Allan Kaprow — The education of Un-Artists

“I would propose that the first practical step towards laughter is to un-art ourselves, avoid all aesthetic roles, give up all references to being artists of any kind whatever. An un-artist is one who is engaged in changing jobs, in modernizing. It is quite possible to shift the whole un-artistic operation slyly away from where the arts customarily congregate. To become, for instance, an account executive, an ecologist, a stunt rider, a politician, a beach bum. In these different capacities, the several kinds of art discussed would operate indirectly as a stored code, which, instead of programming a specific course of behavior, would facilitate an attitude of deliberate playfulness towards all professionalizing activities well beyond art.”

Allan Kaprow. 1971. ‘The education of UN-Artists, Part 1

Allan Kaprow’s ‘Deliberate playfulness’ is a perfect opener to my enquiry into creativity and learning. It is exactly this kind of Kaprow playfulness that is missing from many conventional learning spaces, in which western education seeks to process its students to make them ‘creative’.

** Interlude**

9.30am Just another ordinary day

Teacher ‘Good morning students’

Student(thinking) ‘ I hope there are no surprises’

Teacher(thinking) ‘ I hope I have prepared everything’

‘learning prepares your for dealing with surprises, education prepares you to cope with certainty’ Seth Goldin. The future of Learning.

The year is 2010 British Designer Neville Brody raises the flag of ‘Anti-Design’ The Anti Design Festival challenges all state conventions. and opens its doors to an unnerving public on exactly the same day as the annual London Design Festival does, separated by only a few blocks. . .

Under the banner of ADF Neville Brody gathers contributions of art and design that challenge contemporary stereotypes. Presenting work that is seen as un-commercial, dangerous, and anti-establishment. a response to 25 years of cultural deep freeze in the UK, exploring space hitherto deemed out-of-bounds by a purely commercial design criteria.

‘We have forgotten why we are here. We have lost touch with what makes us tick, what drives us. That fire of creative possibility has started to die, and it is time to re-light it. The Anti Design Festival was born out of a need for change. A need for something new, ugly, scary and dangerous. We welcome no_use, no_function and no_fear. We welcome anarchy, without the stereotypical.’ Neville Brody

Anti-Design can best be described as a state of transition from something which was fairly formed into something which is now entirely un-formed, un-formed to a point where its difficult to know what the function actually is. Not knowing, converse to all that you have been raised up to believe, is fundamentally a very good thing. As Seth Goldin assuredly affirms, ‘it is only when we don’t know, that we can then start having a conversation about things’. ‘Stop Stealing Dreams’ TED talk

One obstacle which education is now facing, is that our population at large, is growing more adept at self awareness. Technology has closed the gap between culture and the individual self and we now live with the sense that life is not linear, that its far more organic, and we now effortlessly engage with new forms of non linear activities much more symbiotically, as we create our lives and explore our talents in relation to the circumstances they help to create for us.

Many of our ideas governing formal education have been formed not to meet our personal circumstances, but to cope with the circumstances of previous centuries. Education now finds itself in a position where it has to sink or swim, or as Sir Ken Robinson exclaims ‘We have to disenthral ourselves’ from its dogmas.

Conor Harrington ‘A whole lot of trouble, for a little bit of win’

Consider for amoment how revolutions work, it first destroys the perfect and then enables the impossible. it is never a transition from very good to very good, theres always a lot of noise in the middle and this is where education has been. Education has moved very slowly, with the past generation of students limited by textbooks, bound by a system formed around the age of the industrial revolution, military in conception, and then suddenly… were connected, our learning is network accelerated, there is a transparency between student and teacher, proto- academies spring up and dissolve mentor/student hierarchy and there is a real engagement within the arts education system to nurture open dialogue with nonart/ industrial/ intellectual environments. The Masters program of Narrative Environments at Central St Martins, University of Arts, London is a very successful representation of the kind of non hierarchical student/teacher engagement that this enquiry supports.

‘Reform is no use anymore, because that’s simply improving a broken model. What we need is not evolution, but a revolution in education. This has to be transformed into something else.’ Sir K.Robinson. ‘Bring on the Learning Revolution’ TED Talk

If this current education is meant to take us into the ‘future that we cant grasp’ the processes which lead to creativity within the learning environment have to be completely rewritten, and it is the art department with all its reliance on the creative process that people will look to for having all the right credentials to lead us into this brave new world yes? .. not necessarily.

Google/ youtube/ instagram unabashedly demonstrate that there is an extraordinary macrocosm of human creative activity happening at all times and everywhere. Human communities depend upon diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability. The value of this everyday, everywhere, human creativity, filled with passion and fuelled by trying and trying, time and time again, failure after failure until one day success. This is where a true creative model can be found and these kind of learning techniques are what our future academies will need to adopt, as Seth Goldin declares education has a long way to go ‘if you want to teach someone to become passionate about something, why would you invent a text book?!’ The future of Learning

School has killed creativity and in his enigmatic TED talk of the same name Sir Ken Robinson asserts that ‘creativity.. is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.’

So what can we do to bring about the right change that will allow for a more fluid and organic approach to creativity within our classrooms?

If we listen to the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, Seth Goldin, Joi Ito, Sugata Mitra, Steph Heppell, Jose Ferrira Knewton, Daphne Koller, we hear a unanimous voice which proclaims:

We don’t process you and if you fail re-process you again We don’t sit you in straight rows.

We don’t build a system of interchangeable people like a factory based on interchangeable parts.

We do personalise the experience of education.

We give our students the space and support to solve interesting problems.

We forge a movement through which students can develop their own solutions, creatively.

We abolish means tests and multiple choices; memorising answers is a thing of the past.

We teach that failure is an integral part of success and that its fun.

We build our academies based on cooperation instead of isolation, why make students do things in isolation and then put them in the real world and tell them to cooperate?

We sit and explore together..


Bring on The Learning Revolution. Sir Ken Robinson

The Future Of Learning. Seth Goldin

Stop Stealing Dreams. Seth Goldin

Schools Kill Creativity. Sir Ken Robinson

Jaygo Bloom. EBAC — British School of Creative Arts. Sao Paulo. Brazil. Sharing narratives. Shaping perceptions. Connecting globally. Challenging the zeitgeist.