Alien Skills (collaborative drawing, Rhubaba Committee)


Rhubaba first approached me in June 2017 with the question of whether I would be interested in working with them on some research in relation to funding received from A-N. The project was to be called Learnin’ Broke My 💔(emoji/not word) and my role was to be one of documenter/recorder of activity and would draw upon my experience as an art educator, a collaborator and as a (sometimes) artist. Over the course of six months I attended a number of Rhubaba activities that had been organised to ‘address and question the history and practice of self-organised educational organisations and experimental pedagogy’. I observed and recorded activities and the following is a culmination of this process. The works are intended to not only act as a documentation of this process, but also to begin to draw together some relevant resources and to capture/explore the activity of ongoing self-organised educational practices.

From the initial premise for the research a number of questions arose. Some of these questions we realised were pertinent to Rhubaba and others, we assumed and realised, were relevant to other artist led groups.

Research references can be found throughout, and at the end of, documentation.

Rhubaba Committee meeting, October 2017


  1. How do we organise ourselves?
  2. How do others organise themselves?
  3. How do we cooperate?
  4. How do we keep warm?
  5. What do we do with the rubbish?
  6. How do we ensure that everyone takes care of the environment?
  7. How do we manage to work full time and be an active committee member?
  8. How do we manage disagreement?
  9. How do we have disagreement?
  10. How do we learn?
  11. How do we (should we) share our learning?
  12. How do we work together?
  13. How do we continue to manage on a budget that is ever-reducing?
  14. How do we meet?
  15. When do we meet?
  16. How do we manage our meetings?
  17. How do we take care of ourselves?
  18. How do we look after each other?
  19. How do we reach agreement? (see disagreement)
  20. How do we do less?


Rhubaba Office (with fridge – HELP YOURSELF! and Edinburgh Art Festival sign)


Emma Hedditch led two sessions at Rhubaba which introduced the values, beliefs and principles that are the basis for co-operative practice and the potential for their application within artistic practice and organisation.


7 feet of particpants, mugs, plywood benches, plywood floor


To explore what the co-operative model can offer art and artists.



virtual ironing (getting rid of the creases) with the Incredible Hulk and mixed weather footwear


To question the art world’s alignment with certain wealthy elite.
To find an alternative.


we hear the same thing (Gordon and Cicely)


To establish some principle values.
To follow some basic rules; some straightforward rules.



permitting a sphere of autonomy to happen (….are you being exploited?….)


To be mindful of others, of not dominating the conversation and of not talking over others.


legs (chair prepared for comfort)


To understand the premise of voluntary labour
(we are all working for Creative Scotland on an unpaid basis)


Rigid and Free (when living together you might not want to set these rules)


To respond to collective and individual needs



the view from Rhubaba


To research starting a co-operative and understanding the
needs within a particular community


Louise (The International Institute for Important Items) tells a story about a neolithic site in France – perhaps Brittany – where the stones, similar to these, were used to build a road. Natassa and Tim listen.


map reading 54.859239°N 4.309579°


Rhubaba research trip to Cairnholy to meet with and learn from Cairnholy Joe.


Approaching Cairn Holy from the west. Being led by Joe. He asks our first thoughts and points towards Wigtown Bay.




Wigtown Bay from a position of between here and there (in dramatic light)


Experts never say maybe or maybe
experts sometimes say maybe.



Thoughts on accuracy and knowing



We wonder what is here? (with movement)


Faith in long shadows at Cairnholy


How hands can help teach (here I am, here I stay)


we drift and remember other times when questions were not easily answered sometimes we guess and sometimes we think about dinner



The Crown Inn
109-111 High Street, Biggar


  • Situated Learning – Legitimate Peripheral Participation
    Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger
    Cambridge University Press, 1991




Forms of Knowledge, Methods, Committee Members, A-N, Organisations, Art Objects, Relationships, Experimental, Pedagogical, Custartd Tarts (Casa Amiga), Sharpies, Promarkers & Offcuts





Natassa’s gloves, black coffee 


How Rhubaba functions, or doesn’t function, as a learning space

paragogy – pedagogy – andragogy – heutagogy




Foolosophy workshop – an open educational resource based on ‘MAP-IT’ devised by Jake Watts.

The Fool, a symbol of stupidity and ignorance, a positive position to begin learning. The Fool’s bundle, a symbol of untapped collective knowledge.



QUESTION: From whom or what does Rhubaba learn and how?

REMEMBER: we are trying to cognitively map something abstract.






Active reflection on what is not working
Active development of a structure
Ask who is being served?
Ask what did you hope to address?



The fool and his bundle fill up and we wonder, over coffee, if we are less foolish


we did this stuff, what did we gain from it?
what did we learn and how did we learn?



I like the books. I am quite traditional in that way.


Jake points at the performance phase with his left hand and gesticulates with his right whilst holding a pen
(Sharpie) like a cigarette.


Workshop / Workshop: Score
we compose and perform a workshop



Split Structure


Workshop / Workshop / Workshop: Score
we sign and agree to the structure of the workshop




As a group, we draw a map of Rhubaba. We use the chalk pens provided. We each take a role. We navigate, interpret and mime identified issues at Rhubaba. The interpreter draws. We discuss the result and proceed to draw solutions. (60 minutes)


Siobhan and Elspeth listen to Ruth from Eastside Projects discuss the structure of the organisation (we don’t have hugely clearly defined roles) With semi-skimmed milk, hit biscuits, small succulent plant,teaspoons, pantone notebook and posters to learn from and think about.


Rhubaba research trip to:
Newbridge Project, Newcastle
Eastside Project, Birmingham
Grand-Union, Birmingham
Serf, Leeds



Washington Services
Costa Heavy


Eastside Projects
Q: Why can artists not lead/run an institution?
A: They can.


We pay artists but it’s not enough.
Artists never get paid enough.




Rhubaba committee discuss ideas for new policies with students from BOA, artists, academics art educators and other art workers.


‘I’m too rushed. Less writing. Slavery is still a thing. Art has powers. What I decide today may change tomorrow. Every mind matters. Art is just as difficult as maths. Desiring change is easier than change itself. I’m not a test case for your vanity. I tick no boxes. More glue sticks.’

T-Shirt slogans by art students of Birmingham Ormiston Academy


  • Teaching for people who prefer not to teach:


The Eagle and Tun, 54 New Canal St, Birmingham


After the event we dicuss our ideas for new educational policies including:
1. Introduction of a third compulsory stage of education for everyone aged between 40 & 45
2. Flexible start and finish times for all teenagers in compulsory & post-compulsory education (no more adhering to Victorian day-shift patterns)
3. Scotland (extended to north of England and MIdlands) clubbing together to send a group of infiltrators to Eton to overturn the establishment from within.


BIG BARGAINS – Grand-Union winter sale – with part of the roof of the former Birmingham City Library (Paradise Circus) Rhubaba admire the structure and insulation of the studio spaces but do not buy anything.


Grand Union
19 Minerva Works
Fazeley Street


Rhubaba visit, Serf, Leeds, to discuss the structure and running of the organisation (meeting held in communal workspace)


Serf: artist led community and project space
23—25 Wharf Street
Leeds, UK


Serf committee structure and roles



discussions lead to doing too much with too little, keeping warm, inclusive access to buildings, funding, alternative funding sources, recording useful information to pass on, doing (not) more of the same, managing dispute, public engagement, education