Readers
Unlearning
9 essays
Compiled by Lisa Andreani

“What is education; what are its means and ends; and when is it time to reexamine and reimagine current educational practices?” In so many situations last year, during the centenary of the Bauhaus, researchers, curators, professors, and intellectuals asked themselves these questions. In our uncertain present we need to understand the practice of unlearning—the value of a counter-knowledge to propose new attitudes. We can’t engage ourselves in a persistent hyper-presence. We need to vote for an (im)possible position.

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Irit Rogoff
Turning
Originally published in November 2008

We have recently heard much about the “educational turn in curating” among several other “educational turns” affecting cultural practices around us.1 Having participated in several of the projects emerging from this perceived “turn,” it seems pertinent to ask whether this umbrella is actually descriptive of the drives that have propelled this desired transition.2

Nora Sternfeld
Unglamorous Tasks: What Can Education Learn from its Political Traditions?
Originally published in March 2010

In the inaugural issue of e-flux journal, Irit Rogoff, under the deliberately ironic title “Turning,” calls attention to the recent “educational turn in curating,” thereby marking important shifts in the understanding of both practices: curating is no longer understood as the mere mounting of exhibitions; education is no longer understood as the transmission of existing values and acquirements. Thus we are dealing with a turn in two arenas, the curatorial and the educational.

Anton Vidokle
Art without Work?
Originally published in November 2011

I recently recalled the precise moment when it first occurred to me that I would like to become an artist. I grew up in Moscow, and my father was a self-taught musician working at the circus. Circus artists work extremely hard physically: the amount of daily practice and physical exercise necessary to perform acrobatic acts or walk a tightrope is really enormous. They practice and exercise all day and perform by night—it’s nearly a twenty-four-hour-a-day job.

Maria Lind
Soon
Originally published in September 2018

Free love and camaraderie were at the core of Kollontai’s thinking, for her novels and essays describe love as a force that frees one from bourgeois notions of property. As an influential figure, a rare woman in the Bolshevik Party leadership, and commissar for social welfare in their first government, she not only set up free childcare centers and maternity houses, but also pushed through laws and regulations that greatly expanded the rights of women: divorce, abortion, and recognition for children born out of wedlock, for example. She organized women’s congresses that were multiethnic in the way the young Soviet Union practiced controlled inclusion, following Western models. At the time, these were unique measures that were soon overhauled by Stalin, who did not appreciate any attempt at ending what Kollontai called “the universal servitude of woman.”

Luis Camnitzer
Art and Literacy
Originally published in February 2009

You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.

Carlos Motta
Editorial—“(Im)practical (Im)possibilities”
Originally published in April 2013

We are in the middle of a time in which classical notions of flexibility and freedom actually work to alienate our relations to one another. But in fact the ability to shift, to deviate, to morph should constitute the strongest claim that we are much more than what traditional categories tell us we must only be. It is precisely when elaborate techniques of labor extraction become indistinguishable from sensations of pleasure and self-realization that queerness returns to insist on the freedom to move and the freedom to be what one is and what one wants to be—not as a matter of belief but as a matter of survival. Because we can only see new worlds and new ways of life when we are able to be ourselves, to move between cultural, sexual, or civic roles without being defined by any single one. When this is blocked off, we can barely even see the world as it already is. As normative structures themselves collapse this only becomes more clear as our our bodies, minds, sexualities, and relations to the material world become unstable and start to marble and mingle. In fact we are all coming out of the closet and becoming queer. Some did it long ago, and as forms of exploitation evolve and adapt it becomes clear that taking a queer stance is not any easier today than it was then. This month we're really honored to have artist Carlos Motta guest-edit “(Im)practical (Im)possibilities,” a very special, very queer April issue of e-flux journal.

Boris Groys
The Museum as a Cradle of Revolution
Originally published in February 2020

In one of his treatises, Malevich writes about the difference between artists and physicians or engineers. If somebody becomes ill, they call a physician to regain their health. And if a machine is broken, an engineer is called to make it function again. But when it comes to artists, they are not interested in improvement and healing: the artist is interested in the image of illness and dysfunction. This does not mean that healing and repair are futile or should not be practiced. It only means that art has a different goal than social engineering.

Liam Gillick
Contemporary art does not account for that which is taking place
Originally published in December 2010

The term “contemporary art” is marked by an excessive usefulness. The contemporary has exceeded the specificity of the present to become inextricably linked to the growth of doubt consolidation. At the same time, it has absorbed a particular and resistant grouping of interests, all of which have become the multiple specificities of the contemporary. The tendency is for artists to deny that they are part of something that is recognized and defined by others. Frustrations here are always unique. Donald Judd did not identify himself as a minimalist. Yet “contemporary art” activates denial in a specifically new way. It does not describe a practice but a general “being in the context.”

Felicity D. Scott
“Vanguards”
Originally published in April 2015

In a 1967 report published in Eye: Magazine of the Yale Arts Association, Charles Moore, chairman of the department of architecture at Yale University’s School of Art and Architecture (A&A), spoke to a “marked shift” then taking place.

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