Below is the full extract we read at the last Lab. It is 16 Beaver Group’s contribution to Curating and the Educational Turn. Paul O’Neill & Mick Wilson (Eds.) De Appel/Open Editions, Amsterdam/London, 2010, pp240-241. The full text is a series of letters between 16 Beaver Group and someone called Nina who sees them at a symposium and is then unsatisfied by the amount of background material she can find about them… so she writes and they write back and she writes again, and the bit below is from 16 Beaver group’s 5th letter to her:
I put the ‘group could be this and that’ bit Lucy mentioned in bold, and i'll see if there's someone we can invite
“When several of us first started reading texts together and inviting people to share their research and questions, there was no need to call it a school, an artwork, an artists collective or anything in particular. It seemed that this act of naming would only throw people into a situation of identifying themselves as students/teachers, administrators/directors, artists/non-artists, spectators/lecturers, participant/audience, insider/outsider, invited/uninvited, etc. A name might have given it a certain legibility and sensibility, for people to more quickly identify it or categorise it within a series of gestures, problematisations, discourses, institutions, etc., possibly giving it a certain degree of immediate efficacy. But, for our purposes, it seemed that such an act would also risk delimiting what it could be or become for each participant. Schools and educational programmes are terminal. And the date of termination is often not of our choosing. One is a student then one becomes a “professional” or maybe a “teacher” or maybe unemployable. We wanted none of those titles. We cared for none of those ascriptions, descriptions or conscriptions.
[We skipped this next paragraph but here it is]
We knew that there were things that we could learn from each other across generations, across “disciplines”. In fact, I personally felt a need to collectively discover ways of breaking both disciplinary constraints – constraints that were keeping experiences and research, which could have practical or useful implications, too easily confined in a rarefied, untouchable or unreachable place. These are the same constraints which effectively deny individuals the opportunity to see connections between struggles, between different practices, contexts and experiences. There was a sincere interest to embody our politics; to connect what we read to our lived reality; to compare what we thought against the reality we were being asked to live. How, for instance, could we continue to talk abstractly about political issues without also seeking to connect with individuals who could meet us, confront us with a lived experience and help us critique existing terminologies and constructions?
So, we shared books, shared out interest in them and years later evolved into sharing our work our questions and our friends.
It felt necessary to make our space as open as we could because everything around it was exclusive. We wanted an open place of learning, of sharing, but also a space that could also potentially become something more. There would be no professors and no students. A study or residency programme continuous with life, which could become a theatre group, a filmmaking co-op, an autonomous place of learning, a commune, an infrastructure for developing dissident thought and inspiring new forms of processes. It would become a horizontal space to give one another time, allowing different levels of engagement and involvement, a challenge to capitalist ideology, a revaluation of artistic practice toward an immeasurable horizon of a contestable present.
Even as I write this, I ask myself how to even assert that what we have done was not exceptional; this was a simple modest everyday practice, which took very little resources other than our time, labour and thought. It may appear exceptional to some, simply because to be social today, to share time with strangers, to cultivate a collective, public intellectuality resists the dominant ideology, which asserts that each person is self-interested and that human relations are either of the order of exploitation or without value.
I have a friend visiting so will have to resume later.