Critical Action and the Education Institution

Talking with groups and individuals who have emancipatory, supplementary and subversive engagements with educational institutions.

Confirmed Participants:

Derek Horton: Editor of /Seconds, contributor to Corridor 8.

Sean Kaye: Foundation Assistant Course Leader, Leeds College of Art

Really Open University: ‘Strike, occupy & transform.’

Critical of the university, the collective grew out of the recent cuts.

At the same time they acknowledge the good things about the institution and elements of formal qualifications.

Not an alternative education but actually a counter-institution, a relatively critical position.

SLICE: formed out of a disappointment at the lack of dialog between the main institutions in Leeds: Met, University and Art College.

SLICE are going to provide platforms for these students to come together.

All members of SLICE are founders.

Black Lab (facilitated by black dogs who began within an institution from a dissatisfaction with art school in 2004)

In 2010 Black Dogs initiated a three-month collaborative learning and artistic knowledge-exchange project in Leeds.

The position of being within an institution is an advantageous position.

‘Emancipatory politics must always destroy the appearance of the natural order, must reveal what is presented as necessary and inevitable to be a mere contingency, just as it must make what was previously deemed to be impossible, attainable.’

- Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism

What does the term ‘Institution’ mean? This is a term that is used all the time, but do we know what we mean when we say it?

Institutional critique has become institutionalised. (Andrea Fraser, Art Forum)

- Derek Horton

Is education outside the institution better because of the framework?

Less competition related to grades.

Progressively art education has become more formalised and assimilated into academic system, from diplomas we have practice-based PhDs.

Is academic system good? – If we didn’t have it would nepotism not reign supreme?

Shift to needing a PhD to teach. And the possibility of this then applying to a particular type of practitioner which then filters down to students who begin to only engage with this model of practice.

University: A privileged position, it is easy to say that you don’t need a degree to someone when you actually have one.

University degree: just a piece of paper but, what’s the point of a degree if you don’t get that?

Is the piece of paper more valid than an independent project?

Perhaps in some disciplines (like art) independent projects are more respected?

‘Free’ University degrees are applicable in the trade you are in.

You wouldn’t attend a free university if you wanted to become a solicitor.

Free University of Liverpool: why call yourself a University?

The methodology of Institutions is constantly employed in alternative art education.

Autonomous structures are easily critiqued as resembling the very thing they are critiquing.

Why replicate the structure of an institution and then work outside of it?

Why not work within it?

– Derek Horton to Black Lab

Easy critique of autonomous projects is that it 'looks' the same of the thing it's fighting against. It is important to underline the different ethics.

- Black Lab to Derek Horton

What are the ways it may be possible to learn outside these structures.

Ethics vs Structure

(OPEN DISCUSSION, Structure In Independent, Collaborative Learning 29th March)

What is the difference to the quality of the knowledge gained autonomously compared to that of the institution?

Alternative education can be more communal. Sharing knowledge is more generous. Better ethics are arguably attached the alternative pursuits.

Volunteer ism involved independent projects. Some participants are students or tutors at the 'institutions' – simultaneously within and outside of the institution.

Is this problematic or advantageous.

Alternative education also offers better ‘value for money’ . Universities are generating masses of things rather than qualities of things.

Knowledge is commodified in higher level learning.

Universities are following a business model that are over charging, so people want to find other ways of doing it.

Considering the guilt of autonomy, this as a privileged position.

But that it should not be an unsurmountable contradiction

What may be important is the different motivation of these activities.

In order for these things to make sense it needs to be part of a much broader change -

Black Lab

Conclusive comment: The paradox of the situation -

In order to enter in to the discussion about ways of alternative learning you have to have experienced education.

Note: all people in discussion have experienced and/or are working within an institutional education.

Links for Texts, Events and Groups mentioned:

‘De-schooling society,’ Southbank.

Corridor 8, Art School alternatives symposium.

Free University of Liverpool

Andrea Fraser, Art Forum text, ‘From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique.’