Last year, the Bruce High Quality Foundation participated in the inaugural Summer on New Holland program with the installation “The Apology” and a video program. This summer, BHQF returns to the island, with a two-day workshop, and a look at one of their most recent videos.
“Public Art and Collaboration”
The Bruce High Quality Foundation may have originated in a piece of fiction, but the Foundation has since consistently taken on the state of art history, education, and research, with wit and an astounding visual literacy that puts popular culture to work.
The Foundation came together in 2001 in commemoration of the fictional “social sculptor,” Bruce High Quality, who is purported to have perished in the attacks on New York on September 11, 2001. Tapping into this kind of national tragedy is not something to be done lightly, but the BHQF has managed to use their position of supposed playfulness to make some very serious inquiries into the state of art, education and American idealism. In 2008, the collective organized the first edition of the Brucennial and, in 2009, they established in New York the unaccredited and “free” Bruce High Quality Foundation University. The BHQFU does not work on the traditional degree-oriented tracks, instead putting an emphasis on education-as-action: “Our education is not seen as a protected time or space; rather, it is about placing yourself at constant risk.”
This kind of risk played a key part in the BHQF’s 2011 Teach 4 Amerika campaign. During a five week tour, members of the foundation crossed the United States, visiting art schools in a limo decked out to look like a school bus. While the stated intent was “For anarchy in arts education,” Teach 4 Amerika encouraged students to reexamine the current structure of art education, asking questions about what an exchange of ideas can look like. As the BHQF have insisted, “At its core, art is a learning experiment.”
Taking its name from one of the BHQF’s most well-known works, the “Public Art and Collaboration” workshop will focus on the latter aspect, exploring what it means to act as a collective. The program mixes discussion with hands-on activities, leading to the creation of a permanent work for New Holland. Space will be limited to the first thirty participants.
Additionally, the BHQF will offer an introduction to their earlier practice, by means of screening a selection of their so-called “pedagogical videos.” The short-form videos juxtapose sequences of pivoting anecdotes and montages of found footage to comment on art history, visual culture, and the state of the world. Content ranges from sandwiches debating Velázquez’s Las Meninas to an unseen narrator hailing the events of September 11, 2001, as “the biggest work of public art there has ever been,” to an examination of labor and the American Work ethic, via the figure of cartoonist Al Capp, the WPA, Andy Warhol and Martin Luther. Videos to be screened include Public Art and Collaboration, 2008; Art History with Food, 2008; Five Courses of Empire, 2009; 2001: Art History with Metaphor, 2010; and, the most recent, Art History with Labor (95 Theses), 2012.