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School as Art

February 25, 2010


Since participating in a session called Pedagogies of the Periphery (organized by Rebecca Zorach) a few weeks ago at threewalls Gallery in Chicago I have been thinking through a lot of questions I have about the current trend of the school form as artist project as well as the call for the March 4th student strike. Once I compiled this long but incomplete list, I got kind of excited about all of the mostly grassroots energy it represents towards rethinking what it means to learn. At the same time I wonder who these art projects serve and if they have oppositional possibilities or are just another venue for people with privilege to socialize with each other and engage in “knowledge production”? Some other questions I have are:
What does this type of art practice say about the current conditions of both official education and/or art?
Although each project is different, does this trend indicate a growing critique of official education?
If so, what are the critiques (pedagogical, corporate, curricular, all/none/etc)?
In what ways are these projects different than official education? Is it the spaces they happen in? Different administrators? Content of courses? Cost? Openness?
What are the politics of the discourse of “openness”?
What constitutes participation in these projects?
What, if any, is the relationship between the impetus for these school art practices and the issues inspiring the student strikes?
There are many other questions to ask and discussions to have related to problems of education today….for now here is a list of school art projects, as well as other types of places where classes are offered to the public, and a list of free schools for young people…

Current or recent school/art projects:

The Anhoek School
/ Mary Walling Blackburn, 2009-present
The AS in the AS/Joanna Spitzner, 2009-present
Art School UK
Bruce High Quality Foundation University, 2009-present
Colour School
Copenhagen Free University (ended 2007)
The Exploding School
Flying University/Red76/Sam Gould

The Independent School of Art
Informal University in Formation
Manoa Free University
The Mountain School of the Arts
Night School/Anton Vidokle, New York, 2007-2008
Pickpocket Almanack

Public Social University
(organized by social practice students at Portland State University)
The Public School, Los Angeles, Brussels, Chicago, Helsinki, LA, NY, Paris, Philly, and San Juan 2008- present-

A School of Decreative Methodologies,

The School of Missing Studies
The School of Panamerican Unrest/Pablo Helguera
The School of Walls and Space/Nils Norman
Sundown Schoolhouse/ Fritz Haeg
Trade School/ Caroline Woolard, 2010,
United Nations Plaza/ Anton Vidokle, Berlin, 2006-2007
The University of Trash/ Nils Norman and Michael Cataldi

In addition to these artist run schools, there are many initiatives/businesses/not-for-profits/self-organized projects that offer non-accredited and low or no cost classes to the public

Bluestockings Bookstore
The Brecht Forum
Experimental College of the Twin Cities:
Free University of Los Angeles
3rd ward
Toronto Free Anarchist University
Universitat Pirata
University of Openness:
Alternative Schools within Schools Open to the Public:
Experimental College/EXCO at Oberlin College, 1968 – present,
Militant and Co-Research at CUNY Grad Center
Free School at Hunter College, NY, Present
Free Schools for Young People
The Albany Free School This school was founded in 1969 and it is still going strong.
The Harriet Tubman Free School
Brooklyn Free School Their links page lists many schools around the world
Some Historical Examples of Radical Schools I Found While Researching Social Movement History:
-During the student strikes of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, self-organized revolutionary seminars were set up in the schools while students were striking.
Documentation of a seminar that took place during a student strike at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago was made by Kartemquin Film Collective and is still in distribution: What The Fuck Are These Red Squares?
-At SUNY Buffalo one of the demands of the strike was the establishment of Tolstoy College/College F, an anarchist college, that was open from 1969-1983. Faculty were paid by the larger university.
-Liberation School for Women, a project of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union
-Free School/Alt University was located in the War Resister’s Building at 339 Lafayette Street in NYC.
Related articles:
Katie Hargrave “Paolo Freire and Educational Models as Art Practice,” 4/1/2009
above image from new newspaper: After the Fall


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15 comments on “School as Art”

Hello, I found your blog by a FB recommendation of Joseph Del Pesco, I’ve just started a referential map of similar projects in Mexico, published as the first DISPATCH from iCI. I write to share hoping you’ll find it interesting.
Experimental pedagogy and art practice in Mexico
By Sofía Olascoaga

thanks for this dara its great. i didnt know about some of these! my sense is that more than anything these projects point to the failure of the university’s relevancy for radical discourse. I’m a little more ambivalent toward some of the ‘art’ education projects – i think more of them perform what education might look like and often lack any real sedimented inquiry…
successful or not, clearly there is a need for autonomous research and collective knowledge production.
I also wanted to share some zines i’ve been making with lots of this kind of content. including the occupation stuff happening all over. please distribute! m4 is around the corner.

and some more:
two new contemporary art publications related to this:
e-flux journal
Issue #14
 March 2010
Education Actualized
guest-edited by Irit Rogoff
Available online:
“You Talkin’ to Me? Why are Artists and Curators Turning to Education?”
Book Launch
Location: VU University, De Boelelaan 1105
Following the critically acclaimed reader “Curating Subjects” (2007) Open Editions and de Appel arts centre (2007) publish the companian volume: “Curating and the Educational Turn”. Ed. by Paul O’Neill & Mick Wilson
In recent years there has been increased debate about the incorporation of pedagogy into art and curatorial practice –what has been termed ‘the educational turn’. In this publication artists, curators, critics and academics respond to this widely recognised sense of art’s paradigmatic re-orientation towards the educational.
With text contributions by:
16 Beaver Group, Peio Aguirre, Dave Beech, David Blamey & Alex Coles, Daniel Buren & Wouter Davidts, Cornford & Cross, Charles Esche, Annie Fletcher & Sarah Pierce, Liam Gillick, Janna Graham, Tom Holert, William Kaizen, Hassan Khan, Annette Krauss, Emily Pethick, & Marina Vishmidt, Stewart Martin, Ute Meta Bauer, Marion von Osten & Eva Egermann, Andrea Phillips, Raqs Media Collective, Irit Rogoff, Edgar Schmitz, Simon Sheikh, Sally Tallant, Jan Verwoert, Anton Vidokle, Tirdad Zolghadr
Published by Open Editions (London) & de Appel (Amsterdam)
ISBN: 978-0-949004-18-5
Designed by Jonathan Hares
Soft board cover with dust jacket
215 x 115 x 25mm
348pp English

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