Edited by Toni Brell and Sophie Dyer.

With contributions from Laura Epsom, David Erixon (Strelka), Jaime Iglehart (Utopia School), Tyler Paige (Free Cooper Union), The Pinky Show, Robert Preusse and Stefanie Rau (Parallel School), Eric Schrijver (Open Source Publishing, Relearn) and Thom Swann.

A Feral Studio publication

Think twice
you think

Edited by Toni Brell and Sophie Dyer.

With contributions from Laura Epsom, David Erixon (Strelka), Jaime Iglehart (Utopia School), Tyler Paige (Free Cooper Union), The Pinky Show, Robert Preusse and Stefanie Rau (Parallel School), Eric Schrijver (Open Source Publishing, Relearn) and Thom Swann.

A Feral Studio publication

Inside Out Workshop at the Glasgow School of Art, 2014


In December 2014 we organised Inside Out School at The Glasgow School of Art. We (the organisers) met at a Parallel School, a free school model based on the simple principle of ‘each one, teach one’. A Parallel School has no curriculum, every participant is both teacher and student. This nurtures a level of experimentation and flat hierarchies, unfamiliar to most mainstream schooling. Like many free schools, Parallel School challenges the ideals of an increasingly economised education system that focuses on practicality and performance. We wanted to discover what happened if we transferred the radical and experimental character of free education to a public institution.

The political theorist Chantal Mouffe claims institutional critique is best executed from within. Only by engaging with institutions is it possible to create dissent, and so bring to the fore alternatives to the current ­system. Based on her concept of conflict and ‘agonistic pluralism’, she promotes the idea of ‘agonistic spaces’. Conflict is not a problem to straighten out. It is the very basis for politics and decision­­­­-making. Real conflict leaves space for alternatives that acknowledge the other’s right to exist, and by that agree to disagree. True antagonism is the ability to make a choice between multiple, opposing factions, in a seemingly undecidable terrain. Therefore, conflict should not be seen as an obstacle. It should be seen as the common ground between two adversaries. This is what ultimately brings them together and makes the friend/foe relationship potentially interesting and desirable. So maybe it’s time to stop being efficient and cause some conflict.

Which brings us back to Inside Out. In our experience, public education usually comes with a lot of privileges, such as libraries, studio space, time to explore your artistic interests, critiques, free working material, access to workshops. Even though this framework can be very helpful in some respects, it should not be forgotten that it is equally restrictive. Art schools such as the GSA are highly regulated spaces. Not only in terms of their facilities, but also content. Students are usually direc­­t­­­­­ed­­ towards a standardised agenda of what is relevant, a canon that they are supposed to follow. There is a consensus about how and what we learn. With our workshop at the Glasgow School of Art, we wanted to create an awareness of this situation, create a space to question what was there, and so disturb the accepted education paradigms and look for possible alternatives.

We created ‘agonistic spaces’: spaces that were inappropriate, even against the rules, and thus bound to cause conflict. We occupied the art school, building barricades, obstacles and temporary classrooms. We transformed the common and familiar into something odd, erractic and unknown in an effort make visible the mechanisms and hierarchies that the institution relies on, which we so often take for granted (such as security staff, emergency routes, house rules, etc.). By changing what we knew we hoped to set free a potential not only for conflict but more importantly for discussion, friction, and possible failure.

The Inside Out workshop assembled only for one day and the knowledge we gained was limited, but we built a basis for future workshops and educational projects. At present, Inside Out is something other than a school: it’s a research project, a model, a collaboration, a publication and a trial version for further temporary schools. Our hope is that we will gather anew to investigate the ambiguous and undetermined, the unfinished and process driven, to find out what happens when conflict is the premise and not the exception. ¶

by Laura Epsom


Flynn (PICKING UP A SINGLE PIECE OF PAPER, HE PAUSES, THEN READS FROM IT:) The informal is opportunistic - an approach to design that seizes a local moment and makes something of it.
Ignoring preconception or formal layering and repetitive rhythm, the informal keeps one guessing. Ideas are not based on principles of rigid hierarchy, but on an intense exploration of …

ALICE (OFF) (INTERRUPTING, ALMOST SHOUTING) … The School breaksthrough the Academy's Fourth Wall!

Flynn (RESUMING) … the immediate. [1]


Flynn Art schools are becoming more like corporations, while corporations are becoming, or want to become, more like art schools. Discuss. [2]

ALICE Again?

CHORUS (OFF) The School is run by teachers, and managed by students, who are the same people.

The School never stays in the same place for more than half a year, half a day, half an hour.

ALICE Look at it this way. A glance across the disparate worlds of study, pedagogy or academia today may suggest an inversion of Gramsci’s adage about the crisis of his time and its morbid symptoms. (PAUSES, VOICE SHIFTS) Around us the new is dying, and the old cannot be born - scores of tiresomely new-fangled schemes, reforms, targets and initiatives continue to be aggressively rolled out, in observance of the twinned cults of austerity and innovation, while the simplest and oldest practices of reading, teaching, writing, studying are menaced with obsolescence, or travestied beyond recognition. [3]

CHORUS (OFF) The School stays small. The School has lots of friends.

