Akademie X: Lessons In Art + Life - Their advice ranges from practical considerations about making art and managing professional relationships, to ideological perspectives on the nature of learning and the state of art education in the twenty-first century



Akademie X: Lessons In Art + Life, Designed and illustrated by Julia Hasting, Phaidon, 2015.


Crucial wisdom from leading artists and writers – an unprecedented insight into 21st–century knowledge production and life as an artist today. - Hans Ulrich Obrist

Akademie X is a book with seemingly all of the answers. - Interview Magazine

Akademie X's world-class tutors prepare aspiring artists for professional life - in practical, financial, and ideological terms. - Garage Magazine

an enormous book the colour of a tube of Love Hearts... Not often does a book look this succulent: the weight, texture and little details were enough to have the whole editorial team cooing over it. ...Spectacular original content aside, what makes this book truly sing is its design. It’s got that exciting, fresh new stationery feel to it: the card casing taking you back to those document wallets you used in school. ...beautiful - itsnicethat.com

Fancy doing an art degree, but not sure if it's right for you? A new book from Phaidon, Akademie X: Lessons In Art + Life, might just be able to help you out...
According to its introduction, Akademie X, is "an art school without walls", and takes the form of a series of lessons, all delivered by some of the most famous and successful artists working today. Marina Abramović starts us off and is followed by chapters from 35 other artists, including Ólafur Elíasson, Dan Graham, Miranda July, Wangechi Mutu, Tim Rollins, and Richard Wentworth.
Each artist has been given freedom to present their ideas and advice in their own style, which leads to an enjoyably rich collection of voices, some personal and chatty, others serious and academic. Abramović chooses to be listy, giving a series of instructions, many of which are contradictory or employ repetition for emphasis. For example, in the opening list on 'An artist's conduct in his life', she states:
– An artist should not lie to himself or to others
– An artist should not steal ideas from other artists
– An artist should not compromise himself with regard to the art market
– An artist should not kill other human beings
– An artist should not make himself into an idol
– An aritst should not make himsel into an idol
– An artist should not make himself into an idol

Some texts take the form of interviews with the artists, others are letters. Elíasson chooses to pen a 'LOVE LETTER' no less, written alongside his colleagues Eric Ellingsen and Christina Werner from the 'Institut für Raumexperimente', a five-year educational research project which ended last year. Their advice includes performing various exercises to encourage 'thinking doing', which they describe as an awareness of our place as "an agent in the world".
A number of chapters are reflective, with the artists looking back on their lives and what the twists and turns of their experiences have taught them about art. Others are just confusing, a little impenetrable: most texts offer a fair reflection of the work of those who have written them, so if you find someone's work elusive, the chances are you'll find their lesson similarly tough going.
Perhaps as useful as the texts themselves are the recommended reading (and occasionally viewing, listening and even drinking) lists that each artist provides. Cross reference these and you'll come up with a pretty concise canon of essential critical thinking on contemporary art, plus some great eclectic choices alongside.
As we've come to expect from Phaidon, the book is beautifully designed and each artist's chapter is accompanied with a CV style description of their work to date, plus images. One small quibble is the lack of a short paragraph summing up the style and approach of the artists featured – perhaps this is something they themselves resisted, but it would have been useful for context and to help with the less famous names included, particularly as this is pitched as a teaching book. But then, there is always Wikipedia near to hand.
For potential students of art, Akademie X makes a great introduction to the kind of thinking and approaches that you'll discover at art school, but its appeal isn't just for the studious – there is plenty here for anyone interested in contemporary art and artists to enjoy.
Akademie X: Lessons In Art + Life is available from Phaidon, priced £24.95. More info is here.
http://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2015/february/akademie-x-lessons-in-art-life

