My name is Omar Zingaro Bhatia and I recently graduated in 2009 from Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art in Dundee, Scotland. As many young artists discover to their horror, art school is something quite different from the Utopian dream of a band of brilliant, chain-smoking, paint-splattered bohemians being nurtured by a group of terrifically clever and successful tutors. I was a terrible student in their eyes and at times a complete tosser in the eyes of my peers but hey, I survived and pulled off a degree show that I and the beholders seemed to like.
I was doing a pilot course which was said to be 'cutting edge' and 'at the forefront of its practice'. The course was called 'Art, Philosophy & Contemporary Practices', though by the end of it I still had no idea what precisely a 'Contemporary Practice' was. Perhaps it was being trained in babbling pseudo-intellectual art related tripe. My course mates were all classified geniuses (4 firsts out of the 11 of us) and I only got into the course through guile alone but it gave me an invaluable insight into the workings of an artist obsessed with conceptual ideas and often substance-less and vapid art work. Art school, for me, galvinized my initial disdain for academia which began at the instant I entered the educational arena.
What I'm saying, rather long windedly, is that I really enjoy your perspective. I have only just discovered your paper amongst all the riff-raff. The first arts publication I bought was Art World magazine and this was only because my degree show was selected in their new work section. I have had 5 (2 solo) exhibitions in the 4 months following graduation and have 3 more lined up so I have things to look forward to, but I look forward with a heavy heart at the discussion (self-justification) I will be forced to engage in. I am a firm believer that most art should be presented with sparse contextual information so as to let it speak for itself unless of course the text is essential. I think that it's often limiting to announce that 'this means this' or that 'this is a reaction to that'. When I looked around at my fellow graduates work I couldn't help but feel frustrated by how conventional it all was. Conventional in terms of the art worlds a la mode appetite for, as you've said, the 'challenging'. So many artists' work explores, challenges, raises, , questions, criticises (often banal and to many practically irrelevant) issues or ideas. The most common 'exploration' I noticed at the 2009 degree shows in Scotland was the relationship between animal and man. The exclusivity and patronising elitist proclamations of the artist often just alienate people who are not fluent in artsy-bullshit and perhaps not familiar with say.....Deleuze.
My degree show was for who ever happened to see it. I tried to create a spectacle, something which people could connect with and even god forbid, enjoy. Many artists in todays hyper-conceptual-proto-contemporary-minimalist-haus seem to forget to address a very simple question; 'Why am I doing this?'