Dirty Practice | Symposium and Studio Residency 2017, 

20-22 Sept 2017 | Fine Art, Wolverhampton School of Art

Dirty Practice: Studio Skills

While contemporary practice is often understood as a further attempt to promote deviation from traditional skill based approaches, and the ‘struggle to find a process of reasoning outside the bounds of classical standards’ (Roberts), the symposium sets out to test critically the role of skill in today art school studio. We wish to explore the role of skills in an environment where the impact of chance, indeterminate and aleatoric elements emphasise further a resistance to any preconceived template.

Artistic practice has shown a particular interest in subversive potential of anomaly for long time. Anomalies stand in clear conflict with traditional classification, such as traditional skill sets or regimented environments. While this transgression has been pointed out in relation to aspects of deskilling and the perception of skill (e.g. the notion of error shifts from the ‘mark of scorn to [a] mark of ambition’(Roberts 2007: 212). The focus should here be on the ‘anti-systematic’ aspect of art and, as John Roberts argues, ‘ the struggle to find a process of reasoning outside the bounds of classical standards’ (2007: 213).

The symposium, as part of an on-going research project, Dirty Practice seeks to explore specifically, beyond the subversive quality of messiness, the quality of art as not adherent to an ideal system and its ‘resistance to precedent and academic template’, or failure.

In other words, the artistic outcome defies radically preconceived models of success and failure, skill and ineptness, by opening up more creative ways that might allow the unexpected and erroneous to happen. Is there a need therefore, to ‘untrain’ ourselves, as Halberstam argues (2011: 11), and to see ‘failure as a refusal of mastery’ allowing un-knowing, unbecoming and undoing to open up creative ways?

Dirty Practice, a research project initiated by Christian Mieves and Maggie Ayliffe in 2015, sets out to explore critically the current artistic framework where manual skills and studio based practices are denigrated in an increasingly institutionalised HEI environment. This is partly mirrored in the educational structures (and spaces) found in the new HEI environment where Fine Art departments are increasingly relocated into non-purpose-built, inadequate office type spaces without workshop support. It is also reflected in the way the artist studio has often been, in a simplifying fashion, linked to a specific art movement and specific type of art work, where the studio ultimately has become a target of the institutional critique or a ‘pathology of the modern.’ This is the third iteration of the Dirty Practice research project, which has started in 2015 Dirty Practice: Artist/ Teacher; 2016 Dirty Practice: The Role of the Studio and 2017 Dirty Practice: Studio Skills.

Possible topics:

  • the role of the artist’s studio in particular the role of skills from a multidisciplinary perspective (including, but not limited to artistic practitioners, art theorists, curators, cultural geographers).
  • to what extent the teaching of skills through ‘dirty’ Fine Art practice (painting, sculpture, printmaking) ironically becomes a subversive activity for staff and students in today’s art schools.
  • the urgency for skill-based approaches and the conviction, that knowledge is derived from ‘doing and the senses’ in a way that could not be achieved through other approaches.

Please submit abstracts of up to 250 words for either a presentation or a proposal for practice-based work to:


Extended Deadline: TBC
Christian Mieves, Fine Art, Wolverhampton University
website: http://fineartwolverhampton.co.uk/dirtypractice/

For further Information please see the project website:


For any questions, please contact Christian Mieves.

E-mail: Christian.Mieves@wlv.ac.uk

Works Cited:

Roberts, J. (2007). The Intangibilities of Form: Skill and Deskilling in Art after the Readymade. London, New York: Verso.

Halberstam, J. (2011). The Queer Art of Failure. Durham: Duke University Press.