Editorial: Experimental Pedagogies
by Kari Cwynar and Amish Morrell
This issue arose out of several recent trends in art education. First, the emergence of alternative, tuition-free, DIY-style art schools, reading groups and skill-sharing workshops. Second, the embrace of “discursive practices” within art production and curating, often engaging methods of education as forms of production and presentation. And third, a sense of crisis within art schools themselves as budgets are slashed and departments are forced to rely increasingly on poorly paid sessional instructors, and, in some cases, restructure their programs. The impact of this has been a questioning of the value and relevance of the graduate art degree, and increased engagement with methods of learning as forms that have critical social and aesthetic potential by artists, educators and curators alike.
In these pages, we explore the relationships among these trends, looking closely at sites and practices of pedagogical experimentation. Vesna Krstich revisits the work of Fluxus in the context of curriculum reform in the 1960s, while Christopher Dingwall outlines artist Theaster Gates’ current work on Chicago’s South Side and Gates’ newly declared philosophy for an art school. In the MFA Questionnaire, faculty and students from art schools in Canada, the United States and Europe describe some of the forces shaping MFA education today, and envision what an ideal art school might look like. Also, in a special section for the issue, Art School Supplement, we present a partial inventory of alternative art schools, which gives a sense of some of the ways learning is taking place outside of major institutions. Many of these projects offer much-needed tuition-free options for art education and vital platforms through which communities can speak directly to each other.
While the Art School Supplement describes the educational work of present-day artist communities, the Artist Project looks to artist communities of the past, republishing a review of the Toronto-based collective ChromaZone’s iconic 1983 exhibition Chromaliving, which appeared in the very first issue of C. Paired with documentation of Chroma Lives, a contemporary restaging and translation of the original exhibition by curators Erin Alexa Freedman and Lili Huston-Herterich, and an essay by ChromaZone member Andy Fabo, this project evokes the role of artists as a critical countercultural force, and the historical specificity of such movements. Produced in partnership with the organization If I Can’t Dance I Don’t Want To Be Part of Your Revolution, Chroma Lives included a reading group and oral history interviews, working as both an exhibition and a platform for research and education.
We further address the “educational turn” in curatorial practice and the rise of curated public programming in an interview with curators Gabrielle Moser and Kim Simon, looking to Gallery TPW’s ongoing interrogation of the image. At a time when education in the gallery often means artist talks — a one-way flow of information — they describe the practice of doing research in public, asking what it means to be present for one another while working through difficult knowledge, sometimes across fraught social differences.
In our regular columns, Richard William Hill discusses Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun’s current exhibition at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology, deftly negotiating the complex politics of visual form in Yuxweluptun’s work; Candice Hopkins elaborates on “listening,” focusing on what she calls “the practice of learning,” and the imperative to listen beyond dominant voices; and David Senior revisits a poster from 1970 promoting the future California Institute of the Arts as a radical experiment in art education, tracing the important role of feminist designer and organizer Sheila Levrant de Bretteville in this history.
Throughout the issue, we look at how artists create their own worlds – whether it’s within art schools, among small groups of people meeting outside of these spaces to work through ideas together, or strictly within the realm of imagination and representation. In almost all instances, these projects aim to address structural exclusions, centering education and learning in practices that explore different ways of attenuating ourselves to one another and to the world around us.