Womanjika/Welcome to the 2017 RMIT School of Art Bachelor of Art: Fine Art Year 3 and Honours graduating students’ exhibition catalogue.
2017 has turned out to be a year in which the world has seemingly gone strangely backwards. The cranked-upped international-nuclear-war rhetoric, the reappearance of vilification and divisiveness associated with the same-sex marriage debate, and the return of climate-change denial seem all-out-of-place in the second decade of the twenty-first century. They echo some ancient past when ignorance, intolerance and machismo dominated reason, respect and equality.
So where does this leave contemporary art? While artists have never changed the course of political history (that’s the role of politicians) they certainly have been able to provide alternatives to the disasters engineered by everyday reactionary forces. Through imaginative and celebratory practices artists have consistently offered the world new ways of thinking and new ways of embracing the challenges of life. Given the growing ‘back-to-the-future’ scenario we are playing-out today – it would seem artists have to respond, as they always have, and create new possibilities and new understandings to counter-balance this cascading retroversion.
RMIT’s vision is to prepare people well for work and life through fostering cultivated minds and skilled hands. It’s a big call but one that the School of Art fully embraces and strives to achieve. This year’s graduates from our programmes will take their places in the world of work as independent creative and critical thinkers able to take on life and its inherent social responsibilities. They will engage with issues and contribute to solving those problems by constructing positive alternatives and bringing new ways of seeing and speaking to social debates. They will also make the world a more special place by celebrating its beauty – natural, social and even spiritual.
Millions of people visit art galleries and exhibitions around the world everyday. It is a high impact and deeply engaged pursuit, and a major contributor to the economies of many nations. As the economy of work is quickly replaced by all things digital (VR, robotics, AI) new models of wealth production and distribution will need to be brought forward. One of these new forms of economy – the experience economy – is all about spectacle as opposed to work - think football, cinema and art. Another form of economy will foreground ‘prosumerism’ where the producer and consumer are the one-and-same. Making art can be seen as a form of prosumerism. An experience people pay for where they produce their own outcomes – enjoyment, meaning, fulfilment.
So it’s time to look to the future and not to the past. A time for art and art students to build new ways of thinking and being in the world. This year’s graduates are a real part of that future. I wish them well. As do our amazing staff who work tirelessly to prepare them as citizens ready for work and life.
Professor Julian Goddard
Head of School
RMIT University, School of Art