The Ignorant Art School | Sit-in 2 | To Be Potential
Friday 3 December 2021 - Saturday 19 February 2022
An exhibition and event project navigates experiments in art education and alternative pedagogical initiatives from the early 20th Century to the present.
University of Dundee
3 – 18 December 2021
5 January – 19 February 2022
Monday – Saturday, 11am – 4pm
Closed for winter break
19 December 2021 – 4 January 2022
- Exhibition Preview
2 December 2021
- Sit-in Curriculum #2
3 December 2021 – 19 February 2022
- Touring to Hatton Gallery
19 March – 21 May 2022
Declaring that our collective future is determined not by what we know, but by how we create and share knowledge, Sit-in #2: To Be Potential activates how artistic practice as pedagogy dares education, in the words of bell hooks, to be 'the practice of freedom'.
Political in origin, radical in intent and emancipatory by nature, this radical pedagogy is an inherently social practice. Subverting hierarchies between ‘those who think they know’ and ‘those who assume they don’t’, artistic practice as pedagogy is a global phenomenon that recognises no conceptual, discursive or intellectual limits. Characterised by an ethics of equal access and an ethos of generous solidarity, together the radical pedagogical practices featured in Sit-in #2: To Be Potential transform knowledge from a capitalist commodity to an emancipatory power available to all.
Juxtaposing significant and un(der) explored case studies from the Global North and the Global South, Sit-in #2: To Be Potential rethinks and unsettles the conventions, hierarchies and economies of access that haunt the creation and dissemination of knowledge. Placing emphasis on knowledge as a collective experience and communal act, Sit-in #2: To Be Potential will occupy and extend the social and political implications of radical pedagogies from the early 20th century to the present; including the Bauhaus, the Basic Course in Newcastle, Anti-university London, Copenhagen Free University, the Environmental Art course at Glasgow School of Art, Edinburgh Arts Summer School, Free University New York, GUDSKUL in Jakarta, The Hedgeschoolproject in Ireland, the Hornsey Sit-in of 1968, The White Room in Reading, Womanifesto in Thailand, and The Rooftop Institute in Hong Kong, amongst many others.
A public event series, titled Sit-in Curriculum #2, will situate the archival material and artworks as critical stimuli and generative points of departure, acting as an open space for collaborative and revolutionised learning facilitated by artists, activists, designers, educators, performers, and writers. Indexed by Stuart Hall’s theorisation of the ‘politics of articulation’ in which culture is not fixed but always subject to negotiation and struggle, Sit-in Curriculum #2 will challenge hegemonical narratives and celebrate grassroots knowledge. Sit-in Curriculum #2 will culminate in an international symposium; 12 Hour Sit-in Revel.
To embed an ethos of distributed agency at the heart of The Ignorant Art School, artist Jade Montserrat is commissioned to take on the role of Associate Occupier. Devised to be part agitator, part raconteur the Associate Occupier will respond, reflect and contribute to the Sit-in exhibition and Curriculum, actively developing and testing a Blueprint for The Ignorant Art School.
Rooted in the discursive network of Sit-in #2: To Be Potential is feminist critic Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s evocation of unlearning – ‘a stream of learning of how to unlearn and what to unlearn’, which positions knowledge creation as a state of pure potential, a vigilant readiness on the cusp of the new, the radical and the revolutionary. And it is this, the potential of artistic practice as pedagogy to intervene and problematise political and social conditions that The Ignorant Art School invites you to explore in all its creative and radical possibilities.
Projects featured in the exhibition
Basic Course emerged in the 1950s and 60s in Britain as a new approach for artistic training in the UK. Challenging traditional and 19th Century pedagogical methods in art educational practice that had continued into the post-war period, Basic Course was a loose dissemination of educational ideas and principles that drew influence from the German Bauhaus of the 1920s and the thinking of the artist and educator William Johnstone (1897–1981) - Principal of Camberwell School of Art (1938–46) and then of the Central School of Arts and Crafts (1947–60) in London.
