It seems that universities are now required to train the workers of the future and, because of this, to be the place to acquire the necessary skills to efficiently develop specific tools. Meanwhile, space for reflection is displaced to other areas, such as exhibition centres. Here, through culture, citizens are confronted with their world in a critical manner. Following this scheme, it appears that economics students – and those of other higher educational studies – must accustom themselves to going to these cultural centres. This will allow them to leave the realm of competence and enter that of reflection on what they are learning and what they will practise in their professional future. What types of narratives and works might be found in these centres?
This past year, our country has seen various exhibitions which could be interpreted from the scope of economics studies. I mention some of these, but this notion could be extended to the whole continent. For example, in the latest edition of the Documenta (the most important contemporary art competition that takes place every five years in Kassel), its curators wanted to share the budget and programme with Athens, given the economic injustice that Greece is suffering.
The retrospective of the piece by Allan Sekula at the Fundació Tàpies allowed us to see how seas and oceans have become an abstract, deregulated space that functions with neoliberal, radical logic, and that they enable the globalised world of ubiquitous goods. These goods can be in any place, at any time, as costs are increasingly cheaper. The photographer’s work confirms a reality that reaches us all (the market) through showing no more than the reality of the ports, cargos, goods and the people that work with them. Rosi Amor, the exhibition that closed just a few weeks ago at the MNCARS in Madrid, spoke, among many other themes, of boredom, of the country, of the power of Spanish poetry, of temporality and also (and perhaps only in passing) of a specific corporate world. In the first room of the exhibition, the viewer saw a series of flat objects, cold sculptures that evoked the logos of the big companies that we see every day in the street. Pink and flaccid pendulum-falluses were hung from these, that moved marking the abstract time of investments: tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. It was another confrontation aimed at anyone who was willing to respond to it. Finally, the exhibition that has just been opened at La Virreina, Màquines de Viure (Living Machines), strangely vindicates a citizen unaffected by capitalism, although the subtitle is Flamenco and architecture in the occupation and disoccupation of space.
On the 29th of December 2018 , the 33 theses of Rethinking Economics were “nailed” to the doors of the London School of Economics; a digital era remake of Luther’s 33 theses, 500 years later. The echo of their publication made explicit the deficiencies of university-level economics teaching and, by extension, of higher educational teaching in other subjects. It appears that the fundamental complaint was precisely the model I described in the first parragraph of this brief article: schools and universities have stopped being a space for reflection and debate and have become conveyor belts for new economic truths. They also, in passing, deregulate markets, do away with the welfare state and accelerate the exhaustion of natural resources to the point of endangering lives. The fact that these 33 theses were set forth precisely for university students and professors raises the idea that there are still small areas seeking confrontation and doubt.
Libraries and art centres can provide us with critical tools, striking like the hammer used by Luther 500 years ago. However, we must remember that these libraries and art centres are always entered through doors in from the street, and it is from the street that Luther’s hammers are used, against the doors of cathedrals and schools.