The Margate School Workshop
Exciting workshop with under- and post-graduate art students in Le Havre in October 2016. Outcomes will help TMS to shape its future programmes with ESADHaR.
“The beginnings of all things are small”, Cicero
The Margate School
A new post-graduate level liberal arts school where people matter, guided by project-based collaborative learning in the expanded field, nurturing independent thinking, inspired by Margate's past and passionate about the future. We are writing in the hope that you would engage with and support our initiative. But before then we encourage you to read the below and consider the last point in exploring what has to be done.
It was in ancient Greece that Plato established a school, thought to be the first school of higher education in the Western world, that would seek to remove itself from the ‘corrupt’ world of experience focusing on inquiry and calculation, distinguishing the visible from the intelligent, practice from theory. The real would remain forever elusive to the craftsperson, to the artist. He thought not too highly of the practicing crafts and arts, the latter perceived as being a third removed from the truth. Only through dialectic method and intelligence could we get close to the absolute good. Only the few, the philosophers educated in his school, in his method of enquiry, would be able to get close to that ideal, and this ideal rests within a world of order and the control of that order, something which will never be found in the world of experience; theory over practice, order over chaos.
In The Margate School, we value practice and everyday life, the ordinary, the modest is our home out of which ambition, excellence and insights can grow and return to. As Olive Schreiner, the South African socialist and anti-war campaigner once observed during her stay in East London in the late 19th century: “Though it [a one-bedroom flat of poor a Jewish family she was invited into] had all the misery and confinement which extreme poverty means in a great city, I had yet often a curious feeling that it was a home”. There is no need to emphasize separation, the world around us has already taken care of that, and we resist and we unite. The longing to belong is in agreement with our desire to free ourselves from restraint. We want a home that makes us free.
But then, we are all producers in one way or another in and of our world, be it of things (functional, useful, decorative, technical or otherwise), of structures, systems and networks, of processes, thoughts, ideas and theories. As producers, we engage and interact in a world in which we will always remain less than proficient yet remain part of it. We form whilst being formed. The ability to learn provides us with a unique tool to explore and help shape that world.
In our ambition to establish The Margate School we acknowledge that education, organised education, is a privilege, indeed to engage in meaningful practice is a privilege. Few can afford the time to reflect, to learn about what might be of value and what less so; to learn and apply skills in a meaningful, socially and environmentally sensitive way. Here the learner becomes aware at the very moment of learning that she has entered the realm of verstehen, partaking in the onset of erudition, of enlightenment. Yet for many of us, learning takes place in intensive bursts in particular periods of our lives, institutionalised and structured, didactic and not always constructive (“A great fault in teaching [is] that children are not made to learn themselves but are always taught", Samuel Hartlib 1600 - 1662). In The Margate School we seek to extend that learning potential and privilege, we seek to do this in the expanded field, through art and design practice, philosophical reflection, scientific exploration, technological enquiry, engagement in permanent culture, sociological investigations. Our motto is thus officinae humanitatis - fabricando fabricamur (studios of humanity - we become humans as we engage humanly in the world we occupy - Johannes Comenius).
At least since the industrial revolution, the unfettered growth and circulation of capital, controlling production in pursuit of ideal efficiency has become the all-pervasive ingredient in our social relations and that has seeped into all corners of the world. The concomitant rationalisation of our thoughts, actions and structures now soaks our positivist world(s). Unsurprisingly, places and spaces across the globe, including resorts, schools and minds, sought to establish themselves as safe-havens, dens, aloof from such forces, in the hope to allow us to recuperate, retreat, reinvent or indeed revolt. In a dialectical twist these too wanted to remove themselves from reality but one which is now a much different to Plato’s Athens.
Yet, in a world of hyper-production and hyper-consumption, social inequality, human and environmental disasters the opportunity to learn should not be removed from life but be part of it. As Paulo Freire (1921 -997) pointed out “education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
We invite family, friends and like-minded peers from far and near to work and collaborate with us, The Margate School, to support us in our ambition to work in and for Margate, inspired by Margate's rich history going back to the early 18th century as a place to be. The Margate School is passionate about Margate’s future as it tries to reinvent itself in the 21st century. The invitation is to translate this experience into the students’ own places and spaces, wherever they may be. We seek to create exciting and unique learning experiences in and around Margate in a fascinating and contrasting social, cultural and natural setting to bring together international and local students, academics, artists, philosophers, scientists. The Margate School is a coming together of minds and passions, many years of observation and study of the world we live in, the many dialogues with our peers and friends, inspired by thinkers and makers in the arts, design, the sciences, humanities and philosophy, inspired also by the debate around pioneering and so-called ‘alternative school’ concepts, such as Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, the Summerhill School, Free International University, Cyprus College of Art, Nova Scotia College of Arts and Design, The New School for Social Research, the Frankfurt School and the University for the Trees. We are of course critical (“Knowledge which is divorced from justice may be called cunning rather than wisdom”, Cicero), but also practical and even humorous and hedonist about research, teaching and learning, as the philosopher Bertrand Russell said, “curious learning not only makes unpleasant things less unpleasant but also makes pleasant things more pleasant”. But before we can progress any further we need to elaborate our thoughts on structure and process, capital accumulation and working over time, preservation and change, power and resistance, place and space, divisions and integrations of labour.