An-artist, Unlearning, programmed by Louise Garrett, is a series of film screenings, performances and discussions animating aspects of pedagogical address in the shadow of the gallery, academy and art school. The programme encompasses enactments and presentations engaging forms, sites and practices connected to ‘undoing,’ ‘unlearning’ and ‘not-knowing,’ coinciding with the frame of experimental educational modes since the 1960s. ‘An-artist’ suggests a radical and continual repositioning of the artist vis-à-vis prevailing discourses: an on-going and urgent resistance to received representational structures. Allied to this is the process of actualization inherent in ‘unlearning’ conventional codes and operations, and creating alternative discursive environments.
- Pedagogical experimentation in British art schools, 1960s-1980s. 2 July 2013
The final installment of An-artist, Unlearning presents talks and conversations illuminating various pedagogical experiments that took place in British art schools between the 1960s and the 1980s. Guest speakers: Beth Williamson, Elena Crippa, Jean Matthee and Simon Pugh (in conversation with students from the MA Culture, Criticism and Curation programme, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design).
I. Beth Williamson, The Colour Experiment, Cardiff c.1968
This talk takes the film The Colour Experiment as its point of focus. The film documents some of the experimental colour teaching undertaken by teacher Tom Hudson (1922-97) at Cardiff College of Art c.1968. The talk will first contextualize the film within developments in British art education in the 1950s and 1960s, especially Basic Design training. The film, and the teaching it documents, might be taken as emblematic of an approach to making and teaching art that sought to balance intellectual and theoretical perspectives with other more intuitive approaches.
A short extract of this archival film footage will be screened, courtesy of the Estate of Tom Hudson.
Beth Williamson is a researcher and lecturer based in London. Since 2009 she has been a post-doctoral Research Fellow on Tate’s ‘Art School Educated’ research project. In 2011 and 2012 she devised and taught a postgraduate module on the history of British art education post-1960 at the University of York. Her research ranges across the field of British art and art pedagogy post-1960. She is also writing a monograph on art theorist Anton Ehrenzweig to be published by Ashgate.
II. Elena Crippa, Art & Language and the Teaching of Art Theory
Mid 1960s. A particularly prescriptive type of discourse, informed by the writing of the American critic Clement Greenberg, was framing art practice and shaping its production, both in the USA and UK. A number of artists, feeling constrained by this discourse, started to expose and challenge its reproductive power. Among them were the founding members of Art & Language, who developed the short-lived Art Theory Course at Coventry College of Art (1969-71). Some of the questions underlying their teaching and the underpinning critical attitude towards ‘the language-use of the art society’ remain relevant when addressing the present state of art education. What is the relationship between art criticism and art making? What theoretical instruments do art students need? If artists, as Art & Language thought, are foremost intellectuals, what is the process of ‘unlearning’ they should undertake? And what pedagogical formats should be implemented?
Elena Crippa is a curator and researcher based in London. In the past few years, she has been developing her PhD as part of the Tate’s ‘Art School Educated’ research team, and she is a lecturer on the MRes Art: Exhibition Studies at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Her current research focuses on the history of artist-initiated exhibitions and the development of discursive pedagogies and practices in the 1950-60s.
III. Jean Matthee, Department of Environmental Media, Royal College of Art, c.1974-1986
Jean Matthee discusses ‘unlearning’ and ‘non-knowledge’ in relation to her experience as a student in Peter Kardia’s Environmental Media programme at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in the 1980s. Before Kardia founded the Department of Environmental Media at the RCA, he was known for his pedagogical experiments at Saint Martins College in the 1960s, including the 1969 ‘locked room’ experiment. His approach to teaching sought to break with preconceived assumptions of what an art practice might be. The three-year Environmental Media course challenged existing departmental divisions by offering a flexible programme designed to accommodate unconventional mixed-media projects by students. Matthee describes how her broad-ranging practice as an artist, teacher, writer and curator was influenced by Kardia’s teaching orientation and the inspiration of RCA tutor, film-maker and AIDS activist Stuart Marshall.
Jean Matthee was a student in the Department of Environmental Media at the Royal College of Art from 1984 to 1987. As student representative of the course, she fought against its closure in the mid-198os. She also completed a PhD on ethics and the stakes and implications of topological space for subjectivity and art practice at the RCA in 1994, which led to an eight-month event called ‘Topology’ at Tate Modern (5 November 2011 – Saturday 16 June 2012). She considers all aspects of her work – teaching, research, psychoanalysis, writing, filmmaking, painting, drawing, curating – as performed modalities of her art practice.
IV. Simon Pugh, Fine Art and Critical Studies, Saint Martins College/Central Saint Martins (1983-1993)
Students from the MA Culture, Criticism and Curation programme at Central Saint Martins talk to Simon Pugh about the Fine Art and Critical Studies (FACS) course Pugh co-founded (with Roy Trollope) at Saint Martins College in 1983. The FACS course was set up in response to a perceived need for a part-time interdisciplinary fine art course. Its distinctive features included inter alia: the close interaction of ‘theory and practice’; a compulsory period of art practice in the real world; an engagement with key issues of the time (such as feminism and multiculturalism); and the forging of an interaction between art practice to theoretical and social ideas. Run independently of the full time painting and sculpture courses at Saint Martins College, the course was eventually incorporated into a redesigned fine art course at Central Saint Martins in the early 1990s and started a new life as the (predominantly full-time) Critical Fine Art Practice option.