A few weeks back, an enormous book the colour of a tube of Love Hearts landed on my desk. It was Akademie X: Lessons in Life an Art. Not often does a book look this succulent: the weight, texture and little details were enough to have the whole editorial team cooing over it. Published by Phaidon, it’s a collection of lessons written by artists such a Miranda July, Katharina Grosse, Walead Beshty, Marina Abramovic, Tim Rollins, John Stezaker and many others.
Spectacular original content aside, what makes this book truly sing is its design. It’s got that exciting, fresh new stationery feel to it: the card casing taking you back to those document wallets you used in school. The way the text is laid out is also reminiscent of lessons, and learning: it’s like a really, really concise bundle of research for a prize winning project. On top of that, each artist has been drawn in charming, pencil crayon portraits by the designer herself and the creative director of Phaidon Press, Julia Hasting.
For more than a decade, award-winning Julia has been designing dozens of award-winning titles on art, architecture, photography, design, and cooking, and – since the year 2000 – art directed hundreds of titles for Phaidon. She has also been a contributing illustrator to The New York Times since 2003. Such a beautiful new book deserves some more in-depth explanation, so here’s Julia on the process of putting together such an appealing publication merging art and design in holy union.
How did Akademie X come into your life?
As the creative director of Phaidon Press I suggest the designers for future titles on the upcoming seasonal publication lists. I usually choose whether to commission a designer or design agency for a specific title or whether to design the book myself. This new title was on the list and given its complexity and my interest in the subject matter I chose to take the project on personally.
The book idea was originated by one of the commissioning editors, and the editorial development of such a project is an ongoing process. My involvement in such projects is frequently more than just design concept and layout as there are a lot of conceptual alignments between the editorial part and the design. Even something like the title of the book has to work well with the design concept (in this case, I named the book — Akademie X).
“The book operates like a student’s personal lessons folder, with the collected images and texts from each tutor assembled in a string-closed cardboard binder. The overall aesthetic—materials, typography, colours, and structure—is inspired by office filing folders.” - Julia Hasting
What did you reference in terms of the design? Can you take us through the process of making this book look as amazing as it does?
My design concept is an open format collection of illustrated lessons in art, philosophy, and life by 36 world famous “tutors” teaching at Akademie X. The book operates like a student’s personal lessons folder, with the collected images and texts from each tutor assembled in a string-closed cardboard binder. The overall aesthetic—materials, typography, colours, and structure—is inspired by office filing folders, although the individual nature of each lesson invited different styles.

The sample artworks by the tutors as well as the images relevant to each lesson are treated as if glued directly into the binder’s colour coded pages (each tutor has its own specific background colour). The collected texts by the curators (which I chose to feature in a wide range of different typefaces to communicate the different styles of the source materials) are also presented as if directly attached to the binder’s pages. Biographies are treated as filled-in charts and are accompanied by loose, almost doodle-like portraits that the student might have created during each lesson while listening to the tutor.

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It’s rare for a creative to be commissioned to design and illustrate in the book – how did you end up doing both things?
I chose to do the illustrations myself because the style I envisioned for them had to fit exactly the overall design concept that I had developed. I illustrate and sketch a lot and as illustration is one of my passions I decided to create the drawings myself. If there was a specific style of illustration I needed for this project I could have commissioned someone else to do that. But my idea of an imaginary “art student” making straightforward sketches of her tutors into her lesson binder fit my own doodling habits.
I had first considered the use of photography for the artists’ portraits but sketches fitted the overall design concept much better, as they feel more personal and open and create a better contrast to the artworks and lessons that are featured.
“All artists were carefully chosen by Phaidon editors for their specific expertise, knowledge and personal philosophy on art and life. Each of these 36 ‘tutors’ has provided a unique lesson that aims to provoke, inspire and stimulate.” - Julia Hasting
Tell us about the artists in Akademie X, why you chose them, and what the book aims to do?
All artists were carefully chosen by Phaidon editors for their specific expertise, knowledge and personal philosophy on art and life. Each of these 36 “‘tutors” has provided a unique lesson that aims to provoke, inspire and stimulate. Lively, entertaining and poignant, the contributors draw on their extensive experience in the contemporary art world, to share previously untold stories and identify the crucial things they wish they’d known at the start of their careers.
Their advice ranges from practical considerations about making art and managing professional relationships, to ideological perspectives on the nature of learning and the state of art education in the twenty-first century. Many also propose “assignments” to spark creative thinking and the entries are illustrated with visually compelling art works to engage and inspire the reader.
Who would you like to enjoy this book?
Aspiring arts professionals, everyone with an interest in the lives of artists, anyone with an interest in art, culture and education in art. 

