New Schools

A survey of recently founded artist-run art academies and education programmes

What would an art school fit for the 21st century look like? It’s become common to note that the last decade has seen a rise in pedagogic projects initiated by artists and curators. As Claire Bishop, among others, has argued, the cancellation in 2006 of Manifesta 6 – a failed attempt to set up an art school in Cyprus, and its afterlife as a series of seminars in Berlin – could be seen as the moment when this so-called educational turn became more pronounced. In the intervening years, countless self-organized night schools, free-to-attend lecture programmes and artist-run art academies have sprung up around the world. The reasons for this, though complex and interrelated, are frequently attributed to escalating tuition fees, cuts to university budgets, the creeping neoliberalization of education at large, frustration with overstretched tutors or inadequate teaching, not to mention a lack of academies in a given region.

There are, of course, important precedents for such projects, not least the activities of artists including Joseph Beuys, Luis Camnitzer, Lygia Clark and Tim Rollins, all of whom made pedagogy a central part of their work. This past decade, artist-led projects have taken forms as various as Khaled Hourani and Tina Sherwell’s International Academy of Art Palestine in Ramallah (2005–ongoing), Henriette Heise and Jakob Jakobsen’s Copenhagen Free University (2001–07) and Tania Bruguera’s Cátedra Arte de Conducta (Behaviour Art School, 2002–09) in Havana. In a more established art centre, like Los Angeles, a constellation of initiatives has emerged, such as Machine Project (2003–ongoing), Fritz Haeg’s ‘Sundown Salons’ (2001–06), and Piero Golia and Eric Wesley’s The Mountain School of Arts (2005–ongoing). Other schools are roving (like Pablo Helguera’s School of Panamerican Unrest, 2003–ongoing), studio-bound (such as Lia Perjovschi’s Centre for Art Analysis, in Bucharest) or, like Parallel School of Art or Gerald Raunig’s European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies, exclusively online. As is clear from the names, one common thread is the claiming of institutional status (Gregory Sholette has used the terms ‘mockstitutions’ and ‘phantom establishments’), even though they remain, for the most part, unaffiliated with any traditional institution. What’s obvious is that many are eager for an art school today to be self-determined, flexible, small-scale and cheap or free to attend. This summer, the tendency found a temporary institutional home at London’s Hayward Gallery with ‘Wide Open School’, a month-long ‘experiment in public learning’ involving more than 100 artists.

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Fifth-floor studio of Islington Mill Art Academy, Salford, UK, 2012. Courtesy Maurice Carlin

Fifth-floor studio of Islington Mill Art Academy, Salford, UK, 2012. Courtesy Maurice Carlin

I invited representatives from three artist-led education programmes, each of which was or will be launched this year, to contribute case studies about their projects: Los Angeles-based Sean Dockray, co-founder of The Public School and Telic Arts Exchange, discusses the background for The External Program, an online learning network based on a Victorian correspondence course; the Turkish artist Ahmet Öğüt introduces The Silent University, a multi-lingual, nomadic institution organized by asylum seekers and political refugees; and the London-based artist collective LuckyPDF interview students from their School of Global Art, a ‘peer-2-peer meshwork’ of learning, about debt and intellectual property. Additionally, I asked the founders of three artist-run art schools – SOMA in Mexico City, MASS Alexandria, Egypt, and Islington Mill Art Academy in Salford, UK – to sketch out their influences and aims, as well as the competing ideologies and practicalities at play in the day-to-day running of a school.

Several shared preoccupations emerge: What are the possibilities of and limits to self-organized education? Who owns art education in what Tom Holert has called the ‘knowledge-based polis’? What can be borrowed from traditional academies, and what should be jettisoned? And what’s actually at stake with this self-institutionalizing impulse? In a 2009 lecture titled ‘The Academy is Back’, Dieter Lesage argued that: ‘The art academy is going to be the defining innovative institution within the art field in the next 20 years, much more so than museums, galleries, biennials, whatever.’ So, if we take this to be the case, what are the responses being developed by artists today?

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Interior of The Public School, Chinatown, Los Angeles, USA, 2010. Courtesy Sean Dockray and The Public School, Los Angeles

Interior of The Public School, Chinatown, Los Angeles, USA, 2010. Courtesy Sean Dockray and The Public School, Los Angeles

Sean Dockray, The External Program, Los Angeles

An artist based in Los Angeles, USA. He is the co-founder of The Public School, Telic Arts Exchange and The External Program, an online education project due to be launched this autumn.

