Last night I attended a launch party for artist Adjua Greaves. The launch began the long journey towards her MFA, with a curriculum all her own. To be clear - she's attempting to do all the work necessary to qualify her for an MFA - but without an institution.
There are a lot of politics surrounding notions of the MFA. Higher education is responsible for putting many young adults into crippling debt that takes years to pay off (if it ever is paid off), and what's worse, is that many students feel the cost and effort aren't worth the title. The relationship between student and university can be unhealthy for students, economically and socially.
As a recent graduate with my BFA, I'm very aware of my peers going off to MFA programs - but as a student who worked full time and went to school full time, I'm just not in a position to consider that kind of financial strain, social suicide, and workaholism at the moment. This is what makes Greaves' project all the more interesting.
Greaves is an artist, this MFA project is her step toward taking initiative against a set of standards. Greaves has created her own curriculum, her own program, with her own best interests in mind and she's calling it - unschoolMFA. You can visit it here--> http://unschoolmfa.tumblr.com/ , and read about nearly every aspect of her project.
Discipline and drive become issues of debate. Can a student push themselves through an MFA program without the structure of the classroom? The answer depends on the student, and I'm sure that many people cannot. As with all things, if you love something enough, you make time to make it happen. Greaves aims to bypass the institution and, by the end, demand the same credibility as those accredited with an MFA. This is brave.
Isolation becomes another issue. How do you simulate the community that one gains from a University? One way might be to invite people into her study - teachers, artists, writers, and an unlimited amount of others, each in their relevant capacity. Developing a network of peers also becomes relevant - but this skill is not so foreign, for every artist graduating from school must decipher how to develop a network and community outside of the one Universities so readily supply.
What is most exciting is imagining what the aesthetics of a project like this will look like. How will Greaves simulate critiques and lectures? What is the relationship between this project as a performance and the authenticity of the degree? How are these two notions facilitating the other? I look forward to seeing future performances towards the completion of the uMFA.
Of the many things that Greaves mentioned throughout the night, one phrase really stuck with me. When not in school she expressed having, "expensive thinking, with crushing practical concerns." The idea that thinking can be expensive feels wrong, because the act of learning as an action requires little money. Have we commodified education so thoroughly that imagining knowledge causes anxiety? Perhaps her statement is a reflection of how backwards higher education can be.
In no way do I mean to suggest that attending a University is not beneficial, but I aim to express that Greaves' project feels like the logical next step. Why is there not a system for individuals to create their own programs - especially when resources and technology allow for it?
Greaves' project is admirable, yet to her it seems quite simple. She wants to obtain an education that will lead to her own personal fulfillment - an aspect most worthy of consideration.