Tag Archives: Shift/Work

Plan S and the Pandemic Pivot

Increasingly, artistic learning and research is conducted in non-academic settings: in galleries, biennale, residencies, art fairs, and – of course – through artistic practice.

Para-academic art schools are perceived to be more personalised, flexible, engaged, accessible and cheaper than HEIs. Their alumni have already achieved many of the key performance indicators of our sector.

To remain relevant in this exploded network of artistic learning, HEI art schools must learn from para-schooling. Contemporary art is a parasite​(Serres, 2007)​; a good host forever seeking an equally good host. Pooling and sharing resources with partners that compliment the art school’s curiosities cultivates a climate in which all communities flourish.

As an SFC-funded charity, ECA must be a democratic intellect for the public benefit, visibly upholding the value of research-led art education, not just for artists, but as a means to develop a learning society.

Research-led Teaching

HEI art schools’ strengths here are the peer-esteem and artistic impact of their alumni and staff research. Emboldened by this, HEI art schools should systematically reframe research per se from the perspective of artistic research.

Tim Ingold argues that:

Research is not a particular thing you do for so many hours each day. It is rather a way of living curiously – that is, with care and attention.

​(Ingold, 2018)​

In this sense, all researchers should take their lead from artists, approaching re-search as a careful, continuous quest driven by curiosity.

Ingold’s vision of research is fundamental to re-imagining the art school’s contribution to knowledge and, in turn, its curriculum design.

This leads me to two correlated observations:

  • Art students learn by doing, starting in the same place as their tutors, and participating in learning alongside them.
  • Peer-esteem emerges from peer-support. We need to be curious about each other’s work.

The residual culture in most European art schools remains motivated more by teaching than by research. To grow and diversify our research culture, research groups need to develop learning and teaching. This means we not only teach our research, we are actively involving students in the research process. Because this is fresh to colleagues and students, the curriculum  provokes curiosity.

The strategic management of resources is here is driven and transformed by what actually makes us curious; emerges from elective affinities rather being superimposed by discipline or kinship.

What we are curious about is what we care for.

Curious Commons

Artistic research isn’t just for artists. Everyone is curious and everyone cares. In 2021, open research became the new norm across the EHEA. A Plan S for artistic research presents a major opportunity in the form of a challenge:

How can the art school common more of its research and educational resources for the public benefit?

As it stands, a lot of art is freely accessible in public contexts.

Open Access additionally offers insight into the ‘workings’ of such research. Organisations such as the Society for Artistic Research lead the way here, creating open platforms that can be used as open educational resources.

Contemporary Art & Open Learning OER Introduction

The courseware for Contemporary Art & Open Learning (see: above) is open access. Students created open distribution frameworks (‘scenes’) to host their open research objects. What students produced for the course, then, formed part of the Art & Learning’s research activities.

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The Pandemic Pivot and Plan S coincided in a perfect storm to ‘disrupt class’ here. Both have transformed student expectations of course provision forever. Porous forms of artistic learning are, thus, a key catalyst for post-Covid recovery.

Porosity means breathing IN and OUT

Art’s sub-disciplines are crucial to its future development. Sub-disciplines are the expanding lungs of artistic practice. Sub-disciplines are entangled and porous, venturing far beyond the boundaries of the art world. For example, think of UWE’s ongoing project on the artist’s book. To do justice to their research question, what is the artist’s book in the 21st century demands an extra-disciplinary approach.

ABTREE altered diagram by Dr Emma Powell, UK http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/canon/
ABTREE altered diagram by Dr Emma Powell, UK http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/canon ​(Powell, 2008)​

The challenge here for art education is this:

How do you teach what you don’t know?How do you teach what you don’t know?

The art school doesn’t have to try to teach everything, rather, it needs to carefully curate access to existing methods and resources that support working in less familiar fields.

To facilitate such Fantastic Journeys, the art school’s internal research and educational resources need to be aligned in ways that foster intermediality, extra-disciplinarity and more co-investigation. Sub-disciplinary expansion also means focusing not only on what we teach, but on on how artists learn and on the many different environments they learn in.

