Thinking through and with self organised schools


The most recent and to date, only publication dedicated to self organised schools situated or discussed within the context of contemporary art is Sam Throne’s Schools: A History of Self-Organised Education (2017). The most recent thesis submitted on the topic was Susannah E Haslaw’s ‘After the Educational Turn: Alternatives to alternative art schools’ at the RCA (June 2018). Specific historical schools and pedagogical experiments are well documented with the Bauhaus (Droste & Gossel 2006), Black Mountain College (Chesky Smith & South 2014, Erikson & Molesworth 2015), Joseph Beuys’ Free University (Biesta 2017, Devolder 1988) and Hornsey (Tickner 2008) the most often cited. Thorne interviews a range of founders from across the globe including the US, Egypt, Palestine and across Europe and predominantly focuses on logistics. He relates this activity to higher education reforms such as the Bologna Process in the EU, student debt, the knowledge economy and points to it as a facet of the educational turn (O’Neill and Wilson 2012). Thorne’s book, to my knowledge, is the first book dedicated to activity happening post 2000 outside of articles and book chapters, the most notable being Claire Bishop’s chapter ‘Pedagogic Projects’ from Artificial Hells (2012) and ECA’s own activity in this area outlined in Steven Madoff’s Art Schools (2009). Anton Vidolke’s chronology of experimental art schools along with Thorne’s timeline shows a greater concentration of this happening around the turn of the twentieth century, then again in the 1960s and early 1970s, one noted in the 1980s and then appearing with increasing frequency in the late 1990s to the present day. Those eras in which there was a greater concentration of such activity are commonly known for radical shifts in arts ontology. If one reads self organised schools as a form of activity that continues a long history of DIY and artist run culture, then there is a greater range of literature to engage with (Lowndes 2016, Ault 2004, Detterer & Nannucci 2012, Karlsen 2013).

To understand the wider context and current debates around art and education that these schools sit within the Occasional Table series is essential reading, specifically O’Neill and Wilson’s Curating and Educational Turn (2010), Stine Hebert and Anne Szefer Karlsen’s Self Organised (2013), Sidsel Meineche Hansen & Tom Vandeputte’s Politics of Study (2015) and David Blamey & Brad Haylock’s Distributed (2018). All these books take the form of a series of essays or interviews. O’Neill and Wilson’s book has been the touchstone for much of this activity and it makes for engaging reading with varied approaches to the question. Rogoff’s reframing of access has the effect of re-orientating ones approach to it, she suggests it that to which we already do have access to - the ability to form questions – which she states defines the field. Without dismissing what is contained within the book, overall, such publishing exists, as Angela Phillips notes, primarily as conversation among a closed group while the real problems of education lie elsewhere, specifically she states in primary state education where social divisions begin . In Politics of Study, most contributors, as the editors note ‘…problematize the simple opposition between formal schooling and self-organised learning’ with Sidsel Meineche Hansen noting that the academy has always existed as a support for the auto-didactic and Tom Vadneputte writes that ‘…self-education…would build on one’s formal education at the same time as it would imply an attempt to undo it. It would involve a process of unlearning he knowledge and abilities one has already accumulated.’ This is what many artists do after art school, many graduate and artist led schools and educational projects are a more formalised and intentional version of this. The essays in the collection range from feminist pedagogy, critiques of neoliberalism, critiques of critique, and online learning through a range of contexts not solely limited to the academy. The most pressing concern that comes out of this book is the function of critique itself as a mode of operating in the world. The most recent book in the series, Distributed, is set up against the same economic backdrop to the others, the knowledge economy and global markets. David Cross’ essay stands out as both comfort and resignation for the plight of many art students today of most relevance to the surge in self organised art schools where he discusses the lived experience of many students, ‘… today, the student’s journey to becoming an artist combines learning as a conscious process of identity formation with the hidden forces of economic inequality under neoliberalism.’ The feeling however, as Gareth Long addresses in his contribution ‘Widening Concentric Circles’, is that the ‘concentric circle of friends’ that make up the artworld is necessarily limited in its loop of similar politics, positions and problems.

What the existing literature can do is function as a resource; one can glean ideas and advice from Thorne’s book in the service of working out one’s own self organised initiatives but only to a degree. The majority of the schools Throne and others survey already have significant levels of resources and the individuals involved in the majority had significant cultural capital and institutional recognition before starting their schools which would be helpful to acknowledge. A definition or definitions of what it means to be self organised would have been useful to outline for this purpose. Hebert & Karlslen’s Self Organisation outlines the contested nature of the term, where David Blamey posits that self organisation in the art context describes how groups work independently of institutions and corporations in a generally non-hierarchical and participatory manner while Karlsen widens this view in that things have moved beyond an opposition between institutional and non-institutional and that these lines are often blurred through various artistic practices and institutional spaces in a world where people have always self organised whether as a matter of survival and or self-determination. Thorne’s book overall lacks in critical reflection on the specifics and general tendency of the schools he encounters with the politics of self organisation in mind. He leaves only brief moments for reflection for the founders he interviews of these schools to speculate on what the future might hold for self organised art education. This mimics the form of free schools themselves, providing a loose infrastructure for ideas and people to gather together and converse. What Thorne lacks in critical engagement, which he doesn’t promise in the first place, his bibliography partially makes up for, providing a useful list of reading where one can engage with multiple perspectives. The partial glossary in tandem with the Teachable File Website set up by Mountain School of Arts, the pending online archive Extra Curricular and Anton Vidolke’s partial timeline in Notes for An Art School serve as useful documentation of self organised schools which otherwise at present form a dispersed archive in the making, in the form of project websites and mentioned within articles, the documentation of which often only last until the websites expire. Expanded ways of thinking about this for further consideration will be tied to Piet Zwart’s Experimental Publishing course, commons design and Erin Manning’s Sense Lab.


That these schools don’t last or are able to end at anytime in the majority of cases, is one of their defining features. Tania Brurguera states that she stopped running Cátedra Arte de Conducta (2002-2009) because she had already proved it was possible, Unitednationsplaza was a temporary exhibition as school following the cancellation of the Manfiest 6 Biennale which was due to run as a school, and Pablo Helguera’s The School of Panamerican Unrest lasted the duration of a journey across the Americas. They perform possibility and refuse calendar duration as grounds for the measure of their worth. They are responsive to life, the way desire rises and falls and to the limitations of resources. One of the art graduate led schools interviewed in Thorne’s book, BHQFU, shortly following its publication has now closed after eight years of providing free postgraduate level education to hundreds of people. They citied a broken toilet and the urge for once, in an open article announcing their closure. They wrote,

“Broken Toilet” calls me to a different action. In the light of day, amidst the remnants of revelry, the sign speaks softly, yet with urgency: “Fix the Toilet.” And yet, I want it to fester and stink. I want the shit to leak out from under the crack in the door, into the classroom, out the windows and onto the pedestrian malls of Industry City. I want the shit to cross the river and flood Manhattan, to smear loafers and Louboutins all equally in the educatory excrement of BHQFU as it closes.

