- First and foremost, what is knowledge when it is “free”?
- Whether there are sites, such as the spaces of art, in which knowledge might be more “free” than in others?
- What are the institutional implications of housing knowledge that is “free”?
- What are the economies of “free” that might prove an alternative to the market-and outcome based and comparison-driven economies of institutionally structured knowledge at present?
These are the guiding questions that Goldsmiths academic Irit Rogoff uses in her essay “FREE.” Beginning with her provocative thought experiment: a proposal she gave to the university to create an adjacent free academy called “Goldsmiths Free”, she speculates about how it would change the nature, status and affect of the knowledge shared. She writes that “the notion of ‘free’ is currently so degraded in terms of the free market, the dubious proposals of the new ‘free economy’ of the internet, and the historically false promises of individual freedom, that it may be difficult to see what it might have to offer beyond all these hollow slogans.” Against this degradation, Rogoff refers to her idea as the unframing of knowledge. “When knowledge is unframed”, she writes, “it is less grounded genealogically and can navigate forwards, rather than backwards.” In her forward march, she simultaneously expresses a frustration at the internal limitations of the art world, with it’s tendency to reduce intellectual pursuits to illustration, or to turn them into “aesthetic tropes when in the hands of curators hungry for the latest turn.” Ironically we could ask: does her own essay fit within what has undoubtedly been referred to as a recent “pedagogical turn” in the art world? Yes it probably does. It’s only a matter of time before it shows up on pedagogical reading lists such as this one by School of the Damned class of 2017: https://issuu.com/schoolofthedamned or cited in pamphlets such as the most recent STRIKE! Magazine issue on radical pedagogy: http://strikemag.bigcartel.com/product/strike-issue-19-autumn-2017.
Her argument however, contains a fundamentally appealing rejection of institutional, “interdisciplinary”, or market oriented knowledge “production”, in favour of an almost Arendtian conception of education that might be perceived “as other forms of coming together not predetermined by outcomes but by directions.” These directions, which she recognises in her chapter titled “STRUGGLES”, could take the overtly politicized form of unifying demands for the abolition of tuition fee’s, an increasing of opportunity and access to higher education, or the “re-democratization of the universities and re-inclusion of students in decision making processes.” The most important and relevant section of Rogoff’s text for this blog, is when she turns her attention towards the physical “sites” of the art world. She is not referring to those behemoths i’ve already described in the previous blog post “Limitations”; arts institutions whose “perception of ‘research’ is largely about themselves (to consist, that is, in the seemingly endless conferences that are held each year on ‘the changing role of the museum’).” Rather, she is enthused by the proliferation of “self organised structures, that take the form, with regard to both their investigations and effects, of sites of learning.”
It’s in this penultimate chapter that she could almost have been describing the form and function of the Free Market Forum, and the knowledge it gathered together. She admires in these spaces of learning for example, the centrality of the “who” that poses the questions, “where they are speaking from, and from where they know what they know.” This kind of subjective disclosure and direct relatability to the speaker’s’ political or social position, whether in the area of the housing market (Laurie Macfarlane & Helen Moore), the archival, community oriented and intimate projects of Carla Cruz & Jonathan Hoskins, or the introduction to Glasgow Autonomous Space provided by Natalie, can be said to have grounded the forum in an intellectually accessible, unpretentious way. The jumbled, multiple, subjective layers and identities presented haphazardly throughout the Free Market Forum are analogous to Rogoff’s assertion that such collective spaces of learning grant permission “to start in the middle without having to rehearse the telos of an argument; to start ‘right here and right now’ and embed issues in a variety of contexts.” This cannot be said necessarily for the specific content of each and every talk, but the various forms of knowledge expounded existed as disjointed multiplicities of information, stemming from different, even oppositional traditions, schools and approaches. This became evident for example, listening to Sarah Strang’s talk immediately after Neil Gray’s critique… Rogoff’s final relatable observation and distinction between these unselfconscious, unframed spaces of knowledge production and normative institutional conference styles is a reconfiguration of what is meant by “the curatorial.” In these spaces such as Market Gallery, the curatorial can exist “not as a profession but as an organizing impulse”, which “opens up a set of possibilities, mediations perhaps, to formulate subjects that may not be part of an agreed-upon canon of ‘subjects’ worthy of investigation.” Events like the Free Market forum, then, if successful, can “serve both the purposes of reframing and producing subjects in the world.” The continuity, and perhaps now the legacy of such forums within the Market Gallery programme will live on in the regular “Night School” events held at the gallery, which by the way, are always free to attend.
Irit Rogoff’s essay can be accessed here: http://www.e-flux.com/journal/14/61311/free/