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Thinking with Conditions: from Public Programming to Radical Pedagogy in and Beyond Contemporary Art

Graham, Janna. 2018. Thinking with Conditions: from Public Programming to Radical Pedagogy in and Beyond Contemporary Art. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Thinking with Conditions: from Public Programming to Radical
Pedagogy in and Beyond Contemporary Art is a study of the
contradictions and possibilities of public programming within and
beyond contemporary arts institutions. Charting a rise in
discursive events in galleries since the 1990s that take place
under the heading ‘public programming’, the thesis analyses
claims made for these events as moments in which to address
urgent contemporary issues, to create alternative enactments of
the public sphere, to open up spaces for dialogue and debate
and to generate practices of time-based experimentation. It
posits that in our current moment such claims are
overshadowed by a mode of post-Fordist production that
propels individual, virtuosic and communicative performances,
regularly detaching a political kind of speech from meaningful
political action. I argue that this tendency, described by Paulo
Virno as ‘publicness without a sphere’. joins a suite of other
‘public’ practices to enact rather a public pedagogy in which its
agents learn to detach passionate and politicised speech from
practices in theie life worlds. I call this tendency thinking without
conditions. Part I of the thesis examines this tendency to think
without conditions in public programming in the arts and as it
can be found in fields like Education and the Law. Part II of the
thesis argues for a move away from thinking without conditions
and towards radical education practices that forge stronger links
between the world and the word. Drawing from the work of
Paulo Freire, archives of popular education in Latin
America and genealogies of Institutional Pedagogy in France,
including the writings of Ferdnand Oury, Aida Vazquez and
others, Part II of the thesis argues for thinking with conditions,
praxes that more meaningfully connect what is said and what
can be acted upon. Each chapter is structured around
anecdotes drawn from 20 years of experience working in the
fields of public programming through which I have attempted to
chart the intersection of micro and macro political concerns as
they manifest in everyday working practices. Throughout the
thesis it is suggested that practices of organisation — though
often eclipsed by more heroic narratives and the content
concerns of public programmes - are crucial to understanding
how radical change can and does take place. By emphasising
thinking with conditions, the thesis suggests an alternative to the
conception of the public sphere, which in a post-democratic
landscape has arguably been hollowed out. It suggests rather a
discipline of working through practices of thought, speech,
affect, care and organization, questions of the so-called private
and public spheres, questions of space and time, of questions of
the material and the immaterial to manifest changes in
infrastructures that support increasingly precarious lives.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):

Additional Information:

Printed thesis available for reference in Goldsmiths College Library from 1st June 2021.


pedagogy, public programming, contemporary art

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


31 May 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

25 Jul 2018 14:14

Last Modified:

25 Jul 2018 14:14


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