Carl Andre’s opposition between an activating art and a pacifying culture becomes the impetus for wider reflections on artistic autonomy and agency with special reference to how fine art is taught at college. I propose that artistic agency might better be accounted for and enacted by conceiving of it not as something set against or at a distance from culture in general, but ‘as’ culture. Through an overview of various institutional and discursive accounts of artistic production which describe the ways in which art is itself influenced and determined by external factors, and an extended analysis of Raymond Williams theory of culture as ‘collective advance’, I propose that fine art education needs to confront the question of contemporary art’s wider cultural embeddedness, and the political culture of art itself—a politics based in the nature of the social relationships art practice engenders.
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