Duncan and Terri talk to Carol Becker about the School of the Art Institute, the future of arts education, and her new position at Columbia University.
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Artist, Art Historian, and Dean,
of Faculty and Senior Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at The School of the Art
Institute of Chicago.
She is the author of numerous articles and several books with many foreign editors. Her
book publications include: The Invisible Drama: Women and The Anxiety of Change; The Subversive
Imagination: Artists, Society, and Social Responsibility; Zones of Contention: Essays on Art,
Institutions, Gender, and Anxiety; and most recently, Surpassing the Spectacle: Global
Transformations and the Changing Politics of Art.
Prelude to published interview taken from the book, Conversations Before the End of Time by
“In 1994, Carol Becker was appointed dean and vice-president for academic affairs of the School
of the Art Institute of Chicago, having been a former chair of the graduate division before that.
She received her Ph.D. in literature at the University of San Diego, where she was a protégé of
Herbert Marcuse. A lecturer in women's studies since the late 1960s, and a writer on psychoanalytic
theory and cultural politics, she has been mulling over the obsolete attitudes and strategies of
the art world for a long time, particularly the issue of the artist's responsibility to society,
which she claims is a sensitive issue that makes everyone uncomfortable, defensive and insecure.
Becker feels that many artists simply refuse to address the issue at all. Artists often choose
rebellion, which alienates them from their audience, and then become angry at the degree to which
they are unappreciated. In part this is a consequence of the way we educate students in art schools,
envisioning the artist as a marginalized and romantic figure who, she claims, operates "out of what
Freud calls the Pleasure Principle while the rest of us struggle within the Reality Principle."
Students need to think about their work, she feels, not in isolation, but in relationship to the
public and to an audience that has not been addressed in art school pedagogical situations. American
art students, like most American college students, Becker claims, have not been trained to think
globally or politically about their position in society. In a sense, art has seceded from American
culture so completely that it has lost its effectiveness and become a subsidized bureaucracy of