015 // 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: As this year’s commencement season rolled around, initiating increasingly unmanageable debt-careers, something interesting occurred in Los Angeles which many of you have no doubt followed. An entire class of graduate students at USC Roski decided to collectively drop out, in the middle of their pursuit of an MFA. Citing corporatized  priorities of the administration, never clearly communicated to the students and driving the historically esteemed program away from the very reasons they had decided to pursue their degrees there in the first place, all seven art [...]

Distribution is 80/20: A Presentation Transcript

William Powhida // March 17, 2015 // 0 Comments

Hi, thanks for coming to one of the most depressingly titled conferences I’ve ever heard of.  You are brave.  I’m going to talk about ‘artist as debtor in a roundabout way’, because if you take on a lot of debt, you probably assume you have a chance of earning some income to pay it off.  I’m going to discuss some imaginary numbers I arrived it in my recent drawings for Creative Time on artists payments, which also incorporate some actual research from BFAMFAPHD, who I am happy to be in conversation with today. They provide a solidarity model for working collectively around these [...]

On the Cultural Value Debate

BFAMFAPhD // March 12, 2015 // 0 Comments

Artists  Report Back is often dismissed by deans, faculty members, and artists alike as a “vocational” argument. They say that by comparing rising tuition with future work (where we compare $120,000 on art degrees with the reality that nationally only 10% of arts grads make their primary earnings as artists), we reproduce the familiar rhetoric of economic justification in our contemporary cultural value debate, what Belfiore has articulated as value arising from measurable impact (often economic impact) rather than from the value of art as a public good.[1] We at BFAMFAPhD agree that [...]

School, Debt, Bohemia: on the Disciplining of Artists

Martha Rosler // March 4, 2015 // 1 Comment

This talk addresses some of the changes that have both pitched artists industry-wide into a debt-driven milieu and simultaneously worked against shared ideals of criticality and cooperative organizing; It points out, however, that these more collaborative tendencies are always latent and subject to reawakening. I Education and Political Agency In the early postwar period the cost of public higher education in the United States was relatively low. For me it was zero. In the 1960s I attended Brooklyn College, where tuition was free, while a state Regents Grant paid for my books. (I would not [...]

On Merit

Lise Soskolne // February 22, 2015 // 3 Comments

W.A.G.E. is an activist and advocacy organization currently focused on regulating the payment of artist fees by the non-profit arts organizations and institutions that subcontract artistic labor. W.A.G.E.’s myopic focus on artist fees has sometimes been the subject of criticism by those who would argue that artists have always been unpaid, or that the sum total of W.A.G.E.’s efforts will result only in minor increases in quality of life for a limited number of artists, and that these efforts are ultimately reformist and fail to deal with the super-structural problem of economic inequity [...]

Let’s Talk About the Debt Due For…

Gregory Sholette // February 7, 2015 // 2 Comments

As early as 1984 art historian Carol Duncan pinpointed a fundamental, though typically overlooked feature of high culture: that the majority of professionally trained artists make up a vast surplus whose utter redundancy is the normal condition of the art market. “We can measure the waste [of artistic talent] not only in the thousands of “failed” artists–artists whose market failure is necessary to the success of the few–but also in the millions whose creative potential is never touched… This glut of art and artists is the normal condition of the art market.” —Carol [...]

Why Debt? Why Now?

Coco Fusco // February 7, 2015 // 0 Comments

As we launch our new online publication, I would like to take a moment respond to the questions that many have put to us: why talk about debt now? Why is it important for artists and arts professionals to discuss the impact of debt and its relationship to the culture of indenture that is so deeply integrated into the world view of our profession? The first reason for opening a debate on these matters is the urgency of the current situation. Forbes Magazine reported in February of 2014 that the total student loan balance was $1.08 trillion dollars and that 11.5% of that was 90+days [...]

Debt vs Political Agency

Noah Fischer // February 6, 2015 // 0 Comments

I’ll start by sharing how I came to organize this platform with Coco Fusco. I actually first met Coco while undergoing my own transformation into artist-debtor at Columbia University where she was a professor and I was getting an MFA. This is not to say that I regret the experience or feel cheated by it. However, it is remarkable to me how little I comprehended the intimate and long relationship with a financial institution I was entering into and how little this common reality was acknowledged among my peers at the time. I think most of us saw the loan as a good investment—letting our [...]
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