Documentation of the Inside Out School workshop and the conversations which led to and succeeded it, including a discussion between the participants of Parallel School (Berlin), Utopia School (New York), Free Cooper Union (New York) and ReLearn (Brussels).
Written, edited and designed in close collaboration with Toni Brell.
The political theorist Chantal Mouffe claims institutional critique is best executed from within. Only by engaging with institutions is it possible to create dissent, and so bring to the fore alternatives to the current system. Based on her concept of conflict and ‘agonistic pluralism’, she promotes the idea of ‘agonistic spaces’. Conflict is not a problem to straighten out. It is the very basis for politics and decision-making. Real conflict leaves space for alternatives that acknowledge the other’s right to exist, and by that agree to disagree. True antagonism is the ability to make a choice between multiple, opposing factions, in a seemingly undecidable terrain. Therefore, conflict should not be seen as an obstacle. It should be seen as the common ground between two adversaries. This is what ultimately brings them together and makes the friend/foe relationship potentially interesting and desirable. So maybe it’s time to stop being efficient and cause some conflict.
Which brings us to Inside Out School. In our experience, public education usually comes with a lot of privileges, such as libraries, studio space, time to explore your artistic interests, critiques, free working material, access to workshops. Even though this framework can be very helpful in some respects, it should not be forgotten that it is equally restrictive. Art schools such as the GSA are highly regulated spaces. Not only in terms of their facilities, but also content. Students are usually directed towards a standardised agenda of what is relevant, a canon that they are supposed to follow. There is a consensus about how and what we learn. With our workshop at the Glasgow School of Art, we wanted to create an awareness of this situation, create a space to question what was there, and so disturb the accepted education paradigms and look for possible alternatives.
We created ‘agonistic spaces’: spaces that were inappropriate, even against the rules, and thus bound to cause conflict. We occupied the art school, building barricades, obstacles and temporary classrooms. We transformed the common and familiar into something odd, erratic and unknown in an effort make visible the mechanisms and hierarchies that the institution relies on, which we so often take for granted (such as security staff, emergency routes, house rules, etc.). By changing what we knew we hoped to set free a potential not only for conflict but more importantly for discussion, friction, and possible failure.