Concrete Slabs or Mangrove Forest
Educational Spaces on Film
The films of the exhibition Education Shock go to the places where the new educational ideals were manifested. Whether anti-authoritarian brutalism in Canada, revolutionary mangrove hide-outs in Guinea Bissau or a “pioneer city” in former Yugoslavia, the historians, artists and activists research an era of reawakening. The films aren’t objective documentaries, the filmmakers use experimental approaches, are committed and get involved. In their search for clues, they find fascinating bastions of reform education – and dreams in ruins.
Filipa César, Sónia Vaz Borges
Skola di Tarafe (work-in progress)
Knowledge means freedom. Schools are the forges of revolution. During Guinea Bissau’s liberation struggle under Amílcar Cabral against the Portuguese colonial regime, in the late 1960s schools had to hide in the mangroves from the terror of bombings. Under the protective canopy of nature, learning was possible.
The activist historian Sónia Vaz Borges and the filmmaker Filipa César show modern everyday life in Guinea Bissau with and in the mangroves, tradition-conscious, close to nature and aware of the anti-colonial struggles of the 1960s and 1970s, which are present even in the schoolbook arithmetic problems. Witnesses speak off camera about liberation fighter Amílcar Cabral’s literacy project. According to the maxim “A free country needs an educated people,” he not only advanced education, but also emancipation. Men ironing and women fighting were taken for granted. Skola di Tarafe transfers the theme of Sónia Vaz Borges’s book Militant Education, Liberation Struggle, Consciousness – The PAIGC Education in Guinea Bissau 1963-1978 (2019) to the film medium, extracting unexpected poetic aspects from it. The film is an added building block to Vaz Borges and César’s ongoing project on anti-colonial history.
Filipa César & Sónia Vaz Borges, Skola di Tarafe (work-in progress), 2016/2021
Courtesy the artists
Sabine Bitter / Helmut Weber
Power to the People!
A modern university mustn’t close itself off in an ivory tower. In the 1970s, public seminars were held in the entrance hall at the University of Lethbridge in Canada. In 2019, Sabine Bitter and Helmut Weber recreated this experiment with art students.
“People’s University” was architect Arthur Erickson’s key phrase for reforming university construction in the 1960s and 1970s. His brutalist building complex at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, was intended to facilitate a free-flowing exchange of knowledge, democratic research without architectural hierarchies. In their film, Sabine Bitter and Helmut Weber combine historical photos, video clips and promotional films of the university with the cinematic documentation of a reenactment: Art students quote from Arthur Erickson’s programmatic writings in the historical seating landscape and ask to what extent the educational ideal of the 1960s has been occupied by that of 21st century neoliberalism. Does Erickson’s modernist architecture stand up to today’s neoliberal educational industry? Or are a few yoga mats enough to muzzle it?
Sabine Bitter & Helmut Weber, Public Seminar, 2019/2020
Courtesy the artists
Funded by Bundeskanzleramt Österreich, Canada Council for the Arts
Come Live With Us
“The times, they (were) a-changing…”
The revolution eats its own. In 1968, students in Toronto founded Rochdale College. A concrete-and-glass skyscraper was to become the flagship of the counterculture, a hippie haven with free living and learning in a self-governing commune. In 1975, the college failed due to organized drug crime.
Come Live with Us sounds just as empathetic as interdisciplinary artist Fraser McCallum wants it to be. His film overlays tracking shots through the high-rise apartment building today with photos, press documents and graphics from the time of the college experiment while former residents recite from the college publications. In the middle of Toronto, a high-rise was repurposed by the counter culture in 1968. The hippie students opposed isolated housing with collective life in an open honeycomb structure. McCallum doesn’t deny his fascination with the living and learning experiment and its aesthetics. He employs modern high-tech such as 3D and laser printing to approach the spirit of legendary Rochdale College. The film is an extract of a multimedia installation McCallum put together in 2016 for the University of Toronto Art Museum.
