Anti-Academy examines the ideas, processes, workshops and legacies of three radical educational models in 1960s Japan, the USA and Denmark. Comprised of three installations, each relating to one of these school’s programmes, Anti-Academy explores life at Bigakko, Tokyo, The Intermedia Programme at the University of Iowa, and Ex-School, Copenhagen.

The exhibition reveals workshop materials and teaching methods developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s at Bigakko by Hi Red Center artists Akasegawa Genpei, Nakamura Hiroshi, and Matsuzawa Yutaka; video, slide shows and photographic materials relating to workshops delivered at The Intermedia Programme, Iowa, by Vito Acconci, Mary Beth Edelson, Elaine Summers and others; and documents and examples of early 1960s/1970s collective and individual works by Ex-School artists Poul Gernes, Per Kirkeby, Bjørn Norgaard, John Davidsen, Peter Louis-Jensen and Henning Christiansen. The exhibition also showcases artefacts loaned from these archives: films, photographs, journals, objects, paintings, teaching notes, instructions, correspondence between the institutions and artists, publicity materials and posters etc.

Bigakko can be seen to draw most directly from its current political context. Founded in 1969 by the publishing house Gendaishicho-sha, infamous in their commitment to publishing an eclectic selection of controversial contemporary Japanese writing, alongside French philosophy and political theories including the first Japanese publication of Marquis de Sade’s ‘Juliette’, Bigakko also exercised an extraordinary high-disciplined learning environment to accompany their progressive literature, including one teaching year where students were made to attend all classes. The school employed the most radical artists of the day and the teaching programme involved diverse approaches, ranging from vociferous political conferences to quiet meditation. For Gendaishicho-sha, Bigakko operated in response to the social backdrop of student revolt in the post-war climate, acting as a rejection of western modernism and a questioning of Japanese cultural and political history.

The Intermedia Programme at the University of Iowa was established by the German artist Hans Breder. At Intermedia, students experienced workshops by various visiting artists with an emphasis on exploring ‘the boundaries between media, between artistic and scholarly practices, between genres, between social and political universes, between viewer and artist’.  The Iowa programme was characterised by an innovative use of media and technology. Key to its early years was the involvement of visiting artists who developed work with student participation, including creations by Robert Wilson and Allan Kaprow amongst others. There was an emphasis on development of a collaborative relationship with the local community and the utilisation of the local landscape as site for the making of student work. Anti-Academy includes works made with students (notably with the year group of students that included Ana Mendieta and Charles Ray) by Elaine Summers, Mary Beth Edelson and Vito Acconci, alongside a broader review of the archive.

Ex-School (the ‘Experimental School’) was established in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1961 by Troels Andersen, art historian of the Russian avant-garde, along with artist Poul Gernes. Participants included Per Kirkeby, Henning Christiansen, Bjørn Norgaard and others. Ex-School artists wished to discard traditional notions of the artist and used various strategies to achieve collective outcomes, advocating a collective anonymity over the pursuit of personal individual careers. Ex-School rejected the dimensions of artistic creation, instead embracing group practice working collectively across genres and styles.

Anti-Academy is a comprehensive interpretation of how these three academies situated themselves on the peripheries of the art world, existing in opposition to the mainstream, and responding to the political and social climate, location and cultural context of the day. A new publication will be on sale to accompany the exhibition, comprehensively illustrated and with a range of essays exploring the themes and contexts of the show.  

More information can be found on the Anti-Academy website.

Anti-Academy is curated by Alice Maude-Roxby with Yoshiko Shimada and Cornelia Schmidt-Bleek.

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