Category Archives: PEDAGOGY

Bibliography for a co-operative art school

Bibliography for a co-operative art school

This page includes bibliographies and reading lists on co-operative art education, alternative art schools, radical pedagogy and self-organisation. Complied in conjunction with the research project A co-operative art school? This bibliography accompanies the directory of alternative art schools and resources for a co-operative art school. For a collectively compiled syllabus on art education and radical pedagogy see the Radical Pedagogy Research Group. Continue reading Bibliography for a co-operative art school

🥧 ‘More pie, more sky pls’* 🚀

🥧 ‘More pie, more sky pls’* 🚀

I’m thrilled to invite you to an artist’s talk that I’m doing for my local alternative art school! hARTslane Alternative (HA!) was founded by artists Rachel Lonsdale and Sarah-Athina Nahasis, who have put together a stellar programme. The school is informed by an interest in artists’ working lives, and a concern for those who are ‘outside’. The syllabus is based on a skill-sharing model, alongside crits, artists’ talks, off-site visits and exhibitions. I’m looking forward to meet the cohort for a discussion on alternative art education and their ongoing development beyond the end of the course. Beginning with a history of the movement, we will workshop either a proposal for a new school, or a guide on how to start a DIY art school, peer support group or collective.

🫀 DIY Art School
19 June 2024, 6-9pm, Tickets £6
hARTslane Alternative, 17 Hart’s Lane, New Cross, London SE14 5UP
HA! was launched in April 2024 at hARTslane, a community-run gallery in New Cross. The open call for 2025 will be published towards the end of this year. 

In July I’m looking forward to teach at the inaugural Alice Black Academy Summer School. I will be delivering three lecture-seminars on critique, the institution of art, and Spectacle and the everyday, on 1, 3 & 4 July, 6-9pm. Alice Black is a young gallery, established in 2017 to represent artists whose work is materially driven and handmade. I’m so excited to be working with Alice Black to bring these lectures to a new audience.

🧜🏿‍♀️ Alice Black Academy Summer School 2024
July 1, 2024 – July 9, 2024, Tickets £150
Alice Black, 7 Windmill St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2JD

The upcoming dates for Art + Critique are online! The course runs 15 Oct 2024 – 4 Mar 2025, 6:30-8:30pm with a new Pay What You Can tier scheme for the course fees. I’m hoping this will help me maintain the accessibility of the course and make it more sustainable. This may be the last time I offer the course in this format. It has been in development for 15 years, expanding and growing exponentially into a comprehensive programme on art practice and theory. On the one hand, I would like to expand this even further into a year-long independent study programme for a group of artists who would benefit from an extended period of critical engagement with their practice in a community context. On the other, I would like to make the lecture-seminar series of the course available to a wider audience, and launch a whole host of other courses and regular activities for artists, curators, writers and art audiences, that have been in the pipeline. I’m hoping to trial 1-2 of these in Spring 2025 and will post further updates closer the time.

🍒 Art + Critique, Autumn 2024
Critical & Contextual Studies in Art Practice Online
15 Oct 2024 – 4 Mar 2025, Tuesdays 18:30-20:30 BST/GMT+1
Pay What You Can £578 / £468 / £358

I wrote about co-operative art education for Towards New Schools, an essay series on recent shifts in art and design education by the Gerrit Rietveld Academie. Working with the Editorial Board was an excellent experience, I’m especially indebted to Harriet Foyster for her work and care in the editing process. *The title of this update is from a comment by the wonderful Emily McMehen in response to the essay. It set my mind at ease, because I’m often asked why I chose this essay title:

🥧 A co-operative art school is pie in the sky (2023) Towards New Schools, Epistemic shifts in art and design education. Gerrit Rietveld Academie and Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam. Gerrit Rietveld Academie is an independent university of applied sciences for Fine Arts and Design, the Sandberg Instituut is the postgraduate program of the academy. Among the amazing resources by staff and students you will find: Extra Intra, an overview of intercurricular platforms, student initiatives and events; Hear! Here! a research project on education, exchange and listening, with a focus on Critical Pedagogy; Podcasts; and the brilliant Student Council website. 

In other co-operative news, I attended the Co‑op Hackathon in Oct 2023, and I’ve been meaning to write about this, but here we are. The event was a thoroughly positive experience. It was organised by Terry Tyldesley, who is a musician and producer and this was reflected in every aspect of the event. I was also very excited to meet Rose Marley, the new CEO of Co-ops UK, who is already bringing positive change. All the projects inspired a hopeful sense of a common future, as did the amazing people behind them. I will post a more lengthy review at a later stage. Suffice to say that I’m still working through all the fabulous tips and ideas that I came away with for the co-operative federation of art schools. I also re-connected with the amazing Larisa Blazic, and I will post more about what we are hatching in future updates. In the meantime, here’s a video about the Hackathon:

💻 Stories from the Co‑op Hackathon 2023
19-20 Oct 2023, The Foundry, 17 Oval Way, London SE11 5RR
There have been a number of exciting developments and milestones for the co-operative federation project within the last year and I’m really looking forward to complete the many offshoots of the project. But, due to lack of funding, the work is on hold or chugging along in the background until I have time to put in a DYCP application.

