Paradox Fine Art Conference 2017

I have had a proposal accepted for Paradox Fine Art‘s 2017 conference ‘For, About, Nearby: The Value of Diversity in Fine Art Practice, Research, and Education’ in London (13-15/9/17).

I proposed a paper presentation to the Diverse Means strand of the programme, part of the call out for this strand reads:

“What are the present means by which young artists are educated across European Institutions? What is the subsequent meaningfulness that young artists find within these teaching situations? And how is this meaningful activity representative of contemporary concerns? Have art students adopted their own form of mimesis or imitative practices as they respond to the challenges of contemporary art? With a more discursive model of art education now more prevalent, what are the new and emergent models of peer based learning? (paragogy). How do we inculcate the relationship between meaning and means?”

I chose to respond to this brief using the paragogical emphasis of workshop learning as the basis for delivering a paper on Shift/Work: Unlearning:


Shift/Work: Unlearning – A Paragogics for Not-Knowing
For Paradox 2017 I will present an in-depth overview of the workshop as an ideal space-time for experimental paragogic learning. I will focus on how workshops in arts education are predicated on the concept of collectively embracing not-knowing; specifically, how the notion of unlearning can be a precursor to developing the germinal conditions necessary for paragogic modes of speculative enquiry to flourish.

The paper will take Shift/Work: Unlearning as its central case study. This workshop was composed by Shift/Work (Professor Neil Mulholland, Dan Brown the Curator of Research at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, and myself) for the 2014 Annuale Festival in Edinburgh. Its initial iteration was led by the invited Artist Sean Kaye and Designer Crille Lampa. Shift/Work: Unlearning has since been restaged and further playtested at Malmö Art Academy (2014); Iceland Academy of the Arts (2016); and the Kochi-Muzuris Biennale (2017). After Sean Kaye supervised its initial iteration Shift/Work: Unlearning has also been integrated into Leeds College of Art’s Foundation Diploma in Art & Design every year since 2014. This means that over (an estimated) 900 people have participated in this workshop model.

Unlearning is a provocative notion, yet it is not an antonym of learning. It is a ‘irritant’-based provocation for the intensification of creativity (Ascott, 2003: 144)[1]. Its non-teleological and irresolvable nature encourages us to challenge dominant modes of learning and to disavow the sujet suppose savoir (the subject supposed to know). As such, its contestable nature requires respondents to collectively produce diverse and non-hierarchical means for negotiating its potential applications. Confronting the notion of unlearning in this way encourages us to embrace uncertainty to create alternative ways of learning.

At Paradox 2017 I will report on how the various international iterations of Shift/Work: Unlearning have produced a diverse range of responses to the proposition of unlearning.

[1] Ascott, R. (2003) Telematic Embrace: Visionary Theories of Art, Technology, and Consciousness. London: University of California Press.

I have two deadlines related to the conference:

  • 24/8 – Delivering a full paper to the conveners
  • 8/9 – Delivering a precis for conference materials

I am hoping to use these deadlines will give purpose to the writing of chapter two within my thesis report. This chapter focuses on my secondary research with Shift/Work, including my analysis of Shift/Work: Unlearning and Shift/Work: Speculations. I intend to also write about the concept of not-knowing as an artistic practice within the trajectory of these workshops.

The paper presentation at Paradox 2017 will be 20 minutes long so I will need to tread a balance between unpacking unlearning as a concept and reporting on how it has been realised in various incarnations of the Shift/Work: Unlearning workshops. I think this will allow me to outline how a workshop on unlearning allows for the negotiation of its potential meanings towards to the production of means to practice unlearning.


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