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Exhibition Preview


Preview | The Ignorant Art School Sit-in #1 | Ruth Ewan

The Ignorant Art School: Five Sit-ins towards Creative Emancipation

Sit-in #1: Ruth Ewan
We Could Have Been Anything That We Wanted to Be and It’s Not Too Late to Change

Afternoon Preview
2 September, 3–7pm
3 September – 23 October 2021
Sit-in Curriculum #1: 25 February – 23 October 2021 (online)

Book free tickets via Eventbrite for the Afternoon Preview.

Join us for an Afternoon Preview of Ruth Ewan's solo exhibition We Could Have Been Anything That We Wanted to Be and It’s Not Too Late to Change for Sit-in #1 of Cooper Gallery’s long term project The Ignorant Art School.

We look forward to celebrating Ewan’s exhibition and opening our doors to you for the first time this year.

Staggered time slots are available to book via Eventbrite. If you wish to extend your visit please feel free to book multiple time slots on the day. Please book one ticket for each person visiting.

In February 2021 Ruth Ewan declared We Could Have Been Anything That We Wanted to Be and It’s Not Too Late to Change. Keeping step with the contemporary necessity for collective action, Sit-in #1 of The Ignorant Art School foregrounds the revolutionary potential of education. Accompanying Ewan’s ambitious exhibition of new and existing works throughout the autumn, Sit-in Curriculum #1 will return online and in-person, bringing the energy of an unconstrained classroom to the exhibition.

Indexed by Dundee’s historical connection with the 1789 French Revolution, We Could Have Been Anything That We Wanted to Be and It’s Not Too Late to Change brings together evocative manifestations of revolutionary time with the creative energy of dissent. Featuring a decimal clock especially installed on the public façade of Cooper Gallery, a virtual and physical perpetual Republican Calendar, a lightbox sculpture named Heckle, and an immersive installation How Many Flowers Make the Spring?, Ewan’s exhibition offers us a transcendent moment resonating with dissent and solidarity.

Resetting time is an abiding and representative leitmotif of revolution and 1789 is its quintessential expression. Desiring to introduce a new ‘civil era’, the French Revolution secularised and rationalised time by abolishing the 24 hour day in favour of a decimalised 10 hour day and by renaming every month of the year to reflect not the names of Gods or Kings but nature, science and the labouring classes. Inherently political, this revolutionary reclaiming of time rings loud and clear in We Could Have Been Anything That We Wanted to Be and It’s Not Too Late to Change.

Ewan’s new audio installation, How Many Flowers Will Make the Spring?, situates oral histories and the personal recollections of activists involved in public moments of dissent within an indoor meadow-like landscape made of dried grasses and plants, collected locally from common land, public grounds and a farm. Channelling the natural symbolism of the French Republican Calendar How Many Flowers Will Make the Spring? asks us to embrace liberty and freedom not as individualistic goals nor as distant utopian aims, but as collective trans-historic struggles to which we can all contribute and effect social change.


Artist Biography

Ruth Ewan is an internationally celebrated artist whose research-led and critically engaged practice has drawn attention within contemporary art and socio-political history. Engaging with the circulation of radical ideas and social movements, her work explores the processes by which ideas take form and spread from individuals to society.

Ewan’s work is recognised internationally and she has shown extensively at major venues including; Edinburgh Art Festival (2018 & 2020); Pitzhanger Gallery (2020); Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2019); CAPC, Bordeux (2019); Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration, Paris (2019); Victoria and Albert Museum (2018); 32nd São Paulo Biennial (2016); Camden Arts Centre, London (2015); Tate Britain (2009 & 2014); Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, Glasgow International (2012); Dundee Contemporary Arts and Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Sevilla (2011); The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk (2010); the New Museum, New York (2009). She has realised projects for The High Line, New York (2019); Glasgow Women’s Library (2018); Create, London (2012); Art on the Underground (2011); Frieze Projects (2009) and Artangel (2007&2013). In 2016 she was awarded the Arts Foundation Yoma Sasburg Award for Art in Urban Space.


Image credits:

1. Ruth Ewan, We Could Have Been Anything That We Wanted to Be, 2011. Installation view Cooper Gallery, 2021. Photo courtesy the artist. 



The gallery is on two floors. First floor has ramped access and disabled toilet.

Second floor is accessible via lift and for wheelchair access via a stairclimber.

Due to additional safety measures please email in advance if you require lift or stairclimber access so we can arrange support.

Large print versions of the exhibition information handout are available, please ask our Guides.


All enquiries please contact:

Cooper Gallery would like to thank the following organisations for their support in realising the installation. 

University of Dundee Botanic Garden; Hospitalfield, Arbroath; Auchtermuchty Common; Pillars of Hercules; Becca Clark, Dundee; GENERATORProjects, Dundee, and Warriston Allottment, Edinburgh. 

Funding support:

The Ignorant Art School at Cooper Gallery, DJCAD is supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland and Henry Moore Foundation. 

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