The School is an Active Social Studio (ASS).

The School says “pay what you can, when you can”.

Flynn (MUMBLING, TO HIMSELF) There should be new rules next week? [4]


VOICE (ON TAPE) (CRACKLING) …this drive towards institutionalism… it undermines people. It diminishes their confidence in themselves, and in their capacity to solve problems… It kills convivial relationships… kills creativity. [5] The Art Academy has seemingly decoupled from an action-orientated experiential approach to learning – perhaps out of fear, perhaps as a by-product of a late-capitalist death drive, perhaps due to a pervasive agenda of over-intellectualisation and a ‘rational primacy’ at the centre of the enlightenment project…

CHORUS (OFF) The School has unexpected items in the bagging area.

Flynn Nothing extraneous, extra nothingness.

ALICE Did I tell you about the TOOCs?

Flynn No?

ALICE TOOCs - tiny open offline courses …

Flynn (PAUSE) And the Fourth Wall? While we make interventions in the studio, the project, the programme - places largely unbothered by, or sometimes welcoming of, these critiques and interjections - the Academy, reflective enough to be able to recognise a meta-narrative when it sees one, carries on uneffected and uncaring. As long as this all happens in the benign space of the studio, and business as usual prevails, these 'disruptions' are considered a credibility enhancing bonus, operating at a safe distance, and do little to trouble the core operating logic of the institution.

CHORUS (OFF) The School says longevity is not necessarily a benchmark of success.



[1] Cecil Balmond
[2] Paul Finn
[3] Alberto Toscano
[4] Sister Corita
[5] Ivan Illich ¶

A conversation on the motives, beliefs, and shared experience of the participants and co-organisers of Parallel School (Berlin), Utopia School (New York), Free Cooper Union (New York) and Relearn (Brussels).

Dear friends,

Let us introduce ourselves. We are Inside Out; a temporary school within The Glasgow School of Art.

Inside Out assembled on 2nd December 2014 at The Glasgow School of Art in the corridors of the newly built School of Design. Our aim was to explore the tensions present within institutional education, more precisely, the tensions which exist between inside and outside art school. The activities we planned were intended to create discussion by manifesting these tensions in a series of symbolic and functional acts. The most basic of these was the displacement of work from the classroom into the corridors of the school. Chairs, tables and other objects were then assembled, modified and combined to create temporary partitions, seating and general infrastructure for the after-noon’s working groups. The idea of conflict as a methodology, as discussed by Markus Miessen and Chantal Mouffe [1], was a key reference point, as were past pedagogical projects such as The Antiuniversity [2] and Hidden Curriculum by Annette Krauss.[3]

As the final act of Inside Out, we are compiling a pamphlet on art and design education projects which will be available for free in print and online. It is an opportunity for us to share what we have learnt over the course of Inside Out, and collect the experience and advice of other education groups.

[1] The Nightmare of Participation By Markus Miessen. Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2010. Agonistics: Thinking The World Politically by Chantel Mouffe. London and New York: Verso, 2013.
[2] The Antiuniversity of London was a short-lived and intense experiment into self-organised education and communal living that took off at 49 Rivington St. in Shoreditch in February 1968. www.antihistory.org
[3] Annette Krauss, Hidden Curriculum, 2012.

Based on your experience, how do you view self-organised education, teaching and learning projects?
<Robert Preusse and Stefanie Rau> The most interesting aspect of this question is hidden in the little word ‘self-’. Although studying at an art university usually requires a self-determined study structure, an overarching, institutional structure remains, and there is a huge difference between following this structure and actually creating your own by self-organising and determining alternatives. ‘Self-organised’ initiatives create a common space for exchange and reflection which stands outside of an accredited learning ­system that often isolates individuals: the shift of responsibilities, of decision making, and the setting of a framework for teaching and learning changes how one can act within this space in which possibilities and rules are negotiated and determined collectively.

<Jaime Iglehart> I view self-organized teaching as a crucial tool for world-making. In devising our own framework and our own classes, we create spaces of pure desire. Creating a pre-figurative space is almost like practicing dream work – we dream the dream of what we would like to see in our reality, and collectively we support and actualize these dreams in a kind of trial run or liminal space. These spaces are by definition marginal, unofficial, unaccredited. Open spaces such as free schools are laboratories both for the knowledge we wish to disseminate as content and experimentation within our classes, as well as the very process of protecting our spaces of learning as ‘safe spaces.’ Learning how to change together as a group and to deal with unwanted behavior is a necessary intertwined process.

What role do you think these projects play?
<Robert Preusse and Stefanie Rau> Self-organised initiatives can enable reflection on institutionalised education and initiate a change in attitudes towards it.

