With thanks to the Bruce High Quality Foundation, Jarrett Earnest, Joe Kay, Alli Miller, Dorothy Howard, Fiona Duncan, A.K. Burns & A.L. Steiner, Chloe Rossetti, and Nicole Wittenberg.
“I am the institution and the agent of its reproduction” -- Andrea Fraser
How does one critique an institution that positions itself, already, as a social alternative? Through conscious practice, structured group encounters, lectures, and discussions, this seminar took to task the reorientation of the political within the context of the student body at an artists-run university. At stake was a shifting of the subjective; a new means of which to engage the body, the self, and the institution. Working from a collective regard for gender as difference, rather than opposition, we detatched ourselves from the notion that equality is possible, let alone something to be desired.
Tracing our thought back to the autonomia movements of Italy and France, we drew from a wide range of sources and historical frameworks to demonstrate that the use of the social is in its language. Guests included contemporary media theorists, artists, and tantric practitioners.
From 2009-2016 the Bruce High Quality Foundation University was a free art school. The BHQFU’s open-door enrollment policy allowed participants of diverse social, economic, and artistic backgrounds to determine their own level of involvement and the stakes therein. The school was singular for it’s inclusivity and deep commitment to outsider voices, but the social life of the university was undeniably structured around, and weighted by, relationships between men.
The BHQFU had been characterized by a D.I.Y. ethos and hack avant-garde aesthetic, with the collective having gained notoriety for a programming that seemed as delinquent as it was democratic. However, the actualities of participation either took on the adult character of networking culture (an insufferable politesse, a certain professionalization of the encounter, ) or that of a frat party-- sustained by a mostly-male inner circle.
We arrived at the solution of teaching sex-ed as the most appropriate critical modality with which to address various issues surrounding student life and partipication, while at the same time keeping in line with the adolescent spirit and throw-back pedagoical nostalgia that characterized the BHQFU.
The context of an alternative art school provided both a space and participant body through which sex could be investigated as both a medium of expression as well as a site of power and transformation.
Students and collaborators were of those who, like us, were tired of casting their sexualities as a parallel or alternative social being, as that part of themselves permitted in one space and stigmatized in another, and conflictually heightened by the limitations of professional practice.
Sex-ed was split into two components. Weekly sessions consisting of small-group communications and close-reading were combined with a bi-monthly lecture series. Through structured communication games and close-reading activities, as well as engagement with practitioners from expanded fields, we reoriented ourselves by learning and relearning how to communicate desire.
Course content focused on issues such as: sexual narrative, genital identity, property relations, seduction, privilege, the concept of the political, the concept of the commune, and the function of an institution. Simultaneously, we asked participants to seek out broader discourses, from social and historical issues to current conflicts in the art world.