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Title: The politics of knowledge that leads elsewhere
Author: Henry, Una
ISNI:       0000 0004 6501 1317
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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This doctoral project examines the knowledge economy as understood under the hypothesis of cognitive capitalism and its impact on contemporary social art practice, in particular the educational turn in art, taking account of its conditions of production within the local site of official art education at an elite university. In a counter movement, this research searches for the 'becoming cognitive of labour', a peculiar quality of the present transition, where knowledge production and the reconfiguration of labour intersect within the overshadowing hypothesis of cognitive capitalism. In response to contemporary approaches assigned to knowledge production, appropriation of the general intellect and the educational paradigm, as a practice-led research project, I devised three performative interventions premised on aestheticised withdrawal (taking account of exodus theorists) and agonistic tendency (radical negativity) to take risks and to 'struggle within and strategically against' the institution, drawing on the radical pedagogy of Paolo Freire who created an approach to emancipatory education through which to transform systems of oppression and inequality, the self-governing frameworks of the educator Ivan Illich, and Jacques Rancière who locates oppression and subjection in the noble act of 'explication'. Drawing on this, I've pursued a novel form of 'writing as activism' that allowed me to unravel dividing points between the practice of art and its theory, critically engaging with and dismantling the academic form of essay through a process of streaking, rupture and montage. As a 'work of words', this allowed me to integrate the practice and theory in one, where the thesis is withdrawn and does not make an appearance. The practice of art determines the theoretical conditions and critical context, but is not subordinate to these conditions. In this way I could construct something meaningful and complex in an unconventional way that requires other ways of reading and interpretation. I disembark from the recent field of expanded academia and the 'educational turn' in art and curating, approbated by cultural theorists and artists since the mid 1990's. While addressing the current crisis in neoliberal education and its direct link to cognitive capitalism's knowledge enclosures, in which the doctorate in art was fiercely debated, these modes of emancipatory educational 'turning' seldom found traction inside the official educational art institution itself. Rather, as an expanded idea of the academy, these critical strategies were articulated through the global museum and biennale. However, if we are to maintain that the university is the critical core of the public realm, rather than escaping it or allowing ideological contention and dissensus to be smoothed over and disciplined, this research - in and through art as 'struggle' and as 'a process of intelligibility' - re-thinks the educational turn in art by opening up and maintaining a space of crisis and critical relationship with its institutional conditions of production and the forms of labour sustaining it as it emerges from academia itself. Using a gendered agonistic research method with its attendant discourse of resistance, I expose how gender is made invisibile within the flattening paradigm of immaterial labour and its overarching frame of cognitive capitalism. I explore how the production and reproduction of knowledge can be organised and made common and how it might break with capitalist capture, how a resistant form of knowledge production might be found on the frontier of the university. Through a dramatisation of practice that is a compelling instance of the theory, I explore an alternative production of knowledge - a (becoming) learning process where the subject 'I', who is constituted in language, talks back, a mode of counter speech as a condition of my agency and potentiality. It is in, at, and around the official educational site of the university that I make an inquiry into the economic and political tendencies at work, and locate non-compliant labour as a way to open up an educational 'turn' towards regimes of discipline, authority and control. By conclusion, if the educational 'turn' in art is to fully realise its emancipatory dimension it must not only align itself to the extra-institutional realm of the artworld, but must forge a counter turn inside the official educational art institution, the primary site of education's struggle and agency. Art production inside the educational institution is profoundly fundamental to a political and philosophical 'turning' towards a critique of contemporary arts new relations of production and reception under capital, to renew once more arts political and transformative potential. This research is an emphatic refusal of fatalism about the status of the official educational institution whose ailments I diagnose throughout. It is an original contribution to the debate on the educational turn and demonstrates when educators and students together, and in common, 'turn' in struggle within and against the institution, they can create transformative strategies of engagement with the institution of knowledge. It is not yet the time to abandon the official education institution entirely.
Supervisor: Vishmidt, Marina ; Catling, Brian ; Carter, Claire Makhlouf Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Fine Art (Practice-led) ; Educational Turn ; Labour ; Post-operaism ; Cognitive Capitalism