<Jaime Iglehart> I guess the question I would ask is, ‘What role do these projects play and in what context?’ The first session of the Utopia School took place in a DIY arts space, and I would say the role it played in that context was a transformative one – although ultimately limited in its powers of transformation on the scale of even such a small arts space. The Utopia School itself was occupying space within that arts collective, so the affect it had on the people actively involved in the school was something different to the affect it had on its host institution. The Utopia School is designed to be a nomadic project, landing for periods of time to gather a group of people together, and then moving on to the next space, so I think it’s only natural that the role of the school in the world at large is also of a nomadic nature. The main gifts which the first session of Utopia School brought to the world are more molecular in nature, forming strong relational connections and moments of realisation for people who participated. Since that session ended, many of the participants remain in close contact, working on separate projects together, traveling together, and so forth.

<Tyler Paige> Self-organized education experiments and projects have given me a vantage point to look at the institutions I would otherwise not question. I think there are a lot of anxieties and feelings of oppression that happen within educational institutions that individuals often do not confront or even realize until they’re outside that institution. Within the institutions of which I’ve been a part, constantly being caught up in some sort of esprit de corps prevents time for reflection; and worse it prevents time to respect others’ reflections. My experience with institutions has shown me they tend to have strong momentums – for better or worse. When we organize our own educations, I’ve found that we can confront our institutions. We can choose to supplement them or we can choose to circumvent them.

<Eric Schrijver> For me, self-organised education projects are all about reframing the role of the individual in art and design. Like Robert and Steffi mention, art education isolates individuals – they are almost exclusively graded individually. A student is supposedly already busy constructing their body of work apart from others.

This individualism continues after studies, especially in fine arts. You can see it in the way artists talk about what they do: in my work, in my practice, etc. Curators teach artists to talk this way. It is the logic of the market: to sell work, it has to be scarce, and objects made by a very special individual are, by virtue of their creator being special, special themselves.

What is worrying in this, to me, is that artists spend too much time in trying to figure out how they are unique. They talk about their practice as some kind of sealed-off ecosystem. Yet if their work is going to have any impact - whether socially or emotionally – it is because their interests are not unique, but they are shared: shared with other artists, shared with the audience.

I don’t mean to negate individuality – I think an individual has agency, and the individual mind can be a fertile breeding ground where ideas mingle and new ideas, visions come to fruition. But the extent to which individuals can act upon their ideas is completely dependent on the links they have forged with the others around them.

Organising ones own education is a way of re-asserting that you care. You care about the people with which you think, work and exchange, and the structures that make this possible. And you take responsibility for these structures.

For the Inside Out school workshop, working from within an institution was a defining part of the project; it provided a critical framework and gave us access to resources that we would have otherwise struggled to find. In your opinion, what is the relationship of self-organised education projects, groups and movements to the Academy?
<Robert Preusse and Stefanie Rau> To have access to resources is an important practical aspect, but it is also interesting to appropriate and adapt this space where usually other rules apply. To open and change conditions within the often highly exclusive space of art institutions, can create productive tensions and function as an integrative force in the Academy.

<Jaime Iglehart> The Utopia School was not intended as an alternative or appendage to academia, but was intended to come out of the rich history of free and cooperative schools, particularly the practices of squatted social centres in London, such as the House of Brag. Because of the harsh anti-squatting laws in London currently, squatted social centres have had to move often. In response to this, the squatters decided to plan for a short occupation period, and therefore to spend months in advance planning a program of workshops. The House of Brag is a squatted queer social centre, and was a huge inspiration to me in working on Utopia School. Being in an explicitly queer educational space opened a field of possibility to me. So, not only does the Utopia School hope to emerge from these traditions, but also to study them and pass on knowledge about their operational structure! On this front we are at the beginning.

If I were to draw connections between the Utopia School and academia, the connected dots would again come through the participants, some of whom work within academia and some of whom came to the school out of a disillusionment with their formal education. It has been of interest to keep the proliferation of academia-speak, and the tendency towards academic ‘debate’ (needlessly shredding each other’s perspectives rather than building on them – see David Graeber, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology) more or less out of the Utopia School, and rather to keep it as a place where conflicting ideas can flourish.

<Tyler Paige> Personally, I associate working inside and outside of existing institutions with having pretty different goals. When Free Cooper Union took over the college president Jamshed Bharucha’s office, we set up an exhibition that was at once part of and separate from the yearly Cooper Union End of the Year Show (EOYS). The yearly show Show Up occupied the bottom six floors of the building, while our Step Down (one big yikes to both titles) took the top floor. Show Up organized work into supposed disciplines: painting, printmaking, photography, video, sculpture, architecture. Step Down, by contrast, attempted to acknowledge that virtually none of us was working exclusively in these disciplines; and so we tried to mix all of these things. We invited artists, writers, activists, etc. to present ideas and conversations, with this blackboard that seemed to follow us wherever we went. All of that sort of made a little school inside of the school. But mostly the purpose of that parasite school was directed towards rethinking its context: the larger institution. Of course, there were lessons there that extended into all of our individual practices – like a few students who came out of Free Cooper Union and are now bringing in voices that are otherwise absent from our school – but largely we were gathered for the sake of Cooper Union itself. I mean, we were totally a parasite. We used Cooper’s space, piggybacked off their exhibition’s publicity, and took advantage of their foot-traffic.