In 1858, a message from Queen Victoria to us President James Buchanan was the first official telegraph to cross a cable laid under the Atlantic; it was a message applauding its own transmission. Within decades, a worldwide system of cables was woven beneath the oceans, connecting a quarter of the earth’s landmass – the British Empire was at its pinnacle. Queen Victoria launched another imperialist project in 1858 when she chartered the University of London’s External Programme, the earliest correspondence learning institution in the world.

Like contemporary online education initiatives – such as mit and Harvard’s partnership, edX – the External Programme was invested with the promise of levelling social and economic hierarchies. Charles Dickens characterized it as the ‘People’s University’, ‘extending her hand to the young shoemaker who studies in his garret’. What the institution offered were study materials and a degree from London, regardless of where one lived, contingent on passing an examination based on those standards established in the English capital.

Today, edX has become a model – in spite of the fact that it has only offered one class, ‘Circuits and Electronics’ – for the adoption of online education into many universities’ business plans. A recent Wall Street Journal article on massive online courses noted that: ‘The substitution of technology (which is cheap) for labour (which is expensive) can vastly increase access to an elite-calibre education.’ Based on this logic, the University of Virginia fired its president in June for being sceptical about moving online too quickly; board members said they needed a leader who ‘embraced strategic dynamism rather than strategic planning’. In this ‘dynamic’ educational landscape, the faculty is ‘unbundled’ into a package of services – curriculum writing, instruction, advising, examination and assessment – that are provided by licensed content, inexpensive adjunct faculty or graduate students and private contractors. If the university has been the last institutional bastion for the Left, that position is being absolutely eliminated by this neoliberal restructuring of education – unsurprisingly under the banner of increased access.

Perhaps there is a parallel here to Marx’s double freedom, whereby we are free to sell our labour and we are free from any control over the means of production. Our free access comes with institutions that are increasingly inaccessible, dominated by an unproductive administrative class, whose primary activity involves firing people and establishing lucrative intellectual property arrangements. Look at one of the massive open online courses (moocs, as they are known) with one teacher to 100,000 students (competing for visibility and grading each other’s work for free) to see the establishment of solid pyramidal structures, managed for profit by businessmen, lawyers and technicians.

A few years ago, the University of London decided that the name ‘External Programme’ sounded ‘out of date’, and so it was changed to the ‘International Programme’. This was a fortunate event for us at The Public School because it gave us a readymade name for our own new online learning project – the External Program, abbreviated as exP. The Public School was initiated in Los Angeles in 2007 as ‘a school with no curriculum’, which simply meant that the classes offered would not come from an institutional mission or disciplinary parameters, but from an open process where anyone could propose something that they wanted to learn about or teach. It was an engine for bringing small groups of people together, face-to-face.

'Where is the online education space for learning for its own sake?'
Sean Dockray

In the past, The Public School has not only resisted moving into online education, some reasons for which are implicit in this essay, but has conceived of itself as an inversion of that very form. Rather than using the Internet to eliminate the classroom by broadcasting teaching outwards, The Public School uses the same technology as a platform for students and teachers to collectively develop a curriculum and organize classes, bringing people together into physical classrooms. The impulse to document seemed to reinforce the idea of a centre or origin, and so class documentation has been generally eliminated in favour of the idea that a group can collectively produce knowledge themselves without appealing to a higher, or central, authority.

Something now seems a bit self-satisfied by this position. After all, millions of people around the world are actually engaging with these forms of online learning. But they are forms that tend to exploit one’s paranoia about future employability and teach marketable skills or inculcate the viewer-student into the new religion of entrepreneurial, technological innovation. Where is the online educational space for learning for its own sake? For the development of critical thought? For the articulation and circulation of new concepts, languages and political possibilities? Contemporary distance education, bedeviled by the question of accreditation, seems totally incompatible with these questions. Instead we witness the survival of 19th- and early-20th-century colonial concerns over standardization, filtered through the Internet economy.

We are launching our External Program this autumn not simply as another player in the landscape of online education, but as a quasi-institution devoted to the study of its own conditions, and to ‘externalization’ in all its forms: the remote student body; passwords and profiles; contingent faculty; outsourced assessment systems; the move toward cloud computing; militarization of campuses; student loan debt; stress, depression and anxiety.

