In 1970 the three students who made up the Statements Group (later Analytical Art and eventually merged into the Art & Language Group) were in dispute with their college because they wished to submit their final degree work as a collaborative effort and wanted the college not judge the trio’s work as three separate entries. This was initially rejected but eventually the College accepted the students’ wishes and awarded them jointly 2.1 degrees accepting the work as joint. This was a major challenge to the way that art courses might be assessed (perhaps for the first time anywhere in the UK) and, for the three students – Philip Pilkington, Kevin Lole and David Rushton – the victory and an acceptance of a different art training was an conceptual art work in itself.
Here we offer some of the correspondence between the Statements Group and the College from David Rushton’s archive. Five separate documents. Namely:
ORIGINAL VINTAGE XEROX COPY OF THE STATEMENTS RESPONSE TO THE DAD FINE ART POLICY STATEMENT AS GIVEN TO FINE ART DEPARTMENT, LANCHESTER POLYTECHNIC, APRIL 1969
30 x 21cm, 8pp (recto only) xerox. The text outlines the Statement’s Group argument in favour of accepting conceptual art as part of the course leading to the DIP. AD. FINE ART degree. A remarkably mature and precedent document which clearly makes the case that “there should not be a dichotomy between “studio work” and “intellectual bite” (Bevaner’s phrase). We see the two as inseparable. Unless the outcome of artistic activity (which may not invariably result in the production of a visible “object”) depends on intelligent and informed decision-making, the activity frequently de-grades to a mindless activity which is antithetical or any worthwhile concept of art.” Not a great xerox copy of the original text submitted to the college but a vintage copy and a key document relating to the conceptual art motivation of the Statements Group.
ORIGINAL TYPED LETTER TO THE DEPARTMENT OF FINE ART LANCHESTER POLYTECHNIC DATED 19 MARCH 1970
30 x 21cm, 1pp original typed letter on “Statements” headed notepaper. The text reads: “Dear sir, The publication of “Statements” is a student project./Editorial responsibility rests entirely with the student group involved./This magazine is being distributed with a view to producing feedback; therefore, any co-operation in the form of comment or criticism on individual articles or the magazine as a whole will be greatly appreciated. It is hoped that subsequent issues might related to points arising from any correspondence./Yours faithfully Kevin Lole, Philip Pilkington, David Rushson.” This letter was submitted by the group to the Faculty as the opening salvo in the campaign for the College to recognise the Statements magazine as part of the three students’ course work. Fine condition.
ORIGINAL TYPED LETTER FROM DEPARTMENT OF FINE ART LANCHESTER POLYTECHNIC OUTLINING THEIR POSITION ON THE CONTENT OF DIP. AD. FINE ART COURSE (NO DATE BUT 1971)
30 x 21cm, 1pp original typed letter on plain paper outlining the College’s lack of formal clarification of the format of the courses that the Statements Group were following. The letter notes the lack of clarity from NCDAD (the verifying education body) about the role of theoretical work in the course and “clarifies” that “(they) think it would be unreasonable for students to spend more than the equivalent of four terms of their Chief Study on theoretical work; if appropriate, this might be distributed throughout the three years of the course.”. This letter was essentially opposing the idea that the students might create works that were conceptual in content for more than 4 terms in a three year course. Fine but folded for delivery.
Original hand addressed envelope to D Rushton/P Pilkington 3rd Year Fine Art.
XEROX COPY OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR DIPLOMAS IN ART AND DESIGN JUDGEMENT ON THE PROGRAMME OF STUDY IN THE FINAL ART DEPARTMENT, LANCHESTER POLYTECHNIC 29 JULY 1971
Coventry: Lanchester Polytechnic, 1971 3
0 x 21cm, 1pp. Vintage xerox with hand underlinings. The letter given in reply to the Statements Group which outlines the verifying body NCDAD’s position on the balance between “studio work” – by which the body meant object making or painting – and the more conceptual activities of the Statement Group. The letter notes (and is underlined by an unknown hand) that “the Visiting Board,… , (were concerned about) the lack of balance in the proposed modifications to the programme of study in the Fine Art area, and a note of caution was added with a view to avoiding what could be a distortion of emphasis in the programme.” And also: “There is no doubt whatever that the Board and Council used the term “studio work” in its commonly accepted meaning, that is to say the production of tangible art objects…. (and the college should see) Painting and Sculpture as Chief Studies.” The whole is signed EE Pullee Chief Officer of NCDAD. Slight marks and dog-ears. This letter was essentially an official refusal to accept the Statements Groups argument in favour of a much greater amount of conceptual discussion as part of the Fine Art course. This letter was given to David Rushton as part of the College’s response to the three students’ request to be judged on their collective conceptual artwork.
ORIGINAL MIMEOGRAPHED LETTER RELATING TO THE USE OF FILM IN THE FINE ART DEPARTMENT LANCHESTER POLYTECHNIC (NO DATE – C. DECEMBER 1971) 30 x 21cm, 1pp. Mimeograph. An official letter from the College authorities on one hand refusing the student’s request for a continuation of “film making” within the Department of Fine Art but offering some future compromises. The letter says that the current level of film-making is “both impracticable and wasteful of time and money”, that it could only be successful if a “special course and ….. department were instituted”, but agreeing to “a special section for film-making could be set up within the department and small cine clips could be made as an extension of the student’s work” and a proposal to employ in the future a staff member to carry out such teaching. This was a minor victory by the Statements Group and others as part of their campaign to widen the scope of the Fine Art Degree away from simply painting and sculpture. Five documents (which are sadly not comprehensive of the entire debate) which shine a light on the struggle of the three participants in Statements to create a space for conceptual art as part of the curriculum of their Art College. An interesting set of documents.
PRICE IS FOR THE GROUP AS A WHOLE