'The Educational Turn': relocating sites of knowledge production

Submitting Institution

Goldsmiths' College

Unit of Assessment

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Curatorial and Related Studies

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Summary of the impact

Irit Rogoff has shaped the emergence of an `educational turn' in the arts and humanities, arguing that contemporary artwork, together with its institutions and social platforms, transforms education practices in non-academic arenas such as museums, theatres, bookshops, art academies, and social and political occupations. This work started at the moment in which both the Bologna accord and neo-liberal impacts on education began pulling towards the professionalisation and homogenisation of Higher Education culture. All of the projects elaborated within this case study have aimed to expand the understanding of how cultural actors become educational stakeholders.

Rogoff's theoretical and curatorial research has taken diverse forms including scholarly publications, exhibitions and social forums, and she has brought these issues to audiences from the arts and public organisations beyond the university sector through advisory roles, public speaking, and social organising. Following numerous publications, exhibitions, and events, she founded freethought, an experimental platform for pedagogy, research and production. Launched in 2012 at the Austrian arts festival, Steirischer Herbst, freethought has subsequently developed a core project on `infrastructure' launched at Berlin's House of World Cultures in 2013. Her published research, exhibitions, and public forums have been widely influential in debates on education in the public sphere, as evidenced for example by her involvement as a funded partner in the establishment of a freethought laboratory in South Korea's new Asia Cultural Complex.

Underpinning research

Rogoff was appointed to her current full-time position as Professor of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths in 1998. A leading international figure in contemporary art theory, her outputs take the form of both scholarly publications and exhibitions as well as numerous public forums. Through these, she has over the past 10 years helped to shape an emerging form of curating in which the creative processes of knowledge production are generated through interactions between research institutions, artistic practices and social communities. Its influence is accordingly apparent not only in academic work but also in the curatorial practices of museums and galleries, and in many forms of social organisation. Rogoff's arguments have influenced projects being undertaken by a diverse array of internationally significant agencies such as UNESCO, the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the Swedish-Finnish Cultural foundation, and the Bank of Sweden's Tercentenary Foundation.

Her underpinning research began in 2005-06 with her co-curation of A.C.A.D.E.M.Y,[1] a series of exhibitions which took place across a number of European venues. Initiated and funded to the level of €100K by the Siemens Arts Program (a major player in the advancement of contemporary art and culture), this collaborative project was intended to generate and put into action principles for the movement of ideas between research-intensive environments and public cultural spheres. Other participating organisations were the Kunstverein (a contemporary art foundation in Hamburg), the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen (MuHKA), and the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven; each provided support of €100K, taking the overall budget to €400K. The events comprised three exhibitions co-curated by Rogoff, linked to projects, a book, a lecture series, two symposia, and associated workshops and conferences.

Within the exhibitions, Rogoff posed the question "what can we learn from the museum beyond what it shows us?" She brought together 22 philosophers, theorists, architects, planners, performers, activists, artists and students in seven groups, each of which posed a related question and investigated it as a project to be shown in an exhibition. These opened in September 2006 with two symposia in Antwerp and Eindhoven on `Radical Pedagogy'.

A key output of A.C.A.D.E.M.Y. was a book co-edited by Rogoff, for which she wrote the opening text `Academy as Potentiality'.[1] She published related essays in: (a) a Frieze magazine special issue on the state of arts education today;[2] (b) Zehar Magazine's "The Open School," — part of Documenta 12 international magazine project (Kassel, Germany); (c) Reverse Engineering Education, a reader in choreography/pedagogy to which Rogoff contributed the essay "What is a Theorist".[3] Three additional essays in e-flux journal consolidated this body of thought: "Turning" (2009)[4] "Education Actualised,"(2010)[5] and "FREE" (2010)[6] — the latter two appeared in an issue guest-edited by Rogoff. These essays have been translated into 11 languages and widely syndicated in publications and websites such as http://kein.org.

