summer school day four


Who is here – no guest artists today, just us.

What did we do? Today was focused on the theme of hierarchy and expertise – two relational practices endemic to education. ad about power. of knowledge, of position, of wealth, location and so on. We were also to concentrate on research.

We began the day perusing the books located in the library room established in the Exchange. We were to find things that interested us, photocopy relevant pages and identity a question that we wished to pursue during the day. We then gathered in a circle to report on our individual questions. India and Remi identified some common themes among our concerns; we then had time to play with and remix their initial sort.

We next sorted ourselves into one of four groups, each of which had a initial shared interest. Each group went into the gallery to see what kind of resources the art works of building itself might offer us – resources which might help to clarify, modify or extend our shared interest.

Lunch has been a feature of the Summer school and today was no exception – it was a delicious Ethiopian feast. Our long dining table has been an important place for sharing ideas, finding out more about each other and continuing conversations.

In the afternoon, we worked in our groups to investigate what the public might have to offer us. Each group worked on an activity or an intervention which would solicit information from the genera public -we devised a question or an intervention. what we did had of course to be carefully negotiated with gallery staff as it was important that we didn’t disrupt people’s enjoyment of the art, or do something dangerous.

The group I was in was interested in what people ‘got’ from engaging with art. We situated ourselves at the exit to the Eliasson exhibition, and asked exiting members of the public to register their feelings about their experience. We found that our initial plan of how to elicit information and our expectations of what we would be told was rapidly modified. What we got back from people was far more interesting and expansive that we had initially imagined.

The day ended with each group reporting back. The experience of initial plans and expectations being changed was common to us all.


Looking back on today, it is clear that we were being encouraged to develop a practice-based inquiry in a short time frame. We were drawing on five resources – our own interests and experience, the experiences of the group, books, art works and the public. These were not data, not sources of information, but rather resources to help us pursue a line of thinking.

With more time, we could extend these resources to include for instance media texts, historical materials, specialist knowledges in books and in person, materials, and perhaps specially constructed experiments designed to test out an idea.

The emphasis on spending time thinking through a question, and holding off coming to an answer, is typical of artistic practice. It is a practice that teachers particularly in the senior years of secondary schools want their students to do too. I wonder if the explicit focus on diverse “resources for thinking” is one that will be useful to Summer School participants. i also wonder if the emphasis on resources to thin with might be helpful for university students worried un terms such as “literature review”.

Time was also a resource. The imposition of a deadline does propel you to particular kinds of activities and I am sure I was not the only one left wondering whether we might have come up with something very different if we had had longer to prepare. Or would we just have taken longer do do much the same? The imposition of a deadline in what otherwise has been a pretty leisurely paced programme also drew attention to time economies and what they may and may not enable.





About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
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