10 essays
Compiled by Rachel P. Kreiter, Nikos Akritidis, and Ciar O’Mahony as the Goldsmiths MFA Curating Action Group

This collection of essays reframes studentship as a liminal state of transformation. Students hold the grim distinction of simultaneously being the consumers, byproducts, and sine qua non of education. Why are we treated as passive bodies filling enrollment quotas when we play an active role in shaping the institution and generating social change? Our transitory position has been refracted and exacerbated by the pandemic’s effect on higher education. To be a student is to represent uncertainty, potentiality, futurity, a time to come when inequity is rectified. We want to do that work together.

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Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, and Anton Vidokle
Originally published in February 2013

Sitting at home, you dream of living in places you barely know. And yet, you feel like a tourist in your own city. Maybe you should get out more. But when you do go out, you barely recognize anything. It’s a problem: everything important happens somewhere else. You are more attached to political struggles and events in other places. All the food you eat is imported. All your closest friends and family have moved away to live or work in countries where they don’t speak the language. You might as well join them, but then again that’s what brought you to the strange place where you live now—maybe two or three generations ago. Maybe it's time to put a stop to all this. You should plan a trip to your ancestral home, the home of your parents or grandparents or great-grandparents, your real home. You should reconnect with your history, with your real self. But this is not a promising option either—you are well aware of the kind of economic capture that masquerades as identity tourism, just as you are attuned to the political capture that the fundamentalists taking over your country already lay out with their promises of a return to a fake womb, to a more essential grounding of identity that never existed anyhow.

Luis Camnitzer
The Detweeting of Academia
Originally published in February 2015

A few days ago it was my birthday. I find that birthdays are the real days of atonement, days when one revisits the past, vacuums it, takes stock, apologizes at least mentally, and distills lessons. Because they are tailor-made and private, I take birthdays much more seriously than somber holidays imposed by religion. Going through this form of accounting I realized, probably once more, that I’m still a militant and a student—a leftist student at that. I realized that I’m still Jewish of sorts, although totally secular. And I reconfirmed that I believe in ethics, although I see that they are increasingly ineffectual and may only serve as a tool for resistance in an increasingly collapsing world.

Fred Moten and Stefano Harney
Debt and Study
Originally published in March 2010

They say we have too much debt. We need better credit, more credit, less spending. They offer us credit repair, credit counseling, microcredit, personal financial planning. They promise to match credit and debt again, debt and credit. But our debts stay bad. We keep buying another song, another round. It is not credit that we seek, nor even debt, but bad debt—which is to say real debt, the debt that cannot be repaid, the debt at a distance, the debt without creditor, the black debt, the queer debt, the criminal debt. Excessive debt, incalculable debt, debt for no reason, debt broken from credit, debt as its own principle.

Gavin Butt
Being Boiled
Originally published in January 2011

On December 9, 2010, I was “kettled,” or contained against my will, for over eight hours in London’s Parliament Square in freezing conditions, without food, drink, or toilets. I was not alone. Along with thousands of others—including students, lecturers, trade unionists, and schoolchildren—I was on the streets that day to protest against the UK government’s swingeing plans to cut funding and raise fees in English universities. The plans have been rightly, and widely, criticized as an attack on the very idea of a university education, and on its value as a public good.1 By tripling student fees and making substantial reductions to state-funded university teaching—including a 100% cut to arts, humanities, and social science subjects—the government is hoping to decisively switch the burden of university funding from the public purse to the pockets of individual student-customers. This is the latest move by disaster capitalists in the UK government intent on using the banking crisis, and resulting government debts, as an excuse to force through a radical neoliberal agenda to roll back the state further even than what Margaret Thatcher could have dreamed possible in the 1980s.

Luis Camnitzer
Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes
Originally published in March 2020

I don’t believe that there is any other aesthetic premise than freedom, as much personal as collective. As this is also an ethical premise, I don’t believe that one can detach aesthetic premises from pedagogical methodologies. In reference to art, leaving aside any precise definition, I understand that it should be a universal form of expression, since every action should be aesthetic and everything should be creative. The opposite is neutral and stagnant. I understand that there is no “anti-art” but, if anything, there is an “other-art” with the same rights and validity.

Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez
Transforming Whiteness in Art Institutions
Originally published in September 2018

“Who keeps the cube white?” is a crucial question asked by activists at Goldsmiths who are currently protesting for better working conditions and pay for cleaners at the school. For the generation of art professionals coming up now, the activism of groups such as Decolonize this Place and Gulf Labour Artist Coalition is of immense importance. The art organization Khiasma, based in the town of Les Lilas in the suburbs of Paris, aims to decolonize social relations through art by presenting challenging exhibitions and programs that pose questions about what and who produces space. Today, with neofascism acquiring greater visibility and power, intersectionality is a crucial framework for dismantling the power structures of race and gender within institutions. Practices of accountability, care, and mutual respect across hierarchical departments and job positions should be at the forefront of art institutional discourse today. At the same time, we must be wary of the appropriation of intersectional methodology by the very power structures it is intended to combat; as sociologist Sirma Bilge has written of the academic appropriation of intersectionality in the US, it can easily fall prey to the neoliberal “management of neutralized difference in our postracial times."

Susanne Lang and Darius James
Magic Hat – Property of the People
Originally published in March 2010

Barbara Cassin
More Than One Language
Originally published in March 2017

I don’t know what “one’s own” means and I’d like to begin with a different question: What is a maternal language? I will then try to understand what happens when you speak more than one language, when you speak several different languages, and how these different languages ultimately draw out different worlds; not incompatible worlds, not radically different worlds, but worlds in resonance with one another and without ever being able to match up completely. This is why we will have to ask how we go from one language to another and think about what we call translation.

Irit Rogoff
Originally published in March 2010

—Who wants to know?
—I want to know.

—What do you want to know?
—I don’t know!

Orit Gat
Could Reading Be Looking?
Originally published in April 2016

Imagine, if you must, walking into an exhibition space and encountering work so oblique you don’t know what to make of it. You start looking for text. First on the wall, then, by the door or a desk someplace. You scan whatever copy you can find, searching for coordinates, landmarks, bits of conceptual breadcrumbs, or a bright stripe of familiarity amidst the thicket of ideas. You hope to find some meaning in the work in front of you. Sometimes you do.

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