27 JUNE: De-Skilling in Art from Benjamin Buchloh to Howard Singerman with Dr Margaret MacNamidhe

In this lecture, Dr MacNamidhe discussed a further part of her work in progress, a book on drawing tentatively entitled "The Desk-Bound Hand: Theories of Habit and Drawing in Modernism and After."

The subject of this lecture was two crucial moments in the history of the concept of "de-skilling" which continue to inform arts curricula around the world. The most recent and forceful theorization of de-skilling appears in Benjamin Buchloh's introduction to his collected art criticism (2015). He was unremittingly negative about the possibility of re-skilling, wholly assimilating it to interwar totalitarianism. Surprisingly, he was equally pessimistic about de-skilling. Singerman's book, Art Subjects, attributes the term "de-skilling" to the Australian Art & Language artist Ian Burn, as well as the American labor historian Harry Braverman. Singerman's clear-eyed conclusion is that art education needs to ensconce itself in the research university, modeling its procedures on the protocols of science.

Dr MacNamidhe is Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has published in Art BulletinCambridge French Studies, and Nineteenth-Century French Studies. Her awards include the Lorado Taft Award, University of Illinois, 2011, Humanities Institute of Ireland, 2009, and Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences, 2004–6. Her publications include Delacroix and His Forgotten World: The Lost Origins of Romantic Painting (I.B. Tauris, London, 2014), about which CAA Reviews wrote, “her profoundly original study raises an impressive range of formal and critical problems in relation to Delacroix and as such, opens up many avenues for future research on Romanticism.”

Dr Margaret MacNamidhe’s visit was generously supported by The Centre of Visual Art (CoVA) and The Victorian College of the Arts.