– Spring 2011

Alliances for Unlearning: On Gallery Education and Institutions of Critique

Carmen Mörsch

Buero trafo.K, ‘So, what does this have to do with me, anyway?', Transnational Perceptions of the History of National Socialism and the Holocaust, Vienna 2009-11

Buero trafo.K, ‘So, what does this have to do with me, anyway?', Transnational Perceptions of the History of National Socialism and the Holocaust, Vienna 2009-11

… [G]allery education, as it has developed since the mid-1970s, has been both a distinct and overlapping artistic strategy which is integrally connected to radical art practices linked to values aired and explored in the liberation movements of the 1960s and 70s, and particularly the women's movement. It is an individual strategy among many (including, for instance, small-scale exhibition, small press and small magazine publishing, alternative libraries and archives) to shift art from a monolithic and narcissistic position into a dialogic, open and pluralist set of tendencies that renegotiate issues of representation, institutional critique
and inter-disciplinarity.1

This is how Felicity Allen, head of the 'Learning' department at Tate Britain until recently, began an article in 2008 titled 'Situating Gallery Education', in which she undertook to contextualise this field of practice in England with regard to both history and feminism. This was one of the first attempts to theorise and historicise gallery education in this way. Gallery education is located - also and especially in conjunction with the 'educational' or 'pedagogical' turn in curating - at the edges of the art field and of the attention of those writing within it. Stating this does not necessarily mean lamenting the situation: operating at the edges and developing a semi-visible practice has special potentials and qualities.2 This article contains speculations of its own about the functions of gallery education for the institutions in which it takes place, and about the concepts of pedagogy and learning that are inscribed in these functions.3 It also speculates about the pedagogical functions of the absence of educators (who are generally female) and of the gallery

  1. Felicity Allen, 'Situating Gallery Education', Tate Encounters [E]dition 2: Spectatorship, Subjectivity and the National Collection of British Art (ed. David Dibosa), February 2008. Available at http://www.tate.org.uk/research/tateresearch/majorprojects/tate-encounters/edition-2/ (last accessed on 18 October 2010).

  2. Visibility means not only improved opportunities for agency and articulation, but also an increase in control and regulation. See the allusion in F. Allen, 'Situating Gallery Education', op. cit.; Veronica Sekules, 'The Edge Is Not the Margin', in Access all Areas, Dublin: Irish Museum of Modern Art, 2010, pp.235-53; and Carmen Mörsch, 'Kunstcoop©: Kunstvermittlung als kritische Praxis', in Viktor Kittlausz and Winfried Pauleit (ed.), Kunst - Museum - Kontexte: Perspektiven der Kunstund Kulturvermittlung, Bielefeld: Transcript, 2006, pp.177-94.

  3. I use the term 'function' not in a determinist, functionalist sense, but rather based on the concept of the 'author function' as introduced by Michel Foucault: as a historically evolved, non-intentional occurrence, which is still structured by power relations and domination, and which is involved in producing the mechanisms of order and exclusion, by which it is itself conditioned. See M. Foucault, 'What Is an Author?' (1969), Language, Counter-Memory, Practice (ed. Donald F. Bouchard, trans. D. F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon), Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977, pp.113-38. I prefer 'function' rather than effect, in order to leave no doubt that the use, the concrete arrangement and the dispensing of gallery education along with the associated consequences does not necessarily involve individually intended effects, but nevertheless those that are based on active actions guided by certain interests. These effects can be analysed in terms of which interests are respectively dominant at a certain time and in a certain context and which narratives are hegemonic.

  4. 'It's not a question of being against the institution: We are the institution. It's a question of what kind of institution we are, what kind of values we institutionalise, what forms of practice we reward, and what kinds of rewards we aspire to. Because the institution of art is internalised, embodied, and performed by individuals, these are the questions that institutional critique demands we ask, above all, of ourselves.' Andrea Fraser, 'From the Critique of Institutions to the Institution of Critique', Artforum, vol.44, no.1, September 2005, pp.278-83.

  5. There were two conditions for participating in the research project: the undergraduate students had to come from a family that had migrated to England (from where was irrelevant) and in which they were the first to attend a university. See http://www.tate.org.uk/research/tateresearch/majorprojects/ tate-encounters/ (last accessed on 18 October 2010).

  6. This project will be published as: Andrew Dewdney, David Dibosa and Victoria Walsh (ed.), Post Critical Museology: Theory and Practice in the Art Museum, London and New York: Routledge, 2011.

  7. The extensive output of visual productions and research papers is accessible in its entirety at: http://process.tateencounters.org/ (last accessed on 13 November 2010).

