This is the second in a series I am writing about my experiences as a student artist....
WELCOME TO THE SWAMP
As a college freshman at the University of Florida I remember being in awe of my instructors. The art program involves an intensive art "boot camp" class called Workshop Arts and Research Practices. Most people refer to it as Warp. It is both a studio class and a lecture class. Warp was, and still is, team taught by Sean Miller and Bethany Taylor.* For those of you reading this that are current or alum of the University of Florida art program, I took Warp my second semester of my freshman year, Spring 2004.
I came into college not knowing much of anything about contemporary arts practices. I think the most off-the-wall stuff I had been exposed to was some Andrea Zittel and a few Jeff Koons paintings. In my first semester of school I took Sculpture, Drawing, Art History, and some other stuff I'm sure was important but I can't remember right now. My drawing class was just okay. The sculpture class was wonderful. Still, nothing prepares you for Warp. Cue in the helicopters and noise from Acpocalypse Now.
Warp was an intense mindfuck. We learned about Joseph Beuys, Sophie Calle, Komar & Melamid,Christian Boltanski, and all of the big players. Note: do NOT get me started on Joseph Beuys. He's a major deity to me. I am completely obsessed and get very silly around his artwork. One such encounter at the Tate Modern resulted in jumping up and down. Suddenly I was surrounded by people who had the same sort of enthusiasm for art that I did. Sure, I didn't like everything. Warp is obviously more about developing interesting concepts. Matthew Barney did not strike a chord. I still think he's overrated. Will Wegman's creepy dog videos still annoy me. And I think most performance art is crazypants. And, I think that the curriculum is a little overly heavy on installation art. I would have benefited from learning about contemporary painters who are doing cool things.
Still the long hours became a bonding experience. We were forced to create performance pieces. We constructed narratives about colors.Your Warp classmates saw you doing ridiculous things. They walked with you to buy art supplies or just another soda. We bonded over having to walk to the Warphaus, an off-campus site where we had our studio time. I ate so much pizza from Leonardo's that I was unable to eat it for two years after Warp.
Many of the ideas in my practice are things I learned in Warp. And yes, we did have readings, textbooks, and tests. And they were NOT easy. Our professors stressed the importance of what's going on in the art world and society as a whole. Warp taught me to be curious. A lot of the time we were making rather ambitious projects. Honestly, sometimes they did not look great. Okay, sometimes they sucked. I had at least one total flop. But, the actual process of ideation is something I had never experienced before.
*For a different account of the faculty and art life at the University of Florida read this.