The key proponents of Basic Course each took up and shaped the movement different ways, and as a teaching philosophy it crystalized in the North of England, where it was notably led by Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton in Newcastle-on-Tyne and Harry Thubron and Tom Hudson in Leeds. Basic Course represented a distinct shift from technique, medium-based teaching, towards one which encouraged experimental and critical attitudes. The focus on subjectivity gave greater weight to students’ input, and in some cases they became seen as collaborators – fellow artists - rather than students.
The teaching method of the influential German art school The Bauhaus (1919-33), established by Walter Gropius, replaced the traditional pupil-teacher relationship with the idea of a community of artists working together. Its aim was to bring art back into contact with everyday life, and architecture, performing arts, design and applied arts were therefore given as much weight as fine art - echoing the ideas of British socialist William Morris. In a unification of the arts under one roof and stressing an interdisciplinary approach, it was grounded in the idea of creating a Gesamtkunstwerk, a ‘total work of art’.
The Bauhaus curriculum commenced with a preliminary course - Vorkurs - that immersed students who came from a diverse range of social and educational backgrounds in the study of materials, color theory, and formal relationships in preparation for more specialised studies that included the production of goods in metalwork, cabinetry, weave, pottery, typography, and wall paintings. The structure of the Bauhaus Vorkurs reflected a pragmatic approach to integrating theory and application and was often taught by visual artists. Artist-teachers included well known figures such as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, László Moholy-Nagy and Josef Albers among others.
The Bauhaus is celebrated not only for its aesthetic style – characteristically a combination of the Arts and Craft movement and modernism – but for the atmosphere of shared creativity in its workshops where students and tutors collaborated and learned together, and in the college where they lived and ate together, joining in recreational activities and sports. It is famed for its parties and nightlife, where both teachers and students of almost all departments unleashed their creativity and enjoyment of design in producing elaborate costumes and performances, alongside the jazz experimentation of the Bauhaus Band. These collaborative, theatrical events promoted contact between the college and the public, as well as a communal spirit.
Environmental Art at Glasgow School of Art
In 1985 the Environmental Art course was established at the School of Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art (GSA), headed by artist David Harding.
Through Public Art Projects, Environmental Art students learned what were for Harding key elements of contextual practice: ‘negotiation with the secular and the everyday; researching and understanding non-gallery settings as a location for art; learning to unlock the special sense and meaning of a space, place or social group; engaging broad, unspecified audiences; learning that there is no single universal public.’ The Environmental Art Course demanded that students engage with individuals, groups and agencies in the ‘real world’ to make work: ‘not only were we educating artists but also people to take their place in society’. Ecology, politics, human geography, ethnicity, collaborative practices, among others, were, they believed, suitable topics for the education of artists. Social events and group trips were core to the development of the course’s strong identity.
The Environmental Art Course is well known for producing many renowned Scottish artists who work in public, gallery, and pedagogical contexts, such as Claire Barclay, Christine Borland, Jacqueline Donnachie, Douglas Gordon, Mary Redmond, Louise Scullion, Lucy Skaer and Ross Sinclair amongst many others. Its current staff continue to develop Harding’s ethos in teaching collaborative and contextual practices for new generations of artists.
Edinburgh Arts was the generic title for a programme of experimental summer schools held between 1972 and 1980, run by Richard Demarco.
Edinburgh Arts aimed to open participants to new pathways for self-determined creative action, based on encounters and exchanges with diverse places, people, artefacts and events. The traditional boundaries between student and teacher were deliberately blurred, while the summer schools approached the idea of learning and teaching through art as an inter-disciplinary pursuit that included ecology, architecture, archaeology and literature, as well as traditional crafts and folk culture.
Edinburgh Arts was grounded in Demarco’s experience as a teacher and gallery director, his knowledge of contemporary art and the history (and prehistory) of Europe, and his belief in the importance of European and North American cultural interaction. Much Edinburgh Arts activity was held at the Richard Demarco Gallery (RDG), with exhibiting artists often contributing to the summer school programme.
