In 1994 I was one of the twelve art graduates that had been elected for the final round of the prestigious Dutch art competition Prix de Rome. http://prixderome.nl/en/over-2/
For four years, during my Free Art bachelor study, the focus had been completely on autonomy and the intrinsic motivation that should come with it.
“We expect a lot from you” my examiner had told me and pointed in the direction my fellow student Mark Manders had been heading, winning the second prize in 1992.
It was rather a culture shock to find myself promoting me and my art work to a few members of the jury, across a large table, in order to gain a chance of winning a prize, the most generous one as Prix de Rome website proudly advertises.
Maybe if I had won I would have overcome my bafflement quickly. However it was the end for me there and then. The golden gate to rush my career forward seemed to have closed as suddenly and unexpectedly as it had appeared to have opened. The message was loud and clear: “You have been measured and judged against others, now please leave the building quietly and return to your autonomy.”
What had happened? Had I been secretly competing with others all those years? Had we, as art students, been educated to become rivals while pretending to be monks belonging to the same monastery? Was one of us holier than the other within this Art-with-a-capital-A congregation?
When twenty of us had been admitted to the Art Academy, out of two hundred applicants in 1989, we were told to expect long years of hardship and ‘poverty’ but at least the life long reward would always be ‘freedom’. We could escape the rat race, couldn’t we. And so we set off on the long quest of finding our own voice, our own signature, solving the puzzle of contend versus form and indulge in other abstract ideals along the way. What fun it was, to have found a place where competition was not in order, where we could and should be our most autonomous selves.
For over a decade I’m creating art education for pop music students at the conservatorium van Amsterdam. The artistic aim is to find their own voice, their own signature. Then they go out into the world and…compete. The game is on.
Am I, as an art educator, educating art students to become ‘winners’ ?