Citing similar reference points for many individuals involved in these schools – Howard Singerman’s Art Subjects, Joseph Beuys, A.S Neil and drawing from their own experiences of undergraduate education – BHQFU initially set out to counter the elite and closed circuit of artists that expensive MFA’s produce in the US. Their reason for now closing down is because of all the other ‘piles of shit’ they encountered in doing so - the limitations of the words ‘free’ and ‘open’ which they say closed down the free exchange of ideas, getting lazy and not worrying about how it was funded or how the classes were set up, the whole enterprise ‘congealing into a fixed meaning.’ They write,

…without any sign giving us an urgent I’m going to piss myself–sense of the imperative of participation in a social contract, Donald Trump is going to keep being the President of the United States and BHQFU is going to become just another offering on a “Free Crap To Do in Brooklyn” listicle.

This overall leads to the realities of such endeavours relying on one or a core group of people, they last for as long as they are interested, able, available to perform voluntary labour. ‘The problem is theirs….and it is yours’ as they say. What this statement points to in part, is a wider sense of disillusionment of the self organised art school becoming curatorialised, assimilated under the event economy of contemporary art and more specifically within the ‘education turn’, when they are often initiated as a response to concrete situations and inequalities that show no sign of changing. While interest in this ‘turn’ may wane, the conditions it sought to address remain.

Taking this idea of temporality forward in relation to the self organised art school, Boaventura de Sousa Santos’s work on cognitive justice can support thinking through different ways of understanding temporality and its wider consequences. Santos identifies a list of enemies of the struggle for global justice within which is listed ‘…temporary apathy and equally temporary enthusiasm.’ It takes us slightly off track but leads us to the pressing question underneath the issue of temporary forms of self-organisation in the art industry. Santos writes, ‘…orientation toward presence and simultaneity is totally arbitrary and vulnerable to the fallacy of false contemporaneity (Santos’ emphasis). This fallacy consists of assuming that the contemporaneity of a given event or behaviour is equal for all participants in it….’ He uses an example of African peasants meeting with the World Bank and their radically different conceptions of the present, arguing that in this example there is ‘no room to account for…the different ways of being contemporaneous.’ The dominant modes of thinking about duration in the Western contemporary art context are still often framed as an opposition between long term commitment (Kester, Lacy) and temporal disruption (Rancière, Bourriard, Bishop). Both weigh heavily on the agency of the author and/or spectator and on the scale of moments to just one or a few generations of artists life spans. When artist Liam Gillick writes, ‘…contemporary art does not account for that which is taking place…’ the will to find a next term makes no sense and Santos’ work points to a way through this. He does so in his discussion of the difference between an archaeologist’s treatment of time and an economists,

While archaeology excels in finding residues in order to explain the evolution of behaviour pattern, mainstream economics excels in finding them and discarding them as trash. It is ironic that much of what the archaeologist of the twenty-second century will know about us will be revealed by the trash we left behind...The epistemology of trash cannot be discarded as easily as the trash to which it refers.

I would like to put that beside the speed of the contemporary art industry and its treatment of cultural, social and political residues, the production of waste and what that waste might tell us about the world and how we live in it deep into the future. What has been discarded, left behind, in the resistance to fixed meanings that BHQFU refer to above? The capacity for creative destruction (Santos, Schumpeter) at the heart of contemporary art and capitalism in its thirst for speed can be countered by thinking about different temporalities. As an example, biologist Robin Wall Krimmer writes about the slow wearing away of rocks by mosses, and how we might attune ourselves to the intelligence in all forms of life in a vast understanding of time and our place within it. Most importantly, quoting Haston Bachelard, Santos writes, ‘…how much waste do we have to make in order to produce scientific consequences? Who suffers most with the pollution we thereby produce?’ How much waste to we need to make to produce cultural consequences? Who suffers most with the waste produced within the art industry? Who suffers when the energy is ploughed into the free school and then when the free school closes, when the shit is allowed to seep into the streets?

Santos’ critique of mainstream economics can also apply here to the curatorialisation of democratic struggles for education and the self organised art school, where he writes,

…what is characteristic of mainstream economics (and I argue, mainstream curatorial and contemporary art practices) in this regard is the monopolistic appropriation of the significant spectator by the capitalist entrepreneur. The dramatic intensification this produced of the significant other, smuggled in as the self, has two main consequences: a hyper spatialization of past times and fast-speed interventions…. highly spatialized simultaneous social fields call for fast-speed interventions, ones that maximize the orientation and movement preferences of the small scale. Fast speed interventions like fast speed films require very little exposure and can operate in virtually all conditions; however like fast speed films…they are coarse-grain interventions. Their speed, together with the coarseness of their resolutions, makes such interventions highly intrusive, highly fallible, and highly destructive.

I would not argue that self organised art schools and wider pedagogical projects associated with the educational turn are always intrusive, falliable and destructive, but that it is worth keeping this analogy of ‘coarse grain interventions’ in mind. The tendency towards hyper spatialization of past times and fast speed interventions within the art industry and many artistic practices today alters ways of perceiving, thinking and being in the world and how we relate to time. It is necessary to acknowledging this as a condition and a limitation of what it is possible to know, learn and do within its spaces, including those set aside for learning, and actively seek out a range of temporalities to experience their political, social, spiritual and aesthetic effects.

School as alternative graduate programme

BHQFU’s reasons for starting out in the first place, similar to many ventures in Europe and the US, is important to distinguish as a motivating factor behind many would-be-student or graduate led endeavours. They want to access what the university has to offer but they cannot afford it or they never stop needing what the university offers without necessarily wanting to be a student – a warm room, access to peers, people who will give the time of day to properly engaging with the work they are making, administrative support, supportive staff, visiting artists, a focus on process and learning over their exhibition circuit, counselling services, emergency funds, a library, exemption from council tax, technical equipment and workshops. Or as Claire Bishop writes, ‘It is as if the artist wants to be a student once more, but does this by setting up their own school from which to learn.’ This often gets lost in the debate and turns into a critique of the academy, leading to a hazy and unproductive didacticism. The pervading narrative that neoliberalism and the knowledge economy has killed the academy and turned the student into a customer so we must find alternatives which is behind almost every article, debate and book on this subject only feeds a paralyzing and totalising state of consciousness. One can acknowledge the effect of socio-economic forces on lived experience but as one aspect of a range of ways of understanding the world. The discourse around these schools and the educational turn, indeed around public pedagogy at large informed by critical pedagogues such as Henry Giroux, tends to reduce everything to it or against it. Personal and collective needs and desires within this can be understood and articulated, made public and narrativised in terms beyond the negative image of capitalism and neoliberalism.

The environment that academically trained artists are brought up in, their blank white walls wiped clean every year so fascinatingly captured in Paul Whinstanley’s Art Schools, in part shapes this tendency towards individuals who feel the burden of their precarity anew and afresh each year, as resting on their and their peers shoulder’s, caught in the tension of an education that has necessitated that they fend for themselves and praised them for their DIY cultures in turn. Many leave having acquired some understanding and some language around the relationship between contemporary art and capitalism, for whom critique and awareness of context are capital but whose material lives are often still the same or worse still with debt. These interior spaces in annually erasing their histories can’t help but instill a sense of cultural amnesia where the building blocks across peer groups and generations might otherwise be built upon. This sense of building upon shared desires, concerns and histories often only comes in the form of unpaid committee work post graduation at artists run spaces where the same issues are faced year in year out and thus many have set up self organised art schools within these spaces or outwith them. Within Whinstanley’s Art Schools, Jon Thomson reflects upon the wider significance of this amnesia,

...(his photos) treat us to a new, post-critical, type of historical objectivity – albeit ironically – which claims its authenticity, through self sufficiency. Their deep subject is nothing less than the modern condition, revealed in the form of a de-structured no-space in which, what roland barthes has described as ‘the-having-been-there’ of things, is amnesiac condition and a myopic one….

