Emerging into the stark daylight of a post-baccalaureate world devoid of the recursively self-reflexive questioning to which they had become so accustomed, three twenty-somethings sought refuge in the backrooms of local coffee shops, bars--any location that would afford them the autonomy to continue their furtive intellectual meanderings and musings free from the callous, unreflective gaze of others. But having honed their skills of textual and visual analysis over fours years of intense academic rumination, the fellows could not help but turn those same hermeneutical hacksaws upon themselves, questioning the very systems of education, initiation, and accreditation under which they had so recently thrived.
After careful deliberation, the once-clandestine trio proposed the creation of the Temporary Department for Academic Research (TDAR), a perpetually ad-hoc working group that would allow them to pursue this investigation of academia, appropriating while at the same time acquiescing to the formalized parameters, institutional rituals, and conceptual boundaries of the classroom itself.TOWARDS A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
Concerned with taking in the full range of the academic aesthetic, the fellows began to design a real-time, one-to-one scale replica of the academy--a dioramic "classroom" drawing heavily on Borgesian cartographic principles.
Situating the Temporary Department both within and as this test-classroom, the fellows nevertheless realized the tenuous nature of the illusion they sought to maintain: was their laboratory just another Potempkin Village, a hollow rehearsal within a self-justifying system? Emboldened yet silenced by the very academic language that had inspired their initial questioning, the Department realized that it would have to acquire a new critical vocabulary in order to re-enter the ivory tower through the front door, an investigatory battering-ram tempered in a different kind of flame.
Adrift in this sea of uncertainty, the fellows turned--as they had so often done--to the world of theoretical criticism for guidance. An essay by art historian Florian Waldvogel entitled Each One Teach One provided one possible solution. Waldvogel writes, “I am fundamentally interested in the question of education as an exhibition format, and in discussion, seminars and workshops as a form of practice and its presentation.”
Fascinated by this collision of education and exhibition, the fellows turned toward their art-school counterparts, wondering how different their varied education trajectories truly had been--what differentiated ink on canvas from ink on lab report? Waldvogel locates "both art and theory as forms of practice. Seminars, workshops, discussions, etc., are mirco-political forms of practice with a high proportion of theory, and the same is just as true of a challenging exhibition of contemporary art."
Yet a simple deconstructive conclusion, collapsing distinction between these two educational modes, would be insufficient. Perhaps by enmeshing education within exhibition, classroom within gallery, the fellows could meet themselves half-way, synthesizing an understanding of the varied mechanisms at work in both didactic realms.
As these wonderings reached fever-pitch, the fellows discovered PIFAS, an institution of higher learning providing the yin to their yang; just as the Department was attempting to undertake academic inquiry via artistic means, the "faculty" of PIFAS achieve artistic ends by appropriating academic terminology. Well-practiced in this ever-shifting academic-artistic shell-game, the faculty of PIFAS would be the ideal participant-collaborators in this endeavor.
Thus taking to heart Waldvogel's admonishment to "us[e] existing structures creatively" while pairing his theory of education as exhibit with PIFAS’s ingenious combination of academic lexicon and artist’s workshop, the Department seeks to trouble the various boundaries between art and academe, frame and framed, image and text, seeing and reading.CALENDAR
Saturday August 02: Opening: TDAR Departmental Tea, 7pm
Please attend the Departmental Tea/Opening for PIFAS’s Eric James Johnson Memorial Fellows for August 2008, THE TEMPORARY DEPARTMENT FOR ACADEMIC RESEARCH. Food and drink aplenty. Plus air-conditioning (really).
Thursday August 07 Special PRG: "Each One Teach One," 7pm
As part of its month-long “Academic Aesthetic Breakout Session,” THE TEMPORARY DEPARTMENT FOR ACADEMIC RESEARCH invites you attend a special Philosophical Research Group discussion focusing on Art Historian Florian Waldvogel’s seminal Manifesta 6 article "Each One Teach One" and its relation to PIFAS. Copies will be available at the meeting, but participants are encouraged to read the article before attending (not required).
Keynote Speakers: Dr. Brandon Joyce & Dr. Richard Lee Davis, PIFAS Co-Founders.
video of Brandon Joyce's "Culture rather than Art"
PDF of "Culture rather than Art."
Thursday August 14: Workshop: "Test-Taking, Test-Making," 7pm
As part of its month-long “Academic Aesthetic Breakout Session,” THE TEMPORARY DEPARTMENT FOR ACADEMIC RESEARCH invites you to attend a discussion-workshop on “the test” as aesthetic object-experience w/special guest Dr. John Muse, Haverford College's Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow for 2007-09 in the Fine Arts Department.
NB: The discussion-workshop will serve as the catalyst for a collaborative test-writing project among Temporary Department Fellows, PIFAS Faculty, and any other interested parties, culminating in the residency's closing event--the FINAL EXAM.
In 2006 John Muse received a Ph.D. in Rhetoric from U.C. Berkeley. His dissertation, The Rhetorical Afterlife of Photographic Evidence: Roland Barthes, Avital Ronell, Roni Horn, co-chaired by Judith Butler and Kaja Silverman, analyzes Barthes' numerous writings on photography, an artwork by Horn entitled Another Water (the River Thames, for Example), and an essay by Ronell on the videotaped beating of Rodney King, "TraumaTV: Twelve Steps Beyond the Pleasure Principle." Muse shows how these works use photographs to promulgate a crisis of the evident.
Thursday August 21: Guest Lecture: "Comic Books or Graphic Novels?” 7pm
As part of its month-long “Academic Aesthetic Breakout Session,” THE TEMPORARY DEPARTMENT FOR ACADEMIC RESEARCH invites you to attend “Comic Books or Graphic Novels? The Politics of Nomenclature," a talk by N.C. Christopher Couch, author of numerous books and articles on Latin American art and on graphic novels and comic art, including The Will Eisner Companion: The Pioneering Spirit of the Father of the Graphic Novel (with Stephen Weiner), Will Eisner: A Retrospective (with Peter Myer), Faces of Eternity: Masks of the Pre-Columbian Americas, and The Festival Cycle of the Aztec Codex Borbonicus.
He curated exhibitions at the W.E.B. Du Bois Library American Museum of Natural History, the Americas Society, the Oklahoma Air and Space Museum and the Smith College Museum of Art. He was senior editor at Kitchen Sink Press (Northampton), editor in chief at CPM Manga (New York, and has taught at Amherst, Columbia, Hampshire, Haverford, Smith and Mount Holyoke Colleges, and the School of Visual Arts. Publications he edited won or were nominated for 17 Eisner and Harvey Awards, and he has held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study, Dumbarton Oaks of Harvard University, and the Newberry Library. Current publications include the edited volume Conversations with Harvey Kurtzman, and a book on Batman artist and editorial cartoonist Jerry Robinson.
Saturday August 30: TDAR FINAL EXAM: The Art/Test, 7pm
As part of its month-long “Academic Aesthetic Breakout Session,” THE TEMPORARY DEPARTMENT FOR ACADEMIC RESEARCH invites you to attend its closing reception and watch/participate in The Art/Test, the result of a month’s collaborative work with tenured faculty at the Philadelphia Institute for Advanced Study. Food, drink, and grades. Attendance is mandatory for fall pre-registration.