Tuesday Night — 05.12.09 — Learning in present tense

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Tuesday Night — 05.12.09 — Learning in present tense
1. About this Tuesday
2. *
3. About the format of the evening
4. About Emma Hedditch and Nils Norman
5. About the Students from the School of Walls and Space.
6. Useful links
1. About this Day
What: Discussion
When: Tuesday 05.12.09
Where: 16Beaver Street, 4th Floor
When: 7:15 pm
Who: Free and open to all
In the last 10 years, the question of pedagogy in general and the university have re-emerged as a critical site of contestation.* This evening comes out of a dialogue with Emma Hedditch and Nils Norman and students from the School of Walls and Space – a class from the Royal Danish Art Academy in Copenhagen, which Nils leads.
It is connected to three recent events we organized, the occupation series at Left Forum and Migrating Forms and the reading of the ‘Coming Insurrection’ last week in Central Park.
The event is inspired by those persons we have met, who are calling for ways of reconsidering the University and School as a privileged site of learning. Many of us have been thinking about what it would be to transform the School, University and Academy, what happens after the University as we know it today has been destroyed or abandoned?
We have been experimenting with ideas, researching examples from past experiments, looking to what is around us. For this event, we hope to create a situation whereby we can propose questions and ideas in relation to education, learning, university, knowledge. It could be an event where revolt and destruction are seen as synonymous with affirmation and creation. And what we imagine is realized in the present, in our collective participation and playful contributions / provocations.
Together with participants from the School of Walls and Space from the Academy in Copenhagen, 16Beaver participants, Whitney Independent Study Program participants, students from the NYU and New School occupations, Father Frank Morales, and friends (including yourselves), we will try to conjure what the possibilities of learning will look like projected upon a plane of our own making?
Some of the questions we may circle around.
What would or could a place for learning be like?
What are places for learning?
Where could we find ourselves learning?
What is the form of life that is proposed in the figure of the student today?
What can the life of students today say about our relations to the present,
to history, to experience and to the idea of progress?
How do the economic and political rationalities of the present confine,
direct, and limit the potential exploration and research within situations
of learning?
(Please come with your own questions, points, offerings – see # 3 for more details)
2. *
It has been said that neoliberalism is a constructivist project. That its logic of calculation and its corporate model of governance is pervasively imbued into nearly every institution. We agree. Departments inside universities are more and more run like small corporations, responsible for paying for their own electricity, relying upon MA or foreign students to fund themselves. Department heads getting paid by the number of students they can attract. Military and corporations offering “grants” for research, but directing every opportunity of learning into weapons or profits or patents or copyrights. Not only education, but also life is valued like any commodity. In short, a logic of control, profit, and death. University as factory, as department store, as property developer, as mechanism of channeling resistant bodies.
Schools, hospitals, art institutions, universities, the entire sector of what could be seen as not for profit in many parts of the globe are increasingly becoming a mirror of the for-profit corporations. “If it does not attract large ‘numbers’, then it’s obviously not important.” “If people do not have to pay, then they don’t value it.” “If they can’t afford it, then they obviously don’t need it or deserve it.” “If it cannot sustain itself, then it does not need to live.” Even the board members, the philanthropists, the well-wishers of many of these institutions all arriving consciously or not to reinstituting the very same values that these supposed benevolent institutions were supposed to question or at the very least serve as counter-measure for.
Our collective discussions within the framework of Continental Drift have illuminated and elaborated upon many of these problems. Friends throughout the world are grappling with these issues and attempting to pose critical questions. But one must also admit that the questions of pedagogy are timeless. They come back to philosophy, to friendship, to truth, to ethics, to aesthetics, to politics, to placing into question the terms of a world shared with other beings.
In one of his earliest essays, written in 1914-1915 titled “The Life of Students” Walter Benjamin introduces his text by arguing against a concept of history which puts its faith in the infinite extent of time and is marked by a certain rush, or speed, toward the future. The future could not come any sooner, as far as contemporary society is concerned. But what future?
The present seems in this conception of history to be an afterthought or something merely to be digested or sacrificed for progress. The contradictions for our contemporary culture begin here, since co-existing with this call of progress is our irreversible short-sightedness in relation to the social and natural ecology of this earth.
And in this respect, it seems we are confronted with both a sacrifice of the present as well as the future. And it remains unclear for what, if anything other than the profits which line the pockets of very small percentage of the globe’s people.
Analytically however, as Benjamin argues “this condition cannot be captured simply in pragmatic descriptions of details (the history of institutions, customs), and so on, in fact, it alludes them.”
It is in the desire to address this very condition that Benjamin begins his text on the life of students. “It is worth taking the trouble to describe the contemporary significance of students and the university, of the form of their present existence, only if they can be understood as a metaphor, as an image of the highest metaphysical state of history.”
And it is with such a preface that we invite students, teachers, former students, former teachers, interested workers, and individuals of all types to collectively reflect upon the state of learning now.
3. About the format
The format will be close to a jam session of statements, stories, interventions, and more by all participants. There will be no difference between public and participant, announced and unannounced. We will determine the rest as we go. The main objective, is through this jamming, to arrive at various points of departure, ideas, connections, trajectories, interests, inspirations related to the topic of learning.
4. About Emma Hedditch and Nils Norman
Nils Norman is an artist working and living in London, he is a professor at the art Academy in Copenhagen. Together with the students he has been trying to develop a student led
pedagogical space and method within the Academy. Over the past 10 years Nils has been developing various experimental seminars built on the 1970s “City as School” or “Exploding School” model. His work in education is an essential element of his methodology as an artist. He has taught seminars at the University of Chicago, the CCC in Geneva and now at the School of Walls and Space in Copenhagen Denmark. Nils’s work touches on issues of urbanism, the production of space and the artist’s critical role embedded within the various privatisation processes of public and cultural space.
Emma Hedditch is an artist from the UK, she was part of the development of the Copenhagen Free University from 2001 until 2007, and has been working, acting and discussing with Students from the School of Walls and Space in Copenhagen over the past two years. She is currently living in New York, and is accepting and pursuing as much as possible, collective practices with friends who are participating in The Whitney Independent Study Program, and autonomous persons with whom she shares a community. Emma is inspired by radical intimate engagement, embodied in Feminist and Queer activism and creativity.
5. About the Students from the School of Walls and Space.
The art students from the School of Walls and Space have been working together with Nils Norman to develop a student led teaching methodology and space at the art academy in Copenhagen. Many individuals from the group are active in a variety of political and art based collectives and collaborations. Two important recent events have been Refshalevej Occupation – the occupation of a street running between the perimeter of Christiania in Copenhagen and a canal. Together with a large and diverse group of people the students were an active part of the illegal occupation and extension of Christiania’s perimeter. Developing an informal zone of shacks, rafts and jettys the occupation developed a variety of land and waterborne occupation structures and strategies, also developing interesting and unique organisational strategies.
The other event being “Undoing the City”, a festival in anti-gentrification, in Copenhagen, May 2009.
6. Useful links
We will collect and post useful links and texts after this event.
16 Beaver Group
16 Beaver Street, 4th / 5th fl.
New York, NY 10004
phone: 212.480.2099
for directions/subscriptions/info visit:
4,5 Bowling Green
R,W Whitehall
2,3 Wall Street
J,M Broad Street
1,9 South Ferry