Pedagogy Against the Rules


Rebus, per Black Mountain College letter model in the Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.


(In) my fantasy architecture/design school…

_ Fantasy and reality comingle.

“The duty of education is to cultivate and support the human abilities of imagination and empathy, but the prevailing values of culture today tend to discourage fantasy, suppress the senses, and petrify the boundary between the world and the self. Consequently, education in any creative field in our time has to begin with the questioning of the absoluteness of the lived world and with the re-sensitisation of the boundaries of self. The main objective of artistic education may not directly reside in the principles of artistic making, but in the emancipation and opening up of the personality of the student and his/her self-awareness and self-image in relation to the immensely rich traditions of art, and the lived world at large.”

Juhani Pallasmaa, The Thinking Hand: Existential and Embodied Wisdom in Architecture

_ “I want to open eyes.” Josef Albers, upon his arrival at Black Mountain College in 1933.

_ Learning is a building up, not a tearing down – a lifelong screen-printing and alchemy of interacting layers.

_ Teaching is a practice, an education in and of itself. It is not assumed to be innate. It is not sink or swim. It is cultivated and nurtured, at all levels.

_ Curriculum is collaborative.

“The School of Walls and Space [Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen] was formerly the department where traditional mural making, mosaics and stained glass were taught. It is unclear how the School got its name, and it is difficult to find any precise background material on the department’s recent history. However it seems that for a period it stood empty, without professors or students. After some time, students began to develop the School as a self-organised free-form class. They organized the education, the spaces and the department’s budget themselves. During this period, the students, who called themselves ‘Air Conditioning’, developed group projects and invited guests to lead workshops and presentations. One of those guests – the American artist Yvette Brackman – was invited by the students to be employed as the lead professor of the department. During her nine years at the school, Brackman and the students developed an interdisciplinary programme of education that led to numerous collaborations and projects…”

Nils Norman
“Unwriting Education: On the School of Walls and Space,”
Contestations: Learning from Critical Experiments in Education
(Tim Ivison and Tom Vandeputte, editors)

_ Time is mutable. There is room for deep diving. There are calls for bursts of intensity.

“In 1954, I had to study, I felt that I didn’t know how to detail. I spent ten years making a set of seven houses, called the Texas Houses in order to understand how to detail and construct. It’s as simple as that.”

John Hejduk
Schools of Architecture
(Bart Goldhoorn, editor)

_ Architecture/design is an art. Art and culture are inseparable.

_ Education and life are a muddy mix.

“The teaching and exchange of experiences around themes like the working of iron and wood, ceramics, tailoring, music, gymnastics, singing and dance, gastronomy, photography and film, can constitute an approach to the ideal point at which education coincides with life itself.”

Adolfo Natalini, as quoted by Valerio Borgonuovo and Silvia Franceschini
“When Education Coincides with Life,” Global Tools: 1973-1975

_ It is body and mind. Both muscle memory and intellectual exercise are the workout. Both things and ideas, tools and texts are the resources and the aspirations.

_ It moves.

“Gertrud Grunow’s work at the Bauhaus was the starting point for the development of a physical awareness and delight in movement… Modern life, modern building and design seem to enter into a symbiosis with a healthy, physically aware lifestyle… The perfect working of the physical machine had become a symbol of the predictable and natural laws of design and life.”

Ute Ackermann
“Body Concepts of the Modernists at the Bauhaus,” Bauhaus
(Jeannine Fiedler and Peter Feierabend, editors)

_ There is no analog / digital divide, no craft / technology antithesis, just conscientious application.

_ Knowledge and skill are fundamentals. Fundamentals preface innovation. Innovation is individual expression honed.

“Experiment shares with empirical and experience a common root in the Latin experiri, ‘to try or to put to the test.’ Until the eighteenth century, experience and experiment were interchangeable in English usage, though subsequently experience came to indicate that which has been previously tested, a past accumulation of knowledge or skill… Yet, experience continued to carry a second nuance, that of a full and active consciousness or awareness that may allow the experimenting with, testing, or trying of something.”

Eva Diaz
The Experimenters: Chance and Design at Black Mountain College

_ There is something bigger than “you” or “me”; there is a discipline.

“If you can’t dribble, you can’t play basketball.”

Dave Hickey, on his analogy for training in both art and sport
It Takes a Village to Make Bad Art
2013 Shenkman Lecture at University of Guelph College of Arts, Ontario

_ Methodology is not mysticism. Methodologies are plural.

“Awakening the mind to the infinite and ultimately unknowable indeterminacy of nature was the objective, if such an interest in revealing the workings of nature can be said to have a goal at all. Herein lies the paradox at the center of Cage’s chance protocol, a paradox of which he was well aware: he exerted control in fostering situations of greater indeterminacy because he believed that the world was fundamentally contingent and its possibilities indeterminate. As Cage proclaimed, ‘It’s what you might call a music of contingency, which means that you’re necessary but not in control.’”

Eva Diaz
The Experimenters: Chance and Design at Black Mountain College

_ Design is elemental, but never comprehensive. Expertise and/or scholarship are the ambition, not competency.

_ It is free-for-all and living wage.

“Pedagogical activism is the latest tactical mutation of cultural resistance to the society of risk and its neoliberal enterprise culture. It takes numerous forms including well-grounded organisational structures to be sure, but this is becoming atypical. Instead, most of these educational interventionists begin as ill-defined bands or gatherings and only arrive at a degree of stability as if by accident… These informal art and research models reflect an increasingly widespread phenomenon in which artists and informal collectives combine their desire to reimagine or literally reinvent organisational structures with an interest in DIY pedagogies and autodidactic forms of instruction. Some participants apparently find their own presumably sophisticated education suddenly lacking and seek to create new, self-designed art programmes. Others keenly reject what… is referred to… as ‘enterprise teaching’ or ‘entrepreneurial learning’,… as the very theft of life itself through a pedagogical system-turned-graveyard.”

Gregory Sholette
“The Academy from Below,” Contestations: Learning from Critical Experiments in Education
(Tim Ivison and Tom Vandeputte, editors)

_ Education is revolutionary, until it isn’t. There is nothing wrong with a sunset clause.


*Home post image: Josef Albers teaching at Black Mountain College, 1947 (Genevieve Naylor-Reznikoff)