Gudskul: Collective and Contemporary Art Ecosystem Studies is an educational platform formed by three Jakarta-based art collectives: ruangrupa, Serrum and Grafis Huru Hara. Since the early 2000s, we have been respectively undertaking collective practice in the field of contemporary art. In 2015, we joined forces to form a common ecosystem, Gudang Sarinah Ekosistem, whose values emerge from our understanding of the collective process: equity, sharing, solidarity, friendship and togetherness. Learning from this working experience, in 2018 Gudskul initiated a knowledge-sharing platform open to everyone interested in the practice of similar approaches.
Gudskul Collective Studies is a one-year programme intensively discussing and activating a collective point of view as a form of working method in art and culture. The programme consists of 11 subjects which support one another as collective works: Collective Practice Intelligence; Collective Sustainability Strategy; Collective Practice Review; Collective Culture Discourse; Spatial Practice; Knowledge Garden; Articulation and Curation; Art Collective Laboratory; Public relations; Intermedia; Workshop.
The Hedgeschoolproject was developed by artist and educator Glenn Loughran between 2006-12. Hedge Schools first emerged in Ireland during the Cromwellian regime 1649 to 1653, and then as a response to the Penal Laws from 1723 to 1782 which prohibited Irish Catholics from taking part in the commercial or intellectual life of their country (McManus, 2004). Often described as people’s schools, Hedge Schools were subversively organized by priests and rural workers in barns and behind hedges throughout Ireland.
The Hedgeschoolproject is an attempt to re-signify the idea of the Hedge School, as a unique moment of collective education. Conceived as a series of concept schools, operating across multiple social and geographic contexts, each Hedge School was used methodologically to contextualize the guiding principles of the inquiry. Three iterations of the project happened over six years, involving groups such as rural Irish early school leavers, the Traveller community in North Dublin, and precarious workers in sewing factories in Kaunas, Lithuania.
Against a backdrop of political demonstrations and student riots in Paris, at Hornsey College (School) of Art on 28th May 1968 a group of students began a protest for student autonomy and a restructuring of art education by holding an all-night teach-in protest. Initially triggered by a disagreement with the college over the running of the Student Union, it developed into a non-violent student revolt and organized occupation which lasted six weeks.
The activist group, which included some sympathetic staff members, had become increasingly frustrated by what they considered an authoritarian management. The sit-in was highly organised with rotas for the library, cleaning, cooking and the practical day-to-day running of the campus, and also a programme of discussions, meetings and seminars. Students from other colleges arrived in a show of solidarity and creatives such as Buckminster Fuller, Henry Moore, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner and Eduardo Paolozzi, alongside Scottish psychiatrist R.D Laing, visited the site to give talks as part of an ongoing debate about the education of artists and designers.
The widespread debate about art education provoked by the Hornsey Sit-in was far-reaching and influential, with questions raised in the House of Commons and articles in countless papers over the fifty years since it happened.
Tom Hudson (1922 – 1997) was an artist who took teaching as his primary medium and considered that art could be a means of changing society. His greatest influence was on art education. He was a foremost proponent of the Bauhaus concept of teaching Art and Design and was best known for his involvement with the Basic Course movement at art colleges across the UK in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. This came to be the Art foundation course which still provides a holistic grounding for Art and Design students before taking higher education qualifications.
Hudson taught at Lowestoft School of Art before leading the Basic Course, the preliminary ‘foundation’ course, at Leeds College of Art. He continued developing his educational ideas at Leicester (1960-64), Cardiff (1964-77) and Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver, Canada (1977-87). In 1972 Hudson conducted a workshop entitled Creative Adaptability for that year’s Edinburgh Arts Summer School organised by Richard Demarco. This workshop is featured in Sit-in #2 of The Ignorant Art School at Cooper Gallery.
Hudson believed it was a fundamental right for all members of society to gain an understanding of modern visual language and systems in order to take control of their aesthetic world. Challenging traditional notions of art making, Hudson believed art should go deeper than representation, emphasising the importance of student directed learning and a blurring of the boundaries between artistic disciplines.