Gilles Deleuze observed in his ‘Postscript on Control Societies’ (1990) that ‘perpetual training tends to replace the school’ and that ‘young people strangely boast of being “motivated”’. This could not better describe our present moment in which one of the new, popular televisual genres that have emerged over the last few years is the video lecture – the elementary building block of online education. Interestingly, these videos are not simply broadcast out from the institution to the citizens beyond, but with growing frequency are consumed within the institutions themselves. Perhaps the reason that the original External Programme seems ‘out of date’ is precisely because it is no longer external or exceptional, but rather it describes the new normal condition of the university itself.

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Exterior of SOMA, Mexico City, 2011. Courtesy Ramiro Chávez and SOMA, Mexico City

Exterior of SOMA, Mexico City, 2011. Courtesy Ramiro Chávez and SOMA, Mexico City

Yoshua Okón, SOMA, Mexico City

An artist based in Mexico City, where in 2009 he co-founded SOMA, a non-profit space and art school. 

Sam ThorneWhat is the background to SOMA?

Yoshua Okón SOMA is a non-profit space that was founded in November 2009. It has an artist council which determines content, and a team of art historians and administrators who run the day-to-day operations. We have four programmes: a weekly public programme of interdisciplinary talks and performances; an MFA-level academic programme for 24 students; a six-week summer programme (taught in English); and a residency programme focused on inviting art professionals to teach and talk.

ST Do you have any specific historical models or influences?

YO SOMA mainly comes from the tradition of artist-run spaces. Historically, artists have been especially good at identifying cultural needs and in making them available through the creation of structures. These have usually been independent, but sometimes artists have also used official institutions – for instance, the MFA programme I attended at UCLA was created by artists. Many of the artists involved in soma, myself included, played an important role in Mexico City’s artist-run scene during the 1990s, which was key in transforming the cultural scene and in building a strong sense of community.

ST How are you funded?

YO SOMA is a non-profit organization and most of our programmes are either completely or partially subsidized. For the regular academic programme, students pay between zero and 30 percent of the tuition, depending on their economic situation. And our weekly public programme is completely free. The space is funded by a private board of philanthropists as well as by grants and by the money raised with programmes like SOMA Summer.

ST Is SOMA a specific response to something?

YO  We live in societies that are increasingly alienating and where there is little room for agency and for meaningful human interaction. Art and culture have been turned into industries with more and more emphasis on spectacle and less on content and discourse. SOMA was conceived as a place for creative interaction and dialogue amongst different generations and, in its own small way, it tries to compensate for the general situation. Also, in the Spanish-speaking world there’s a strong need for an updated MFA programme – there is a huge demand. We have students from Spain, Peru, Brazil, Colombia and many cities around Mexico. Less than 25 percent of the students are originally from Mexico City.

ST Do you award a qualification of any kind?

YO  We are deliberately non-credited because accreditation brings more limitations than advantages. But we do give students a diploma once they graduate from the two- to three-year programme. 

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ID photos od the 120+ students enrolled in the School of Global Art, rendered as a portrait of Yoda from Star Wars. Courtesy LuckyPDF

ID photos od the 120+ students enrolled in the School of Global Art, rendered as a portrait of Yoda from Star Wars. Courtesy LuckyPDF

 

LuckyPDF, School of Global Art, London

An artist collective formed in 2008 in London, UK. They initiated the School of Global Art – an online and real-world network – earlier this year.

Since the beginning of the year, LuckyPDF have been recruiting students to the School of Global Art (schoolofglobalart.org, SGA), a project that uses low-cost airlines and high-speed Internet to develop a ‘peer-2-peer meshwork’ of learning. More than 120 students have enrolled online and at special recruitment events in Birmingham, London and Melbourne. LuckyPDF interviewed four of the students about their experiences of education and the Internet.

Katherine Sullivan (22), lives and studies in New York, USA (convoluteface.tumblr.com)

LuckyPDFWhat’s your current level of education-related debt?

KS  I’m afraid to check, but maybe something like US$100,036.21.

LPHow likely is it that you will ever pay this back?

KS  Unlikely, unless I decide to take extreme measures. It seems most people tend to take extreme measures in order to pay back loans. I feel as though I should make a statement about the absurdity of student debt here, but I think a lot of us already understand.

LP Was the fact that SGA is free to enrol an incentive?

KS  Certainly, as well as the graphic design in the promo video, the Ryan Trecartin and Cory Arcangel screenshots from Facebook, not to mention the 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.

LP Should all education be free?

KS  Yes, but ...

LP Do you value your own intellectual property?

KS  Not particularly, but I am told that I should.