But with the project space I’ve been running with my best friend and roommate, David Johnson, our eyes are focused somewhere else. We are still finding ourselves having a loosely organized ‘school’ (writing workshops, crit club, activist presentations, and soon some computer classes), but these things are less centralized around an existing structure. Working outside of Cooper Union has allowed us to avoid so much focus on rethinking or fixing. We’ve adopted an attitude of making these school-type projects necessarily shortterm and shape-shifting; and we hope that lets us constantly improve. I don’t think this is something we could have accomplished inside of a place that has been around since 1859.

In our experience pedagogy projects are exhaustive in the way that they work – they are driven by intensive bursts of activity – this can be positive but also limiting. In your view, which ways of working or organisational structures have achieved their objective?
<Robert Preusse and Stefanie Rau> There is no failing in experiments, every effort enables learning and furthers understanding. For us, Parallel School has been successful in creating an inspiring space for a limited amount of time. Our engagement in Parallel School has had a big influence on the relationships we have formed. It has effectively changed our attitude towards the academy and the way we study. In this sense, we think it has achieved the objective of empowering students. 

<Jaime Iglehart> There are many examples of free and experimental schools which have had a positive impact on the people involved. I think ‘a positive impact’ is the only measure of success, and it is a completely subjective measurement. In the US, state schools have standardized tests to measure successful education, but these tests are a complete abomination. Free and experimental schools, must follow a different logic. In a subjective measurement, only the people involved with the project can say whether it was worth their time. If enough people say it was worthwhile to continue the project or to spawn another, then it must have been a success.

A more concrete example of a success story might be Paideia, an anarchist free school for and run by children located in Merida, in southwest Spain. The school is famously difficult to gain access to, but there is a wonderful account of it in the recent publication, Anarchist Pedagogies: Collective Actions, Theories, and Critical Reflections on Education.

<Tyler Paige> Kind of following from my last comments about shape-shifting, we’ve found that the ability to fluidly change structures is vital. When structures become unaccommodating or inflexible, the structure is no longer helpful and it needs to change. If I knew which type of organization worked best, I would gladly tell; but ultimately it is too complex for a prescription. I will say I am bit sceptical of the Occupy-type organizations that seem to get haphazardly reproduced everywhere because I think they convince people that there is more horizontalism than in actuality. But as a general rule, I’ve found that an almost puritanical level of documentation helps things run smoothly. Having a record of organization and why things are organized in such a way – as well as having that record easily accessible – will help everyone stay on the same page. Importantly, it will also help people who are new.

<Eric Schrijver> For artists and designers, it can be highly refreshing to get to know communities in which self-organised learning and collaboration are the norm. For me this was the case with the Free and Open Source Software movement.

In an institutional education framework the roles can be quite fixed. A teacher is a teacher, a student a student. In Free Software, the role is context-dependent. If you start a project, you are tacitly considered the ‘lead developer’, the person with the vision for where the project should go, and people who contribute to the project are at first more like helping hands. Yet these contributors might have their own projects where they are the lead developer. And these roles then shift over time.

Art schools that favour such an approach do seem to exist. For some time the artists coming out of the institutional framework of DASarts in Amsterdam would be people constantly working on each others’ projects, but shift roles: they’d act in a piece one of their colleagues directed, and vice versa. But these are exceptions to what I’ve seen.

So as to the role, then, of these self-organised pedagogy projects: I think they can adapt alternative approaches to collaboration and education as found, for instance, in Free and Open Source Software, and make them function in the context of art and design. Of course they do not have the resources to make it last for years, with thousands of people – maybe it is just one week. But you hope that some germs spread, some ideas infect.

What advice would you give someone who wants to organise an education project in their school or community?
<Robert Preusse and Stefanie Rau> We don’t know if we are in a position to ‘give advice’. Of course experience is the best teacher but we think we can still learn a lot from each other. Projects like 'the TEACHABLE FILE' have been useful but also the legacy and documentations of past Parallel Schools have helped us a lot to start our own journey into the topic. This is why we try to document our activities, so we can leave traces and allow others to adopt and learn from them. Parallel School is an open format that can and should be picked up and continued.

<Jaime Iglehart> Find a free or experimental school/class to attend and visit it. There are lots of initiatives already taking place. If you live near a major city, chances are there is something going on. Do a little research and see if you can meet some people who are already trying it out. If no one is studying what you want to study, try to find a local community or arts space/collective that you appreciate. Decide what you want to study (maybe a cyborg feminist reading group, for example?). Promote your activity through the space’s list-server and other social media, do some flyering in the neighborhood (laundromats, cafés, bookstores) and see how it goes!

<Tyler Paige> It seems right to underscore Jaime Iglehart here: seek out the work that others may be doing. People are experimenting in many cities. It’s important to recognize that many educational and pedagogical projects are the results of conversations and collaboration inside and between groups. If nothing else, some experience with others’ projects may help demonstrate what a new project could look like. ¶


<Robert Preusse> studied Visual Communication in Berlin, is part of the collective Verein der Gestaltung and currently studies at the Center for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths in London.

