Really Useful Knowledge

Really Useful Knowledge

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

Primitivo Evanán Poma & Association of Popular 
Artists of Sarhua, Education, 2014. From the
series “Discrimination.”

December 8, 2014

Really Useful Knowledge
October 29, 2014–February 9, 2015

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Sabatini Building, Floor 1

Brook Andrew, Ardmore Ceramic Art, Ariella Azoulay, Hicham Benohoud, Phil Collins, Carole Condé & Karl Beveridge, Chto Delat?, Emory Douglas, Primitivo Evanán Poma & Association of Popular Artists of Sarhua, Núria Güell & Levi Orta, Dmitry Gutov & David Riff [Lifshitz Institute], Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub, Adelita Husni-Bey, Iconoclasistas, Abbas Kiarostami, Runo Lagomarsino, Darcy Lange, Victoria Lomasko, Marcell Mars, Azzedine Meddour, Mujeres Públicas, Daniela Ortiz, Trevor Paglen, Trevor Paglen & Jacob Appelbaum, Partisan Art, D.A. Pennebaker, Hannah Ryggen, Catarina Simão, Mladen Stilinović, Subtramas, Traficantes de Sueños, Lidwien van de Ven, Cecilia Vicuña, Carla Zaccagnini, Želimir Žilnik

Curated by What, How and for Whom / WHW 

Education is never neutral or disinterested. It is always organized according to a set of articulated principles, and its methodology reflects a number of beliefs, from the highly pragmatic ones to the conviction that knowledge is an end in itself. The exhibition Really Useful Knowledge starts from the notion of “really useful knowledge” inaugurated by workers clubs in UK in the early 19th century, to oppose the production-driven education organized by the ruling class. Through this reference to the beginnings of struggle against unrestrained capitalist exploitation, and early efforts towards self-organized education of industrial workers, it advocates establishing the new ways of reciprocal learning and teaching, and for the re-examination of forms of our social and political organisation. 

The exhibition presents an array of strategies and methodologies through which artists deconstruct “common knowledge” and challenge hegemonic views on history, art, gender, race, and class. These range from the position of the autodidact and his/her resistance to the authority of ossified intellectual positions, to the various models of collective work aimed at renegotiating and redistributing the power relations in all spheres of life. The use of folk or amateur practice to convey social and communal messages; attempts at reactivating the emancipatory and democratic potential of repositories of knowledge such as the archive, library, and museum; collecting and reorganising images or objects in order to reveal the ways in which images operate; focusing on art’s capability to produce imagery able to provoke strong emotional responses and its relation to the political struggle: these are some of the approaches used by the artists taking part in the exhibition. 

Today the idea of universal and free public education is losing ground to increased privatisation, commodification, and subjection of knowledge-sharing to restricting intellectual property laws. While not disregarding the role of the school as an instrument of building and legitimizing the existing social order, Really Useful Knowledge insists on the universal and public purpose of education. The exhibition unfolds between the notion of inherent knowledge of art, expressed both through objects and social relations it creates, intrinsically devoid of instrumentalization, and the examination of the processes through which ideological shifts are reflected in art and education. Understanding the ways in which the perception of the relevance of certain knowledge changes at any particular time is essential for understanding what kind of knowledge and what type of engagement are needed in the present circumstances.

A publication designed by Dejan Kršić, with textual and visual contributions by artists and texts by Luis Camnitzer, Marina Garcés, Fred Moten & Stefano Harney, Trevor Paglen & Jacob Appelbaum, Raqs Media Collective and G. M. Tamás accompanies the exhibition. 

Collective Subtramas has conceptualised four thematical exhibition tours and a series of activities taking place within the exhibition on a weekly basis, carried out in collaboration with cultural initiatives and activist groups from Spain. 

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Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia
December 8, 2014

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