📓 In solidarity economy news, the Lonely Writers’ Club was a therapeutic 3-week lull before the start of the academic year last autumn. Led by Yancey Stickler and Austin Robey, this project was an offshoot of Metalabel, a unique publishing platform for creative groups and collectives launched in 2022. Developments like this indicate as sea-change in the mindset of many people who work in the creative/digital industry. Partly due to Covid, and partly due to all the layoffs in the digital industries, many of these workers are rejecting the culture of competition and burn out, and embracing collectivity and collaboration in solidarity economies.  While I have reservations with this somewhat conservative and commercial approach to solidarity, mutual aid and the commons, these developments can only be a good thing. Some recommended reading and viewing: After The Creator Economy by Austin Robey and Severin Matusek (2023), introduced by Matusek in What’s after the creator economy? Interdependence.fm’s podcast Post-Individualism, Metalabels and Web 3 with Yancey Strickler (2022),  Post-Individual (2024) and Adam Curtis on the dangers of self-expression (2017) by Yancey Strickler. The links in this paragraph will lead you to a host of additional resources.

🖌️ Finally, if you practice one act of self-care for your practice and mental health in 2025, I highly recommend Artquest’s 30works/30days. The highlight of my day in April was seeing all the amazing work that others had made. On the first day I got the work in by the skin of my teeth, then I worked at different times of day, leaving enough time to come back to it or make something else. The work was both a record of the day, as well as the theme that made every day special. Each day brought a different kind of challenge, it created some anxiety and longer work hours, but all the more rewarding because you completed something – or at least made a good go at it.

This daily manual engagement was empowering and invigorating in itself, but also because it was an investment in something for its own sake. I made the rules and the process involved discovery, inspiration, attention, invention, speculation, experimentation and so on. This mindset also revealed my teaching practice to me as a form of sculpture. Preparing a course or workshop is an entirely conceptual and abstract process, and you cannot prefigure what will happen in the pedagogical environment. Rather than working with concepts and variables when updating my courses, I have started to visualise them as sculptures, intuitively hacking parts off, taking them apart and putting them back together in radical new configurations. Let’s see if it works.

Can You Hear Me?

Can You Hear Me?

Nalini Malani [2020] Can You Hear Me. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Screenshot of hybrid visit to the exhibition
Nalini Malani [2020] Can You Hear Me. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Screenshot of hybrid visit to the exhibition

In October 2020 we visited the exhibition Can You Hear Me by Nalini Malani at the Whitechapel Gallery with members of the Art+Critique Autumn 2020 cohort. This was our first hybrid off-site visit and everyone was asked to write a critical review of the exhibition. Any number of things could have gone wrong. Continue reading Can You Hear Me?

📌 Artquest One to One 🍒 Art+Critique Summer 2022

📌 Artquest One to One 🍒 Art+Critique Summer 2022

As we await the arrival of summer the pandemic appears to be at bay, but only by giving way to new fronts of crisis, disinformation, struggle and resistance. Artists have been particularly impacted in the last two years and still reeling as we emerge into the new dystopian normal, so you’re not alone. Book a free advice session with Artquest One to One to discuss your practice and plans for the future – new dates in late May and early June will be posted soon.

The Summer 2022 Art+Critique online course starts on Saturday, 23 April and continues for 16 weeks until 6 August 2022. The course is popular beyond the London bubble and Covid is still creating some uncertainty, so there are no immediate plans for face-to-face courses. We have just wrapped up the Autumn/Winter 2021-22 course and it’s always sad when the regular meetings with a fantastic group of beaming faces come to an end. But we’re hatching a plan for follow-up sessions for alumni of the course. If that is you please stay tuned and I will be in touch with more info.

The Festival of Alternative Art Education is still postponed indefinitely for the time-being but I’m looking forward to restart the Co-operative art school? action-research project with an new strategy. If you have completed the co-operative art school survey please stay tuned for news and updates. If not then head over there and fill it in because I might finally have the chance to compile the report during the break. Hope you get some sun whether you’re taking time off or raging on 🐞

📌 Artquest One to One

Free one-to-one remote advice sessions for London-based artists
Book a free Artquest one-to-one advice session to get feedback about your work, build a strategy for an upcoming project, get practical career advice, discuss the logistics of operating as an artist and find out about other arts organisations and how they can support you. New dates in late May and early June coming soon.