Free University of New York (FUNY)
Free University of New York (FUNY) was an experiment in radical education initiated by Allen Krebs, Sharon Krebs and James Mellen which opened as an educational social experiment in July 1965 in a New York loft.
FUNY began as a home for professors dismissed from local universities for protesting US imperialism and for holding socialist and critical views. It aimed to bridge between social, artistic and political education, and provide forums and common ground for teachers and students alike to develop their curricula. FUNY saw as its urgent task: ‘To develop the concepts necessary to comprehend the events of this century and the meaning of one’s life within it, to examine artistic expression beyond the usual scope of the academy and to promote the social integrity and commitment from which scholars usually stand aloof.’ Operating out with the bounds of the traditional institution, providing cheap or free alternative education, course topics went beyond those usual to the academies of the day: Black Liberation, Revolutionary Art and Ethics, Community Organization, The American Radical Tradition, Cuba and China, and Imperialism and Social Structure.
Intended as an experimental school for the New Left, built on models such as Black Mountain College (North Carolina) and other experimental colleges of the time, FUNY emerged in response to a general political atmosphere characterised by an institutionalised fear and repression of the left and civil rights movements. After the first year, many of the initial collaborators left or were forced to leave, and it shut down in 1968 though it continued to influence social and educational movements in the United States and beyond, such as Newsreel filmmakers, Tolstoy College and Antiuniversity London. The Alternate U followed FUNY as a more radical and free floating educational platform some blocks down 6th ave.
The Antiuniversity of London
The Antiuniversity of London was a short-lived organisation and intense experiment into self organised education and communal living that took off at 49 Rivington Street in Shoreditch opening in February 1968. The Antiuniversity was at its core an experimental process that brought together different fields of political theory, anti-psychiatry, and artistic practices in a desire to open up an unstable space between revolutionary politics, experimental art and radical psychiatry. Like its forerunner the Free University of New York – from which the Antiuniversity of London took its model - it aimed to open up education to a wider social reality. With an experiential focus to education, no formal qualification was needed to get involved and no degrees would be awarded. It included eminent figures such as C.L.R James, Juliet Mitchell, John Latham, R.D. Laing and Stuart Hall who wanted to break the structures forced by institutions such as schools, universities and hospitals.
The Copenhagen Free University
The Copenhagen Free University was established in May 2001 as a self-organised and artist-run research institution by artists Henriette Heise and Jakob Jakobsen, in a flat in Copenhagen, Denmark. In an attempt to reinvigorate the emancipatory aspect of research and learning, and dissatisfied by the corporatization of education and research into the so-called ‘knowledge-economy’, they intended to bring ‘everyday life’ back into the notion of a university. Taking ‘everyday life’ to mean ‘the messy life people live within the contradictions of capitalism’, where methods of knowledge production are rather fluid, fleeting, uncompromising, subjective and uneconomic: ‘produced in the kitchen, produced when asleep or arisen on a social excursion – collectively’. Wanting to reconnect learning and skill sharing to the everyday within a self-organised institutional framework of a free university, The Copenhagen Free University was dedicated to the production of critical consciousness and poetic language.
Presenting stories about the Copenhagen Free University and the surrounding society over a period of ten years, in 2011 the exhibition ‘Trauma 1-11: Stories about the Copenhagen Free University and the surrounding society in the last ten years’ took place at Museum of Contemporary Art, Roskilde, in collaboration with individuals closely links to the Copenhagen Free University: Emma Hedditch, Howard Slater and Anthony Davies. The Copenhagen Free University has inspired the genesis of numerous other alternative education spaces around the world.
Jakob Jakobsen & Antihistory
The Antihistory project is an ongoing research project into experimental educational institutions of the 1960s and 1970s, which has been developed by visual artist, educator and activist Jakob Jakobsen, as researcher and associate of the Mayday Rooms, London. As part of the project the Antihistory-blog was established and contact made with various people connected to the Antiuniversity to share and activate these histories. Jakobsen’s method is socialised research based on the creation of events, and the ongoing publication of material that catalyses further discussion and reflection.