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- Liv Siddall

Billed by the co-director of Serpentine Galleries as “an unprecedented insight into 21st-century knowledge production and life as an artist today”, I did not need to ask the staff in my local Waterstones to remove its plastic wrapper: I needed to read it.
Once I had negotiated its tied notebook-like covers, it revealed itself instead as 36 lessons by contemporary university teachers of art (in its own words “the finest faculty of arts educators”) best intended to prepare someone about to start art school or college. Each ‘lesson’ consists of the teacher’s CV, their drawn portrait, a spread illustrating their work, several pages of their lesson, and assigned reading (etc.).
Marina Abramovič’s opening lesson is probably the least useful in the book, and for me got the whole thing off to an unfortunate start. Even before she delivers over three pages of repetitious mantras, I was bemused to see her list honorary doctorates under her CV heading of Training, a note of pretentiousness which appears sporadically throughout. I also wondered whether I would really want my 17 year old daughter being instructed to “be erotic” three times, when once should be worrying enough.
Thankfully lessons improved considerably after that. Walead Beshty’s brief discussion on aesthetics seemed to start part-way through the subject, dance a few small circles, then fizzle out, and is but a shadow of Arthur Shimamura’s introductory paper in Aesthetic Science (ed. Shimamura and Palmer, Oxford UP, 2014), for example. But it did at least contain some challenging ideas.
Most of the lessons are written around personal anecdote, rather than any analytic or synthetic processes, and their titles are as patchy as their content: from LOVE LETTER from us to In Pittsburgh. Although there are some gems, no attempt has been made to balance their eclectic content into a sensible curriculum. For example, the most detailed information given about money seems to be Carol Bove’s terse “Becoming an artist is not a good business plan.”
There is no practical advice on how to enter competitions, obtain grants, or even patrons. Being anecdotal, much advice given may have been pertinent at the time that the teacher experienced it, but little attempt is made to provide practical advice for the present. Some lessons are given in the format of questions and answers from an interview, others are more like the chapters of a book, and a couple appear slapdash.
Bob Nickas takes the opportunity to take a shot at Marina Abramovič; although not the first time that contributors to a book have argued with one another inside its pages, it illustrates the near-random collation of content. One of the book’s best points is offered in the last line of Tim Rollins’ lesson: “I believe artists should sing on a daily basis”, whilst Christopher Williams offers “you shouldn’t make anything you can’t carry through the door yourself.” If only a few more artists had followed that advice.
In contrast to the almost random nature of its content, the book’s design is coherent and pleasant, with good use of colour to make lessons distinct from one another. Disappointingly for a publisher renowned for its many books containing superb colour illustrations, those here are not shown to their best advantage, as a result of the paper and print process, and are generally small and tempting rather than useful for study.
Citations for further reading, watching, and listening are patchy and highly personal; some would be eminently suitable to encourage bright minds to think further. However the majority of the books and papers proposed for further reading are hard to get, out of print, or originally written in a language other than English (and some do not appear to be available in translation).
Perhaps the most startling absence from this book are online resources. A couple of the lessons include single links, and one offers a handful, but those are exceptions. I also did not notice a single reference to a book available from the iTunes store, or for Kindle. This is a remarkable oversight which perhaps reflects the lack of engagement in the outside world by these teachers.
So at the end of all this, do I feel that I have enjoyed the promised ‘unprecedented insight’? No, I think the book is overambitious in its aims, and falls far short of achieving them. In its smug post-modernist cleverness, it has forgotten the benefits of good editing, coherence, and co-ordination. A far better tool might be Jake Auerbach’s splendid movie The Last Art Film, for example. But dipped into occasionally it does have some fascinating content; if only it had been edited properly and priced for its intended market.
One last thing: there is no index, making it very hard to locate those scattered nuggets. - eclecticlight.co/2015/02/07/book-review-akademie-x-lessons-in-art-life/

www.juliahasting.com

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