HEAT Conference: Avant-Garde Pedagogies

Avant-Garde Pedagogies CFP

Friday 8th and Saturday 9th July 2016

University of Westminster, London

Hosted by the Higher Education and Theory (HEAT) network, the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture (University of Westminster) and the Philosophy of Education Research Centre (University of Winchester)

BLAST …British Academy (Blast 1)

The conference is intended to provide an interdisciplinary forum for addressing how we might respond to the contemporary crisis or transformation of education without succumbing to conservative nostalgia for the past or an uncritical acquiescence to present forces in an increasingly corporately-driven agenda. The concept of the avant-garde will be used as a lens to focus these discussions.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed a series of social, political, economic and technological upheavals that transformed aesthetics and contributed to a sense of the crisis of the arts and culture. While the technical developments of photography, radio and film, increasing commodification, the emergence of the culture industry and the rise of kitsch, mass and popular culture produced tensions within art that lead to a reactionary nostalgia for the culture of the past they also gave rise to a period of intense artistic innovation and experimentation that has come to be associated with modernism and the avant-garde. As Poggioli Renato puts it, avant-garde literature sought to be not a ‘display case or a salesroom but a free, or least an open, laboratory’.

In his Theory of the Avant-Garde, Peter Bürger claimed the avant-garde turns against both ‘the distribution apparatus on which the work of art depends, and the status of art in bourgeois society as defined by the concept of the autonomy’. If the publication of Bürger’s book in 1974 perhaps marks the point of avant-garde art’s exhausted collapse into postmodernism, Hannah Arendt was already in the 1950s anticipating an attendant ‘crisis of education’. At the turn of the twenty-first century, a comparable series of transformations – the rise of the internet and new media, the dominance of the education industry, commodification and indebtedness, globalisation and the growth of mass and popular education – have lead teachers, scholars and activists to talk increasingly of a contemporary assault on education. In response to these claims, this conference seeks to address these issues through the lens of the avant-garde. It seeks to recover an alternative perspective for theoretical approaches beyond the impasses designated by classical philosophies and postmodern theories of education. For the avant-garde is ‘not that which is most historically advanced in the sense that it has most history behind it’ but, as Peter Osborne suggests, that which ‘disrupts the linear time-consciousness of progress in such a way as to enable us, like the child, to “discover the new anew” and, along with it, the possibility of a better future’. Or, as Jacques Rancière more succinctly claims, the avant-garde is ‘the aesthetic anticipation of the future’.

A hundred years on from the frenetic flurry of movements and manifestoes that characterized the high point of modernism and the avant-garde in art, this conference asks where can we find the comparable experimentation in pedagogical theory and practice or the open laboratory of learning? How might such modernist or avant-garde impulses in the arts provide a framework for calling into question not merely traditional or bourgeois pedagogical ideas, techniques and the distribution apparatus upon which education depends, but perhaps also the dominance and assumed value of higher education itself within contemporary society?

The absolute rationalism that is still in vogue allows us to consider only facts relating directly to our experience …Under the pretence of civilization and progress, we have managed to banish from the mind everything that may rightly or wrongly be termed superstition, or fancy; forbidden is any kind of search for truth which is not in conformance with accepted practices… we do not “learn,” …all we ever do is “relearn”
(Manifesto of Surrealism)

Currently Confirmed Speakers:

Alan Golding (English, Louisville, KY.), author of ‘Isn’t the avant-garde always pedagogical: Experimental Poetics and/as Pedagogy’ (2006) and From Outlaw to Classic: Canons in American Poetry (1995).

Aislinn O’Donnell (Learning, Society and Religious Education, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick), author of ‘Experimental Philosophy and Pedagogy’ (2015) and ‘Another Relationship to Failure: Reflections on Beckett, Failure and Education’ (2014).

Gary Peters (Faculty of Arts, York St John University), author of ‘Ignorant Students/Ignorant Teachers’ (2010) and Irony and Singularity: Aesthetic Education from Kant to Levinas (2005).

Hannah Proctor (English and Humanities, Birkbeck, University of London), author of ‘Synthetic Dreams: Gender, Modernity and Art Silk Stockings’ (2015) and ‘Neuronal Ideologies: Catherine Malabou’s Explosive Plasticity in Light of the Marxist Psychology of A. R. Luria’ (2011).

Peter Roberts (School of Educational Studies and Leadership, University of Canterbury, NZ), author of Happiness, Hope, and Despair: Rethinking the Role of Education (2016) and Better Worlds: Education, Art, and Utopia (2013).

Stevphen Shukaitis (Centre for Work, Organization and Society, University of Essex), author of ‘Pedagogical Labor in an Age of Devalued Reproduction’ (2016) and The Composition of Movements to Come: Aesthetics & Cultural Labor After the Avant-Garde (2016).

Titles & abstracts to be sent to Matthew Charles by Tuesday 1st March 2016: M.Charles1@westminster.ac.uk

Possible Areas of Interest:
 Aesthetic education: Dada, Fluxist, Futurist, Surrealist or Vorticist perspectives
 Avant-garde architecture and spaces of learning
 Avant-garde pedagogies and institutional critique: unschooling, unlearning
 Chance, spontaneity, the irrational and the unconscious: towards anti-constructivist theories of learning
 Cognitive capitalism and teaching in the creative industries
 Contradictions of contemporary pedagogy: education and anti-education
 “Dada means nothing”: pedagogical pessimism, educational nihilism
 Ezra Pound as educator: teaching literature
 Feminism, modernism and education: Amy Lowell, H. D., May Sinclair and Virginia Woolf
 “Grand Pedagogy”: Brecht’s Didacticism
 Historic, Neo- and Post-Avant-gardes and education
 Kitsch, education and public policy
 Pedagogical experimentations and innovations: flipped, blended, hybrid learning and the avant-garde
 Queer Pedagogies/Queering Education
 The Academy and the avant-garde: dependence and resistance
 The poets, artists and pedagogues of the Black Mountain College
 The Russian avant-garde, biomechanics, Soviet psychology: historical, dialectical and anthropological materialist theories of education
 Torn-halves: elite education, the Educational Industry and Adorno
 Walter Benjamin on teaching in the age of digital reproducibility

Avant-Garde Pedagogies CFP

The New Spongers?

