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When Will it Thunder?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Rolf Hughes


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Following the dedication of Kant, Schiller, Fichte, and subsequently Humboldt, to the notion of the university as a site of idealistic progress, during a period witnessing the rapid secularization of Western culture, the modern idea of an institution developed as the distillation of Enlightenment values “dedicated to the infinite growth of knowledge, and the fostering of citizenship and social bonds”. The concept of freedom became the central organising principle, around which related concepts such as reason, knowledge, truth, critique, and Bildung were organised to reinforce Enlightenment philosophy. Although theological, legal, and medical faculties would dominate in terms of student numbers, securing the production of civil servants to maintain a well-functioning society, for Kant in The Conflict of the Faculties it was philosophy that guaranteed a more free and exploratory knowledge process – i.e. “a mode of research that is free from assumptions and that makes possible a mutual critique.” Today the ”militant research” undertaken by the Citizen Artist team at Goldsmiths in 2012 suggests how far this ideal has been dismantled by neo-liberal processes. In their investigation of the question ”What is a university?” they arrive at the conclusion that the university answers today not to an Enlightenment ideal of human progress and perfectibility, but to a “moral vacuum”. So, then, what is a University? What is it if it no longer nurtures citizens and their ‘coming into being’. Are they places for the formation of self-selecting elites within a multitude? Whom do the elites serve? Other elites, such as our powerful neo-feudal corporate masters? Or are universities autonomous communities? In which case, (1) are they not then superfluous, subject to the populist pressures of celebrity culture where rhetorically skilled professors provide intellectual entertainment or ‘edu-tainment’ for their network of fee-paying acolytes? Or (2) is it simply a space within which intellectual fads are played out and then fade out? In a globalised economy, are concepts such as universities, disciplines, national identities– with their logics of borders (and therefore exclusions) – sustainable as we witness the dissolution of hitherto seemingly impermeable boundaries under the force of the free (market) movement of capital? If so, what are the future architectural, technological and discursive forms of learning and research? What is the assumed relation between artistic insight and the so-called “transformational” economy? Conversely, what (if any) sustainable career paths exist for the new professional mutant artist-researcher? Entrepreneurship or a professional identity of continual shape-shifting in response to the unceasing modulations of deregulated economies? Might a European university created in 2014 concern itself less with the gate-keeping of enrolment and legitimacy, than with a return to the politics of contestation i.e. of values? If so, by reactivating the poetics and politics of value, a university of the arts such as that now entering its second year in Stockholm may aspire to release Bologna from its measurement systems, and reconnect artists, teachers and researchers to speculative, utopian thinking, to the university the Enlightenment once seemed to have promised. This paper argues that doctorateness should be treated as an open-textured concept (not unlike “art” or “artistic research”). It addresses a number of questions relating to the particular challenges facing those engaged in developing appropriate learning resources for doctoral students in artistic research. These include: What are the learning needs of doctoral students in the arts? Is the logic of a standardised curriculum appropriate? How might we prepare our students for futures we are currently incapable of imaging?

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hughes R

Editor(s): Fredrik Nilssen, Halina Dunin-Woyseth, Nels Janssens

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Perspectives on Research Assessment in Architecture, Music and the Arts

Year: 2017

Print publication date: 14/02/2017

Online publication date: 01/02/2017

Acceptance date: 01/04/2014

Edition: 1st

Publisher: Routledge

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9781138695573


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