Referring to Heidegger, Thompson describes the modern world as hurtling towards placelessness, ‘the idea of space would supplant a place’. How might we cater for the needs outlined above collectively, cross institutionally, cross community, rooted in place, in a strategic way that is led by and designed for those who need it most?

In tying their presence to wider socio-economic forces, the line between intention and effect also becomes important in student and graduate led art schools. For those schools in the text that explicitly talk about making art and education more widely accessible, greater consideration of rhetoric and the limitations of this form have to be taken into account. It might be best in some cases to stop using words such as open, free, etc. in relation to self organised art schools, to reconsider political and social rhetoric and be unashamedly explicit about what and who it is there for. Accepting its limits can lead to a greater synthesisation of what these practices claim to do and how they operate. As Suhail Malik argues in his concept of expanded art learning,

...the self organization of art learning is necessarily limited: it is politically self-selecting and, sociologically, is most likely available only to those in the know…they index that the ‘anyone’ of self-selection and autonomy is distinct from the ‘anyone’ of the public.

Life post graduation is extremely difficult and there is no shame in gathering together to try to keep each other going because you just love making work and you want to keep learning. Equally, if self organised schools are there for anyone including graduates who don’t identify with existing institutional measures of success or the academy’s terms of access and its debt economy, who want to dip in and out of school forever and if what goes on within them genuinely works for the people who attend, long may they continue.

If those involved do consciously operate in an agonistic way, in an industry which celebrates critique and has embraced and funded these forms, it quickly converts into giving those individuals involved more cultural capital than they would as one of the faceless masses coming out in their droves from art academies, Copenhagen Free University’s extensive coverage is a case in point. In a recent public debate in Glasgow titled ‘Art School is Dead’, a student of School of the Damned said ‘I now have more cultural capital than I did out of art school.’ Vidolke notes this tension behind self organised schools in general,

Are we genuinely dispersing ideas and methodologies that further critical thinking about culture and society, or simply creating networking opportunities for new generation of producers to be harvested by international art institutions, galleries, art investors and so forth?

At the aforementioned debate, these schools were pitted as evidence of the ‘professionalised’ student, who is able to set up on their own, build a brand, a network and become an established extension of the academy and the arts industry’s event economy. These are well worn critiques of self organised art schools. Or you could call it DIY. In my own experience from setting up self organised projects with peers, despite our rhetoric, language and ideals around these things, they showed all these attributes. They are useful in advocating for resources to put in to the service of other ways of working. The method behind Vidolke’s remark - dispersal - is what needs attention. He argues that these schools are a sign that the art school in all forms is alive and well, never in stasis, the only issue is distribution with them being largely confined to the US and Europe. This missionary state of mind recurs and repeats throughout contemporary art theory related to the education turn, from Thierry De Duve’s idea that the future of art schools will be a ‘mode of transmission’, influenced by Ranciere’s use of Racine and the ‘poets address to all’ as the democratic promise of the artwork, to Occasional Table’s recent publication Distributed. What is being dispersed, namely critical thinking as the dominant method employed within self organised art schools, and its consequences, needs attending to which will form a greater part of my focus in year two of this study.

People, proximity

The Public School founder Sean Dockray points to another pressing issue behind self organised schools closely tied to graduate led schools. He writes, ‘We have access to academic resources but are unable to access each other.’ Despite unprecedented growth in the number of academic and cultural resources available online, the limitations of the ways in which formal education has tried to widen access through OER’s and online courses is well documented (Knox 2015). Dockray’s own attempt at addressing this has been through setting up the illegal file sharing website and The Public School, the former a wealth of academic resources and the latter an infrastructure model to replicate worldwide in which to use these resources with others. The two in tandem is crucial. Self organised art schools in part signal an increasingly deep reliance on and investment in the space and industry of ‘education’ to keep going, to understand oneself and the world, and more troublingly, simply to meet people and to form community. Knowledge economies and educational institutions capitalise on this very social isolation, they needs it to exist. Locally, Glasgow is often praised for its DIY community however, these are so closely tied to one institutions graduate peer group, which those outside of it find difficult to access. Cultural activity that might otherwise vary the social, political and aesthetic field becomes assimilated under the container of art degrees. Chris Kraus writes,

Why would young people enter a studio art program to become teachers and translators, novelists, archivists, and small business owners? Clearly, it's because these activities have become so degraded and negligible within the culture that the only chance for them to appear is within contemporary art's coded yet infinitely malleable discourse.

This could be counter to or symptomatic of what poet Fred Moten and Stefano Harvey refer to as total education in relation to Foucault’s thought. They describe the widespread social orientation towards improvement as being historically founded in nineteenth century bourgeois interest in self-improvement in the face of aristocratic stasis running parallel to colonialism and capitalism logic of investment – needing to see the potential of everything to reap a return - and continuing in the service of return on investment, in capital. They write,

…what is truly sinister about this social synthesis is that it reinforces the fictious idea of the self improving, self owning, self-authoring individual precisely through the act of positing the unproductive and under-willed land of people that surround this fiction, which requires massive resources to sustain itself, producing the impoverishment it posited by means of individuated dispossession in the service of ownership.

They go onto argue for a partial education and construct a particular meaning of the word study,

…where does this grim picture of compulsory improvement – culminating today in total education – leave those who traditionally have been classed as instructors: the parent, the teacher, the artist and the movement leader? We would say it leaves them at study. Study perverts instruction. Study emerges as the collective practice of revision in which those who do study do not improve but improvise, do not develop but regenerate and degenerate, do not receive instruction but instantiate reception. Study is the already given gift of the general dispossession of ourselves from each other, and our service to that dispossession. Study is the (im)permanently unformed, insistently informal, underperforming commitment to each other not to graduate, but instead indefinitely to accumulate an invaluable debt to each other rather that submit ourselves to their infinitely fungible line of credit. Study is a partial education.

What is underneath this, I believe, is between Harney and Moten’s study - which I read as life as it already happens - and what Kraus deduces from the proliferation of art programmes, ‘There is a tremendous desire to know the world (her emphasis) … a desire that seems greater to me than the involvement with visual art's intrinsically formalist questions.’ Of consequence, is that the parallel rise of self organised schools and simultaneously this kind of cultural activity that Kraus highlights above that might otherwise have taken place in a wider public realm beyond the space of education, risks bringing everything - political, cultural, social, economic, cognitive, health, spiritual struggles etc - under a ‘regime of learning.’ Using Sandlin, Burdick and Rich’s work on public pedagogy, if the self organised school can be thought of as what they term ‘…a pedagogy of the public…pedagogy ‘done by the public itself’ through the mode of ‘collective learning’ it has its consequences. They write that such a regime of learning,

…demand(s) something of the public—both that they adopt and enact a particular relationship of ‘self to the self’, and that they learn. This latter demand entails turning what are actually social problems into learning…thus these public pedagogies turn the responsibility for those problems onto the individual rather than the collective (Biesta, 2012a, p. 693). The problem with both pedagogy to and for the public, then, is that they ‘run the risk of replacing politics by education, either by conceiving of public pedagogy as a form of instruction, or by understanding public pedagogy in terms of learning’—thus ‘teaching individuals what they should be’ or ‘demanding from them that they learn’ (Biesta, 2012a, pp. 684–685).

