Art School Confidential
by Rebecca Wiener
At my job this summer I was given an intern who had three years more design experience than I did. He was also tiny and French, with appropriate glasses and a gold Casio watch. Luckily, I had a native English fluency and three years more office experience than he did, so I was able to maintain my position in the hierarchy. When I caught him looking at me askew from time to time, I would blurt out recommendations for good New York City restaurants and use words that are hard for French people to pronounce.
My intern had studied for a semester in San Francisco and he held some firm opinions on American education. Having studied abroad myself, I am no slouch when it comes to noisily enumerating the differences between pedagogical systems, but he studied at art schools and I had not. “Crits!” he shrieked adorably, “Critiques are all you do in American art school!” Well, I said, it depends. “No. It is only crit. You sit there for hours to hear the teacher talk about other people’s work. It is a waste of time.”
I started to point out the advantages of hearing how to improve even if it’s not advice for you, but I was honestly surprised that art class could be performed another way. What do you do in France? “We come in and work and the teacher talks to us alone about what we’re doing. You don’t always have to come and you don’t get bored talking about other people.”
I guess I do get bored talking about other people, but I don’t get bored watching them. My program has a high percentage of Asian students and sometimes I think that I am meant to feel scared about globalization when I look at them. They certainly seem impervious to fear. A guy in one of my classes never likes anything anyone does. He finds it all to be very far from the small bullseye of perfect beauty, and he expresses this with few words but generous squints of disgust. A girl in another class declared that after getting her degree, she would like to work in movie promotions. “Like billboards and movie posters?” my professor asked. “No. Like flyers in the mail,” she said, stone-faced.
Our teachers have assured us we shouldn’t be concerned about the tanking economy. “This just means that the bad designers will be fired! You will all be good designers.” I think everyone finds this comforting, or maybe they don’t need to be comforted. I have never heard my fellow students discussing the financial crisis and no one seems to read blogs. If I were to imagine their lives, they would be circumscribed little things spent reworking compositions and texting each other.
The American kids hang out together before class and so do the Asians. Everyone’s in the same lounge area sharing couches, but each group is invisible to the other. “What’s that girl’s name again?” an American asked her friend unabashedly. “I can’t believe you don’t know her name. She’s in all of your classes!” “So what is it?” “I think it’s Esther. Maybe it’s Chu-Ping.” “No, Chu-Ping is that one.”
Sometimes I wonder what art school is like in Asian countries. A lot of the Asians have worked as professional designers for years. When a teacher asked everyone why they chose this school for their graduate degrees, every single Asian student said, “I heard it is a very very good school.” I like to think about who told them that and if they know that every dying magazine in New York is printing a themed issue about how Asia holds the key to the future of the universe.
Rebecca Wiener is the former senior editor at This Recording. She is a new student and a graphic designer open to working for free clothes.
from the debut album of jessica lea mayfield (above)
“Hold You Close” – Jessica Lea Mayfield (mp3)
“You’ve Won Me Over” – Jessica Lea Mayfield (mp3)
“Kiss Me Again” – Jessica Lea Mayfield (mp3)
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
Think twice about where you sit.
This picture always makes me feel better.
Our childhood series hit Dublin.