🍒 Art + Critique

Critical & Contextual Studies in Art Practice Online, Summer 2022
This course integrates practice and theory to address our concepts of art, how they are being transformed and the problems of making and exhibiting art in the broader context of social conflict. The curriculum surveys essential histories and discourses of contemporary art, demystifies the art world and provides multiple entry points into critical theory. The lectures address the questions of what art is, how it is judged, how it relates to society and what is at stake for artists today. The programme fosters collaborative study and provides practical tools in workshops and group feedback sessions.
23 Apr – 6 Aug 2022, Saturdays 10:00-12:30 BST (GMT+1), for 16 weeks
Course fee £360 / Concessions £288
For more information and to register please visit the course page. For detailed information on the schedule, lectures and reading please download the course outline. If the course fees are a barrier to your participation please get in touch so that we can find a way to make it more accessible for you.

📢 Outpost Online & Art+Critique 🍒🚀

📢 Outpost Online & Art+Critique 🍒🚀

It’s been a long hard slog but things are starting to look up with the easing of restrictions and a potential end in sight for Covid. In the meantime, if you’re feeling stuck or want to hatch some plans sign up for a free advice session with Artquest Outpost Online.

The next Art + Critique online course begins on Thu, 14 Oct 2021 and continues over two terms until 10 Mar 2022. I will continue to offer this course online to accommodate those who wish to participate from outside London and the UK. If you’re interested in a face-to-face course in London please stay tuned for updates when this becomes a viable option.

The Festival of Alternative Art Education is still postponed indefinitely due to restrictions on large indoor events, please stay tuned for updates and new dates when the events can go ahead.

📢 Outpost Online

Free one-to-one remote advice sessions for London based artists
https://www.artquest.org.uk/project/outpost-online/

I’m very excited to be working with Artquest to provide one-to-one advice sessions to answer your questions and provide feedback on your work. This is an opportunity to get practical career advice, discuss the logistics of operating as an artist, and find out more about other services and organisations that can help you navigate the art world in these unprecedented times. When booking you can select which advisor you would like to meet based on their areas of expertise. Each session lasts 45 minutes and is conducted on either Skype or Zoom. The sessions are very popular so you are asked to book one session per year. The regular advisors are not all available every month, so if the slots are booked up or if your chosen advisor isn’t available please try again the following month.

🍒 Art + Critique

Critical & Contextual Studies in Art Practice Online Course
https://videomole.tv/artncritique

This course integrates practice and theory to address our concepts of art, how they are being transformed and the problems of making art in the broader context of social conflict. The syllabus will help you develop your practice and research in a series of lectures, seminars, workshops, tutorials and off-site visits. The lectures series surveys the histories and discourses of contemporary art, demystifies the art world and provides multiple entry points into critical theory. The programme fosters experimentation and collaborative study in a community of peers, and provides practical tools to empower you to pursue your practice with confidence.

Course aims, outcomes & learning objectives
By the end of the course participants will have a sound grasp of the historical underpinnings and current debates in contemporary art. They will be able to critically discuss and evaluate contemporary art. Participants will leave the course with critical awareness of contemporary art practice, a road map and a toolbox of methodologies for their continuing practice and the confidence to pursue it independently.

Who is it for?
The course is open to everyone at any stage of their career or level of experience but it is particularly suited to those who have a background and experience in art and wish to develop their practice and extend their knowledge of contemporary art practices and discourses.

Art + Critique: Critical and Contextual Studies in Art Practice Online Course
Thu, 14 Oct 2021 – Thu, 10 Mar 2022 with a five-week Winter Break
Every Thursday 6:30pm-8:30pm GMT+1 (BST)
Course fee: £340 / Concessions £272. If the course fees are a barrier to your participation please get in touch so that we can find a way to make it more accessible for you.

For more information about the course schedule, lectures and reading please visit the page and/or download the Course Outline

Art + Critique: Critical & Contextual Studies in Art Practice

art+critique 2024 featured image, cropped image of a black and white studio in the foreground with large windows, outside is an urban landscape with a pink and blue sky, the pink of the sky is reflected in the the studioArt + Critique

CRITICAL & CONTEXTUAL STUDIES IN ART PRACTICE: ONLINE COURSE

This course integrates practice and theory in a comprehensive programme that emphasises critical inquiry in art practice. Through a series of lectures, seminars, workshops, group tutorials and off-site visits, the syllabus supports participants as they explore and develop their practice and research. The curriculum fosters experimentation and collaborative study in a community of peers. It provides a supportive environment where participants will extend and develop their ability to discuss, write about and judge contemporary art, as well as their ability to reflect on and contextualise their own practice.

