Nigel Hallett


​​​​I am nearing the end of my period of study for my part-time Ph.D. The genesis for my study was an interest in art and the assessment of art which extends over 40 years into my past.

My subject is “ontological developments in contemporary art and their implications for value systems in art education”. To put it another way, if the ontological status of art has shifted over the past 80 years to the extent that there is no visually discernible difference between an object which is designated as art and any other visually identical “ordinary” object, how are we to make judgements about what constitutes an art object? Indeed, what sense is there in talking of an art “object” at all since on at least one theory, art and idea become fused at the point of indiscernibility.

This question has been the subject of theoretical speculation since, arguably, Duchamp’s readymades 90 years ago. My particular interest is with how the indiscernibility issue impacts upon art teaching in British Colleges of Art. They produce artists at a steady rate each year. Each successful student is qualified to a level of competence determined by the degree level awarded. The criteria used to identify the level of qualification are constantly up for challenge and review as the subject matter of art courses shifts.

The challenge of contemporary art is a challenge, not only to the subject matter of art but, perhaps more significantly, to the media through which artistic ideas are expressed, given that art does not have to reside in a created physical object per se.

I am interested to know how art colleges (and texts dealing with art teaching and pedagogic approaches to art) are dealing with this challenge when they evaluate students’ work.​