Automated Art School, Art Party, Scarborough

This interactive artwork was developed for presentation at the Art Party conference organised by Bob & Roberta Smith with Crescent Art. The event was held in Scarborough, 2013. The Art Party Conference was in essence a protest against the policies of the Conservative MP Michael Gove, who was then Secretary of State for Education. The event was organised by Bob & Roberta Smith but had vast support from both individual artists and significant art organisations in the UK. Gove’s policies took a hard line on arts education in schools, A move that many in the country saw as short sighted, since learning to be creative is not a vital part of developing as a human being.

Commenting on this in a guardian article, when asked: Your message is that art education is now threatened, not just by government cuts but by an unspoken ideology that suggests art is not really important to a nation’s economic and social wellbeing? Bob And Roberta Smith Stated:

Yes, and, this is not a new way of thinking. It started in the 80s with Kenneth Baker [education secretary under Margaret Thatcher, 1986-1989], who didn’t want art in his national curriculum but was persuaded that it could be graded accurately not as a voice for self-expression but as a set of skills. I want us to re-engage with that postwar consensus that we need to expand creativity and who gets involved in it. The Tories think that silly notion is history now. Politicians don’t seem to even understand the basic importance of something like design and how it underpins production. It’s crazy, and, to be honest, Labour is not much better. That Tristram Hunt is pretty awful

About the Automated Art School
In light of this the Automated Art School was created to parody not just the Conservatives attack on the arts but also the wider attack on Higher Education through policies turning it into a competitive marketplace. The game consisted of a 36-square board. Every twelve square represented one year of art school. In the Middle of the board was a plinth on which sat Robotutor: a bust parodying the Venus de Milo with red LED eyes. Each round players rolled two dice, one for how many square they moved and one for an activity. The activity dice contained six options:

  • VIP – you get a VIP badge and a glass of Bucks Fizz
  • Art History Question
  • Art Theory Question
  • Stuck on Life Drawing
  • Class assignment
  • Performance Art

Players would take turns to move, role the activity dice and then select a card from the appropriate activity card deck. At the end of each turn they would use their mobile devices to communicate with Robotutor. Robotutor would then text them back a mark and some witty feedback on their work. The mark and the feedback was randomised to communicate the subjective nature on any judgement on the quality of a work of art. The tone of the feedback was also made to feel lazy and scathing, thus embodying the lack of support and nurturing many universities were showing towards the arts, as they aligned with Conservative policies.

The winner of the game was whoever got to the end of the board first. Like art school the more time you spend doing things the more enjoyment you have, thus those who stayed in the game longer had a richer experience than those who just raced to finished. Again this was trying to embody Arts educations preference of process over product.

Leave a Reply