Accompanied by a chorus of four performers and live percussion, Nicolson’s OVER AND OVER PURE FORM meditates on the reality of art education today and how bodies, behaviours and attitudes are moulded through formal terminologies or ideologies. Structured around a typical first semester at art school, the performance draws on module components including studio exercises, a critical studies lecture and the all-important evaluation.
OVER AND OVER PURE FORM reflects on the changing nature of art education, drawing on Nicolson’s own experience alongside texts by Friedrich Schiller, Thierry de Duve, Charles Madge and Barbara Weinberger. Between 1967–73, ‘Mass-Observation’ pioneers Madge and Weinberger conducted a sociological study of an art school, observing the emotional affects on students when subjected to a specific artistic value system. Thiery de Duve’s 1994 text ‘When Form Has Become Attitude – And Beyond’ charts a historic shift in the fundamental attitudes in art education, from ‘genius’ to ‘creativity’ to ‘criticality’.
Nicolson borrows from various teaching models, including the visual exercises of Josef Albers and Oscar Schlemmer at the Bauhaus, and the formal methods developed by Richard Hamilton and Victor Pasmore at the University of Newcastle. The title of Nicolson’s text is taken from the diary of Oscar Schlemmer, who’s practice and teaching revolved around the body.
OVER AND OVER PURE FORM’s concluding section, the evaluation, constructs a critique of the neoliberal condition of art education – cold and rational assessment criteria divorced from emotional and social experience. Borrowing from Schiller’s idea of ‘Play Sense’, Nicolson presents a manifesto – calling for an art education which revalues physical experience.
I have no knowledge I can sell
They will get a strong return
I will not serve your clients well
On what they have to pay to learn
I will not value what you do
Its not too late to evaluate
The state of education’s through
Do not leave your grade to fate