James Bowen (23), lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand (opensurgery.tumblr.com)

LPWhat’s your current level of education-related debt?

JB I graduated in 2011 with a Masters in Fine Arts from Massey University, New Zealand. My debt has reached NZ$60,000.

LPHow likely is it that you will ever pay this back?

JB I have a huge conscience about it that does my head in. Last year I travelled and worked abroad and didn’t pay anything back. Now I’m looking for work in Australia, specifically in the mining industry, where I would be able to pay it back in one year and still have cash left over.

LP In the course of your education, have you ever copied or downloaded materials, resources or tools without paying for them?

JB Yes. 

LP Would you have been able to afford the estimated retail value of the material?

JB I’m not sure about that. I always download new versions of Photoshop, Final Cut and I torrent music and movies too.

LP Would your education have been possible without them?

'The School of Global Art uses low-cost airlines and high-speed Internet to develop a "peer-2-peer meshwork" of learning.'
LuckyPDF

JB No way. I’ve been downloading and ripping content since I was a kid and figured out how to do it on the Internet. I’ve gained a huge skill set and knowledge base from using pirated materials.

Carson Salter (27), studying corporate semiotics and operational images at MIT (teachablefile.org)

LP What made you enrol with the School of Global Art?

CS I like to know about educational experiments. I am a spy and I’m a joiner.

LP What’s your current level of education-related debt?

CS No debt so far.

LP Was the fact that SGA is free to enrol an incentive for you?

CS I wouldn’t have enrolled if it had cost money. 

LP Should all education be free?

CS Some types of education are speculative investments, and should be paid for by the speculator. A costly education should prove its value in the industry or domain where it pays off, whether it pays off financially, socially, personally. It’s a problem when educational institutions imply value where there is none (whether by deceiving students or by shifts in the field).  

LP Do you value your own intellectual property?

CS I enforce it personally. 

Enrico Boccioletti (28), lives in Milan, Italy (www.spcnvdr.org)

LPShould all education be free?

EB I don’t think that would be a conclusive solution. But it should be permissible to steal education for yourself.

LPIn the course of your education, have you ever copied or downloaded materials, resources or tools without paying for them?

EB It happens all the time.

LP Would you have been able to afford the estimated retail value of the material?

EB I wouldn’t be able to quantify an amount, but by no means would I have been able to afford even ten percent of it.

LP Would your education have been possible without these materials?

EB Not at all.

LPDo you value your own intellectual property?

EB Of course, intellectual property means a lot to everybody; that’s the reason why it should be free to circulate in new production and gain mechanisms to be triggered.

LP Would you steal a handbag?

EB Not if there was only one left.

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Fifth-floor studio of Islington Mill Art Academy, Salford, UK, 2012. Courtesy Maurice Carlin

Fifth-floor studio of Islington Mill Art Academy, Salford, UK, 2012. Courtesy Maurice Carlin

 

Maurice Carlin & Lauren Velvick, Islington Mill Art Academy, Salford

Islington Mill Art Academy – in Salford, UK – is a free, self-organized art school that was founded by Lusy Bernard, Andrew Beswick, Maurice Carlin and Louie Lister in 2007.

Sam Thorne What is the background to Islington Mill Art Academy?

Maurice Carlin & Lauren Velvick We met in 2007 whilst on an art foundation course at Stockport College, near Manchester, at the time all of us were talking about the different universities and courses we might move on to. Tuition fees of £3,000 per annum had just been introduced in the UK. After attending various university open days, we were uninspired by the prospect of spending our time and money at any of them. So four of us decided to create our own framework for becoming artists, drawing on what resources we could muster.

ST Do you have any specific historical models or influences?

MC & LV We were aware of well-known schools, such as the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College, but they seemed distant. As we were at the beginning of our art education, we didn’t yet have the experience that an education might bring – to draw on, respond to or battle against. But we did have the sense that art school need not be onerous, that it could be something that any group of willing and energetic people could create for themselves.

ST How are you funded?

MC & LV We are self-funded – each person supports themselves through paying for a studio space (if they want or need one) and contributing to research trips and residencies. We have invaluable support from individual artists and organizations. Many people have become involved on the basis of taking part in a mutual exchange of learning.

ST Is your initiative a specific response to something?

MC & LV Universities can present too-narrow a definition of what it might mean to be an artist in the world; students are set up to fail, partly because of this. We realized that many artists don’t get the skills or awareness needed to function and survive in the real world from their education. Graduation is presented to them as a crucial benchmark in becoming an artist, but we’ve come to believe that it’s the beginning of something rather than an endpoint – the process of ‘becoming’ an artist is an unending one.

