École d’Art d’Aix-en-Provence
Many art schools can be grand and imposing by their very architecture, only splatters of paint here and there reminding you of it’s supposed activities. Some however can evoke grandeur through their vision and practice. The École d’Art d’Aix-en-Provence belongs to the latter and is a rare example of how artists can be taught with a multi-disciplinary approach that both reconciles ‘tradition’ with ‘progress’ and the ‘analog’ with ‘digital.’
My first impression on arrival at the school earlier this week was quite simply one of awe. Architectural splendeur aside (the school is an aesthetically displeasing concrete mass), each work space revealed their own little secrets encompassing a variety of specialities which underpin the school’s ethic – mixed media. I found myself not only looking at painted canvas and sculpted materials, but also navigating my way through towers of bric à brac machinery, myriad spaghetti junctions of cables, wires and the ever present soldering iron. This is no ordinary art school then. It is a modern day Bauhaus bringing new meaning to ‘lets get our hands dirty’ and our minds too for that matter.
After this charming guided visit of the school I should have genuinely been excited with the week’s prospect of co-leading with Julien Gachadoat a workshop mixing programming and silk screen printing. And I was, but I couldn’t help feeling an underlying sense of apprehension when it came to thinking about how the week would proceed. How does one adapt one’s teaching to such a hybrid environment where students are already within a context of juxtaposing media?
Most students follow a formal training with a carefully guided curriculum. Here, the status quo seemed to be do as you wish (albeit with motivation and conviction). The students follow a five year cursus. During the first two, they are obliged to do a bit of everything, from painting to programming, electronics to sculpture, practice and theory. After which they make some choices and develop a direction but always with the option to pass by and see what others are doing. This freedom then, mixed with a crossing of disciplines, is a generator of artists who have the possibility to work in a wide variety of domains and essentially think outside the box. There lay perhaps the answer, or at least one of them, to how we were going to attack the week with our workshop.