Playing At School


Playing At School

2010 Lecture given at the Hayward and Serpentine Gallery deschooling society conference

You start at kindergarten, 

learn social interaction, 

give exhausted parents a break, 

and help the economy. 

Also we teach them authority, pyramid systems and other modes of status.

We teach them how the system works

We learn the transit system

We learn how to barter

How to loose our temper

How to manipulate people

And situations

By the time I arrive a secondary school

I knew everything I needed to know

I knew how things work

I knew what I was supposed to do

I knew how I was supposed to act

I think I have forgotten more things than I remember

I am not sure where I store knowledge

I am not sure how to find it


I am not qualified to be a teacher at art school

I am fully qualified to be a student

I don’t know anything for sure

I change my mind all the time

I prefer to be a student

I left my BA course in 1978

But I have never stopped being a student

How do we learn

I don’t know

How do I learn?

I look, listen, read, discuss, 

make, borrow, steal, re-make

Look, listen, discuss, ignore, avoid, 

look again, forget, remember, 

remember wrongly,

Interpret, mis-interpret, 

understand and misunderstand.

Make, undo, deconstruct, break, 

look at art, look at life, listen observe,

Re-look re-listen re-invent

Are we teaching people to work the system?

Art schools now


Are they failing, what does failing look like?

Are they succeeding ? What does succeeding look like?

Should we think more about failure than success

What is the student experience?

Colleges now are driven by different factors

Student satisfaction is high on the list, why ?

Should students be happy?

Are we running an art school or a therapy class

Is the point to get good grades

To be loved by everyone

To do well, or to be seen to do well

Are we making model citizens

Or rebellious troublemakers

Can one size fit all

Can you fail a successful system

Can you succeed in a failing system

Does all this matter

How many models or graphs can we generate

To explain something that cant be explained

Is it very complicated 

Or is it very simple

The point is we need a place where we can learn

A place that is in flux

A place that can learn also

The learning model needs to learn, change and adapt

If for arguments sake we call this place a school

The school need to be able to change

To develop

To discover and then to constantly re-discover its core activity

We want to generate great art

Profound art

Intergrated art

Dissident art

Any kind of art

Looking at crap art is depressing

Looking at great art is exhilarating

So we need great art

Art school is where we learn how to experiment

Art school is part of the deschooling process

Foundation courses deschool and turn pupils in students

Art schools [should] continue this process 

Allow students learn how to be a human being

I have a very soft spot for art school

I think it’s the best school in the world

I think artists are plugged into society unlike anyone else

Of course everyone can be an artist

Its just that not everyone is

The most important conversations

In art school happen in the corridor

The stairwell

In odd places

Seminars, discussions, lectures are ways of mobilizing and

Sharing ideas

They are beginnings

The students best teachers are students

Some notes on The experimental drawing class

I know many of you have researched this area thoroughly 

or taught for a number of years 

and I have to admit that I have done neither. 

However I have read enough and talked enough 

to realize that I have nothing new to offer. 

Everything seems to me to have been done before. 

my experience in art school on the faculty as been

Very interesting

I have been lucky on a number of occasions been allowed to play

For the past two years at Wimbledon

I have piloted a series of experimental drawing classes 

and a series of speakeasy events

I have been working towards and experimenting 

With the idea of a new art school, 

but I changed my mind on that about a year ago, 

I don’t want to make a new school

I think calling it a school limits its possibilities.

However a school does explain something

I am thinking of it as something somewhere

between a reading group and the Open University.

I first experimented with different versions of the existing structure; I eventually realized that to do this was just going to produce another version of what is already there. 

So the next ideas was just to extract those things that I thought worked well and jettisoned those things that were not necessary or in the way. 

How would the experimental drawing class operate?

Within The Experimental ArtSchool.

This is how I see it. 

There will be different small groups or cells operating in different places.

There will be no centre. Projects will initially come out from the experimental drawing class commissioning various artists, designers, and writer’s musicians to design and organize projects.  It will be their project. 

Eventually each of the cells will begin to originate projects and these will flow back and forth between the groups. 

I envisage that the class will join up all the arts.

I am sure that there are many ways that we learn, 

I expect that we will experiment with different ways of learning 

eventually as time goes on there will be many views and differences and arguments. Agreement is not something I would be looking to achieve.

Not having a permanent building is essential. 

This is a non-exclusive project where groups can join many such projects, 

it’s not like now where you sign up for Chelsea or the Slade and you are kept inside that camp. It’s a free association of learners. People who want to learn.

It has a have built in obsolescence.

The most important model for me is the Islington Mill Arts Academy, 

based in Salford. They have invented their own academy. 

Two years ago I went up to see them with Chloe Briggs, 

we talked about how they began and how they operate, 

eventually we asked them, how could we help. 

They said challenge us, sets us projects.

The experimental artschool is my rather cumbersome reply to their question.