Press Release

Dundee’s radical history is the catalyst for a new Cooper Gallery project

Published on 17 February 2021

Tales of feminist activists, revolutionary trees and striking school children will feature in the launch of a new project by the University of Dundee’s Cooper Gallery later this month.

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Project poster:  Sit-in #1 by Ruth Ewan

The Ignorant Art School: Five Sit-ins towards Creative Emancipation is a five-chapter exhibition and events project that brings together creative groups to examine the histories and future possibilities of art education. 

The five chapters, composed as ‘Sit-ins’, adopt the activist tactic of occupying institutional space as a critical and creative attitude, creating a space to explore radical, ethical and accessible pedagogies. 

The Ignorant Art School will launch on 25 February with Sit-in #1 by internationally celebrated Scottish artist Ruth Ewan. A series of online actions, workshops and gatherings that make up a ‘Sit-in Curriculum’ will then take place each week until 22 April. 

The opening event will see Ewan and her collaborators present An A-Z of Dundonian Dissent, offering playful and surprising anecdotes from the city’s radical past. 

Sophia Yadong Hao, Cooper Gallery Principal Curator said, “We are delighted to launch this new project. 

“Inspired by the story of an exiled French schoolteacher who in 1818 formulated a teaching method that stressed the importance of ‘not knowing’, The Ignorant Art School is a space of collaborative and revolutionised learning open to all. 

Sit-in #1, led by Ruth Ewan, rekindles the political turmoil and desires for emancipation set alight in Dundee by the French Revolution. 

“The fulcrum underscoring Sit-in #1 are Ewan’s decimal clock and perpetual calendar installations. Inspired by these novel and disruptive modes of marking time first introduced during the French Revolution, the following curriculum adopts radical forms of collaborative learning and grassroots knowledge creation. 

“Our opening event is a history class that explores Dundee’s radical political history and the city’s connection to the French Revolution through stories, readings and music. 

“The following events explore multiple histories, alternative social structures and popular culture, radicalising imagination as a revolutionary act to reveal the urgent cogency of collaborative learning and transgressive reimagining.” 

The Ignorant Art School will run until 2023, with future chapters of the project still to be announced. 

More information on the project can be found on the Cooper Gallery web page, and free tickets for the online launch event can be booked via Eventbrite. 

Ruth Ewan is an internationally celebrated artist whose research-led and critically engaged practice has drawn attention within contemporary art and socio-political history. Her exhibition, We Could Have Been Anything That We Wanted to Be and It’s Not Too Late to Change, will come to the Cooper Gallery in September 2021. It will materialise the rich breadth of attitudes and ethos exemplified in Sit-in Curriculum #1 of The Ignorant Art School. 


Jessica Rorke

Media Relations Officer

+44 (0)1382 388878

Story category

Events and exhibitions