The Public School

07/11/2009 - 17/09/2012

Related Artists :
Marco Bruzzone, Oxana Tiemofeeva

The Public School Brussels was set up by Komplot during its residency at Nadine from November 2009 until April 2010. It is a permanent project now happening in other locations in Brussels.

Telic Arts Exchange (Los Angeles) initiated The Public School, an art school “with no curriculum.” It now also exists in Philadelphia and Chicago with new schools opening this Autumn, in New York at Common Room, in Paris at Bétonsalon and in Brussels at Komplot.

It operates as follows: first, classes are proposed by the public (I want to learn this or I want to teach this); then, people have the opportunity to sign up for the classes (I also want to learn that); finally, when enough people have expressed interest, the school finds a teacher and offers the class to those who signed up. So, there is in fact a curriculum, but it is self-organized out of the audience.

The Public School is a provocation, which asserts that “the school” should be considered as a model for the future of the alternative art space. Many artists today are doing in depth research, experimenting with new technologies, and are orchestrating social events. Art galleries modeled on the store, naturally tend to support finished, object-based art practices. An exhibition space modeled on the school, however, could be more open to ongoing, process-based, participatory practices.

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New flag by Aude Pariset & Marco Bruzzone

In a recent e-mail, Sean Dockray, the founder of The Public School describes the project as such:

How to describe The Public School in 10 minutes? The premise is a school with no curriculum.  Instead of degrees, tests, disciplines, accreditation, goals, and so on, there is an open space for people to propose classes that they want to take or that they want to teach.  These class proposals range from the extremely practical to the impossible and strange.  A majority of the proposals will not happen – they amount to a catalog of possibilities, a compendium of need, desire, and imagination. The school is both real and virtual. Classes actually happen, while proposals for new classes continue to emerge. Always a tension between what is and what might be.

The point is not to have a pre-defined agenda that is expressed through a curriculum; nor is it to avoid having any agenda. Rather, the point is to produce that agenda in the process of the activity of the school and to allow that agenda to be open to contestation and constant revision. A school as a sort of public sphere, not a walled, proprietary institution.

A few notes on its trajectory, without addressing my motives for starting it. We at Telic have worked with various individuals and groups in different places to circulate the project.  Through the normal systems of exhibitions, residencies, fellowships, but also through friendship, shared sensibilities, and resonance, The Public School has multiplied to locations in Philadelphia, New York, San Juan, Brussels, Paris, and Helsinki.  Each school is autonomous and local, yet working in parallel, in sympathy, like coconspirators.

The Public School is open in several ways – there is a sort of musical chairs between teacher, student, and administrator; it does not exclude based on what discipline you come from; people project their expectations onto it and really try to make it their own. At the same time, the classes are usually, somehow, things that can’t happen anywhere and in a sense are minor, marginal, or critical. The classes don’t really “add up”, any more than a group of people with real difference does.

A large part of the project is its use of the internet. Unlike the university, which uses online learning to explode the classroom out into private spaces, The Public School uses the internet as a tool for writing (class proposals) and organizing, and bringing people together into a classroom.  What happens there depends on the people who are present – there’s no real frame, there’s a very real possibility of things not going well, for long, awkward pauses, for questions about what is supposed to take place. Very often, the class discussion bleeds into a discussion of what The Public School should be.

And The Public School continuously remakes itself.  There is a class called The Public School, which is as much an explanation as it is a workshop for operating on the school.  Conversations from classes, generate new classes, and again.  Each school copies classes from other schools.  And eventually, things slow down, the school comes to a halt. Maybe to be re-animated in a couple years, or maybe just left as a set of possible schools.