STDo you address a specific local community?Is there a national or international component?

MC & LV The Art Academy is based at Islington Mill, in an area of Salford that is currently undergoing significant regeneration, and some of our artists have worked with individuals and communities in the area. We have also forged links with other experimental art schools throughout the UK – including the Glasgow Open School, The Free University of Liverpool and Department 21, which is based at the Royal College of Art in London – and have set up artist exchanges with arts organizations in Berlin and Barcelona.

ST Do you award a qualification of any kind?

MC & LV No, though we have had a ‘graduation’ party where we awarded our own qualification (which is called an n/a) for skills, experience and qualities not formally recognized by academia. People graduate or move on when they feel ready to; some leave formally whilst others drift into new areas of practice, sometimes returning further down the line. 

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Exterior of MASS Alexandria, Egypt, 2012. Courtesy Wael Shawky

Exterior of MASS Alexandria, Egypt, 2012. Courtesy Wael Shawky

Wael Shawky, MASS Alexandria

An artist based in Alexandria, Egypt. He founded MASS Alexandria, an alternative art education space, in 2010.

Sam ThorneWhat is the background to MASS Alexandria?

Wael Shawky While studying at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Alexandria, I found that there was a huge gap between what artists study in the academy and what we face after graduation. Later I worked as a professor there, but had to leave after two years as I felt the system was restrictive and anachronistic. Emerging from art school I found all opportunities for artists – to travel, to study etc. – were determined by Egypt’s Ministry of Culture.

After receiving the Grand Prize at the Cairo Biennale in 1996, the state made it impossible for me to work in Egypt. For four years I was in a sort of exile, and I took the opportunity to study in the us, where I dreamt of finding an alternative space for education. When I returned to Egypt, William Wells had opened Townhouse Gallery and other independent spaces began to emerge. The art scene was completely transformed, but independent platforms for art education were sparse. In 2010, with guidance and continued contributions from curator and writer Sarah Rifky, MASS Alexandria was born. The inaugural MASS Alexandria Pilot Studio Programme was housed in a shared studio to provide the facilities and the opportunity for the encounter, study and production of art. In 2012, Daniella Rose King joined the MASS Alexandria family as Programme Curator.

ST Do you have any specific historical models or influences?

WS One of the most important influences during my undergraduate studies was my professor, the artist Farouk Wahba. He studied at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, and introduced me to the German art education model of the master and apprentice. While I was studying I felt this was the ideal,as many educators in Egypt do, but eventually I found this system extremely egotistical and dictatorial.

I wanted to find a platform for students, not of teaching or receiving knowledge, but of opening a dialogue, where they could choose what direction their work would take. I decided thatI would bring together 12 to 20 students for each programme, through an open call for applications, and work with them individually and as a group for seven months, where the students are static and the ‘professors’ change. MASS Alexandria aims to complement the practical, craft-based skills offered by the university with studies of theory and methodologies to enable new channels of thinking.

STHow are you funded? Is MASS free to attend?

WS MASS Alexandria has been self-funded as well as having received support from The Foundation for Arts Initiative, the Goethe-Institut Alexandria, the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, and the Young Arab Theatre Fund. Essential to the premise of MASS Alexandria is that it is free for artists to participate.

STIs your initiative a specific response to something?

WS It is certainly a response to a lack of art education schemes in Alexandria, as well as more generally in Egypt. We hope to develop a new approach to art education, in light of existing programmes, and in relation to the needs and interests of the artists involved.

STDo you address a specific local community.And is there an external section of activities?

WS Activities largely take place in Alexandria, but also in Cairo. This year, nine students were invited to work as assistants to a number of artists in dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel for a one-month period as part of ‘The Cairo Seminar: Studium’. The development of an international residency, or working opportunity component, is being pursued as a core part of the programming at MASS Alexandria.

ST Do you have a curriculum?

WS There is no strict curriculum, but it is important for us to create an open space in Alexandria that can facilitate the discussion of ideas, practices and thoughts, and that encourage diverse relationships with art, between artists, curators, critics and audiences.

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Stamp for The Silent University, 2012. Courtesy Ahmet

Stamp for The Silent University, 2012. Courtesy Ahmet Öğüt

Ahmet Öğüt, The Silent University, London

An artist based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Istanbul, Turkey. The Silent University – a nomadic, multi-lingual institution – was launched this year in collaboration with Tate and Delfina Foundation, London, UK.