Simon Pugh was head of theoretical and historical studies at St Martins/Central Saint Martins from 1972, and was latterly Dean of Graphic and Industrial Design. He has written on theory, art and landscape architecture and is now retired and writes poetry.
- Thin Air: The Psycho-Vocalic Discoveries of Alan Smithso. 18 June 2013
A work by Paul Rooney
For the third installment of An-artist, Unlearning, we are proud to present Paul Rooney’s 2009 film Thin Air: The Psycho-Vocalic Discoveries of Alan Smithson. The screening will be followed by commentary from Richard Whitelaw, Head of Programmes, Sound and Music, and artist-critic Peter Suchin.
Part academic lecture, part science fiction story, Thin Air highlights the legacy and little known research of 1970s Leeds Polytechnic student Alan Smithson. Smithson claimed that ‘voices’ he had recorded in the Polytechnic’s H Building were sonic manifestations of memories that had been somehow preserved in the electromagnetic ether of its rooms through a process which he called ‘site-anamnesis’. Smithson also asserted that the particularly radical and eventful – and, ultimately, tragic – history of the building had contributed to its facility for preserving and recalling the charged moments of remembrance. Combining information culled from conversations, archives, poems, songs, press cuttings and Smithson’s own extensive journals and tape recordings, Rooney and his collaborator, Belgian architectural historian Dr Annette Gomperts, decipher a myriad of correspondences between historical moments in the life of individual students, the H Building, and the wider world.
Thin Air was originally commissioned by Leeds Metropolitan University, Sound and Music and MAAP.
This event is free but booking is strongly recommended as space is limited. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inarchivé. 21 May 2013
Filmmakers Silvia Maglioni and Graeme Thomson present and discuss excerpts of their films Facs of Life (2009) and Through the Letterbox (2010). Both films draw on footage of Gilles Deleuze’s seminars at Vincennes (1975-76).
Artists’ statement: Why is it that traces of experimentation from the 1970s continue to elude the archival fixity and periodization that has already crystallized much of what went on in the preceding decade? Perhaps it has something to do with the peculiar mixture of post-68 entropy and diasporic unravelling of mass political and social movements and the concomitant emergence of more radically elusive and secretive strains of resistance, unable or unwilling to be reduced to a defining form or identity.
It was watching video footage (shot by Marielle Burkhalter in 1975-76) of Gilles Deleuze’s seminar at the often riotously experimental University of Vincennes that first spurred us on to seek out some of the students who appear in the images and map the affective singularity of their encounter with Deleuze’s thought in our film Facs of Life (2009). A fascinating record both of the process of building concepts that would eventually appear in Mille Plateaux – for many the high point of Deleuze and Guattari’s great adventure in nomadic “outsider” philosophy – and of the unique pedagogical space that made such thinking possible (informal, at times anarchic, uncomfortable and dangerously overcrowded), these blurred and ghostly smoke-blinded images were never properly edited nor incorporated into an official archive.
- Lecture as performance. 14 May 2013
The first installment of An-artist, Unlearning plays on the performative character of the lecture as a form. With a screening of a film by Babette Mangolte/Robert Morris and performances by artists Fay Nicolson and Aaron Williamson.
Babette Mangolte/Robert Morris, 21.3 (1993). 21.3 is a film-remake of a 1964 performance by Robert Morris in which Morris, in the guise of a lecturer, lip-synched to an excerpt of a foundational art-historical text by Erwin Panofsky. The film is one of four remakes of Morris’s performances from the early 1960s by Babette Mangolte entitled Four Pieces by Morris (1993), first screened at Morris’s 1994 Guggenheim retrospective The Mind-Body Problem. Film courtesy of Babette Mangolte/Robert Morris.
Fay Nicolson, (In Search of) The Perfect Lecture, (2010 – 2013). This performative lecture traces the physical and conceptual boundaries of the lecture theatre in relation to communication, performance and pedagogy. Whilst reflecting on the lecture-structure as the centre of academic dissemination, Nicolson wonders about the possibilities that lie at its periphery.
Aaron Williamson, Flannel, (2011/2013). Flannel was first performed at the ‘Parlour Principia’ event at Swedenborg House, London, May 13th, 2011. Artist’s statement: ‘Flannel’ has two meanings in English. Firstly it is a small cloth used for washing the hands and face with; but a less common usage of the word means ‘indirect or evasive talk.’ It’s impossible to estimate the average percentage of lecturing time that is filled with this kind of flannel. I, for one, can say that many was the time I’ve attempted to conduct a learned, alimentary dissertation on something I knew little about – perhaps at the request of an awkwardly fastidious student. On the lectern, just like in the pulpit, one cannot confess to uncertainty. And besides, ‘flannel’ isn’t a difficult way to talk once armed with a suitably abstruse vocabulary.
This series of events is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England .