Continue reading Art + Critique: Critical & Contextual Studies in Art Practice

Self-organisation for a co-operative art school: report

Self-organisation for a co-operative art school: report

Self-organisation for a co-operative art school, Antiuniversity Now! 2020.Many thanks to the participants who joined the workshop for their contributions and their patience! I can only hope that it was as useful for them as it for me. I was very excited to meet them and hear about their backgrounds, practices and reasons for joining the workshop. Many are members of collectives or cooperatives and it was especially good to have people drop in from Manchester, Newcastle, Bristol and Madrid! Continue reading Self-organisation for a co-operative art school: report

Self-organisation for a co-operative art school – Antiuniversity Now! 2020

Self-organisation for a co-operative art school

A workshop on self-organisation and collectivity for a cooperative art school

Fri, 12 Jun 2020, 6-9pm
All welcome, please book your place
This event is part of Antinuniversity Now! Festival 2020, 6-13 June

Continue reading Self-organisation for a co-operative art school – Antiuniversity Now! 2020

URgh!#1: alternative art education

URgh!#1: alternative art education

The first issue of URgh! on alternative art education includes critical essays, histories, documents, guides, interviews, fiction, poetry and visual art on alternative art schools, study groups, peer-led and self-organised education, collectivity and collaboration, co-operative art education, mutual aid, alternative economies, creative labour and the critique of neoliberal reforms in higher education. URgh!#1 on alternative art education launches on Saturday, 25 July 2020 at the Alternative Art Education (Slow) Marathon.

DOWNLOAD PDF or scroll down to ORDER A PRINT COPY

Continue reading URgh!#1: alternative art education

A co-operative art school? Workshops at Conway Hall

Workshops for a co-operative art school

What would a co-operative art school look like? How would it work? Who is it for and what would the benefits be? Come along to a series of workshops at Conway Hall to discuss these questions and collectively explore potential models for a co-operative form of art education. Please click here for more information on the workshop series. To book please follow the links below.

Continue reading A co-operative art school? Workshops at Conway Hall

Workshops for a co-operative art school

Workshops for a co-operative art school

This series of workshops will explore potential models for a co-operative form of art education. The workshops are participatory and experimental, progressing through stages and open to anyone who would like to contribute. You do not have to come to all workshops, but if you can that would enhance continuity between sessions.

Continue reading Workshops for a co-operative art school

A co-operative art school?

A co-operative art school?

A co-operative art school? is a research project on co-operative education, alternative art education, radical pedagogy and self-organisation, with the ultimate aim of raising awareness about cooperative art education and starting a co-operative art school. The project is supported by an Artquest Research Residency at the Conway Hall Humanist Library.

What would a co-operative art school look like? Who is it for and what would the benefits be? How would it work? These are some of the questions that this research project will address. If you would like to contribute you can fill in the survey or scroll down for more ways of getting involved. Please check back soon, this page will be updated regularly with more information and resources. To receive updates please join the mailing list.

Continue reading A co-operative art school?

Radical Pedagogy Research & Reading Group (2019)

RPG_banner

Radical Pedagogy Research & Reading Group

The Radical Pedagogy Research Group is a public forum and peer-led participatory action-research project on alternative art education, radical pedagogy and self-organisation, with the practical aim of developing a self-organised alternative studio programme. The reading group meets on the last Friday of every month, it is free and open to everyone who wants to join as long as they commit to the reading. We plan to organise additional workshops, screenings and other events that will emerge from our research. Please book your place and download the reading.

Continue reading Radical Pedagogy Research & Reading Group (2019)

The Trickle-Down Syndrome

The Trickle-Down Syndrome

Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Sophia Kosmaoglou.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Sophia Kosmaoglou.

We visited Benedict Drew‘s exhibition The Trickle-Down Syndrome at the Whitechapel Gallery with students on the Critical Theory in Contemporary Art Practice course. The exhibition was a sprawling interconnected array of objects, banners, screens, cables and digital components. What is the Trickle-Down Syndrome? How does it relate to the infamous laissez faire economic theory? What are the throbbing fleshy forms and knobbly knotted represented in videos, banners and roughly-hewn objects?

We spent a couple of hours viewing and discussing the exhibition and everyone was asked to write a 250-500 word review that evening for a workshop the next morning. Each review is written in a uniquely different style and approach, with a different interpretation of the exhibition. We were all very impressed by this outcome so we decided to share the results.

CONTENTS

ALISON GILL Slush Economics and Other Symptoms
ARIELLE FRANCIS What is the point, Benedict Drew
DOROTHY HUNTER No Guts and No Glory
EMILY STAPLETON JEFFERIS Bendedict Drew: The Trickle Down System
IAN BIRKHEAD In the Synthetic Bowel
JUN ABE Undergoing the Trickle-Down Syndrome: Underneath Your Flesh
TAMMY SMITH A sensory journey through absurdly visualised bodily functions vs the state economy


ALISON GILL Slush Economics and Other Symptoms

The Trickle-Down Syndrome is a multimedia installation by Benedict Drew involving sculpture, music and video. The mesmerising and seductive impact of the work is immediate on entering the exhibition. Hand painted perspective lines cover the floor and wall fanning out in a black and white radial shape drawing viewers toward a screen showing an egg or cell dividing.

Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Alison Gill.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Alison Gill.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Ian Birkhead.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Ian Birkhead.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.

This is the beginning of the Trickle-Down Syndrome. It sounds pathological, in fact, this title refers to trickle-down economics, a theory of wealth distribution which has, according to the International Monetary Fund been proven to not exist. The poor get poorer while the rich get richer. Here it is then, represented as a ‘syndrome’, a pathological collection of symptoms. Drew’s diagnosis is simple; the trickle down has turned to slush. So how does this manifest itself as an art exhibition? There are many references to the body. Around the corner are large colourful intestinal wall hoardings cable tied to galvanised steel rails, slick and street aesthetics combined. Electronic ambient bleeps and pops provide a sonic over-lay to the whole installation. And when Drew talks about escape being a potent form of resistance, I can’t help wondering if the alter-come-stage he has created with giant eyeballs hanging onto a waxy brain are the sci-fi signifiers to an altered reality. It’s not here though. The video murmurs on with bad news and more innards. Mirrors, repetition of eyes and cones, lots of signs of ritual and at the centre a golden gong. Around another corner ‘That Sinking Feeling’ blinks in pastel pink on a wall, down below a video monitor on a packing crate shows someone is stuck in the mud and momentarily, a muzzle of a mule appears. To the side old Lidl bags contain the speakers all shielded and contained by red welding screens. Confused? Me too, that’s the point.

The last little room uses symmetry again, a theme throughout and reference Drew says, to Busbey Berkley but could equally be the more colourful pop homages made by Michel Gondry such as Around the World (Daft Punk). Another influence sited is Max Ernst’s landscapes. I had to look hard for these: The gong perhaps as it features in ‘production image for The Trickle-Down Syndrome’? Piled up in the corner are free newspapers, Financial Times pink, blowing around. There is a grungy look to the digital photo-collaged drawings it contains. On one page there is a drawing of a mule with a thought bubble saying ‘I hate humans’. On another page there is a photo of a statue, arms in the air and branching out to red coral. Over this is drawn yellow radiating line, an aura of sorts. Is this Daphne when she transforms from human form into a tree, to return back to the earth? Is this at the heart of Drew’s desire for ‘ecstatic protest’, I wonder? We humans are better off ‘out of it’ he seems to be saying. If this is it, it is a nihilistic project indeed but he knows how to make this pill a sweet one to swallow.


ARIELLE FRANCIS What is the point, Benedict Drew

To descend into this particular piece of work, was frus-trating work. An environment difficult to enjoy, Benedict Drew does not make it an easy bodily experience.

Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Ian Birkhead.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Ian Birkhead.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Sophia Kosmaoglou.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Sophia Kosmaoglou.

Large illustrations that impose upon your existence – their height and sheer width are admirable. I wondered how it came into the room for unlike any painting on a wall, it cannot simply be hung at eye level. These sheets of fabric hold high from ceiling to floor, detached from the wall, softly lit from behind. This glow lightly frames the supposedly hand drawn curves, the images existing in pairs of three, a face off if you will. Competing against each other on parallels planes there is nothing to compare, for all feel the same regardless. Nothing special exists within, other than curvy curvy wormy monotonous hollowness and their obvious ability to say “here I am. I take up space. Was probably installed via machine and scaffolding. Regardless, be fascinated with me”

Moving past these large scribble sisters, towards the far back of the exhibition space, we see The Box, on a box, within a box… Framing, framed, Frames. The words “SINKING THAT FEELING”, if viewed from the right angle, perfectly frames once more these boxes, taking this entrapment from the floor to the wall, this dead-end horizon providing a canvas to the words projected. They “hug” the installation, they -strangle- incompletely.

The tangible quality of this installed work also happens to be the only piece that fully distances itself from all surrounding white walls. Instead, existing as four red fabric partitions giving the onlooker the ability to walk around the installation -as well as through it. Be daring and look at others through the red material, peak through the vast gaps of this broken cube, watch others as they watch the monitor, a man trapped within, and in, mud. Pulling one leg out drives the other leg in -exhaustion overworking self entrapment, an escape to where? A release to what? “That sinking feeling”, flashes alongside the work further reminding us of the inability to escape, how this cycle returns.