‘It is not the case that a man who is silent says nothing.’
Anonymous, quoted in Keith H. Basso, To Give Up on Words: Silence in Western Apache Culture (1970)

In 1873, the writer and educator Anna Eliot Ticknor founded the Society to Encourage Studies at Home. This was a Boston-based network of women teaching women by mail that the literary scholar Harriet F. Bergmann recently dubbed ‘The Silent University’. Almost 140 years on from the inauguration of Ticknor’s society, the urgency for an organization of this kind has shifted from women in need of a liberal education to marginalized groups such as refugees and asylum seekers, in particular those whose professional lives have been interrupted by displacement.

Many people in the UK today are unable to practice their previous professions or use their qualifications, for reasons that range from insecure immigration status to English not being their first language. This situation led to the foundation of The Silent University, a collaboration between myself, Tate’s adult programmes curator Nora Razian and community curator Synthia Griffin, with the support of the Delfina Foundation. This project is a self-institutionalized, autonomous knowledge platform that aims to challenge the idea of silence as a passive state; we hope to explore its powerful potential through performance, writing and reflection. The Silent University aims to address and reactivate the knowledge of the participants, inventing alternative currencies in place of money or free voluntary service. These explorations attempt to make apparent the systemic failure and the loss of skills and knowledge experienced through the silencing process of people seeking asylum.

'Out lecturers include a pharmacist from Syria, an accountant from Congo and a calligrapher from Iran.'
Ahmet Öğüt

As Mladen Dolar argues very beautifully in his 2006 book A Voice and Nothing More: ‘We must not interrupt the silence unless we have something to say which is better than silence.’ Working with partners including Southwark Refugee Communities Forum, Migrants Resource Centre and United Migrant Workers Education Project, a programme has been developed that includes lecturers, consultants and research fellows. There are currently about 30 participants at The Silent University. Our lecturers include a pharmacist from Syria, an accountant from Congo, a marketing manager from Zimbabwe and a calligrapher from Iraq. Our academic consultants include an astrophysicist from Iran, a union learning organizer from Colombia and a journalist from Sri Lanka. Course topics will be connected to participants’ specific qualifications and presented in any language. The first of these will take place at Tate Modern in November, along with a one-day symposium, gathering together individuals and organizations engaged in alternative education, specifically those initiated by institutions, artists or artist groups, and autonomous collectives.1

Tate will host The Silent University until the end of the year, but – ideally – the participants will eventually take The Silent University over as their own institution. It will survive as a ‘University in Time’2 and will mostly be accessible online, appearing temporarily where hostedby collaborating institutions. We will hopefully manage to have a permanent course under the umbrella of larger universities, which can provide some sort of curriculum or qualification in the future.

In 1976, the British artist Stephen Willats published Art and Social Function, which includes analyses of The West London Social Resource Project that took place in 1972. As he explains, their fundamental concern was the relationship between coding structures and patterns of behaviour. Willats argues that the ways people code themselves (how they dress, how they speak) can reflect their desired or actual position within a community – he calls these ‘life codes’. Whatever the barriers are, The Silent University’s main aspiration is for all the participants to stop waiting in limbo, and to take the initiative right now by using their imagination, and collectively construct their own reality and life codes. As Susan Sontag wrote in her 1967 essay ‘The Aesthetics of Silence’, we must acknowledge a surrounding environment of sound or language in order to recognize silence. 

1 To name some of the exemplary practices and projects in alternative education: Bank of Ideas – The School of Ideas; Tent City University at Occupy London; Free University, Berlin; The Public School, Los Angeles; Centre for Possible Studies, London; Özgür Üniversite, Ankara; Radical Education Collective, Ljubljana; The Autonomy Project Summer School, Eindhoven; ‘Wide Open School’, Hayward Gallery, London; Really Free School, London; United Migrant Workers Education Project, London; School of Missing Studies, Amsterdam; The Faculty of Invisibility, Amsterdam; Freie Hochschule Stuttgart; the School of Global Art. 
2 In 1992, the Slovenian artist collective Neue Slowenische Kunst initiated the ongoing project State in Time, the ‘first global state of the universe’, which currently has some14,000 citizens around the world.

Sam Thorne is director of Nottingham Contemporary, UK, a contributing editor of frieze and a co-founder of Open School East. His book, School: Conversations on Art & Self-Organised Education, will be published by Sternberg Press this summer. 

Issue 149

First published in Issue 149

September 2012

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