Interactive Art and Play, Art and Environment course book (detail), 1976

Society is a Workshop, 2013

summer school, Banff Centre, Canada

In 2013, I ran a six-week summer school for artists at the Banff Centre, Canada, as an experiment in collaboration, mutual education and communal living. It drew on a range of twentieth-century historical models of alternative education and critical pedagogy. These included the interdisciplinary Art and Environment course held at The Open University in the UK (which ran from 1976 until 1985) that for me is one of the most interesting historical examples of experimental arts education in Britain. In line with the feminist idea that ‘the personal is political’, Art and Environment students were asked to start with their own experiences at home, in order to map their locale and the society around them. The course emphasised ‘playfulness’ and creativity as tools for liberation, emancipating the individual from ‘inauthentic’ social relations and hierarchies produced by normative institutional frameworks – including the family, the education system and the workplace. During Society is a Workshop we tried many of their methods, testing what they do today, in a post-Fordist economy where play and ‘creativity’ have been instrumentalised by the market. The goal was to find new participatory forms, which might disrupt contemporary institutions, both formal and informal.

The Art and Environment course was also the subject of the installations Open Forum and TAD292, exhibited in my solo show ‘Rise Early, Be Industrious’, MK Gallery (Milton Keynes), Arnolfini (Bristol) and CCA (Glasgow), 2012–13.