Discomfort is a word not misplaced in association to “Trickle Down Syndrome”, and perhaps these two pieces in discussion represent this concept justly. I would note however, that apart from this perhaps singular truth, Drew’s intentions are seemingly either accidentally into being or sometimes lost entirely. Inside the exhibition, I found myself more absorbed by my solipsism in that moment, attentions confused as I tried to rebalance basic comfort levels, ignoring the politics portrayed. An uneasy experience that is difficult to endure, if it were not for a moments rest and reflection away from that space, I would for sure not have this analysis. Perhaps a little too abstract an idea, I wouldn’t recommend the show, but on reflection I appreciate the fodder nonetheless.


DOROTHY HUNTER No Guts and No Glory
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.

The Trickle-Down Syndrome parallels the limits of human bodies with the organisational and systemic ones that utilise them, reframing their place in their machinations at will. Organs blow up, extend out, condense down. They seem to revolt against their position of servitude to a unified whole, a body whose identity is unknown to them, means nothing to them but ongoing labour.

Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.

In each corner of the main gallery an organised tangle of intestinal forms geometrically snakes across enormous wall hangings, weirdly evocative of William Morris, or as if cancer worked on an organ rather than cellular level. They flank dark nondescript organic forms on the hangings in between, printed on searing orange and green. One mass, seen on the rear wall hanging, is made of various shades of love-heart pink, more blatantly organic in the shaky network of striped tendrils that radiate outwards, obviously digitally and simply distended. Despite this, each print looks misleadingly relief-like in its spots and patterns of dark texture, with foregrounds crisply clipping backgrounds in the blankets of saturated colour.

Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.

In contrast, the physically handmade pieces within the installation are faux-naive. On an alter-like arrangement on a wide white stage, fleshy Plasticine borders are pressed around a painted mass of one-stroke ribs, cratered papier mache eyes sit on stalks metres long, or are dripping, primordial threats painted on drums. Hollow teeth-like forms are drawn on mirrors. On screens, a stuffed ream of 3d-rendered intestines slowly twirl, and hollow shapes move over the face of a female actor. This arrangement is symmetrically composed with some co-ordinating and mismatched layers of visual and sound, leaving her words and meaning indistinguishable. Technology clearly excels our ability to represent our own makeup.

Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.

There’s a sterile opulence, the backlit hangings lording over the space like religious icons. The trickle-down effect sees each strata of class in a cycle of aspiration to, and definition against, the other, causing a cycle of capitalist activity. The digital and handmade seem complicit in a similar cycle. The trickle-down isn’t active; the apparatus is too divided. Seeing a face, digitally rendered, sculpted, painted, only ever seems unreal. The only bodily exteriors seen revel in this. With haptic detachment from our interior, all we have are illustrations, perhaps the odd x-ray or ultrasound scan. Alienation is our normal state; feeling small in the unseen power we are passive to. There is no gore, no viscerality, only looped unknowns.

Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.

A man wades in mud, eventually reaches a sinking mule. Sound emanates from LIDL bags – one covertly painted with the words “DESIRE STUFF”. Such close shots make the actions hard to follow; red welding screens can be passed through or observed through – turning something a little scatological into something even more suggestive. It’s perhaps communistic, the red square exploded, overtly three dimensional in its symbol pulled back into real space.

Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.

It sits as a counterpoint to the yellow-gelled adjacent box room, where graphic eyes radiate from palms, taking a landscape-like slow pan across uncanny fleshy valleys on either side. It feels suggestive of a state achieved going up someone’s anus, both transcendent and comedic. Against the first space’s religious impression I’m reminded of the power constructs around abstracted ritualistic culture, a kind of hypnotic indulgence of self via bodily manipulation.

This exhibition makes my own materiality feel totally separate from my conscious self; my cellular intelligences seem to fall through. These systems don’t work if they’re closely observed, and indeed, don’t seem to invite this. I’m discomforted, hypnotised yet rejected by the work in the repellent combination of recorded, altered and synthetic space.


EMILY STAPLETON JEFFERIS Bendedict Drew: The Trickle Down System
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome (detail). Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome (detail). Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Sophia Kosmaoglou.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Sophia Kosmaoglou.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.

Is it a beating brain? Pulsating, pumping, streaming strands of black black lines. Or wait perhaps it is an embryo: dividing, spreading, evolving, mutating. A quivering uncomfortable mass of what we may become. This relentless throb thumping into my eyes, a hypnotic act of the digital spilling out of the screen into the reality of those black black hand painted lines which spread across the walls, across the floor.