<Stefanie Rau> studied Visual Communication in Berlin. Currently she works as a graphic designer and studies within the Critical Studies department at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam.

<Jaime Iglehart> is a filmmaker, multimedia artist and co-founder of Utopia School. Her work explores questions of consumption, ownership, individualism and the process of filmmaking within the context of non-hierarchical collectivism.

<Tyler Paige> is an artist based in New York. He has worked with and through Free Cooper Union and co-runs 266w25st, a shape-shifting no-stakes patent-pending rent-controlled art space, with David Johnson.

<Eric Schrijver> is a Dutch graphic designer, programmer, artist and author. He works within the design collective Open Source Publishing and has given workshops at various art schools throughout Europe. He teaches coding at KABK (The Hague).

Parallel School (Berlin) is a network and workshop model that aims to offer an environment for self–education in the context of art and design. Parallel School belongs to no one. It has no location. It is not teaching. It is learning. www.parallel-school.org

Utopia School (New York) is a learning-project that aims to share information about spaces and initiatives, that re-imagine the world in some crucial way, and work towards new ones. www.utopiaschool.org

Free Cooper Union (New York) is an organization of students and alumni dedicated to abolishing tuition at Cooper Union and working against an expansionist model. Cooper Union has a 150-year history of providing free education. www.freecooperunion.org www.cusos.org

Relearn(Brussels) is a summer school making use of and inspired by the culture of Free and Open Source Software. Relearn welcomes persons, artists, students, and teachers from all backgrounds and disciplines. Participants gather to learn from and teach each other, beyond the traditional paradigms of education. http://relearn.be

Open Source Publishing (Brussels) was founded in 2006. OSP is a collective, or more specifically a caravan, that makes graphic design using only free and open source software. www.osp.kitchen

Ruins and new beginnings

Strelka Institute, Moscow

Notes from a small island opposite the Kremlin

An interview with David Erixon, current Programming Director at the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow, and co-founder of Hyper Island; a school that aspires to do the very opposite of everything he had experienced as a student in Sweden.

Sophie Dyer Can you describe your own experience of education?

David Erixon In Sweden there is a peer-to-peer education system, it is a grassroots movement that has been around for over a hundred years. You can take part at any point during your life, study anything and be self-organised – what the platform provides is state funding.

I got involved at a young age because my friends and I were interested in role-playing games. We were into Dungeons & Dragons but couldn’t afford to buy the expensive and hard to get English materials so we formed our own study circle and applied for funding. We were then given the money to buy the materials in the hope that we would run the role-playing sessions in English. It was a way for us to educate ourselves.

So that’s where the idea of ‘Hyper’ came from – as much as we can learn from experts in the field, we can also self organise and facilitate our own futures. It is incredibly empowering and brings a motivation that is intrinsic, rather than extrinsic such as grades.

Sweden’s tradition of peer-to-peer learning comes from the labour movement because at that point reading and writing was exclusive to the middle and upper classes. It is the reason that Sweden reached the highest literacy rates in the world a hundred years ago. People who could read and write could help others to learn. There were other grassroots movements, such as the liberal movement and the farmers movement, which adopted similar principles. Today there are four or five different organisations in Sweden that are structuring this idea of parallel learning.

Mainstream Swedish education and I think this is true for most formal education, only premières one type of learning. That is what I would refer to as abstract learning, it is about facts, data and analysing – it is a very intellectual process. We now know a lot more about how people learn and that abstract learning is only one way in which we access new knowledge and behaviours. Learning by doing goes back to an old Greek idea. It was Aristotle who said; ‘What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.’ A lot of the time the way in which we adapt and learn is by trying things out and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

Observation is another form of learning that is incredibly important. The final stage of learning is reflection. A lot of people never do this, yet it accelerates your learning hugely.

I started Hyper Island when I was very young, only 21, and had just come out of university. Our manifesto was: no classroom, no teachers, no students, no books, no tests, no grades. Everything we had associated with traditional ways of learning, we banned!

Haptic Cities workshop at Strelka, Summer 2014

SD Experimentation means taking risks, so how can a school be responsible for the education of a body of students and open to failure?

DE I think you have put the finger on it; personal risk and institutional risk. Fear of failure drives institutions and individuals to do more of what they already know. We get stuck in an incremental cycle, we take what is already there and try to make it a little better. If you really want to change a paradigm you can’t take what is already there and make it a little bit better, you must have the freedom to try something entirely new. Your risk exposure increases and that can be very uncomfortable. We know that the best and most powerful learning takes place outside your comfort zone.

Strelka is a completely independent institution. We invented the undergraduate programme, it is not part of an existing university system. Consequently, we are free to take more risks and we view failing as part of the learning experience.

SD Can you describe Strelka’s approach to education?

DE Strelka is a nine month postgraduate programme. We want people who have been through formal education and have been working for a few years. The institute is research driven and focuses on the future of urbanism.

