We are professors working in fine art and design programs. We have found common purpose in teaching directly from our shared struggles to realize creative practices on our own terms and in our own words. We see our students navigating familiar stories of precarity in 2020, while recognizing how their challenges are even more tremendous: an overwhelming cost of education, as well as the prevalence of white supremacy, both within a collapsing society. We see our adjunct colleagues working in higher education confronting layoffs, furloughs, and unemployment. We want to address this present state of affairs - of our shared precarity with students - through an educational arts program of a different kind, one that puts students first while respecting the labor of our educators.
We are raising money so that we can pay our amazing instructors and advisors, while keeping the cost of education to a minimum for enrolled students. Our goal is for our program to be free for students. Times have been especially difficult for both students and educators with the onset of COVID; the pandemic magnified problems that were already pervasive and entrenched in our society. We aim for Dark Study to provide a community for those who have found the university to be a place of hostility. We aim to strongly support those who have been pushed out of the school system with our teaching, our own experience, and our deep commitment to their art practices. Please read our mission and about our directors and advisors. Over the next weeks, we will release more details about pedagogy, style, and the application process for students. We hope you will support us, and share word of Dark Study far and wide.
Dark Study Site
Dark Study is an experimental program centered on art. We take this absence of the studio and the university’s full support as a profound opportunity. In our faculty and students, we are in search of a cohort of minds distributed around the world. We are digitally-rooted and virtual-first.
Dark Study takes up the work that the university prevents through regulation, intellectual property ownership, and massive debt. Dark Study serves the underserved and underrepresented locked out of the racket of higher education. Dark Study acknowledges the risk, precarity, and failures inherent to pursuit of a creative practice today. Dark Study strives to teach art and design as understood through materialism, history, economics, critical theory, and philosophy, all within the context of new technologies. Through a transparent, open methodology and a commitment to flexibility, Dark Study encourages the potential of artistic production for direct impact on a society in crisis.
We take the school, the university, as a place of collected minds and resources, but not the end or start of study. We understand how, for many, keeping a respectable outer machine — the correct education, the correct learning — is a way to survive. We also value the wrong education, the improper learning, which goes on alongside the proper. We understand dark study to continue on beyond, despite, and without the university. Dark Study is not a pure space. Dark Study is the work in the shadows, in which the collective practice and dynamic action of thinking, unthinking, and rethinking, takes priority over investment in one’s singular identity as a thinker. We take up the intellectual work of being together, reading together, thinking together, “what you do with other people,” in para-institutional spaces that resist extraction.
Dark Study can house ideas and practices that would otherwise have no home, having no root in a genre, no institutional or academic validation. We hope to create a third space where artists can do unworthy work, where the wrong kinds of ideas can flourish. We speak plainly, in the hope of locating the knowledge that evades language. Sometimes these ideas look warped, like the rot, slime, and exhaust of production. As teachers, we uphold the mess and contradictions in our own relationships to knowledge, form, canon, and discipline. We stress interdisciplinary investigation. In practice, this tends to take form as artistic research production across video, media art, traditional media, design, computation, and the sciences.
Dark Study is a refuge for students dealing with the untenability of higher education and the fallout of neoliberalism. We are committed to building a learning program that addresses society point-blank for what it is. Education is far from a neutral endeavor; it mirrors and even replicates the very oppressive state mechanism under which it exists. Our post-secondary educational system serves the upper middle class and the wealthy. Within these schools, knowledge is divided and separated into various fields of expertise, in which the list of gatekeepers is petrified. Only those with higher degrees are allowed to have valid ideas. What is studied, and who is allowed to study: these parameters silently thread their way into the fabric of the university system. Within this suffocating environment, the few Black, Indigenous, First Generation, and low-income students who are present experience little support.
For each of us, the internet has been a primary home for thinking, criticism, and collaboration. It is not a limitation. Being online allows for dimensional ways of being. Practices expand; one can more easily transition to other forms, flowing from painting to code, to theoretical deconstruction, to systems and game design, to writing a novel. Collaboration is made easier, is even more potent and focused than in real life. Investigations deepen. Working online allows for a return to the simplicity of deliberating about intention, method, material, and subject.
There is surely a tactile sensitivity loss when we transition to the instruction of painting, sculpture, printmaking, and other plastic arts online. However, when we recognize the digital interfaces that these plastic media have a conversation with, as that work gets documented via camera, transformed into code, processed in photo-editing, and then lives on websites and moves through the Internet, we gain a new material sensitivity and possibility. We have discovered great advantages in advising the plastic arts in this format.
Our embodied experience makes us qualified, but we recognize the limits of those qualifications in favor of work that happens underneath and below. We believe a fancy degree should not be synonymous with deep knowledge, nor should the absence of such a piece of paper bar a student from pursuing a subject’s close study. We also believe knowledge must be pursued with awareness of the full context of societal systems. To do so, we have had to move our more serious pursuits of learning and teaching beyond the bounds of institutions, and we invite you to join us in retreat.
This program is a place of resource redistribution aimed towards nothing less than liberatory ends.