That is, ‘the first interpretation takes politics out by teaching citizens how to act and be, whereas the second takes politics out by bringing it under a regime of learning’ (Biesta, 2012a, p. 693). When political and social struggles, cultural practices and personal relationships are narrativised, framed and understood as learning, pedagogy and education, what is lost? What happens when we take them out of that context and that narrative?

Moten, Dockray and Kraus are speaking from the context of the US. Within Thorne’s text, curator Sarah McCroy writes about the situation locally in Scotland,

There’s not the demand up here. First of all, art school is still free in Scotland. Secondly, forums like OSE already exist in different ways, though they don't necessarily take the form of a school or a study program – whether that’s the SUPERLUX study program, Transmission, or the Glasgow Womens Library. There has to be a need right?

Within the context of Scotland, there is the perception that things are different here because there is free tertiary education. Free art talks, events, and reading groups from arts organisations, free tuition at art schools however, does not mean everyone, does not mean cost and debt free, does not equal choice. The only examples mentioned above are all in Glasgow. The Scottish Government’s statistics on educational inequality at tertiary level within Scotland remain steady and stark, with no change in the lowest two socio-economic groups and pupils from the 20% most affluent communities more than four times likely to go to university than those from the 20% most deprived communities. The very presence of art schools and their process and requirements for admission, as Malik writes, ‘…art schools make perhaps too clear that contemporary art is not for anyone and everyone.’ This is the basis for Howard Singerman’s influential Art Subjects ‘…the task of the programme is to separate them out from amateurs, from public ’lay’ practices.’ It is not a question of assuming everyone would want to be, but pointing to clear evidence that there are many people who do want to study art but do not gain entry from UCAS statistics, 4 in 5 steadily each year, without even considering those who would want to but reach a limit because of their situation, internal or external. The difference between HE and FE art graduates across Scotland is very little discussed but very real, FE graduates often have poor visibility and limited access to networks and opportunities despite making up three quarters of all art students in Scotland. Only ten years ago, they made up five sixths of that total. Over the last decade, the overall 40% decrease in art students across Scotland are within FE. It depends therefore, on whether one believes in the myth of meritocracy, evidenced as widespread but which does not correspond to data in PANIC’s survey (2018). There is a tension in schools such as OSE who are trying to compensate for the introduction of tuition fees in England, their reliance on public funding and what they are doing. Sam Thorne in conversation with other OSE founders states,

...there was something quite humorous, even perverse, about a council closing a community space and library, and then us using government funding to reopen it but as a different model – bringing it back somehow.

It is an absurd situation beyond their doing but in its current state does not compensate for the loss of a functioning community centre, run by the people of the area, in response to the areas need. It is difficult to distinguish such a model from the Conservative’s free school programme, with the state paying for, in some cases, people’s second masters in return for offering community workshops. Open School East A novel approach to the self organised art school overall would be to shift the focus away from founders intentions and experiences to those who attend these schools and to what kind of practices, art or otherwise, is coming out of them. Mervin Lane’s publication of participant’s experiences of Black Mountain College is a rare and solid historical example of this however, it has been given such attention because of the institutional recognition some of those students went on to have (Lane 1990). Any accounts from other schools are difficult to find among the literature and dispersed online presence, within this research I did not come across any. This omission of the learners experience is echoed in literature around public pedagogy (Sandlin, O’Malley & Burdick 2011) and academic publishing coming from art schools (Harpe & Peterson 2008). Two dissertations were found that looked at peer informal learning in an art context post graduation and self organised art schools. This is a clear area for further research. This may be because this is not the point of the schools, because it is always easier to write about than with (this writing as a case in point), or it is not what is of most interest to those writing about them. If a school isn’t set up and talked about with its students or the subject at the heart, what is it?

School as tool for social justice and widening access

If those who run self organised art schools do however, want to address access to art and education from a social justice perspective they might not be the best tool to use. The motivation behind this address must also be unravelled lest it take the form of edification. What is being offered also needs thought through. Is it what happened in their own degrees? Within the UK context, the most overlooked aspect of this is the place of further education colleges or community colleges as they are referred to in the US. The 40% drop in students going into tertiary level arts education was noted in SCAN’s 2016 diversity report but what was not underlined was that this drop was almost exclusively within FE which tend to be more neurodiverse, have ‘second chance’ learners, adult learners, those with caring responsibilities or care experienced, and have a more diverse socio-economic demographic i.e. this is intimately tied to social and cognitive justice issues. This seems like fertile ground to pick up on and view the self organised school movement through, particularly in relation to Beck and Comford’s The Art School and Culture Shed. Beck and Comford build their analysis of art schools being replaced by ‘culture sheds’, destination art centres, ‘…rather than hubs where local people attend in order to learn to do something that they then continue to do, possibly for the rest of their working lives.’ Colleges arguably are still there serving just that function, there are 3 times more art students in FE than HE in Scotland as recognised by SCAN’s recent national report in equalities in the arts but they are consistently under-represented.

The Silent University is a clear example of a school that has taken its intended student and their needs into account and set up a situation that is self-sustaining. Arts & Democracy in the US which is heavily involved in participatory budgeting and community cultural councils provides a model of doing things differently. Centre for Urban Pedagogy teach skills in graphic design and marketing to assist communities to better campaign for what they need. Fred Dewey’s account of his experience at Beyond Baroque and forming community councils in LA is a rare document from which to learn. Within all of these organisations, art and/or its institutions are used as a tool rather than as an end in itself. Ryan Gander’s efforts with Fairfield International is an isolated example specifically aimed at the training of artists that has tried in earnest to address the lack of working class people in the visuals arts but did not take off the ground and it would likely only have been temporary respite. Doing the unsexy work of engaging in state provided education however, is vital. The issue starts from early years, there is little to no provision for arts education in huge swathes of schools across the UK and numbers choosing arts subject are steadily decreasing while private schools maintain excellent resources (Warwick Commission 2015).

The overriding criticism of self organised art schools already covered - that they are already serving those who have MFA’s and the time to participate enough to be a part of it - is the same criticism of free schools in general, that they are predominantly serving the middle and upper class and that they are only available to parents, or private companies with the time and means to set these up. This is key to consider for those wishing to widen access to art education and looking to improve social mobility through a self organised school. Educational historian Diane Ravitch argued that free schools functioned best for students from educated families because of their heavy reliance on individual contribution (Ravitch 2011). In an interview this year with Dave O’Brien following his co-authored report on inequality within the creative industries, he echoed this, arguing that he was sceptical of the rhetoric around non-instrumentalised learning because this is only available to those who already have the social and cultural education to navigate such situations, concluding that what is needed is more instrumentalised learning (O’Brien 2018, Brook, O’Brien & Taylor 2018). In my experience it is a more nuanced than this, self organised learning can be supported and the line between instrumental and non-instrumental can be blurred (Mitra 2010).