How we can build better cities that are better equipped for now and the future? Many cities were built for industry, yet urbanism came into being because we needed people to work in factories. This meant we needed to congregate lots of people in one place - cities were very much based on the demands of nationalism and industrialism. Today we face a completely different economy, one that is an information economy; it is about people and creativity. People are moving online; this is the largest migration that has taken place over the last ten years.

Our hypotheses is that we need to be far more people centred and to think about abstract issues, like quality of life. In a way, research is not enough so we try to do several things simultaneously: our approach is focused on things that are currently going on and their historical context, and this enables us to see emerging patterns. We then try to learn from the future, which is something very abstract and strange but we believe it is possible. After all, we create the future; it is not a projection. We create it together.

SD Multidisciplinary working is often referred to as an ideal but few institutions manage to achieve it. What is the reality in your experience?

DE The answer is that it requires a new way of studying – we call it facilitative learning. We need new ways of bringing people together and accessing the intelligence of that collective. I have seen a lot of interdisciplinary work turn into debating clubs, who is right and who is wrong.

The teacher needs to play a different role too, no longer are we standing there being the expert and telling people what to do or what the answer is. Instead your role as a teacher is as a facilitator trying to create an open environment where the students can leave their comfort zone and be willing to look at the world in new ways.

We call the process action or participatory learning. I would say that this is a particular challenge in Russia and with Russian students because they have such an autocratic system. Students don’t necessarily see each other as resources; you go into the classroom and face forwards, you don’t face each other. It sounds simplistic but it is true that you need to change the energy and dynamics in the environment itself, you need to start to face each other.

SD This year's theme at Strelka is, ‘Ten Fundamental Questions for the Future’. Do you believe that speculative design can effect real change?

DE Yes

SD So you think that it is not just an intellectual activity but one that can translate into real change?

DE A lot of design and design theory comes from a way of thinking that assumes there is a problem to be solved – this focuses your attention on all the things that are not working.

There is a different approach, which is to ask, ‘What is working?’ Academics talk about appreciative enquiry. What I like about appreciative enquiry is that the world is not a problem to be solved. Questions and how we frame them are fundamental to where we end up. I believe that there are more and less powerful questions. To ask yourself a ‘yes or no’ question is not very powerful. What is more powerful is to ask questions around ‘how and why’ as it opens up creative thinking.

View of the Kremlin from Bolotny Ostrov (Bog Island)

SD I agree but this is still quite an academic approach.

DE Absolutely, but sometimes when you ask the right question new ways of thinking emerge. Questions are very interesting.

Previously at Strelka, we set a theme or focused on something of interest that was going on. This year with Winy Maas we are trying to say, ‘What are some fundamental, interesting and creative questions?’ When you ask an interesting question you realise that there may not be a particular skill, discipline or person that can answer it. Instead it must be explored by a collective.

In Strelka we are not just running a postgraduate course, we have a public programme and a publishing house. So at the core of our activities is the question, ‘How can what we do create a ripple effect that reaches the world outside?’

SD The academy can be a refuge from industry. I am interested in the transition between what goes on inside Strelka and what goes on outside.

How do you see students engaging with the issues they investigate beyond or after Strelka? Can you give an example?

DE Firstly, we have not been around that long, the institution is only four years old – that is a short period of time to see and understand the impact of what we are doing. What Strelka has managed to do so far is introduce the idea of public space in Russia which didn’t really exist before. I think that is a big achievement.

Now there is a conversation in Russia about public space and shared space. We have been involved in transforming Gorky Park and are working on a similar project for a new park near Red Square.

SD I am surprised that there is a lack of awareness about public space in Russia, as so many public facilities and buildings were built during the Soviet Union.

DE The idea that something belonging to the state does not necessarily belong to the citizens is interesting.

SD Do you call the work that the students do at Strelka political or does that not make sense in the context of Russia?

DE I think it is highly political … which is interesting because we are opposite the Kremlin!

SD You don’t think it’s compromising that Strelka is a private school? Embedded in the Moscow elite? That seems at odds with many of the things we (in Western Europe) think are so important to education, like autonomy.

DE It makes total sense if you understand Russia. In Moscow what Strelka is famous for is the amazing summer programmes, the parties, the bar, the terrace. And yet, what has been going on at the school is…

SD Disruptive?

DE Yes!

SD We will end the interview by returning to our initial conversation on independent study groups.

As I understand, autodidacticism promotes equality and non-hierarchical learning. In many countries neoliberal and free-market policy has lead to a cut in government services. The British government are promoting community-led initiatives to fill the gap. I am interested to know if you think neoliberalism has effectively hijacked grassroots education movements that have a very different political ideology.

For example, lots of new community-led education projects have been set-up in the UK recently but it is hard to tell if this is a good or bad thing!

DE Well maybe that is not the right question.

SD What do you think is the right question?

Moscow, Summer 2014

DE I think that knowledge is power and whether you believe in the free-market or not, the free-market will only work if people have the freedom of choice. Personally I don’t think there is anything such as free will but there is freedom of choice. Freedom of choice is directly related to how much you know and how aware you are of the long and short term implications of your decisions.

