Independent Studio Practice

Create a terrible work of art

As you build a studio practice it is important to identify not only the time spent working, but also the preparatory stages as well. Many times working artists will speak about needing to do the dishes, or sweeping up the studio before they begin a piece to clear their minds. Some people like to listen to music or podcasts on their headphones, or even have a television program on in the background.  Others prefer silence.  But at the heart of it, and this course, you are learning how to motivate yourself to action. As we all know it is often something small which can keep us from creating. We need a different brush, or a new program, or this or that. So identify all these material and technical concerns beforehand, and then there’s no excuse. You simply pick up the brush or open premiere or shoot some video.  Imagine that you are like the studio assistant in the article about Jeff Koons which we read previously.

In order to kickstart your creative impulses I have a few prompts which may help some of you begin to work. These are optional exercises which are designed to help you look at your work in a new way.

A prompt incites someone to the action of creation in the arts. It is commonly used in writing workshops, as well as in acting. It is a provocation,  and designed to have multiple interpretations and possible outcomes.


Your Prompt: Create a terrible work of art which challenges your core beliefs of what good artwork is. Or alternatively, create a work of art which challenges institutionally entrenched ideas of what a good work of art should be.


Terrible can be defined by your own personal taste, or can run counter to the definition as it exists in an institutional framework. We will be looking at aesthetics and what is considered “good’ and “bad” and how these different ideas overlap. Over the course of this class you will be creating a short project in a media of your choosing which you consider to be terrible for the aforementioned reasons. It is important not to focus just on technique, and quality, but also what makes something conceptually weak as well. These studies can lead to strange places, where sometimes your vision of what is bad becomes good, and what is good becomes bad. But it is only through questioning these beliefs that we can explore new limitations, and possibilities.

Dos and Don’ts

You should feel uncomfortable making this piece. Since you are working with a medium which you are familiar with and using it in a way which you find cringe inducing.

You should not create this project hastily. While the prompts are done in conjunction with the production of your studio work, you should use the time wisely and really think about what you think is terrible and why. It’s easy to do something which you consider terrible in a matter of minutes. This work should challenge your core beliefs about what is good. Take some time to create it.

This work should not appear amateurish, which is an easy way to make a bad work. Use your skill set to create something purposefully bad.

Words which have been used to describe bad art.

trite: overused and consequently of little import; lacking originality or freshness. It is overdone, and unsurprising.



contrived: deliberately created rather than arising naturally or spontaneously.

One Direction Photographed by John Wright

sentimental: of or prompted by feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia.


bland: lacking strong features or characteristics and therefore uninteresting.


amateurish:lacking skill and polish

kitsch: art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way.




Cliche:A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.

Brave as a lion: This describes a very brave person.

Opposites attract: This means that people who like different things and have different views are likely to fall in love or to become friends



Switzerland Exhibition


Jeff Koons


Mohamed Al-Fayed (commission)

The Michael Jackson Statue is a plaster and resin sculpture of Michael Jackson commissioned by Mohamed Al-Fayed and originally unveiled in 2011 outside Craven Cottage the ground of Fulham Football Club of which Al-Fayed was chairman. It was removed by new Fulham chairman Shahid Khan in 2013 and moved to the National Football Museum in Manchester in 2014.



Jim Carrey


Macauley Caulkin




Portrait of a child ( unknown artist )

Jennifer Rubell


Damien Hirst

Richard Dorment, art critic of The Daily Telegraph, wrote: “If anyone but Hirst had made this curious object, we would be struck by its vulgarity. It looks like the kind of thing Asprey or Harrods might sell to credulous visitors from the oil states with unlimited amounts of money to spend, little taste, and no knowledge of art. I can imagine it gracing the drawing room of some African dictator or Colombian drug baron. But not just anyone made it – Hirst did. Knowing this, we look at it in a different way and realise that in the most brutal, direct way possible, For the Love of God questions something about the morality of art and money.”

Philip Guston

Church Restoration



Yoko Ono






Remixing “crappy” aesthetics. 

Working with crappy aesthetics is also commonplace in the film and music industries as well. It isn’t uncommon for artists to borrow from genres which were previously seen as low budget, and unrefined. One example of this is Grind House Cinema.

grindhouse is an American term for a theater that mainly shows exploitation films. According to historian David Church, this theater type was named after the “grind policy,” a film-programming strategy dating back to the early 1920s, which offered continuous showings of films at cut-rate ticket prices that typically rose over the course of each day. This exhibition practice was markedly different from the era’s more common exhibition practice of fewer shows per day and graduated pricing for different seating sections of large urban theatres. You can read Church’s entire dissertation on the subject here. PDF

“My argument proceeds from the assumption that genre is a categorizing tool emerging from historically shifting clusters of discourses; while texts may contain qualities that are associated with certain genres, it is a film’s reception through culturally situated discourse that often determines its generic status. Building on Steve Neale’s claim that “[c]inemas, cinema programming, and cinema specialization” are components in the “inter-textual relay” that institutions circulate to build and promote a generic framework, I argue that, as a specialized theater type, “grind house” was constructed as a generic term through industrial-critical discourses originally meant to contain thedisruption of economic and cultural capital wrought by these non-normative exhibition venues.

