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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

Sit-in Curriculum #1: 25 February–24 April 2021 (online)

Exhibition: 2 September – 23 October 2021


Rekindling the political turmoil and desires for emancipation set alight in Dundee by the French Revolution, Sit-in #1 of The Ignorant Art School by Ruth Ewan proposes ‘we could have been anything that we wanted to be and it's not too late to change’.

Traversing multiple histories, alternative social structures and popular culture, the exhibition and online Sit-in Curriculum #1 radicalises imagination as a revolutionary act to reveal the urgent cogency of collaborative learning and transgressive reimagining as the world struggles towards a new normal.

The fulcrum underscoring the endeavour of Sit-in #1 is Ewan’s decimal clock installation. First introduced by the French Revolution ‘metric time’ divides the day into 10 hours rather than 24. Inherently political, this revolutionary conception sets out to challenge existing systems of power by rupturing and reclaiming time.

Under this novel and disruptive mode of marking time, Sit-in Curriculum #1 adopts unashamedly radical forms of collaborative learning and grassroots knowledge creation. Featuring ‘A History Class’ that explores Dundee’s radical political history and the city’s connection to the French Revolution; ‘An Optimism Class’ inspired by Ewan’s A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World; ‘A Play Class’ collaboratively developing an audio drama that takes freedom as unlearning , ‘A Strike Class’ contesting capitalist constructions of time and the potential of education on the picket line, 'A Beauty Class’ exploring beauty as a necessary feminist tool for regenerating society and politics‘A Radical Pub Crawl’ taking on the model societies espoused by the ‘Gothenburg pubs’, and ‘A Slogan Class’ for those with a desire for loud and resolutely public polemics.

To embed and heighten the plural voices and ethos of distributed agency at the heart of The Ignorant Art School, Sit-in Curriculum #1 invites writer and researcher Hussein Mitha to inhabit the role of an Associate Occupier. Working through a collaborative praxis, Mitha will respond, reflect and contribute to Sit-in #1, actively developing and testing this first ‘Blueprint’ of The Ignorant Art School.

Materialising the rich breadth of attitudes and ethos exemplified in Sit-in Curriculum #1, Ewan’s forthcoming exhibition in September will transform Cooper Gallery into a vibrant and provocative distillation of dissenting voices and grassroots knowledge. Indexed by the ambition and cause of revolution, Ewan’s We Could Have Been Anything That We Wanted to Be and It’s Not Too Late to Change brings together manifestations of revolutionary time: a French Republican decimal clock and perpetual calendar, which alongside a target practice game and audio play will offer a perceptive summation of the subversive power of imagination when taken up with collective intent.


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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, Clocks, Governments, People, Letterpress print, 2012. Photography by Matthew Arthur Williams.

2. Ruth Ewan, We Could Have Been Anything That We Wanted to Be, installed at CAPC musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux, 2019. Photography by Arthur Péquin. 

3. From The Great Brain Robbery, 1971 by Keith Paton published by Moss Side Press Ltd. Every effort has been made to trace the copyright holders and obtain permission for the use of copyright material. We apologise for any errors or omissions in the credits and would be grateful if notified of any corrections that should be incorporated.

4. Ruth Ewan, The People’s Instruments, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, 2012. Photography by Ruth Ewan. 

5. Ruth Ewan, Back to the Fields, installed at CAPC musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux, 2019. Photography by Arthur Péquin. 



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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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