With its main focus on the Antiuniversity of London (UK 1968), New Experimental College (DK 1962-1975), Free University of New York (US 1965-1968) and Alternate U (1969-1973), the Antihistory Project has produced publications on the Antiuniversity of London (2012), New Experimental College (2014) and the Free University of New York/Alternate U (upcoming).
Jakobsen also co-founded the trade union Young Art Workers (UKK) in 2002 and the artist run television station tv-tv (2005-2008). He was professor at the Funen Art Academy from 2006 to 2012. At Flattime House, London, in 2013 following a six-month residency he directed the exhibition Antiknow: A pedagogical theatre of unlearning and the limits of knowledge with the Antiknow Research Group. The term ‘Antiknow’ was introduced by John Latham as his course title for the 1968 Antiuniversity of London, though it is doubtful whether this course actually took place.
In 2016,Jakobsen founded the Hospital Prison University Archive, a research-based archive space and radio station in his attic in Copenhagen from which the current podcast Social crisis! Mental crisis! with co-host Sophie Carapetian. Currently he is engaged with the Hospital for Self-Medication also within his flat in Copenhagen.
Jakob Jakobsen’s research and artworks featured in The Ignorant Art School: Sit-in #2 exhibition include an audio play The Free University Is Changing as You Listen to This: An Audio Play for Six Voices and Three Speakers (2018) in relation to the Free University of New York, an artist edition tabloid newspaper (2012) in relation to the Antiuniversity of London, and an artist’s posterbook (2007) and two booklets (2001 & 2002) in relation to the Copenhagen Free University.
Rooftop Institute, founded in 2014 by three artists from Hong Kong, is an artist-run, charity organisation dedicated to advocating for ‘art learning as a way to engage the social’. Originating from the idea of the ‘rooftop’ as a traditional space of communal learning in Hong Kong, its mission is to develop a series of imaginings and practices around the concepts of space, community, learning and exchange.
Rooftop’s evolving program is intended to develop artist-in-residence schemes and initiate educational programmes: they invite Asian and local artists to conduct artistic research and discussions on contemporary social and cultural issues, for instance, to touch upon topics like colonialism, borders, migration, foreign workers and mixed marriage.
The White Room
The White Room experiment was instigated by artist and tutor Rita Donagh with a group of students at the Fine Art Department, Reading University in May 1970. Students included Will Adams, Charles Astier, Becky Bailey, Anne (Sarah) Bean, Graham Challifour, Phil Cole, Jennifer Hutcheson, Roderick Melvin, Chippy Muir, Suki Patterson, Monica Ross, Stuart Smith, Philip Winder, and Alison Yarrington; while tutors and visiting artists involved included Derek Boshier, Cornelius Cardew, Roger Cook, Keith Critchlow, Tom Cross, Alan Davis, Terry Frost, Carol Hodgeson, Keith Milow and Claude Rogers.
Though initiated by an artist-tutor, The White room was a shared event over a three-week period, a collaboration that took off initially from the traditional situation of the ‘life room’ and included the presence and participation of the model. Starting with the decision to paint the floor white – giving the project its name and signifying a new beginning – the centre of the experiment was a consideration of the figure of the ‘life’ model, and a question of what could happen in a ‘life room’ at a time when art education was subject to radical changes.
Bringing aesthetic activity into violent conjunction with real world politics and shattering the temporal and spatial hermetic of the life room and educational environment, while working on this studio project the radio transmitted the shocking news that four American students had been shot by the National Guard at Kent State University in Ohio, during a protest over the Vietnam War. In the same spirit as that of Joseph Beuys (and influenced at Reading by the presence of Beuys’ close associate Caroline Tisdal) Donagh was encouraging a consideration of fundamental questions concerning the nature of art, especially to challenge ideas of works of art as self-contained gestures, and the role of the artist within broader cultural and political contexts.