Care Ethics

Since difference is fundamental to educational diversity; it must mutually embodied. This requires a more carefully coordinated delegated authority and a care-based ethics. To bring educational diversity to life, all art staff need to be empowered to be visible leaders. To steward our colleagues to visibly lead our respective fields, leadership must nurture staff commitment, curiosity and initiative.

To transform a vision into a practice, good intentions must become good habits. Part of my artistic research – Shift/Work – involves creating workshops wherein peers compose new forms of artistic learning for each other to playtest. Participants shift from seeing parts to seeing wholes, from being passive to being active agents in their learning organisation.

Regularly composing and leading such workshops with colleagues and art students is a proven catalyst to collectively instilling good habits. In art schools, such a method of sharing insight and lending support can afford colleagues regular opportunities to align learning with their research by co-designing and updating the curriculum with students and stakeholders.

In turn, this can make the art school’s wide variety of practices more porous for students and our broader publics, dissolving barriers to learning to ensure that we can all feed our curiosity.


  1. Ingold, T. (2018). Anthropology Between Art and Science: An Essay on the Meaning of Research. Field. http://field-journal.com/issue-11/anthropology-between-art-and-science-an-essay-on-the-meaning-of-research
  2. Powell, E. (2008, October 28). ABTREE altered diagram. What Will Be the Canon for the Artist’s Book in the 21st Century? http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/canon/
  3. Serres, M. (2007). The Parasite. University of Minnesota Press.
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Neil Mulholland – Plan S and the Pandemic Pivot is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. 16.2.2021

Shift/Work Speculations

Shift/Work Speculations Cards (2017) designed by Jake Watts

Neil Mulholland ‘Shift/Work: Speculations’, in L. Campbell (ed.), Leap into Action, New York: Peter Lang. 12th December 2019. pages 21-26; 39-40; 59-60 ISBN 9781433166440

Shift/Work is a performative paragogics (Corneli 2011) that supports the active peer production of Open Education Resources (OER) for artists. Shift/Work arose from participatory action research (PAR) into art education’s hidden (anti-)curriculum as a means of intervening in the monadic culture of self-sufficiency performed by its atomising technologies of the self. An iterative practice continually re-performed like a musical score, Shift/Workers compose and play-test intersubjective workshops for one another prompted by a ‘gesture that interrupts’ (Biesta 2017, 36); a MacGuffin that playfully amplifies our different educational expectations in order to draw our collective attention to how learners are subjectivised as artists. Drawing on a paper presented at ISoTL17 in Calgary, this chapter delineates Speculations (Shift/Work 2017), a Shift/Workshop composed and performed in Scotland, India and Norway during 2017 and in Ottawa in 2019, the parameters of which were scaffolded by Dan Brown, Jake Watts and Neil Mulholland.

Shift/Work [static] speculations

At SAW, Ottawa on November 9th 2019, the Confraternity of Neoflagellants (Norman Hogg and Neil Mulholland) will conduct a performance of Shift/Work [STATIC] Speculations, a score-scroll originally composed at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop to be performed at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale Biennale, India (March 2017). It has since been performed in Kristiansand (Norway), Malmö (Sweden), Edinburgh (Scotland) and Calgary (Canada).

Speculation is a ‘gesture that interrupts’ (Biesta 2017, 36); an ‘irritation’ (Ascott 2003, 145); ‘a corruption, a rupture of information’ […] ‘static, a parasite?’ (Serres and Schehr 2007: 3) The speculative parasite is one that stimulates paragogic play, materialising Shift/Workers’ learning expectations. In performing each other’s Speculations Shift/Workshops, Shift/Workers gain a metacognitive understanding of the speculative processes and challenges of artistic learning.