I take a sociologist’s view on this as I truly believe that knowledge is power. In an agricultural society, where land was distributed to nobles and aristocrats and knowledge was owned by the church, knowledge was liberated by the printing press. These days you don’t need a university for knowledge, rightly or wrongly, you can go to Google. Whoever controls the internet now has the power.

In Russia the situation is concrete – what you don’t know, you don’t know. In order for people to have the opportunity to choose the kind of life they want to live, you must give them better tools with which to understand the world.

SD Is it fair to say that is the new urgency of design?

DE Yes, I truly believe this is the role of design today. You either use your design skills to give power to the few or you create design that is more open and allows people to shape their lives based on an expanded awareness. ¶

 come (all you
 hatchers hatch 
 mischief)all you 
 e.e. cummings 

›The Pinky Show, created by Pinky & Bunny, is the world’s only independent super lo–tech radical metaeducational project by cats. We live in the desert.‹

Local Observations
Thom Swann

Design work featured on design blogs is often that which looks instantly eye-catching in the fast-paced world of digital media, where the average time spent on an article is a matter of seconds. Why would you look at these blogs for ‘inspiration’? In particular, why would you only look at these sites when the work selected is chosen as much for its value as a visual commodity as it is for being an interesting piece of design? These sites provide a service, can be a good promotional tool, and not all are as shallow as many assume. Often good writing with much to say is featured on these websites but it regularly wallows in the visitor ratings compared to more simple, image-heavy pieces; you can’t read a thousand-word article in five seconds flat. I know from first-hand experience of being a reasonably-recent graduate the openness with which people reference online sites featuring the work of contemporary designers as sources of – to put it generously – inspiration: they are too readily the primary learning resource of many design students, and to be featured on them is the main aspiration.

If one looks to the local, however, an aesthetic can be produced that is unique to a location, or, if not unique, it will at least have an integrity created through acknowledgement of context and tradition. This may sound like a conservative point of view to put across but I don’t believe it is. When referring to the ‘local’, it doesn’t have to mean simply your immediate surroundings but also where you grew up, where your family are from, where your clients are from, a place you or they once visited and felt at home – preferably, ‘local’ is a mix of all of these things. If it is possible to take inspiration from the local environment and your own unique combination of what is local to you, your work will reflect that and in doing so reject the inhumane and bland internationalism that is the default visual aesthetic of global capitalism.

Photograph of Standen, a house designed by the Arts and Crafts architect Philip Webb in 1894. Webb designed Standen to look like it had evolved naturally over the years, emerging out of the local landscape, using different styles true to the historical buildings in the area. Materials were sourced nearby, including sandstone from a medieval quarry in the grounds of the building.

If one looks to the local, however, an aesthetic can be produced that is unique to a location, or, if not unique, it will at least have an integrity created through acknowledgement of context and tradition. This may sound like a conservative point of view to put across but I don’t believe it is. When referring to the ‘local’, it doesn’t have to mean simply your immediate surroundings but also where you grew up, where your family are from, where your clients are from, a place you or they once visited and felt at home – preferably, ‘local’ is a mix of all of these things. If it is possible to take inspiration from the local environment and your own unique combination of what is local to you, your work will reflect that and in doing so reject the inhumane and bland internationalism that is the default visual aesthetic of global capitalism.

Vernacular and traditional forms of design became increasingly sidelined throughout the mechanisation of the twentieth century. In returning to them with a keen eye, we argue that each town being an identical replica of the next is not a good thing and that each piece of student design replicating that of any other students’ from across the world is no good thing either. Learning from what’s local is more powerful than anything you might learn in a mass-produced design anthology or on any blog because it roots your work in something material and places you in a recognisable context through which your work can be appreciated as distinctly your work. It places you outside of the historically and geographically anonymous junkspace that capitalism and the internet have created; it’s the difference between your work belonging to you where you are located, and belonging out in the purgatorial ether of the internet.

In commissioned work it might seem hard to embrace this idea of reflecting the local, especially for graphic designers, but it can be there in the ways that modernity is apparent in a simple A4, Arial-set office memo. The local moves beyond the default and the systematised; one approach of reflecting the local is to ask what do the presiding historical styles and aesthetics of your local area favour? More simply, though, is the utter and total importance of just looking. Looking at everything you pass in your daily life, and really observing colour, form and proportions of both the natural and manmade world. When one looks intently, one can then ask how can the proportions of a local building style, for example, be adopted, played with and referenced in design practice. Or, how can the faded lettering painted on a boarded up shop or the amateurish but vital lettering on the local fast food outlet be interpreted into a piece of work. It’s important, though, that this isn’t done absent mindedly – tradition is helpful, it defines what we come to expect and is therefore an important part of communicating effectively. Change for the sake of change only ever highlights the designer’s ego, rather than improving communication. When looking to the vernacular for inspiration, designers should look for past president in what they are currently trying to convey and create, not simply appropriate styles and use them uncritically until they come flashing in, and then out, of fashion.