They push me on, into the main space where I am surrounded, dwarfed by the bodily. Banners of intestinal patterns hang from the walls, intestines through which shit is channelled. Shit which trickles down, not money as was promised in that 80’s economic model. These banners mirror one another, create a reflection within the space. A reflection of the reflection present already within the work. Multiple layering and repeat adding to a sense of dislocation, a double take, a feeling of being overwhelmed. And with these intestinal forms are more banners. Squiggly black twisty messes of marks on punchy colour. Red. Red within the space adding to this sense of the visceral. Building upon the bodily sections present, which are only sections. What does this imply? Are these snapshots of the body suggesting that we are in a time in which we are no longer whole? A time beyond now, a dystopian future where we simply worship the wealthy, the rich, those with the money. This stage before me hints at this. It seems to act as an altar: a gong as a centrepiece, drums and screens surrounding, again arranged in a symmetrical manner, channelling thoughts of shamanism, hypnotism, of being sucked in and powerless, now incapable of making decisions. Even incapable of understanding: a woman on the screen is speaking and yet, I can only grasp one word or two. What is she talking about? And why do marks cross across the screen? They overlap her and themselves, create even more layers within this space. They seem to act to obscure, whilst also bringing a hand-drawn aesthetic into the digital, whilst the digital wires which mass from the screens seem to bring the digital into reality. There is cross over of what is real and what is unreal and a mess, it must be an intentional mess, as a result.

This mess, this confusion, forces me on around the corner into another room. And here there is more red. The red of welding screens arranged in a square within which a video of a muddy muddy quagmire plays. Are we about to become that man struggling within the mud? Are we already that man struggling within the mud? Is that donkey’s nose a premonition of the animals we have returned to being? The man slips and slides and scrambles. It appears existence is hopeless.

Moving on to the final room, a glowing yellow room which entices me in with the yellow of hope. Although there is no hope in there. More symmetry, more mirroring, more confusion. Dismembered hands channelling energy on the screen before me, and digital eyes collaged on top projecting outwards, reaching towards me. Other screens as bearers of flesh, gooey and soft, and yet not actually flesh. I cannot really gain the message, grasp this work, make many connections, and yet I like it. Aesthetically I am drawn to the bold, hand-drawn, hand-made pieces which contrast the slick digital effects. I relish this demonstration of the overwhelming world that we now inhabit, as it comforts me that I am not the only one to find it so. And I am also intrigued by this vision of the dystopian world that we may unconsciously wander into…


IAN BIRKHEAD In the Synthetic Bowel
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Ian Birkhead.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Ian Birkhead.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome (detail). Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome (detail). Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Ian Birkhead.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Ian Birkhead.

One of the firsts themes you’ll notice walking around the exhibition is the artists use of symmetry. The artist has used it in his previous work and obviously it helps with compositional balance, but I think in this case kind of suggests a cyclical nature to the journey he takes you on. For me at least it demonstrates the successful splitting of the cell at the start of the show, and also these hands that perhaps advertise products and they’re trying to hypnotise you while the video screens that are on either side of the room surround you in the synthetic bowel. Maybe after this you’ll be pooped out as a consumer crossed with a product. I also wonder if his work is in some way talking about the commodification of the self.

Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Sophia Kosmaoglou.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Sophia Kosmaoglou.

The main theme that showed its self to me and what I personally found quite interesting about the show was the combination of the synthetic and organic. Or perhaps more accurately the synthetic posing as the organic. This is first described in the wall hangings which are in a material reminiscent of a shower curtain or a table cloth with organic forms painted or printed onto them. The organic forms remind me of intestines but also roots and veins in there winding, connecting disorder, these are recurrent in the work. The central stage or alter holds two eyes and a that lead to a brain and at first glance they seem very organic but that might be due to the contrast of them against the backdrop of screens and wires and other very machined looking objects. On closer inspection the eyes are made of painted tinfoil. A manufactured material masquerading as something organic. Much like the relationship between social media influencers and there audience could be perceived as a (falsely) honest connection between brands and consumers when in reality its just another avenue for advertisement and consumption. In the last room there is a film playing on two screens that shows an ambiguous, at first glance fleshy, form that appears to be made form expanding foam an-other example of the artificial posing as the organic. As a whole this is representative to me of the human morphing into there consumer products. Or maybe it becoming less clear what the distinction between the consumer and the advertiser is. As well as highlighting consumer goods being en-trenched in the contemporary human experience.

Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Ian Birkhead.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Ian Birkhead.

The way things come out the screens and become physical is probably a direct reference to the trickle down theory and the new norm for consumer items to be replicated and produced and consumed quicker than ever, aided by social media and celebrity endorsement. This is why towards the end of the journey we watch a man bogged down by all the crap, that instead of trickling has pretty much flooded down underneath him to the point where he can barely walk.


JUN ABE Undergoing the Trickle-Down Syndrome: Underneath Your Flesh
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome (detail). Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome (detail). Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.

From the first work, I’m already dragged into the Drew’s art world. The first work is the pig skin-like surfaced lump with brain figured digital design collage in blue, which slightly expands and contracts with repeating heart-beat like sound. It looks my brain of having an epilepsy attack.

Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Sophia Kosmaoglou.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Sophia Kosmaoglou.