This time was profoundly impactful to Donagh and her students, inspiring Donagh’s painting ‘Reflection on Three Weeks in May, 1970’ and then-students Anne Bean, Graham Challifour and Rod Melvin to reconvene in May 2021 and devise the performance work 'Nothing', exactly 50 years later.
A newly commissioned audio work The Ballad of the White Room by Anne Bean, Graham Challifour, Rita Donagh and Rod Melvin is installed within the reconstructed elements of the White Room alongside ephemera of the 1970 experiment and Drawing Life (1970) a series of collage works reflecting on the White Room by Anne Bean.
Womanifesto started out by hosting gatherings biannually from 1997 to build an international platform for women living in Thailand. It was first established by a group of women artists, writers and activists following an exhibition titled Tradisexion held in Bangkok in 1995.
Womanifesto went on to develop a diverse range of activities spanning community-based workshops, publication and internet-related projects, workshops and residencies, and more recently a regular online meeting point entitled lasuemo (the last Sunday of each month).
Artists and artists’ collectives featured in the exhibition
- Lawrence Alloway
- Anne Bean, Graham Challifour, Rita Donagh and Rod Melvin
- Ruth Ewan
- Anne Griffin
- Richard Hamilton
- David Harding
- Henriette Heise
- Tom Hudson
- Jakob Jakobsen
- Lawan Jirasuradej
- Glenn Loughran
- Victor Pasmore
- Gudskul (Jakarta)
- Rooftop Institute (Hong Kong)
- Womanifesto (Thailand)
To embed and heighten the plural voices and ethos of distributed agency at the heart of The Ignorant Art School, an Associate Occupier will be commissioned for each Sit-in. Devised to be part agitator, part raconteur the Associate Occupier will respond, reflect and contribute to the Sit-in exhibition and Curriculum, actively developing and testing a ‘Blueprint’ for The Ignorant Art School.
Associate Occupier biography
Jade Montserrat was the recipient of the Stuart Hall Foundation Scholarship supporting her PhD (via MPhil) at IBAR, UCLan, (Race and Representation in Northern Britain in the context of the Black Atlantic: A Creative Practice Project) and the development of her work from her Black diasporic perspective in the North of England. She was also awarded one of two Jerwood Student Drawing Prizes in 2017 for No Need for Clothing, a documentary photograph of a drawing installation at Cooper Gallery DJCAD by Jacquetta Clark. Jade’s Rainbow Tribe project – a combination of historical and contemporary manifestations of Black Culture from the perspective of the Black Diaspora is central to the ways she is producing a body of work, including No Need For Clothing and its iterations, as well as her performance work Revue. Jade was commissioned to present Revue as a 24 hour live performance at SPILL Festival of Performance, October 2018, a solo exhibition at The Bluecoat, Liverpool, (Nov – 10 Mar 2019) which toured to Humber Street Gallery ( July-sept 2019) and was commissioned by Art on the Underground to create the 2018 Winter Night Tube cover. Iniva and Manchester Art Gallery have commissioned Jade as the first artist for the Future Collect project (2020). As of 2021, Jade participated in a group exhibition titled An Infinity of Traces at Lisson Gallery, and opened a solo exhibition titled In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens at Bosse & Baum Gallery, both in London.
Contributors and lenders
- Anne Bean
- Graham Challifour
- Richard Demarco
- Rita Donagh
- Alan Dunn
- Annie Griffin
- David Harding
- Rod Melvin
- David Page
- Ross Sinclair
- Arthur Watson
- Bauhaus Dessau Foundation
- Demarco Digital Archive at University of Dundee
- Archive & Collections at the Glasgow School of Art
- Glasgow Women’s Library
- Hornsey College of Art Archive Middlesex University
- National Galleries of Scotland
- Rooftop Institute in Hong Kong
- The Hatton Gallery
- The National Arts Education Archive at YSP
- The Women’s Art Library at Goldsmiths; University of London
- Womanifesto in Thailand
- Class Meeting Vol. 1, Gudskul Short Course, 2019. Photo: Jin Panji /Gudskul. Image courtesy of Gudskul.