Rogoff was artistic director, along with Florian Schneider, of another major project on the idea of alternative education. "SUMMIT: non-aligned initiatives in education culture"[4] which took the form of a global forum, held across three venues in Berlin in May 2007, and aimed to question and change some of the fundamental terms of the debate on education, knowledge production in the information society. Supported by the German Federal Culture Fund, the Merkator Foundation, three major Berlin theatres, and a host of small NGOs, the overall project budget was €550K. A rich programme of workshops, classes, performances, and seminars ran over five days with 3000 participants. It was live-streamed, and widely syndicated via satellite and on-line platforms. Rogoff and Schneider published the conclusions of SUMMIT in a 2008 book edited by Held and Moore.[8]

References to the research

The international (2* or higher) calibre of this research is evidenced through the academically prestigious nature of the outputs listed here. The high profile of these publications is evidenced by the high frequency which they are cited, translated, anthologised and syndicated

1. Nollert N, Rogoff I, De Baere B, Dziewior Y, Esche E (Eds) (2006) A.C.A.D.E.M.Y. Revolver ISBN-10: 3865883036; ISBN-13: 978-3865883032 [Output type: co-edited book]

2. Enwezor O, Dillemuth S, Rogoff I (2006) Schools of Thought. Frieze, 101. [Essay]

3. Rogoff I. (2007) What is a Theorist? Chapter in U Melzwig, M. Spångberg & N. Thielicke (Eds) Reverse Engineering Education: In Dance, Choreography and the Performing Arts. b-books. ISBN13: 978 3 9335 5782 7. [Output type: chapter in edited book]

4. Rogoff, I. (2008) Turning. e-flux, 1. [output type: essay]

5. Rogoff, I. (2010) Education actualised — Editorial. e-flux, 14. [output type: editorial]

6. Rogoff, I. (2010) FREE. e-flux, 14. www.e-flux.com/journal/free/ [output type: essay]

7. SUMMIT: non-aligned initiatives in education culture. Grant to I. Rogoff and F. Schneider from Bundeskulturstiftung (German Federal Cultural Fund), with additional support from HAU Theatres and Multitude AG. €500K in total.

An interview with Rogoff and Schneider about the intentions of Summit is available here.

Details of the SUMMIT exhibitions co-curated by Rogoff are available at the following URLs:

• the Siemens Art Fund;

• Hamburger Kunsthalle and Muhka Antwerp;

8. Rogoff I, Schneider F. (2008). Productive Anticipation. In: Held D and Moore H (eds.) Cultural transformations / Cultural politics in a global age: uncertainty, solidarity and globalisation. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, pp. 346-357. ISBN 1851685502

Details of the impact

Emerging in parallel and in response to the growing influence of the Bologna Accord on Higher Education and the increasing impact of neo-liberalism on education in the Arts and Humanities, the educational turn has brought these pressing issues to public spheres outside the university and to engage audiences from the arts and from public organisations in these debates. The published research and the exhibitions and public forums organised in tandem, have enabled greater public recognition of the issues emanating from education.

Rogoff`s seminal 2008 essay `Turning' was published in the inaugural issue of on-line art journal e-flux which is accessed by all major museums and read by around 90,000 art world professionals. Here she raised for such professionals the question of what an educational turn might comprise, and asked in what spaces and discourses it might take place. She suggested that the art world would be a prime host for such a `turn', being an informal, open network which is hospitable to experimentation and speculative thought, and open to thinking of `learning' as taking place in non-traditional situations. She argued that exhibiting institutions and art practice itself can become sites of education, self-reflexion, and self-constitution. The level of interest and response this elicited is evidenced by the fact that the essay has subsequently been translated into 11 languages and widely anthologised and syndicated.[1] In 2010, e-flux invited Rogoff to be Guest Editor of a special issue which laid down the vision and agenda for actualising a type of education without borders and is e-flux's most-read edition ever.