However, for all the extensive writing on the negative effects of the economy within literature surrounding the educational turn and self organised schools, class is rarely faced head on (Haq and Zolghadr 2014, Abbing 2012, O’Brien and Oakley 2014). Haq and Zolghdar’s Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie is a the only publication I could source coming from art based publishers dedicated to the issue of class and James Zebroski’s ‘Social Class as Discourse: Mapping the Landscape of Class in Rhetoric and Composition’ (2006) provided a thorough engagement with how social background affects learning to speak and write academically for composers. Haq and Zolghdar take a cynical view of what change artists might achieve in tackling social mobility, writing ‘…They (artists) seem largely uninterested in defining common interests and let growing collective structures advocate for them, preferring to remain in constant competition with one another.’ This is not though, I believe, entirely through will and choice, it is structural and so powerful and pervasive that the effort needed to do things differently is colossal. Resilience flounders in self organised collaborative endeavours, and resilience can only be strengthened with support. Many people do try to work collectively and create space for one another, but it is often only possible for DIY cultures to effect change at the level of sustaining their immediate social circle, addressing social stratification beyond this even within a localised geographic area is too complex an issue for any one approach. Furthermore, when looking at class and identity, within the UK, three times more people believe they are working class than they actually are. The freedom being sought through self organised schools from people who block out or dis-identify with being middle class, reflect an ever widening group in society at large who feel shut out from the elite. The effect of this however, is more infighting, and as the related study showed, leads to a view that society is more divided than ever, leading to resignation rather than anger, and as studies suggest, this ‘working class of the mind’ coincides with an increased tendency towards right wing views. Haq and Zolghadr outline what would be required for a committed effort to address this at the research level,

…when it comes to the art world and class, serious research worthy of the name would call for both microinstitutional studies of subject formation, and macrostructural studies of working relationships, along with genealogical studies to see shifts in time (as opposed to intellectualized guesswork and aestheticized gut reactions.)

This task, and that of tackling social mobility may however, be unappealing to those individuals whose desires may have been shaped differently, as Helguera notes, and social work...can be very cumbersome, annoying, and thankless. You don’t do these things because you want to be recognized for them. You do these things because you are committed to ideals and projects that might supersede your own lifespace. The reward is in doing it.....if what motivates you is the art world being impressed with the adventures you were able to develop with your work, that’s very different from inserting yourself into a social reality and trying to transform it. If you look at the history of activism, or artist who came to prominence in the 70s, it’s a never ending task.

The word recognition is key here. The artist-subject desires to be recognised as such and this recognition depends on others, and/or the big Other in Lacanian terms, and crucially, what we think the o/Other desires. Lacan writes, ‘Desire full stop is always the desire of the Other. Which basically means that we are always asking the Other what he desires.’ This desire, says Lacan, shapes our very drives, so that how we act depends on the o/Other whom we are shaping ourselves in relation to. If contemporary art can be thought of as Other, what do I think it wants? Art as a form of public pedagogy, in my own limited understanding, teaches codified declarative public speech acts in relation to its object (art), that its objects (in an expanded sense of the word) as we experience them materiality exist in another ontological plane, they do something else, meanwhile its political economy can continue to operate on another. Following Howard Singerman’s Art Subjects, in which he meticulously lays out a historical analysis of art education and its ideological underpinnings in the context of the US, particularly the development of the MFA, puts forth his thesis that now, ‘Artists are the subject of graduate school; they are both who and what is taught.’ For those who are denied access to such spaces - a desire created by the university itself - the drive to be recognised as such becomes frustrated. For those in this situation, or for those who refuse such terms, as BHQFU exemplify, this need can in principle be met with peers through the self organised art school. Conflating this need with a desire to change society at large risks transference. Such desires need not be repressed but are best fully explored unbounded and declared from the outset.

School as art

What I have not yet covered, are the range of pedagogical projects presented as art as opposed to education. Claire Bishop covers this in Artificial Hells where she charts the rise of pedagogic projects in art throughout the 2000’s which she in part attributes to the increasing importance of the role of the academy within the artworld, as an an ‘ally’ in a world where public space is diminishing and at the same time a symptom of the wider neoliberal investment in the knowledge economy. This tension and their shared radical histories make it fertile ground for artists and educators alike. Bishop underlines the parallel ruptures in the history of art and education around the 1960’s, between the conceptual and material shifts and changing role of the viewer within art around this time and critical pedagogy. She writes,

Critical pedagogy can therefore be seen as a rupture in the history of education that is contemporaneous with upheavals in art’s own history circa 1968: its insistence on the breakdown of teacher/ pupil hierarchy and participation as a route to empowerment finds its direct correlate in the breakdown of medium- specificity and a heightened attention to the viewer’s role and presence in art.

She then builds her analysis of the artists role in producing more ‘generative forms of art and education’ through reconsidering the work of Joseph Beuys before turning to contemporary practitioners Pawel Althamer, Thomas Hirschorn, Tania Brurgeura’s Arte de Conducta and Paul Chan’s Waiting for Godot. Bishop is sceptical of artists who claim that their work is pedagogic and is careful to make the distinction between pedagogical aesthetics and sites of real pedagogy, asking, ‘ can we tell the difference between ‘pedagogical aesthetics’ and more generative intersections of art and education?’7

Beuys is an indispensable precursor to this kind of activity, embodying within his practice the shift from performance to dialogue stemming from and often situated within his teaching roles. While Beuys himself did not necessarily explicitly cite dialogue as his medium, his use of lectures and public discussion are now widely adopted within contemporary practices (Kester 2004). This is quite different to what has been discussed thus far. Many graduate led self organised art schools use teaching, lectures, events and public programming to support artistic practice not necessarily as art. The range of artistic practices of those who participate is almost of no consequence and is rarely referred to within the literature. What does this tell us about the nature of what is happening today? The language and mechanisms, indeed the pedagogical aesthetics of the academy and schooling are mimicked and expand the site of the generic ‘fine art/contemporary art degree’ while more difficult questions around what is being learned, who and what is influencing this learning, what work is being made and what is it saying can be deferred. The dominant method of teaching and learning in the academy and the self organised school is through dialogue (studio tutorials, seminars, lectures and studio crits), and in particular is framed as critical thinking. Beuys’ work in its intensity asks us to confront this method in and of itself. Chan’s Waiting for Godot and its staging in three parts with his teaching to support the project framed equally as part of the work as much as the final play, widens the scope of both the political economy and the social and aesthetic field of the work. Hirschorn’s ‘monuments’, excessive, celebratory and chaotic, merging theatre, installation and workshops never set out to teach but produce experiences which cannot be anticipated in advance and form a temporary public space collectively. Less convincing is Bishop’s discussion of Bruguera’s school as art, where her argument as to why it can be considered as art because it displays artistic imagination in that it considers ‘form, experience and meaning’. Any good educator would consider the same. Brugera’s own insistence that our understanding of what art is needs continually challenged, particularly the defense of its uselessness in the Western canon, is more engaging. Artists such as this who frame education projects or teach as art or those which jump, reassemble and borrow from across disciplines - Bishop uses the term ‘transversal practices’ – ultimately complicate and expand upon our assumptions of what art and education are and might be, speculating on what it is possible to experience within the frames of either/and/or these fields.

Maarten Simons and Jan Masschelein write that the school as a form consists of three components – suspension of the student, teacher and subject from economic, cultural, political, private and familial time, profanation and that it makes attentive.

