Verina invited me to be part of this discussion to talk about my recent participation in artschool/uk - a project conceived by John Reardon, Sabine Hagman and Johannes Maier that took place at Cell Project Space in London during April this year.
To introduce the project: artschool/uk selected a group of 20 practicing artists to take part in a daily three-week long learning and peer debate forum with an implicit view that such a group dynamic may lead to the conception and delivery of a collaborative artwork.
The project is structured in two distinct stages. So far we have completed the first, "school" component. The second will take place in autumn and be a reflection on the outcome and ideas raised this spring and take the form of a public event.
In terms of the learning/teaching experience artschool/uk provided a highly condensed and intimate version of what may be expected of a good artschool albeit in a self-organised form. There was an interesting line-up of visiting lecturers, presentations, workshops and tutorials, including some less orthodox formats for dialogue such as in situ artist visits (exhibition set ups) and a field trip (london orbital coach tour with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Richard Wentworth).
All of this was stimulating and valuable and no doubt the intensity it provided had much going for it not least the commitment and effort amongst the group and the room for moment to moment engagement - a momentum hard to sustain outside such temporal structures.
Overall my impression was that participants and contributors alike (in some cases roles could also have been exchanged which in itself is quite an interesting dynamic) were chosen because of the diversity they offered to the project, arguably making the school's theme self-referential, experimenting with or discussing its form and framework. Within a temporary context the variety and openness was exciting and energetic and it was useful for artists to step outside of their established identities and engage in a pool of opinions and approaches (especially since most had been outside formal education for a some time). Inevitably it raised some questions within the group as to the role of our participation and contribution as artists. This was also due to the fact that the school was set in a gallery around a commissioned seating piece/structure and that the project was itself heavily documented throughout (not dissimilar to material for a research exhibition, artschool also commissioned an artist to make a film from the collected footage adding yet more layers to the possible outcome of the project).
Personally my feeling is that the organisers were looking at the project in terms of the unfolding potential within a social peer environment 'seeking' rather than presenting us with a set idea of what artschool can be. It is of course a vulnerable position to take as inevitably a school project comes up against a lot of expectations and assumptions both art historically and in terms of personal aspirations but I feel the endeavour from the point of view of the organisers was a genuine exploration of the potential of self-organisation within the context of setting up a school. It allowed us to enquire beyond institutional, over-analysed frameworks and established ways of thinking - asking us to suspend the emphasis on outcome and engage afresh in process.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts,
with best wishes
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