Potential Line of Thought


Text produced for the exhibition: ‘X’ PRESENTS…‘HEART OF DIXIE UK'
‘X’ = A couple of NEETs (not in employment, education or training)
London, September 2009

Potential line of thought
A reaction to a seemingly wide open door

With one hand carrying the fresh diploma and the black robe, and the other hand free, loosely hanging down at the end of my arm, I walk out – a title richer and a bunch of expectations heavier. The last three years of studying have been great and I am now promising and promised an exciting future. Something that all the time has been up to me to decide and follow. This promise is something that at the moment fills me: its potential itself as much as the things and happenings that will actually lead me on.
According to the dictionary a 'potential' means: capable of being or becoming, possible - as opposed to actual, a latent excellence or ability that may or may not be developed. It is clear that as a concept 'potential' includes a vast array of interpretations. I read 'potential' as a soon-to-come creation whether this might be a success or disaster; a totally unpredictable outcome of an entity full of high expectations.

New to the old or at least well walked pavement (that of an established art world) I now emerge out of a time of possibilities and restrictions, given by the institution that has embraced me for the last 3 years as an art student. The discussion about art education is hot, and has been burning hot for the last years – widely discussed in art magazines, forums and summits all over Europe. Especially spiced up by the Bologna Process and it's implementation into the universities. Besides the polemic of streamlining European education, it has produced an overtly critical awareness of the concept of art education. What kind of product is the graduating student, and what direction will she or he take? It is rather sad to see how the various governments now see an art student as a potential force in the 'cultural centrifuge' and clearly a potential improver of the nations image as well as an active taxpayer. All in one a package of benefits: improving the state's cultural resources and appearing as an innovating nation full of possibilities, while simultaneously limiting and simplifying the creative potential of the individual student. Amid all this, art seems to suffer from politicians' and consumers' need to measure, sell and trade it's given potential. A potential searched for and perceived by blind eyes: blinded by the desire for an immediate outcome and product.

Thus the focus is on the present, the visible and the immediate qualities of the living creative potential. What about the latent? The hidden and slowly developing abilities? I find the parameters of this measurement limiting and sadly propelled by greed to charge immediate value of a much more complex entity (to use the terms of the official discussion): that of an art student or a recent graduate.
Maybe this leads to an answer to the question of whether art suffers from the current economical crisis we are experiencing, a question that lately has been asked by the news media and in artistic debates. I would say no: art is not suffering, neither in creativity nor in innovation (this at least applying to the artists still free of the tightening ropes of capitalist society). The crisis loosens the tight grip capitalism is having on art and allows the focus to move away from the hard capital to the creative capital and thereby makes space for innovation and the birth of new possible moves outside of the art world run by this capitalist greed. Perhaps I am stepping up on the platform at the most fertile moment: with the economic crisis forcing the commercial 'centrifuge' to slow down.
The first steps onto the platform of the art world has already been taken. College opens up for one entrance, fellow students for others, and future partners are hopefully soon to be reached. But am I even so prepared to take on the load? The load of expectations from myself and from my surroundings about this potential I posses and that the already existing world of art possesses? How do I make the steps sufficiently confident in order to be able to enter the described 'centrifuge' without letting it swallow me up?

Let's return to my point of departure. Though the above topic is still warm from the ongoing debate, I here mainly want to open for discussion around the given potential a recent graduate, like myself, carries - whether this is visible or hidden. Not the potential part of the puzzle of the creative industry I may or may not take, but the potential to create a new identity within the established art world – using the taste for the new, mixed with hope for breaking boundaries and finally spiced with the possible creation of a new direction and movement. Something that will allow one to actually enter an artwork and experience it. Believing in both the work of art and the theory of art to have a say in and outside of the aforementioned 'centrifuge'.
One thus carries this potential visibly or not. This leads me to the position of the carrier and her/his potentiality. 'Potentiality' differs from 'potential' – in that it is precisely the state of being potential. Am I in the state of being potential? Here the dictionary gives me the answer to the meaning of potentiality: inherent capacity for growth, development, or coming into existence. Is this potential latent or is it a visible aptitude we now posses?

This writing comes from expectations I personally carry and meet while moving into a now self defined existence, and is also a reaction to the ongoing discussion around creative innovation and how fine art students contribute to it. (Among other sources this has systematically been described in the Nesta Report published in 2008. See: National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts)
From this emerges another question: is there first of all a need to define and dissect an artistic professional identity in such detail? How much is given through the institutional definition sealed with an art school diploma? In case of art, and more specifically visual art practice, which can vary largely and overlap a series of other connected practices, it can be practically impossible to reach a definition that will cover the identity of a practicing artist. I am afraid that in this case the doors that a diploma opens, with it's links to the state and market run 'centrifuge', can also act as an extra lock on the possibilities of interpretations of a profession. Perhaps it even commences the demand for a definition, something we might want to dispose of in the first place.

Thus this potential is what currently nurtures the expectations of my recently obtained art degree. Further, what nurtures the potential is much more complex to answer. Here one is tempted to look only at the visible skills and knowledge given with the mentioned diploma, and it is here I believe the real potential risks to diminish: disappear into the fast running 'centrifuge' fed by quickly measurable outcome, which can be easily inserted into the market machine. Perhaps time is the key here and precisely what is missing. Time to let the subterranean potential govern, and courage to let innovation happen behind the facades of the so called 'creative industry'.