While some grind houses were part of midsize theater chains (such as
Brandt Theatres), they were generally operated independently of the major studios’ theaters and did not enjoy the benefits of those theater circuits closely affiliated with the majors. Although their negative connotations primarily materialized during the Great Depression, the “genrification” of grind houses did not solidify until the 1950s and 1960s as theater owners, critics, and patrons positioned them as sites of non-mainstream consumption. While grind houses typically programmed genre films, the historical deployment of “grind house” as an overarching generic term linked to low culture reflects conflicts over the economic positioning of exhibition sites during and after the studio era, especially as the institutional bases of genre expanded with the rise of independent distributors. Such conflicts led to the ghettoization of grind houses in the past, though they have been viewed with nostalgic appreciation more recently.”

Due to their associations with attracting a lower class of audience member, theaters operating on grind policies gradually became seen as disreputable places showing disreputable films, regardless of the sheer variety of films (including subsequent-run Hollywood films) that they showed.

While most of you are probably not familiar with films such as Sergio Martino’s giallo thriller Torso and Lucio Fulci’s zombie film Zombi 2 , you probably have heard of Tarantino and Rodriguez’s foray into the Genre in their double bill of Death Proof and Planet Terror.


Another example is the Kickstarter funded film, Kung Fury, which pulls heavily from 80s cop movies which were produced en masse by studios such as Cannon Films.


You can see that the issue of what good aesthetics are, and what bad aesthetics are, is something which can not be easily defined. Especially in the internet age, where niche markets and very small demographics can fund projects.  As we are arguably living in a post-modern age, the idea of what is aesthetically “correct’ or “good” has become hazy. One thing is certain, and that often aesthetics which were considered to bad, or of low quality, have been revisioned by artists with a different intention than was sought out in the original.

This should not be confused with the art of appropriation and remixing which is generally something else altogether but still an interesting way of thinking about the creation of art.  that in essence, everything is a remix, and this is something which is not a new phenomenon. A great documentary on the subject is called Everything is a remix which is somewhat related to the question at hand. While being a tangent, it is one worth thinking about as compared to remixing old, and “bad” aesthetics into new ones.



Confused? Good. There aren’t clear definitions of what good and bad are anymore. But no, “it’s not all relative” there are still institutional frameworks which determine what is allowed into the world of contemporary art. The term “Outsider Artist” is often used to describe artists who exist outside of this frame, however their works are often revered as having authenticity and a bold vision untainted by school and the debates surrounding contemporary art making. While the term is contentious today, it is safe to say that you’ll never be able to call yourself an outsider artist, so you should be aware of what frames artwork in the world today.


( Further Reading ) via

Post-modern aesthetics and psychoanalysis

Example of the Dada aesthetic, Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain 1917

Early-twentieth-century artists, poets and composers challenged existing notions of beauty, broadening the scope of art and aesthetics. In 1941, Eli Siegel, American philosopher and poet, founded Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy that reality itself is aesthetic, and that “The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.”

Various attempts have been made to define Post-Modern Aesthetics. The challenge to the assumption that beauty was central to art and aesthetics, thought to be original, is actually continuous with older aesthetic theory; Aristotle was the first in the Western tradition to classify “beauty” into types as in his theory of drama, and Kant made a distinction between beauty and the sublime. What was new was a refusal to credit the higher status of certain types, where the taxonomy implied a preference for tragedy and the sublime to comedy and the Rococo.

Croce suggested that “expression” is central in the way that beauty was once thought to be central. George Dickie suggested that the sociological institutions of the art world were the glue binding art and sensibility into unities. Marshall McLuhan suggested that art always functions as a “counter-environment” designed to make visible what is usually invisible about a society. Theodor Adorno felt that aesthetics could not proceed without confronting the role of the culture industry in the commodification of art and aesthetic experience. Hal Foster attempted to portray the reaction against beauty and Modernist art in The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture. Arthur Dantohas described this reaction as “kalliphobia” (after the Greek word for beauty, κάλλος kallos). André Malraux explains that the notion of beauty was connected to a particular conception of art that arose with the Renaissance and was still dominant in the eighteenth century (but was supplanted later). The discipline of aesthetics, which originated in the eighteenth century, mistook this transient state of affairs for a revelation of the permanent nature of art. Brian Massumi suggests to reconsider beauty following the aesthetical thought in the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari.

Jean-François Lyotard re-invokes the Kantian distinction between taste and the sublime. Sublime painting, unlike kitsch realism, “… will enable us to see only by making it impossible to see; it will please only by causing pain.”

Sigmund Freud inaugurated aesthetical thinking in Psychoanalysis mainly via the “Uncanny” as aesthetical affect. Following Freud and Merleau-Ponty,Jacques Lacan theorized aesthetics in terms of sublimation and the Thing.

The relation of Marxist aesthetics to post-modern aesthetics is still a contentious area of debate.





The module guide is designed to support your studies in the Independent Studio Practice Module in Year Three. It contains information that will help you to understand the structure, content, and delivery of the module and the kind of learning experience, aims, and outcomes you can expect. It is also a useful resource document that will give you advice on how to get the most out of this module.