Stefan Collini in the London Review of Books Vol. 38 No. 2 · 21 January 2016
pages 33-37 reviews

Fulfilling Our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, November 2015, ISBN 978 1 4741 2492 8

Collini argues that:

Much of our contemporary discourse about universities still draws on, or unwittingly presumes, [this] pattern of assumptions: the idea that the university is a partly protected space in which the search for deeper and wider understanding takes precedence over all more immediate goals; the belief that, in addition to preparing the young for future employment, the aim of developing analytical and creative human capacities is a worthwhile social purpose; the conviction that the existence of centres of disinterested inquiry and the transmission of a cultural and intellectual inheritance are self-evident public goods; and so on.

While that conception of a university and its purposes is still very much alive and may, I suspect, still be the one held by a great many ‘ordinary’ citizens, we may be nearing the point, at least in Britain, where it is starting to give way to the equivalent of MacIntyre’s barren utilitarianism. If ‘prosperity’ is the overriding value in market democracies, then universities must be repurposed as ‘engines of growth’. The value of research has then to be understood in terms of its contribution to economic innovation, and the value of teaching in terms of preparing people for particular forms of employment. There are tensions and inconsistencies within this newer conception, just as there are in the larger framework of neoliberalism: neoliberal thinking promotes ‘free competition’ in international markets, while the rhetoric of national advantage in the ‘global struggle’ often echoes mercantilist assumptions. But, gradually, what we still call universities are coming to be reshaped as centres of applied expertise and vocational training that are subordinate to a society’s ‘economic strategy’.

… It takes no great insight to foresee that a form of TEF-guff will develop in parallel to the existing REF-guff

Follow this link to the full article to read about the potential fate of the academic as ‘sponger’ (akin to the familiar stereotype of the ‘student sponger’ in the 1960s).


Collini’s review applies his critique of higher education policies previously published in What Are Universities For? (Penguin, 2012). This book prompted much debate in the weeklies. Fred Inglis gave it a positive review in the Times Higher Education whereas Peter Conrad in the Guardian gave it a scathing one, stating that the book was ‘heavy on hand-wringing and light on real answers’.

Heat Workshop: Emerging learning ecologies within higher education

Doris Salcedo, Untitled, 2004-2005

The University of Westminster Academic Liaison Librarian team and the HEAT (Higher Education and Theory) group present:

Emerging learning ecologies within higher education

Lutyens Room, 2nd Floor, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London, W1B 1AD

Tuesday 23 February 2016

9.30 am to 4.00 pm

To register for this workshop, go to this Eventbrite page. To obtain the password for this page contact a.parsons@westminster.ac.uk

About the workshop

While thinking about learning futures has often focused on changing the classroom, the teaching role and the text/book, as elements of the institution of higher education (HE), the academic library, and the modes of learning associated with it, are often left out of the frame. Again, while media technologies other than the text/book are often discussed in thinking about learning futures, less effort is spent considering the concomitant adjustments that occur in ways of learning elsewhere than in the classroom and otherwise than through explicit relation to teachers/teaching (as other modes of authoring and authoritisation – by default – enter the overall learning environment).

The proposal behind this workshop/gathering is that higher education professionals as a whole, within the university and in related institutions such museums and galleries, and not just those associated most directly with the academic library, need to respond creatively, co-operatively and collaboratively to the changing horizons in which higher education is operating in England and Wales, and work in alliance to articulate new learning ecologies, interweaving a re-thinking about learning, roles, classrooms, text/books, pedagogies, libraries, learning environments, learning resources, media/technologies, working relationships, and so on.

A major question for HE professionals, then, which the Academic Liaison Librarian team and the HEAT group would like to address, is how to leverage contemporary media and technologies, first, to enable professionals associated directly with the academic library (with its various procedural, cultural and intellectual legacies) to transition from ‘librarian’ roles to more active, creative, educational and curatorial roles within the university (i.e. technology-enabled, new roles); and, second, how to do this in a way that enables more collaboration among different kinds of professional groups employed by universities (and in related institutions) in delivering a technologically-sophisticated, educationally-rich, learning experience to students and also to staff (i.e. technology-enabled, new ensemble roles).

The two keynote speakers will provide stimulating examples of what has already been achieved in response to these questions in order to guide our thinking about future possibilities:

Shaun Hides, of Coventry University’s Media Department and the Centre for Disruptive Media, will explore some of the key fault lines in this changing landscape and offer a series of suggestions as to the kinds of tactics which might be employed to mobilise the new connected media possibilities, tactics that Coventry University Media Department have begun to explore and more recently across the University through the Disruptive Media Learning Lab.

Ad Polle, of Europeana, will focus on the digital1418 project as an example that addresses many of the complexities that a digital horizon brings to the reconfiguration of the notion of a ‘library’ as a form of cultural and educational heritage.