20.08.2015 - The Precarious University (2015) ‘The Precarious University’ [Social Sculpture / Seminar] Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, Wakefield.
‘The Precarious University’ is an ongoing and evolving social sculpture, realised through workshops, seminars, exhibitions, and performances, established as a critical response to the financialization and commodification of higher education and its ‘pedagogy of debt’. It opposes the dominant-hegemonic consumer-provider model, where UK students exit undergraduate study with increasingly devalued degrees and a £45k personal debt, and promotes an alternative vision of education through a series of critico-creative educational interventions that contest antagonisms between public and private spheres. These interventions open-up free and democratic educational spaces, offering a model of pedagogy as both art and resistance.
The Precarious University opened on 20th August 2015 in the grounds of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, in order to address the core question posed by Bob and Roberta Smith’s Art For All: Pop-up Art School: ‘What needs to be included in art education to give a child a voice in the 21st century?’
The Precarious University seminar, completely free and open to all, contrasted two contemporary conceptualisations of the art school – the post Browne Report (2010) model, which prioritises marketization, privatization and monetisation, and the ‘alternative’ model, which draws inspiration from the art school’s radical history, and conceives of itself as an incubator of social change.
Drawing upon the model of the alternative art school, this intervention aimed to create an enclosure of critical dialogue within the wider setting of Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It is suggested that this enclosure, in microcosm represents an attempt to imagine alternate form of art education that exceeds any of the possibilities offered by neo-liberal art schools. A grid of plywood cubes situated amongst the outdoor sculpture displays demarcated the university and acted as seating for participants. Throughout the day we addressed these core questions:
What is revolutionary education and the role of education in a revolutionary situation?
What is the role of the expert, or radical, or educator in social change?
Do students need teachers to structure their learning, and how should power be distributed throughout the art school?