Fraser McCallum, Come Live With Us, 2016
Courtesy the artist
Arne Bunk / Britta von Heintze
Eine zukunftsweisende Vergangenheit (A Pioneering Past)
The Human Factor
How can the medium of film make utopias in architecture visible? Arne Bunk and Britta von Heintze take their camera through deserted schoolrooms of the late 1960s and early 1970s and gradually animate them: with cleaners, billiard players, wolves and lecturing teachers.
Every shot is a still-life. The directing duo Arne Bunk and Britta von Heintze take their camera through the abandoned rooms of the Hamburg comprehensive schools Mümmelmannsberg, Steilshoop (both by architect Jos Weber) and the Gymnasium Christianeum (architect: Arne Jacobsen) from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Like a laboratory experiment, they expose the spaces to various animations, by cleaners, billiard players, wolves and teaching staff. The actor Charlotte Pfeifer plays a teacher giving a motivational speech, the actor Rolf Becker is a teacher in front of a class reading from the baroque allegory The Labyrinth of the World by John Amos Comenius, “... an apothecary’s shop … where remedies against the ailments of the mind are kept; and this, by its proper name, is called a library.” Meanwhile, the students glance at their phones.
Arne Bunk & Bitta von Heintze, Eine zukunftsweisende Vergangenheit, 2011
Courtesy the artists
Florian Zeyfang, Alexander Schmoeger, Lisa Schmidt-Colinet
La Nueva Escuela
Pencils and Shovels
Fidel Castro proclaimed the school offensive in Cuba as the state’s public policy. For a socialist patriot, education also means getting to know your country. The solution is schools in the countryside.La Nueva Escuela shows historical film footage and frames it with critical appreciation.
“The mood was enthusiastic,” recalls French filmmaker Sylvain Roumette of the school offensive in 1970s Cuba. La Nueva Escuela takes up sequences from Roumette’s 1974 documentary L’École et la Machette and shows how Castro’s government wanted to solve several problems at once with the initiative: The boarding schools in the structurally weak rural areas led to a mixing of the population, the elimination of illiteracy and to a labor force in agriculture. Under the motto “Learn and Work,” hundreds of the Escuelas Secundarias Básicas en el Campo were set up in prefabricated buildings. In the interview excerpts with Sylvain Roumette, the architect in charge Josefina Rebellón and the urbanist Luhania Aruca Alonso, the utopia comes alive once again: Country or Death! The end of the socialist bloc in the 1990s also brought the end to schools in the Cuban countryside.
Florian Zeyfang, Alexander Schmoeger & Lisa Schmidt-Colinet,
La Nueva Escuela, 2021
Courtesy the artists
Supported by Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg
Ana Hušman / Dubravka Sekulić
Do Not Trace, Draw!
Smart through Socialism
From illiterate to double bass player, Do Not Trace, Draw! offers a strategically idealizing perspective on the educational program in former Yugoslavia. In their film, Ana Hušman and Dubravka Sekulić examine the history of the city of pioneers in Zagreb. They engage in memory work that is unwilling to choose between criticism and affirmation.
A lush natural scene is reflected in the window fronts of a fieldstone building, birds chirp in the background. In this architecture, after World War II until the early 1960s, the children of the illiterate rural population were to be molded into a new socialist people. In four chapters, multimedia artist Ana Hušman and architect Dubravka Sekulić recapitulate the ambitious project of the pioneer city and its elementary school in the former Yugoslavia. What does the state mean to someone whose children don’t go to school? asks historian Sanja Petrović Todosijević in her presentation on the educational offensive, which is framed by sepia-toned souvenir photos. In the closing sequence, a child plays an old socialist pioneer song on the classical double bass. Mission accomplished?
Ana Hušman & Dubravka Sekulić, Do Not Trace, Draw!, 2020
Courtesy the artists
Evan Calder Williams
The Beauty of Rebellion
The open (school) space had a central role in democratic educational reforms after World War II. Education for the self-empowerment of the people meant breaking down walls. In his film essay Evan Calder Williams makes the case that building barricades can be just as important for the self-empowerment of the people.