Scroll-score: To blackbox facilitation, Confraternity of Neoflagellants will scaffold play with a scroll-score, a minimal set of prompts that sets the parameters within which Shift/Workshop design is communally performed. Confraternity of Neoflagellants will be using a set of Speculations Playing Cards as parasites for interference, gestation, regurgitation and problem creation. Speculative materials, probes and props will be drawn directly from the pan-pan exhibition.

Re-imagining the Art School | Glasgow School of Art

 

Flourish: Johnny Rodger & Irene McAra McWilliams
Memory, Will and Understanding II

present:

Re-imagining the Art School

Professor Neil Mulholland
(The University of Edinburgh) www.neilmulholland.co.uk shift-work.org.uk

Thursday 24th January 2019 5.30-7pm
Bourdon Lecture Theatre
Glasgow School of Art
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/reimagining-the-art-school-prof-neil-mulholland-tickets-55017781666

Re-imagining the Art School assesses the organisational development of the humanist ‘idea of the art school’ from the post-rationalist perspectives of constructivist and connectivist educational learning theory. It examines how recent internal (‘porous’) and external (‘para’) reforms have transformed the production of subjectivity in art schooling and pioneers the application of theories and methods of para-academia and paragogy in art education. It is the first book to be published on the future of the art school to develop an open access paragogy for artistic learning and research.

Reimagining the Art School will be published in 2019 by Palgrave Macmillan

Location

Bourdon Lecture Theatre , Glasgow School of Art, Bourdon Building
Renfrew Street, Glasgow G3 6RQ
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Shift/Work | Alberta College of Art & Design

@ACAD Alberta College of Art & Design – 1407 14 Ave NW, Calgary 🇨🇦 Tuesday v10th October, 1pm www.acad.ca

Shift/Work: Speculations

With Dan Brown, Neil Mulholland directs Shift/Work, a studio at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop (ESW) that composes scores designed to encourage players to reflect upon and recalibrate artistic learning. Key to this is an open engagement with practice (work) as a means of both generating and transferring new knowledge (shift). ‘Shift/Work’ is an iterative process, a rolling workshop that can be continually re-performed like a musical score.

Neil will outline the genesis and aims of Shift/Work in relation to the rise of paragogy and para-academia (the ‘undercommons’ of contemporary art and knowledge). He will then focus on Shift/Work’s development of Speculations, a participatory workshop collectively composed at ESW to be performed as part of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in India (March 2017) and at Teateret, Kristiansand, Norway (August 2017). He will demonstrate how to perform Speculations and provide a copies of its score as an open educational resource for artists to adapt and practise.

@ShiftWorkESW

Shift/Work Kristiansand

Teateret
Kongens gate 2, 4610 Kristiansand, Norway
28-29th August 2017

Shift/Work Kristiansand

Day 1
9:30 Speculations: Make Gold! 1hr
– switchover –
10:40 Workshop Workshop 1hr : (What are the conditions for artistic learning? Define the parameters…)
11:40 Lunch
13:00-15:30 Unlearning (Compose a 2hr workshop):
15mins meditation
45mins discussion
45mins composition
45mins play-test/re-calibrate
Day 2
9:30-11:30 Unlearning (Play Test) 2hrs
11:30 Lunch
13:00 Public School: Designating Public Art (Steven Hurrell) 1.5hrs
14:30 Der Fachidiot (Talk) 45mins, 15mins Q&A
15:15 FIN

Shift/Work : Kochi-Muziris Biennale

Shift/Work: Composing and Playing Artistic Workshops

Neil Mulholland & Jake Watts

March 22nd & 23rd 2017

Kochi-Muziris Biennale www.kochimuzirisbiennale.org

Biennale Office, Fort Kochi, Kochi, India

Shift/Work: Speculations

Workshop-Workshop / H-Frame

Wed 22nd March 2017, 10 am to 1 pm

Unlearning

Wed 22nd March 2017, 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm

&

Thurs 23rd March 2017 10 am to 1 pm

Speculations

Thurs 23rd March 2017 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm

The two day sessions are open to art professionals, art teachers, curators and art students. Participants do not require any prior skills or knowledge and do not need to prepare.