…the school can be regarded as a particular medium, a means without ends, that is a free place and time where something is being offered without establishing a particular destination or orientation…it is the time of regard for the world, of being present to it, attending it, a time of surrendering to the experience of the world, of exposure and effacing social subjectivities and orientations…

This is very close to the way that Rancière speaks about the political potency of art, in his terms the politics of aesthetics and its capacity for dissensus, which is so widely championed today and by Bishop herself. He writes, ‘artworks can produce effects of dissensus precisely because they neither give lessons nor have any destination.’ This can be seen to be an artworks pedagogical position in the world, its role in our aesthetic education using Schiller’s terms. Of less consequence I would argue, is this idea within art however, and of far greater interest is this idea within education. The lack of destination, the suspension, profanation and making attentive can be some of the most productive characteristics of an art school and in many ways already happen there, of greater potential is this ‘environment’ applied to other fields, to schooling at large. What such experiments in art and education underline is a tension between and exploration of social, political, institutional and artistic critique and the tension therefore around the evaluative criteria with which to approach them. Claire Bishop’s conclusion within Artificial Hells is useful to apply here, where she writes,

…social and artistic judgements do not easily merge; indeed they seem to demand different criteria…for one sector or artists, curators and critics, a good project appeases a supereogic injunction to ameliorate society….in this schema judgements are based on a humanist ethics, often inspired by Christianity. What counts is to offer ameliorative solutions, however short-term, rather than the exposure of contradictory social truths. For another sector of artists curators and critics, judgements are based on a sensible response to the artist’s work…ethics are nugatory, because art is understood continually to throw established systems of value into question, including questions of morality; devising new languages with which to represent and question social contradiction is important.

Many of the projects that Bishop discusses offer no short or long term solutions to the problems of education or anything else in particular. The projects outlined in Thorne’s largely do. How might the space between these be occupied? Vidolke in his conversation with Thorne regrets that what has completely been removed from discussion surrounding self organised art schools and contemporary art discourse in general is any discussion of art, ‘…looking back ten years later, something is missing: it seems that conversation about works and ideas in art have been eclipsed by a conversation about the infrastructure of art.’ This is evident from looking at reading lists that are given by free schools, they are often about alternative education and critical pedagogy as opposed to art. This overall focus on pedagogy, infrastructure, institutions and networks may in part take over because it is precisely how art appears, all that is left separating something from everything, someone from everyone (Danto 1964, Foucault 1979, Gielen 2013). This also follows the work of those figures that self organised schools often study, Beuys, Kaprow and Cage, all of whom blur the line between art and life. Ultimately what a self organised art school looks like, operates as and who for could become far more interesting when it departs from these well worn concerns, references and ways of doing things, to think about this ethical space which Bishop outlines above.

Alternatives to alternatives

What the above writers, artists and theorists point to is the necessity not only to organise differently but to think differently about the problems and/or opportunities one believes they are facing, to rethink the politics of the alternative. If we say that power imbalances will always exist, how will we live? Philosopher and artist Erin Manning, known for advocacy of neurodiversity within the university, calls for the ‘crafting of problems greater than their solutions.’ Santos writes, ‘…there is no global justice without global cognitive justice. This means that the critical task ahead cannot be limited to generating alternatives. Indeed, it requires an alternative thinking of alternatives.’ If the way one organises a school, is in part a proposition and experiment in the way that society should be organised, what might the self organised art school be within this and critically where else does one need to look? In the most recent thesis published on the rise of self organised art schools titled ‘After the Educational Turn— Alternatives to the alternative art school’, Susannah E. Haslam attempts to do this specifically in relation to the alternative art school. She writes,

Contemporary art’s capacity to instrumentalise education, through its reimagining by artists and the co-option of ‘the alternative’ by arts institutions, must be countered by considering organisational models that sit outside of the Educational Turn. The field is contextualised by a ‘crisis in education’ in the UK, contributing to an abundant manifestation of ‘alternative’ art schools. An often-overlooked plurality exists to ‘the alternative’ that, in its co-option by contemporary art, is rendered homogenised. Existing discourse considers artistic, self-organised and curatorial practices, framed by institutional and infrastructural critique, but neglects to step outside of the Turn to imagine other models for alternative arts education.

Haslam tries to do so by looking to a range of initiatives that she argues sit outwith the education turn and that do not frame themselves as alternative schools - Leeds Creative Timebank, IF Project, THECUBE and Syllabus. It is of less concern as to whether something is considered part of a turn - which in her writing about these projects which exist ‘outside’ become part of the literature around it - what is important is that the conditions which motivated many of these projects far outlive curatorial interests. Haslam concludes by proposing that a hybrid of these models points to an alternative to the alternative art school. The answer however to the original anxiety around alternative art schools being instrumentalised and homogenised by ‘contemporary art’ outlined in the introduction needs to be addressed. The desire to try to endlessly innovate and reform in the face of the seeming, instrumentalisation, homogenisation or obsolescence of the self organised school, i.e. to continually perform the mode of artistic critique outlined by Boltanski and Chiapello, is necessarily limited. Non-instumentalisation and heterogeneity for who, what and why? What does it mean to be instrumentalised and homogenised, what does that look and feel like? What is happening in reality within the specificity of each instance and locale? The example given of the alternative art school’s instrumentalisation and homogeneity is Pioneer Work’s Alternative Art School Fair of 2016. I would argue that this need not be a cause for concern, the gathering through a form of operation in common is not as consequential as the mode of operation and its cultural output. What cultures, methods and practices are taking place? Who, where and what can actively contribute to a better distribution of common resources? How are they contributing to cultural, cognitive, social and resource creation, experimentation and justice?

Practically, the self organised art school in form and essence needs to be connected to the learning from historical attempts at public pedagogy in general (Sandlin, O’Malley & Burdick 2011), from those developed in the 19th and 20th in North America (Dewey 1919, Korn 1991, Lange, C. M., & Sleden, S. J. 2002, Young 1990), anarchist pedagogies and socialist schools (Haworth 2012), to the current Conservative Government’s policy of free schools in the UK (Simon 2015). Many of these schools share common limitations and characteristics, citing the limitations of finance, time and democratic structures. They often depend on a committed figurehead, private finance and/or a gift economy (Haworth 2012, Hyde 1983). Within the arts industry, its structurelesness sets up the conditions that make it difficult to tackle the evidence from recent data that it is one of the worst industries for social mobility (Brooks, O’Brien and Taylor 2018). Oakley suspects that the meaning people ascribe to their work, their attachment to it only makes the issue worse, ‘…the possibility of a politics of work, emerging from this, the growth of a self-conscious precariat with cross-class material interests, seems highly limited.’ This is echoed in Hans Abbing’s study of the economy of artists,

People in the art world tend to resolve discrepancies in order to keep the myths intact. For instance, even though artists may suffer from poverty, lack of recognition, and other drawbacks, they are compensated by the fact that they receive endless satisfaction from their work.

The artist exists in this double bind, labour which exploits and is self-exploitative and yet emancipates an individual at least in the imaginary from other form of labour they have to perform for wages. Overall, Santos, Manning, Moten and Harney are invaluable resources in building a richer imaginary of what change might look and feel like internally and externally. Santos writes that the enemies of cognitive justice are,

…comfort and discomfort once certified by the same indifference-producing factory;…laziness and its older sister, the laziness of whoever commands action; temporary apathy and equally temporary enthusiasm; the paradox of running risks just in order not to run risks; lack of arguments and excess of arguments to justify both action and inaction; abstract thought without body or passion; catalogues of principles to read rather than to live; understanding and representations geared to statistical homogeneity; criticism without irony, satire or comedy, the belief that is it normal to be thought of as a whole and only act individually; the desire to please those who despise us while despising everybody else; a preference for still life and dread of living nature; the twin obsessions of being a client and having clients; the twin fears of losing wealth or loosing poverty; the twin uncertainties of whether the worst is over or about to come; the obsession of obsession, the uncertainty of uncertainty, the fear of fear….the enemies against whom our allies have to fight are themselves, how they came to be what they are and have to stop being themselves if they want to be our honest allies. As our comrade Amilcar Cabral once said, they will have to commit suicide as a class, which cannot be easy.