  8. Current examples of this would be the project 'Doing Kinship with Pictures and Objects: A Laboratory for Public and Private Practices of Art' (2009-12) at the Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art, where the research team includes the two gallery educators Andrea Hubin and Karin Schneider; see A. Hubin and K. Schneider, 'Doing Research with Anthropologists, Designers, Mediators and a Museum: A Project on, for and with Families in Vienna', Engage Magazine, issue 25 ('Family Learning'), Spring 2010, pp.31-40. There are also the research and education projects of trafo.K, the Viennese agency for cultural education described in Nora Sternfeld, 'Unglamorous Tasks: What Can Education Learn from Its Political Traditions?', e-flux journal, issue 14, March 2010. Available at http://www.e-flux.com/journal/view/125 (last accessed on 29 October 2010).

  9. Research at the Front Lines', Fuse Magazine, April 2010, n.p. Also available at http://www.faqs.org/ periodicals/201004/2010214291.html (last accessed on 13 November 2010). On the concept of 'militant research', see Marta Malo de Molina, 'Common Notions, Part 1: Workers-inquiry, Co-research, Consciousness-raising' (ed. Notas Rojas Collective Chapel Hill, trans. Maribel Casas-Cortés and Sebastian Cobarrubias), February 2006, http://transform.eipcp.net/transversal/0406/malo/en (last accessed on 29 October 2010).

  10. For more detail on this and for an explanation of gallery education as critical practice, see C. Mörsch, 'At a Crossroads of Four Discourses: documenta 12 Gallery Education in Between Affirmation, Reproduction, Deconstruction and Transformation', in C. Mörsch et al. (ed.), documenta 12 education #2: Between Critical Practice and Visitor Service, Berlin and Zürich: diaphanes, 2010, pp.9-31.

  11. Due to a lack of self-reflexivity in terms of educational methodology, however, this is rarely made explicit, but is articulated instead through discursive practices: through the manner of addressing the audience, the content of the research and the context of the discussion.

  12. George E. Hein, 'The Constructivist Museum', in Eileen Hooper-Greenhill (ed.), The Educational Role of the Museum, London and New York: Routledge, 1994, pp.73-79.

  13. See Pierre Bourdieu and Alain Darbel, The Love of Art: European Art Museums and Their Public (1966, trans. Caroline Beattie and Nick Merriman), Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006.

  14. Deconstruction depends on the existence of the dominant text in order to be able to work in it. 'The practitioner of deconstruction works within a system of concepts, but with the intention of breaking it open.' Jonathan Culler, Dekonstruktion. Derrida und die poststrukturalisitische Literaturtheorie, Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1988, p.95.

  15. Deconstruction depends on the existence of the dominant text in order to be able to work in it. 'The practitioner of deconstruction works within a system of concepts, but with the intention of breaking it open.' Jonathan Culler, Dekonstruktion. Derrida und die poststrukturalisitische Literaturtheorie, Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1988, p.95.

  16. See Shoshana Felman, 'Psychoanalysis and Education: Teaching Terminable and Interminable', Yale French Studies, The Pedagogical Imperative: Teaching as a Literary Genre, no.63, 1982, pp.21-44; and Jürgen Oelkers, 'Provokation als Bildungsprinzip', in Landesverband der Kunstschulen Niedersachsen, Bielefeld: Bilden mit Kunst, 2004, pp.93-113.

  17. See Michel de Certeau, L'Invention du quotidien: Les Arts de faire, Paris: Gallimard, 1980.

  18. See Irit Rogoff, 'Looking Away - Participations in Visual Culture', in Gavin Butt (ed.), Art After Criticism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004, pp.117-33; or the research project 'Tate Encounters' mentioned above.

  19. See Jacques Derrida, Voyous, Paris: Éditions Galilée, 2003.

  20. For historical examples, see C. Mörsch, 'From Oppositions to Interstices: Some Notes on the Effects of Martin Rewcastle, The First Education Officer of the Whitechapel Gallery, 1977-1983', in Karen Raney (ed.), Engage Magazine, no.15, 2004, pp.33-37; and C. Mörsch, '"To Take All That Learning and Put It Together with All That Art": Loraine Leeson's Artistic-Educative Projects in the Context of English Cultural Policies', in NGBK (ed.), Art for Change - Loraine Leeson, Berlin: Vice Versa, 2005. For examples from the 1990s, see the work by the group Kunstcoop© at the NGBK in Berlin, in ibid., pp.108-33; the project 'Stördienst' at the Museum for Modern Art Vienna, in NGBK (ed.), Kunstcoop©, Berlin: Vice Versa, 2001; and E. Sturm, 'Zum Beispiel: StörDienst und trafo.K - Praxen der Kunstvermittlung aus Wien', in Arbeitsgemeinschaft deutscher Kunstvereine (AdKV ) (ed.), Kunstvermittlung zwischen Partizipatorischen Kunstprojekten und interaktiven Kunstaktionen, Berlin: Vice Versa, 2002, pp.26-37.