Rogoff has stimulated wider interest in the educational turn by speaking at numerous events for non-academic audiences, especially art museum educators. A high profile example was a public lecture at the Hayward Gallery's event Deschooling Society, a collaboration with the Serpentine Gallery and The Museum of Modern Art, New York. This presentation is available as a podcast on the Hayward gallery blog.[2] She gave numerous talks between 2010-12 at international events open to the public, including:

  • `The Academy Strikes Back', organised and hosted at the Brussels University College of Art and Design by the European Artistic Research Network.[3a]
  • a three day symposium on Education and Contemporary Art, held at the Castile-Leon Museo de Art in Spain.[3b]
  • `Learning from the Future", a major five-day programme at the Vienna Kunst Historisches Museum and SITAC Mexico City (2012) [two talks][3c]
  • Art Network for Creative Radical Pedagogy (2012) supported by Bucharest Erste Bank.
  • CAVIC-symposium keynote lecture, Stockholm University of Art and Design (Nov 2010). CAVIC is the Nordic network of art education including researchers within the fields of art and design education, arts based education, museum education etc. Participating countries are Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.[3d]

She has also spoken at a British Council event in Athens (2010) asking artists, critics, and a wider audience what it means to take part in culture; and in 2012 she gave a lecture on the notion of the `open academy' to a wide audience at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.

The most recent Educational Turn initiative has been the formation of freethought: a collective of scholars, artists and urbanists who have founded a platform for the generation of research pedagogy and production in public spaces. It was initially launched as a 3-day event with performance presentations and panels on "Crisis education", "Crisis Economies" and "Creative Strikes"[4] run by Rogoff at the 2012 Truth is Concrete festival in Graz, Austria. This `marathon' festival attracts a large international audience, with events 24 hours a day across a whole week by more than 200 artists, activists and theorists who lecture, perform, and discuss art and politics. Rogoff was invited to curate freethought as a strand of the final event of the 5 year "Former West" project which took place at the House of World Cultures in Berlin, an international contemporary arts centre whose mission is to offer visitors "opportunities to grapple with the conflicts, challenges and questions of our time". This event launched freethought's new project on `infrastructure' which will extend over the next 3 years.[5] Speaking to audiences of some 800 in Berlin over 3 days and streamed live on the net to several thousand others, a panel tackled the question of whether `infrastructure' can be thought as part of critical creativity rather than the efficient delivery of resources and supports for such creativity.

From its European beginnings, freethought has now been picked up by the Asia Cultural Complex in South Korea, funded by the Ministry of Culture and Education. It has established a three-year (2013-16) laboratory on `infrastructure', which aims to find new public formats for `the educational turn' hosted by this new large-scale national and regional cultural complex that includes all forms of creative practice; music, art, theatre, dance, and discourse. The laboratory will produce a large scale installation piece for the official opening of the museum in 2015.[6]

Sources to corroborate the impact

1. "Turning" essay: A compilation of republished versions is available on request from Goldsmiths Research Office.

2. "Deschooling Society" presentation (2010): here, and see also podcast.

3. International public lectures and presentations: A compilation of the details of these events is available on request from Goldsmiths Research Office. However, examples include:

a) The Academy Strikes Back (2010) Sint Lukas, Brussels & European Artistic Research Network

b) MUSAC Symposium on Education and Contemporary Art (June 2010)

c) Vienna Kunst Historisches Museum (Nov 3-7, 2010) — 'The Educational Turn in Education'

d) CAVIC-symposium keynote lecture, Stockholm University of Art and Design (Nov 2010).

4. Truth is Concrete festival (Graz, 2012): here.

5. Launch of `Infrastructure' at the House of World Cultures (Berlin) in 2013: here.

6. Asia Cultural Complex, Gwanju S.Korea. 3 year laboratory on `infrastructure' by freethought collective. The CEO and Director of Asia Cultural Complex can provide corroboration on request (Details provided separately).