This is no less, a call for total transformation.


The informal ways in which artists learn from one another which is natural to the field, of which the self organised school is a formalised version, has been explored here: Wakefield, L.M. Informal peer learning between contemporary artists in Bristol and selected UK cities outside London. How do contemporary artists learn from their peers outside of formal education and what motivates them to do so? [University of West England 2013] Available at: [Accessed 15/6/18]

Outside of Thorne’s publication, Notes for an Art School, Desert Interviews and The Public School of Life are three rare examples of publications coming from the founders of self organised schools. The cancelled Manifesta 6 biennale’s publication Notes for An Art School contains much of what is missing in Thorne’s book, from a school that never happened and then took place elsewhere. Vidolke places MSA and the CFU at opposite end of the scale, the former an addition to the already existing system, the latter highly critical of the existing system and committed to problematizing and extending our idea of knowledge production. It is impossible without having attending either and having no accounts to say. MSA co-founder, Piero Golia’s Desert Interviews (2005) documents his role in the Mountain School of Arts and his own practice. A better account of MSA can be found in Madoff’s Art Schools and in articles online. Fred Dewey’s The Public School of Life (2014) charting his time running Beyond Baroque shows a concerted if prolixic effort to reflect on his involvement in collective efforts to keep spaces for artists to experiment and then to form community councils in LA, taking the form of essays, diaries and letters. This text helped me to unpack my own experience in setting up a free school.

Phillips, Andrea ‘Education Aesthetics’ in O’Neill, Paul & Wilson, Mick Curating and the Educational Turn (Amsterdam: Open Editions 2018) p.83 – 96

Meineche Hansen, Sidsel & Vandeputte, Tom Politics of Study (Amsterdam: Open Editions 2015) p.14-15

Cross, David ‘Never Let Me Go’ in Distributed (Amsterdam: Open Editions 2018) p.43-44

Long, Gareth ‘Widening Concentric Circles’ in Distributed (Amsterdam: Open Editions 2018) p.136-145

Hebert, Stine, Karlsen, Anne Szefer and Blamey, David in Self Organised (Amsterdamn: Open Editions 2012) p.11 Cameron, Seth ‘Broken Toilet: BHQFU is Dead’ in Brooklyn Rail 7/9/17 Available at: [Accessed 15/2/18] - It is no different in the UK, and in Scotland where fees have raised for postgraduate courses, there is only a maximum of a one year loan granted for a two year course. When I asked the interviewers at a Scottish institution for an MFA programme last year what they thought about the MFA and its role in socio-economic stratification of artists, I was met with the answer ‘There comes a time when you need to invest in yourself.’ Many people who maybe need some focused time to develop their work but who do not agree with this thus chose not to engage with these spaces and find other ways of operating.

Cameron, Seth ‘Broken Toilet: BHQFU is Dead’ in Brooklyn Rail 7/9/17 Available at: [Accessed 15/2/18]

Santos, Boaventura De Sousa Epistemologies of the South : justice against epistemicide (Colorado: Paradigm Publishers 2014) p. 149

Gillick, Liam ‘Contemporary art does not account for that which is taking place’ in e-flux Journal No.21 Dec 2010 Available at: [ Accessed 02/07/2018 ]

Santos, Boaventura De Sousa Epistemologies of the South : justice against epistemicide (Colorado: Paradigm Publishers 2014) p.149

Santos, Boaventura De Sousa Epistemologies of the South : justice against epistemicide (Colorado: Paradigm Publishers 2014) p.149

Santos, Boaventura De Sousa Epistemologies of the South : justice against epistemicide (Colorado: Paradigm Publishers 2014) p.150

Bishop, Claire Artificial Hells (London: Verso 2012) p.275-276

Whinstanley, Paul Art Schools (London: Ridinghouse 2013)

Thompson, Jon in Whinstanley, Paul Art Schools (London: Ridinghouse 2013) See also Simone Weil on unrooptedness. This came to the fore in a recent debate held at the Glue Factory as part of Agile City Festival. Titled ‘Turncoats: Art School is Dead’ a questions came from the audience, to define whether they saw themselves operating as peers or as a community. Agile City, ‘Turncoats Debate: The Art School is Dead’ at Glue Factory, Glasgow, Thursday 21st June 2018 8pm.

Malik, Suhail ‘Educations Sentimental and Unsentimental: Repositioning the Politics of Art and Education’ in Red Hook Journal Available at: [Accessed 15/6/18]

School of the Damned participant, Agile City, ‘Turncoats Debate: The Art School is Dead’ at Glue Factory, Glasgow, Thursday 21st June 2018 8pm.

Vidolke, Anton in Throne, Sam Schools: A Recent History of Self Organised Art Schools (Amsterdam: Sternberg Press 2017) p.80

Agile City, ‘Turncoats Debate: The Art School is Dead’ at Glue Factory, Glasgow, Thursday 21st June 2018 8pm.

In Madoff, Steven Henry Art Schools: Propositions for the 21st Century (Boston: MIT Press 2009) Rancière, Jacques The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation (Stanford: Stanford University Press 1991) Trans. Kristin Ross Dockray, Sean ‘Openings and Closings,’ in Ivison, Tim and Vandeputte, Tom (Eds.) Contestations: Learning from Critical Experiments in Education (London: Bedford Press 2013) p.151

Kraus, Chris ‘Chris Kraus on the Ambiguous Virtues of Art School’ in Artspace (Online) 2/3/09 Available at: [Accessed 2/12/17]

Moten, Fred ‘Total Education’ in O’Neill, Paul, Steede, Lucy & Wilson, Mick (Eds.) How Institutions Think: Between Contemporary Art and Curatorial Discourse (Boston: MIT Press 2017) p.178

Moten, Fred ‘Total Education’ in O’Neill, Paul, Steede, Lucy & Wilson, Mick (Eds.) How Institutions Think: Between Contemporary Art and Curatorial Discourse (Boston: MIT Press 2017) p.60

Kraus, Chris ‘Chris Kraus on the Ambiguous Virtues of Art School’ in Artspace (Online) 2/3/09 Available at: [Accessed 2/12/17]

Biesta, Gert ‘Making pedagogy public: For the public, of the public or in the interest of publicness.’ in J. Burdick, J. A. Sandlin, & M. P. O’Malley (Eds.), Problematising public pedagogy (New York: Routledge 2014) p.22

Biesta, Gert ‘Becoming public: Public pedagogy, citizenship and the public sphere.’ In Social & Cultural Geography, 13(7) 2012 p.693

Sandlin, Jennifer, Burdick, Jake and Rich, Emma ‘Problematizing public engagement within public pedagogy research and practice’ in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 38:6 2017 p.5-6

McCroy, Sarah in Thorne, Sam in Schools: A Recent History of Self Organised Art Schools (Amsterdam: Sternberg Press 2017) p.328

Scottish Government, Blueprint for Fairness: THE FINAL REPORT OF THE COMMISSION ON WIDENING ACCESS MARCH 2016 Available at: [Accessed 02/08/2018]