  21. See http://www.ago.net/youth-council-archive (last accessed on 22 October 2010). See also J. Graham and Yasin Shadya, 'Reframing Participation in the Museum: A Syncopated Discussion', in Griselda Pollock and Joyce Zemans (ed.), Museums after Modernism: Strategies of Engagement, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007, pp.157-72.

  22. N. Sternfeld, 'Unglamorous Tasks', op. cit.

  23. See http://radical.temp.si/history/ (last accessed on 25 October 2010).

  24. As the Edith Russ Site describes itself, 'The focus is on the content of the artwork and technology's influence on shaping and defining artistic ideas. Beyond the programme of discussions and presentations, we will also hold exhibitions intended to address subjects which are socially relevant and future-oriented.' The exhibition programme, which is largely publicly funded, frequently takes into consideration queer, feminist and media-activist positions. See http://www.edith-russ-haus.de/index.php/Kunstvermittlung/Kunstvermittlung?userlang=en (last accessed on 25 October 2010).

  25. See Pen Dalton, The Gendering of Art Education, Buckingham and Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press, 2001.

  26. See, for example, the consequences of the invitation to the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination to conduct a workshop with the title 'Disobedience Makes History' for Tate Modern (January 2010). The group 'Liberate Tate' came out of the workshop, which in turn used activist strategies learned in the workshop to denounce the employment and sponsoring practices of Tate itself. See http://www.frieze.com/blog/entry/unhappy_birthday/ (last accessed on 25 October 2010). Another example is the discussions that arose about the exhibition and event series 'C-Words' by the group Platform at the Arnolfini in Bristol, where the art institution itself became the centre of attention as a polluting factor. See http://blog.platformlondon.org/content/c-words-ripples-continuing (last accessed on 25 October 2010).

  27. The activities and results of the project have been gathered in two volumes: Ayse Gülec, Claudia Hummel, C. Mörsch, Sonja Parzefall, Ulrich Schötker and Wanda Wieczorek (ed.), documenta 12 education 1: Engaging Audiences, Opening Institutions. Methods and Strategies in Education at documenta 12, Berlin and Zürich: diaphanes, 2009; and C. Mörsch et al. (ed.), documenta 12 education 2, op. cit.

  28. It would be interesting to investigate whether and which long-term changes might be effected by a project like the Youth Council on the institutional policy and the structures of the NGO by 'Tate Encounters' in Tate Britain, or by the Edgware Road Project of the Serpentine Gallery, which should also be mentioned in this context. See http://www.serpentinegallery.org/2009/06/edgware_road. html (last accessed on 25 October 2010).

  29. For the deconstructive approach of 'Hatching Ideas', the children and young people's programme at documenta 12, see C. Hummel, 'What Does aushecken - Hatching Ideas - Mean?', in A. Gülec et al., documenta 12 education 1, op. cit.

  30. Andrea Phillips, 'Education Aesthetics', in Paul O'Neill and Mick Wilson (ed.), Curating and the Educational Turn, London and Amsterdam: Open Editions and de Appel, 2010, pp.83-96.

  31. Simon Sheikh, 'Letter to Jane (Investigation of a Function)', in ibid., pp.61-75.

  32. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, 'Can the Subaltern Speak?', in Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman (ed.), Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory, Hemel Hempstead: Harester Wheatsheaf, 1994, pp.66-111.

  33. Since the term 'education' is now in vogue, curators and artists increasingly refer to themselves as educators, implying that their practice is already educative, since it is already a mediating practice.

  34. See G.C. Spivak, The Post-Colonial Critic: Interviews, Strategies, Dialogues (ed. Sarah Harasym), New York and London: Routledge, 1990, p.9.

  35. N. Sternfeld, 'Unglamorous Tasks', op. cit.

  36. Jacques Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation (trans. Kristin Ross), Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991.

  37. Ruth Sonderegger, 'Institutionskritik? Zum politischen Alltag der Kunst und zur alltäglichen Politik ästhetischer Praktiken. Symposium of the Deutschen Gesellschaft für Ästhetik', paper given at the conference 'Ästhetik und Alltagserfahrung' at Friedrich-Schiller-Universität in Jena, 2 October 2008.

  38. The symposium was organised by schnittpunkt, an exhibition theory and practice network. See http://www.schnitt.org (last accessed on 25 October 2010).

  39. J. Graham, 'Spanners in the Spectacle', op. cit.

  40. Ibid.