In his theoretical and artistic work, Evan Calder Williams investigates how the need for security and paranoia are inscribed in educational spaces. It’s not only since 9/11 that learning in the U.S. has been shaped by military structures. Williams’s two-channel projection Defector (edited for one screen online) takes photos and film sequences of improvised barricades to show how the objects of security architecture can be turned against their builders. The state prescribes – the people repurpose. The students transform the standardized and disciplinarian school furniture into building blocks of insurrection, into barricades. The essayistic text superimposed on the images asks how the barricades affect the consciousness of the insurgents: “The barricade is not there to block the street, but to show who is on the other side.” And it addresses the images’ fascination for us: “They are martial images... they are visions.”
Evan Calder Williams, Defector, 2021
Courtesy the artist
Clemens von Wedemeyer
The Inner Campus
We’re Building a New City
The university campus need not be an elitist fortress. It also plays an important role in the reform efforts of the 1950s. The University of Santa Barbara is considered a prime example. Clemens von Wedemeyer asked students about their personal experiences in filmed interviews.
In the 1950s, the University of Santa Barbara in California was shaped by the playful, sculptural architecture of Charles Luckman and William Pereira. It’s a campus that doesn’t hide behind ivy. At the elite public university, the reforming spirit lives on to this day. Or does it? The two-channel projection (edited for one screen online) by Clemens von Wedemeyer shows extensive interviews from 2008 with students and employees from diverse social backgrounds. They are asked for their assessments of living and learning on campus in order to create a “phenomenology of academic life.” Do students perceive the campus as a protected space with greater freedoms or as a sociotope with increased social control? Von Wedemeyer shows his protagonists in profile against a neutral background; they don’t address the viewers, but the interviewers off screen. As a viewer, you remain outside the campus community. How does that feel?
Clemens von Wedemeyer, The Inner Campus, 2008/2021
Courtesy the artist and KOW, Berlin
Open Plan, Open Fire: The Stavnsholt School on the News in my Childhood Home
Breaking Down Walls
Architecture versus chalk-and-talk teaching. Learning shouldn’t be boring – especially not for children from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. In 1971, the world’s first open-space school for first through tenth grades opened in Copenhagen. The students set up their own learning environment. In 1973, a building fire put an end to the controversial experiment.
In his work as an artist and writer, Jakob Jakobsen is primarily interested in alternative forms of social organization. As a child, he followed the news about the Stavnsholt School. In 1971, an experimental learning space was created in the middle of a new residential area for young families in the suburbs of Copenhagen. Inspired by the Bauhaus and Summerhill School, the idea was for the architecture at Stavnsholt School to lead the way so that the teaching could follow. The students, ages 6 to 16, gathered in the central space with an open floor plan to design their own learning environment together with the teachers. While the film gives an off-screen account of the underlying idealistic pedagogical concepts, it stacks up photos of the disastrous end. In 1973, the school was gutted by fire. The media breathed a sigh of relief. Jakob Jakobsen had always been bored at his regular school.
Jakob Jakobsen, Open Plan, Open Fire: The Stavnsholt School on the News in my Childhood Home, 2021
Courtesy the artist
Wendelien van Oldenborgh
The Beauty and the Right to the Ugly
Smoking in Class
In 1974, the Karregat community center in Eindhoven, Holland, began offering an open space for all life activities, including school. Wendelien van Oldenborgh invites former residents and activists to a site visit. The hall has long since been conventionally remodeled, but the atmosphere is splendid.
What was once a legendary social experiment in Eindhoven is today just a few glass pyramids rising into the sky. In the film’s opening rap, the Karregat project is fittingly transfigured as a myth. From the mid-1970s, the self-organized community center became a commune with 3000 members who – according to the alumni anecdotes – only went home (drunk) to sleep. Everything under one roof, everything without walls: concert hall, badminton court, garden and even an open school. The children had four parents, danced on the tables and smoked in class. Twenty years after the Karregat’s demise, filmmaker Wendelien van Oldenborgh invites alumni to a tour of the place. Looking back, it becomes clear how much fun they had indulging in self-realization, but also how much the concept of open spaces fostered neoliberal deregulation. But it’s no reason to sing the blues; this is a feel-good film. One alumnus is certain, “A new generation is coming!”
Wendelien van Oldenborgh,
The Beauty and the Right to the Ugly, 2014
Courtesy the artist