Malik, Suhail ‘Educations Sentimental and Unsentimental: Repositioning the Politics of Art and Education’ in Red Hook Journal Available at: [Accessed 15/6/18]

Singerman, Howard Art Subjects: Making Artists in the American University (Berkeley: University of California Press 1999) UCAS Data and Analysis Available at: [Accessed: 02/08/2018] Creative Scotland, Creative Scotland Visual Arts Review 2016 Available at: [Accessed 02/04/2017] p.28

Thorne, Sam in Schools: A Recent History of Self Organised Art Schools (Amsterdam: Sternberg Press 2017) p. 320 In my experience this came about naively with The Pipe Factory. We ended up being in competition with the community centre who helped get us there in the first place. As a result of removal of community centre funding, committees are now forced to run as a business and try to make their revenue from hires. When we successfully agreed very low rent on a long lease, it was possible to hire out a community space for much less money than the community centre. In reality, The Pipe Factory has very limited facilities and accessibility despite capital grant funding but it undermines the community centres position in that respect. We would eventually be competing for the same funds. The intention with the space was to make it a public site for production where anyone could come and learn about and make work part guided by workshopping and part led by those who would begin to use it. Part of the answer to this is bringing back funding for community centres, increasingly devolved funding, participatory budgeting, training and payment to individuals applying.

Haq, Nav & Zolghadr, Tirdad (Eds.) Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie Class Hegemony in Contemporary Art (Berlin: Sternberg Press 2009) p.230

Butler, Patrick ‘Most Britons regard themselves as working class, survey finds’ in The Guardian Wed 29 Jun 2016 20.39 BST Available at: [Accessed 02/08/2018] Ibid.

Haq, Nav & Zolghadr, Tirdad (Eds.) Lapdogs of the Bourgeoisie Class Hegemony in Contemporary Art (Berlin: Sternberg Press 2009) p.212

Hans Abbing’s Why are Artists Poor?, Lewis Hyde’s The Gift and Caroline Woolard’s practice, point to other ways of attending to this. The effect of Abbing and Hyde’s publications are a kind of liberation, one by immersing itself in the capitalist economy of the arts, one in a gift economy, both undermining the market model. Woolard’s creates ‘object-contexts’, from Trade School, BFAMFAPHD, to Study Collaboration and her forthcoming publication Ways of Being looks to serve as a handbook for those wanting to study art in line with the economy.

Helguera, Pablo in Sam Schools: A Recent History of Self Organised Art Schools (Amsterdam: Sternberg Press 2017) p.126

Lacan, Jacques My Teaching (London: Verso 2009) p.38

Singerman, Howard Art Subjects: Making Artists in the American University (Berkeley: University of California Press 1999) p.3 Bishop, Claire Artificial Hells (London: Verso 2012) p.267

Bishop, Claire Artificial Hells (London: Verso 2012) p.250

Simons, Maarten and Masschelein, Jan in Gielen, Pascal & De Bruyne, Paul Teaching Art In The Neoliberal Realm: Realism Versus Cynicism (Amsterdam: Valiz 2012) p.74 Ibid.

Rancière, Jacques Dissensus: On Politics & Aesthetics (London: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. 2010) Ed. And Trans. Steven Corcoran p.14

Bishop, Claire Artificial Hells (London: Verso 2012) p.275-276

Vidolke, Anton in Throne, Sam Schools: A Recent History of Self Organised Art Schools (Amsterdam: Sternberg Press 2017) p.80

Manning, Erin The Minor Gesture (Durham: Duke University Press 2016) p.10

Santos, Boaventura De Sousa Epistemologies of the South : justice against epistemicide (Colorado: Paradigm Publishers 2014) p.133

Haslam, Susannah E. After the Educational Turn— Alternatives to the alternative art school Thesis submitted for Doctorate at Royal College of Art, London 2018 There are multiple possible ways of tackling social mobility in the field of art and education away from forms which are all too easily curatorialised and assimilated under the banner of contemporary art (Haslam 2018). The greatest area of need is early years, primary and secondary where children might get no to very little exposure to any arts education and in particular extra-curricular activity around the school. This is only mentioned once, by Andrea Phillips in the literature surrounding the educational turn (Phillips in O’Neill and Wilson 2009). Visiting artists, drama practitioners and musician budgets have been slashed, most have no access to this at all. If you have never actually studied or talked about art, seen any art, or met anyone who identifies as an artist, writer or musician etc it’s hard to imagine yourself in that role. Or to anticipate that such professions people don’t necessarily paint, act or play music all day. It is where we learn that it’s either for us or not for us. Exploring quiet but innovative models like Room 13 could lead to the most extraordinary experiences and practices. Education Scotland and Paul Hamlyn Foundation are also piloting projects across schools in Scotland employing artists with the specific aim of improving executive functioning skills. This project has many layers to it which I will explore in a case study and interview with its artists. The lack of visiting artists is felt within FE too, it is a distinct difference between HE and FE institutions that is cast aside but is a clear dividing line between two social networks. Any concerted effort to specifically address socio-economic stratification in the visual arts would need to consider some of the following: teacher education and extracurricular education situated in contemporary practice and interdisciplinary studies that challenge the role of medium specific training, legislating that private schools share their resources with state schools, practical advice in schools careers services on how to set up as an artist and expanding the notion of what an artists is and does at nursery, primary and secondary school, incorporating modules around micro and macro economies with practical transparent advice (including being transparent about how visiting artists and staff live from week to week), creating a national visiting artists budget for schools, colleges and universities so that practitioners of all kinds visit places across the country as opposed to a small pool doing the rounds at the most prestigious places, breaking out of the current opaque studio visit culture in cities and actively seeking out people outside of existing networks through more transparent and public processes (especially if you are using public funding, this is being advocated for in the film and TV industry, where casting directors are committing to widening their scope, the visual arts might follow suit), increasing the percentage allocated for participatory budgeting and training for local communities to apply for cultural funding, facilitated app writing, creating localised situated paid opportunities that allow for those who can’t give up day jobs as opposed to a chunk of time residency away culture, devolve national arts funding directly to committees through localised geographically distributed funding, provide local regular social events with a roster of visitors for those not able to attend full or part time courses but where the discourse is challenging and taken seriously, through taking socio economic circumstances into account in equalities agendas (confronting the difficulty of classification rather than avoiding it altogether) and ring-fencing funding for it, working with employers to allocate time for people to be able to pursue their own learning, going to the people and places of power and however tacitly, subversively, directly or cooperatively done, working towards a redistribution of wealth and decision making. The self organised art school has a role to play within this, it is by no means exhausted as a way of doing things and there are likely iterations of this to come and which are already happening that are quietly working away within their specificities allowing continued access to community and support.

See Simon, Catherine Ann The Big Society and Education Policy: a conceptual analysis (Bath: University of Bath 2015) Available at: [Accessed 21/5/18] Oakley, Kate ‘From Bohemia to Britart – art students over 50 years’ in Cultural Trends (Online) Vol 18 Issue 4 2009 p.282 Abbing, Hans Why Are Artists Poor? (Amsterdam; Amsterdam University Press 2014) p.30

See Ranciere’s chapter ‘Art & Work’ which explores the artist as a double being in Rancière, Jacques The Politics of Aesthetics, (London: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. 2006) Trans. Gabriel Rockhill Santos, Boaventura De Sousa Epistemologies of the South : justice against epistemicide (Colorado: Paradigm Publishers 2014) p.15-16

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