Then next, on the right and left wall, there are three-set brain-look photo based tapestries: red one on the right wall, and green one on the left as if they are right and left brain. Trickles of nerves literally down over the tapestries.

On the centre stage, there is a collaborative work:

Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Ian Birkhead.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Ian Birkhead.

Eye catching one is head-from-the-eye balls object surrounded by panels of road corns-ish figures. On each sides of the object, there are TV screens on which a woman is repeating unclear words with clacking noise of stones, and sometimes just a wasted land is projected. Black cables trickle down all over the floor.

Everything is scattered, noisy, occupied: there is no empty place. It is like our daily world where there are too much information and noise, never sleep, never stop.

On the left corner, the pile of newspapers is flowing nostalgically.

At the end, old-fashioned TV is, as if, left on the wooden box. On the screen, a man is stuck in the mud. The contrast of black and white TV screen and four red partitions around it don’t look vivid, rather the work seems to represent autism: shutting down oneself from the loud society and being stuck in black muddy inner silent world.

The works constitute what he calls submersion in social and environmental despair.

Though there is no real photo or video of human body, you can still “feel” it. You may feel as if your brain, body and mind are scanned, examined and exposed. At least I felt so.


TAMMY SMITH A sensory journey through absurdly visualised bodily functions vs the state economy
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.

I’m divided by what I’ve seen to how I feel. Upon entering Benedict Drew’s The Trickle-Down Syndrome exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery you’re greeted by a variety of visuals and sound. Drew uses a variety of materials, from animation, video, 2D

Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.

images, sculpture, installation and mixes both old and new technology. There’s a play with scale and his inspirations range from 1930’s stage sets to surrealist landscapes. He also references the human body and there are suggestions that it’s bodily functions that are hinted to rather than references to money or some material wealth.

Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.
Benedict Drew [2017] The Trickle-Down Syndrome. Installation view. Whitechapel Gallery, London. Photo Dorothy Hunter.

The message seems to border on the absurd and there’s this play between crude and refined. Did he run out of materials or budget when making some of his installations? Or is he making a bigger point? Likewise, having the cables and technology that enables him to visualise his films, does that somehow enhance his meanings? The absurd is also visualised with Drew’s powerful use of bright neon colours, clashes of random shapes and bizarre sounds such as the noise two pebbles make against each other.

Is it still classed as art if I don’t value or identify with it? Can I respect it even if I do not like it and find the ‘emotional sensory journey’ uncomfortable? Would I like this exhibition more if it wasn’t so in your face? Is it performance art if it’s about the viewer’s journey around the 1 artwork scattered throughout the one direction curated room? The experience of the journey is just as important? So the concept is stronger than the actual art? Would changing the way it’s curated change are feelings to the work?

The merits would be that it’s bold as his subject matter is niche and he’s clearly passionate about his work, it’s not necessarily going to be to everyone’s taste. How he chooses to exhibition his final pieces is intriguing, if indeed he gets much say.

In summary, it’s big, brash and bold, it’s an insight into the artist as much as it’s about the work. The journey you take is certainly an experience and it’s vagueness is cleverly left up to you to judge whether it’s brave or annoying. Is the concept better than the outcome? Do I appreciate what I’ve seen? Is this art?

I would argue that it’s not sophisticated, it lacks the multi layers of depth and meaning and is so niche that it’s like Marmite, you’re either going to love it or hate it. Which in one way it great to get such extremely responses out from his audience, but for me it just falls short, it doesn’t push the boundaries, it doesn’t use shock tactics and it doesn’t connect.

The fact that it makes me the viewer question this means that on some level maybe it deserves a little more of my respect and like Marmite only you can decide by taking the journey with the artist yourself.


Workshops on alternative art education and self-organisation

Workshops on alternative art education and self-organisation

A series of workshops on alternative art education and self-organisation from 2017 to 2019. For a complete list of workshops please click here.

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ART&CRITIQUE (2015-2019)

A&C_banner-2015-2019

ART&CRITIQUE was a peer-led and volunteer-run alternative art education network dedicated to critical engagement with art practice, theory and research. It was founded in November 2015 and based at The Field and LARC. We employed collaborative, co-operative and collective models of pedagogy and organisation and fostered alternative models of art education in a series of public events.

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STUDIO CRITIQUE

STUDIO CRITIQUE

The STUDIO CRIT was an opportunity for artists, curators, designers, film-makers and other producers to present their work to an audience of peers for discussion and feedback. These events were free and open to everyone. Please scroll down for the guidelines and event archive.

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[SYMPOSIUM] BOOK CLUB

[SYMPOSIUM] BOOK CLUB

The SYMPOSIUM book club was a monthly open-access reading group for artists, researchers and anyone interested in the intersections between art practice and critical theory. Everyone was welcome to propose a text and facilitate the reading group.

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