Anti-Academy, John Hansard Gallery, 21 November 2013-18 January 2014
Anti-Academy, Students in Nakanishi class, Bigakkō, Tokyo

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 Bigakkō, Tokyo (installation by Yoshiko Shimada), the Intermedia Program, School of Art and Art History, at the University of Iowa (installation by Cornelia Schmidt-Bleek), and Ex-School, Copenhagen (film by Alice Maude-Roxby and Tom Chick).

The exhibition includes workshop materials and teaching developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s at Bigakkō 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 Program, 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 Nørgaard, John Davidsen, Peter Louis-Jensen and Henning Christiansen. The exhibition also showcases artefacts loaned from these archives: DVDs, photographs, journals, objects, teaching notes, instructions, correspondence between the institutions and artists, publicity materials and posters.

At the Intermedia Program at the University of Iowa, established by German artist Hans Breder, 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. Artists’ workshops were a key feature of the early days of the programme with students experiencing a direct experiential learning process through the participation within the making of a new work on site in Iowa. Emphasis was placed on the development of a collaborative relationship with the local community and the utilisation of the local landscape as site for the making of student work. Alongside a broader review of the archive, Anti-Academy includes works made with students (notably with the student cohort that included Ana Mendieta and Charles Ray) by Elaine Summers, Mary Beth Edelson and Vito Acconci.

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 Nørgaard 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 individual artistic creation, instead embracing group practice working collectively across genres and styles.

Bigakkō can be seen to draw most directly from its current political context. Founded in 1969 by the publishing house Gendaishichō-sha, infamous in their commitment to publishing an eclectic selection of controversial contemporary Japanese writing, alongside French philosophy and political theories, Bigakkō also exercised an extraordinary high-disciplined learn-ing environment to accompany their progressive literature.

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 Gendaishichō-sha, Bigakkō 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.

Anti-Academy is an 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.

Above: Students in the class of Nakanishi Natsuyuki, Bigakkō, Tokyo, 1970, photograph Morinaga Jun.