In working with local styles, materials, motifs, colours and proportions one is resuscitating, and creating new, local knowledge that has been lost, or soon will be – and injecting new life into what may be deemed a peripheral region by the centralising forces of global capital. In this sense, working with the local is a direct critique of the metropolis-centric international political system, but it is also a functioning visual language: one which works as more than a quasi-artistic critique while also providing an active opportunity for research for the engaged designer. ¶

Reading List

i. six nonlectures ich. sechs nichtvorträge
e.e. cummings
Langwiesche-Brandt KG Ebenhausen,
Munich 1953

(tTF) is a working catalogue of alternative art schools and a reference on education-as-art

On the Political
Chantal Mouffe
New York 2005

Agonistics: Thinking The World Politically
Chantal Mouffe
New York 2013

Art And Leisure In The Age Of Neoliberalism
Sarah Lowndes
Glasgow 2014

Art Education: A Glossary
Tom Vandeputte (ed.)
Studio for Immediate Spaces, Sandberg Instituut,­
Amsterdam 2014

Pedagogy of The Oppressed
Paulo Freire
Herder & Herder,
New York 1970

Teaching to Transgress
Bell Hooks
New York 1994

The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation
Jacques Rancière
Stanford University Press,
California 1987

After School Club II Content or not?!
After School Club
Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach,
Offenbach 2013

Junk Jet N°6: Here and Where
Asli Serbest, Mona Mahall (eds.),
Stuttgart 2012

The Design of Scarcity
Jon Goodbun, Michael Klein, Andreas Rumpfhuber and Jeremy Till,
Strelka Press
Moscow 2014

Was ist Universität? Texte und Positionen zu einer Idee
Unbedingte Universitäten Diaphanes,
Zürich 2010

What is a Designer
Norman Potter
Hyphen Press,
London 2002

Stine Hebert & Anne Szefer Karlsen (eds.)
Open Editions,
London 2013

The Nightmare of Participation (Crossbench Praxis as a Mode of Criticality)
Markus Miessen
Sternberg Press,
Berlin 2010

On the Word Design: An Etymological Essay
Vilém Flusser, John Cullars
Design Issues Vol. 11,
No. 3, MIT Press,
Massachusetts 1993

Contestations: Learning from Critical Experiments in Education
Tim Ivison and Tom Vandeputte (eds.)
Bedford Press,
London 2013

Can Jokes Bring Down Governments?
Strelka Press,
Moscow 2013

Critical Spatial Practice 4: Subtraction
Keller Easterling, Nikolaus Hirsch and Markus Miessen (eds.)
Sternberg Press,
Berlin 2014

(Only an Attitude of Orientation)
Stuart Bailey,
Office for Contemporary Art Norway,
Oslo 2009

Towards a Critical Faculty
Stuart Bailey,
Parsons School of Design,
New York 2006

Critical Spatial Practice 1: What is Critical Spatial Practice?
Nikolaus Hirsch, Markus Miessen (ed.)
Sternberg Press,
Berlin 2012

Design Beyond Design
Jan van Toorn (ed.)
Jan van Eyck Akademie Editions,
Cambridge 1998

Architectural Space as Agent
Markus Miessen (ed.)
Fillip Editions,
Vancouver 2012

A Gesture Waves Us On, Answering Our Own Wave
Anna Mikkola and Hanna Nilsson (eds.)
Berlin 2014

Truth is Concrete
Florian Malzacher and steirischer herbst (eds.)
Sternberg Press,
New York 2014

Who Told You So? The Collective Story vs. The Individual Narrative
Freek Lomme (ed)
Eindhoven 2013


This publication is documentation of the Inside Out School workshop and the conversations that led to and succeeded it. Inside Out School was commissioned in 2014 by A Feral Studio. The workshop at The Glasgow School of Art was organised by Toni Brell, Sophie Dyer, Rosie Eveleigh and Thom Swann.

Publication edited and designed by Toni Brell and Sophie Dyer. Subedited by George Alabaster.

An edition of 300 Published in Glasgow, October 2015 Printed by 21 Colour, Glasgow

We are exceptionally grateful to everyone who has been supportive of the project by contributing their texts, ideas and enthusiasm. In particular, we would like to thank: Anne Behrndt, David Erixon, Neil McGuire, Jaime Iglehart, Laura Epsom, Rosie Eveleigh, Gordon Brady, Kirstin Kerr, Anna-Luise Lorenz, Tyler Paige, Pinky & Bunny, Robert Preusse, Margot Samel, Stefanie Rau, Eric Schrijver and André Wunstorf.

A Feral Studio is supported by The Glasgow School of Art.


This publication is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Toni Brell is a student at Weißensee University of the Arts Berlin and edits the Tumblr moderndepictionsofdeath.tumblr.com.

Sophie Dyer Sophie Dyer is a ​designer​​ and student at the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, she also contributes to the bilingual Chinese-English journal Concrete Flux. www.sophiedyer.net