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#14: Self-Education

Pyotr Bystrov /// Technology and Imagination

 

Over the last one and a half years, I have had the chance to collaborate closely with the Italian curator and critic Marco Scotini and, on frequent visits to Italy, to communicate with the Milan-based artist-group Alterazioni Video.

As the dean of visual art at the New Academy of Fine Arts, as a critic and teacher, Marco prefers forms of interaction that are as practical as possible. In his classes and workshops, those who teach enter into close communication with students. For example, the workshop of the Radek Community was exclusively structured around “the exchange of experience;” this experience included a discipline that could be called “contemporary living,” ranging from the day-to-day problems of a young person’s self-identification to provocative “political” actions.

Over the last one and a half years, I have had the chance to collaborate closely with the Italian curator and critic Marco Scotini and, on frequent visits to Italy, to communicate with the Milan-based artist-group Alterazioni Video.

As the dean of visual art at the New Academy of Fine Arts, as a critic and teacher, Marco prefers forms of interaction that are as practical as possible. In his classes and workshops, those who teach enter into close communication with students. For example, the workshop of the Radek Community was exclusively structured around “the exchange of experience;” this experience included a discipline that could be called “contemporary living,” ranging from the day-to-day problems of a young person’s self-identification to provocative “political” actions.

Marco encourages his students to immediately set their imaginations to work on the object of excess. Throughout, discourse remains quite important, since it guarantees the continuity of a leftist rhetoric and its intellectual tradition.

The activities of Alterazioni Video are categorically autonomous, but at the same time, they are all about multidisciplinarity and networking. What they do is directly connected to the legal and illegal use of the newest technologies and programs, to practical experiments with electronics, including pirate radio and televisions, astounding mystifications in the realm of PR campaigns for non-existing media stars, aesthetic interpretation of laboratory experiments (in physics, for example).

In their activities and in those of similar collectives, in the phenomenon that we call self-education (in the sense of self-constitution and self-organization), the lack of knowledge and information are not the most important things.
For the Radek Community, self-education has always consisted of intellectual flights of fancy, intense theoretical inspiration (to the point of perversity), and “homemade,” local situationism.

It is impossible to discuss the subject of self-education without taking into account the colossal crisis that has permeated all areas of knowledge in the humanities and all social practices. Artistic and “intellectual” behavior is saturated by a mass of viruses, be they media-fame or disdain for quality and authenticity in favor of heightened reproductive quantity and speed.

From the very beginning, the notion of self-education that we are discussing in this project entails a critical attitude toward any form of education, be it through the state, institutions, or academies.However, all too often the alternative simply goes to the other extreme, becoming hooliganism, behavioral anarchism, programmatic ignorance, or fragmentary erudition mixed in with vulgar activism.Free, contemporary and other universities have sprouted up like mushrooms; we are surrounded by all kind of colleges, schools, and workshops for the improvement of theatrical, entrepreneurial, or other skills. All of these case pursue but one goal: to speed up the current pace, to keep the conveyor going while slowing down the process.

Which “arsenal” does contemporary self-education need? What would be enough?  The activist experiment can be connected to technology; in other cases, it can require the presence of nightsticks, paint, glasses, and sneakers.In comparing the possibilities, I am more and more convinced that the most important condition of what we call self-education is the relation between imagination and technology, that is the connection between the subject’s immaterial and material “instruments,” which need to complement one another.

Pyotr Bystrov (1980), artist, member of the Radek Community, lives in Moscow

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