The Public School

The Public School timeline
September 2007: ‘The Public School’ starts in Los Angeles as a not very well thought out diagram. It is a school with no curriculum in which people propose classes that they want to take or teach. If enough people sign up for the class then the school will try to offer it. The school is located underneath the ‘Telic Arts Exchange’—literally in the basement. Website development begins.

January 2008: ‘Telic Arts Exchange’ holds an open house/orientation, culminating in a Richtfest, a celebration of the unfinished structure. Ninety classes proposed through website and on paper.

February 2008: First classes: “grant writing…” and “The Public School.” 130 classes have taken place since, beginning with “Rancière: The Politics of Aesthetics (and/as an Ethics),” to most recently, “The Egyptian Revolution and its Historical Context.”

September 2008: ‘The Public School’ moves to another, bigger, basement—formerly a Chinese Opera and Mahjong club.

January 2009: Development begins on the second version of the website, which provides for multiple school locations. Schools can see proposals from other schools and eventually copy classes from other schools.
‘AAAAARG’ Issues can now be synced with class proposals.

March 2009: ‘The Public School’ begins in Chicago through ‘Version Fest’. It will become the first school to shut down as everyone loses interest.

May 2009: ‘The Public School’ (sort of) begins in Philadelphia. On another timeline, it wouldn’t begin until January 2010 and on another, until January 2011.

July 2009: Class on “The Coming Insurrection” takes place—taught by Jason Smith in Los Angeles.

August 2009: The Los Angeles Public School moves into Win Sun, an old jewelry store. (Mahjong in the back.) The basement is given to awesome people who teach some classes called “Listening Parties.”

September 2009: ‘The Public School’ (for Architecture) begins in New York City in collaboration with the architecture office, common room. L’Ecole Publique begins in Paris with the support of Bétonsalon.

October 2009: ‘The Public School’ starts in Brussels—in a residency at ‘Nadine’—with the curatorial collective, ‘Komplot’.

December 2009: A class called “The Future of ‘The Public School’ (for Architecture)” decides to eliminate the “(for Architecture),” expand the committee, and share a space with ‘Triple Canopy’ and ‘Light Industry’.

January 2010: ‘The Public School’ begins in San Juan, Puerto Rico in support of ‘Beta-Local’ and ‘La Ivan Illich’.

February 2010: ‘The Public School’ begins in Helsinki. In Los Angeles meetings about “The UC Strikes and Beyond” lead to a two-day, twenty hour seminar with Brian Holmes in preparation for the March 4th strikes across California and the world.

March 2010: “Neoliberalism and Human Capital” class happens in Los Angeles. It is also taken to Helsinki.

July 2010: A seminar “There is nothing less passive than the act of fleeing,” takes place in various locations throughout Berlin over the course of thirteen straight days. It is one of the hottest summers on record.

August 2010: ‘The Public School’ starts in Berlin with many participants from the previous month’s seminar.
The first event is “The Future of ‘The Public School’.” “Neoliberalism and Human Capital v3” is proposed. “There is nothing less passive than the act of fleeing” takes place in modified versions in Los Angeles and New York.

September 2010: “The Future of ‘The Public School’” seminar with Brian Holmes meets to review the state of public education and discuss the potential of autonomous education projects.

October 2010: “Territorial Regimes,” the first class in Berlin takes place. It is shortly followed by the “Neoliberalism…” class, which has met several times since.

November 2010: A panel called “There is nothing less passive than the act of fleeing” takes place at a conference in San Diego on the future of education. Organizers and authors/participants of the Berlin seminar read an 8500 word collaboratively written essay.

January 2011: ‘L’Ecole Publique’ stops in Paris, to be reborn there someday as ‘The Public School’. “No Other Impossible Worlds” class meets in Berlin to discuss the collaborative text that follows.

February 2011: This timeline was written by Telic Arts Exchange, Los Angeles.

Class Proposal
No Other Impossible Worlds

A Class About
The Public School Berlin was recently invited to contribute a catalogue text to the exhibition Other Possible Worlds. The exhibition will address the function of art projects and spaces in redefining/reimagining the world that we live outside economic globalization, institutional discourse, hegemonic social and political systems, and so on.
We thought that the best way to approach the writing of this text was to hold a class in which we looked at particular models and practices, and responded collaboratively—either with an analysis, or our own conception of a possible world(s).

January 22, 2011: 12:00 pm

In advance of the class, people submitted texts that they wanted to read and discuss. What follows was coauthored by those who attended the session: Alex Auriema, Luis Berríos-Negrón, Mino Degli Atti, Fiona Geuß, Julian Kücklich, Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga, Jillian May, Nine Eglantine Yamamoto-Masson, and Caleb Waldorf. This is partly a transcript of the conversation and partly afterthoughts, contributed to a shared document, which was then edited together. [1]
What is a world?
A world needs to be furnished in order to be a) believable and b) inhabitable. In regard to the abstract constitution of a world, the furniture can be thought of as institutional structure, a conceptual framework, or as artifacts. In the absence of those things, worldness is diminished.
The worlds of today tend to fluctuate between speculation and experimentation; and from solace to escapism. These worlds, often accused of having the quietist demeanor, are being built to operate within the common spaces of those who equip themselves and their comrades. Up in the trees and down in the labyrinths, creating new parameters and reaching for other possibilities that elude the faltering structures of social justice and religion.
Where is dystopia?
Is the idea of utopia finished?
It might be interesting to find out what lies between dystopia and utopia: the common ground? or a no man’s land? Life lurks in the interstices. In other words, life takes place between a utopian and a dystopian modality. This also means that utopia and dystopia are never entirely finished; they exist as virtualities.
Utopia cannot be finished. By definition it is the emotion, the aspiration for an impossibility, where the dystopia is the construct of it, for it, and if effective, can stand aside, in parallel to the structures—the state, configuring its own laws, having its own gravity. But the moment it becomes visible, it becomes vulnerable.
The challenge is to maintain the factors of potentiality in which other worlds can become. The drive towards utopia, while conscious of its own impossibility, taps into energies that themselves are catalysts of alternate possible worlds.
By so doing it questions and ruptures the order at hand.
What is a possible world?
Possible for whom?
Are we bored of other possible worlds? Do we rather want to understand where we are now and how this world works?
Is there an outside? Outside of what? Are there “outsides”?
The outside is the condition that renders the world vulnerable, and then impossible.
Do we want to be opaque/transparent/visible/invisible (to/for power)?
Maybe translucent: being visible but not opaque. Being transparent but not invisible. Having substance without obstructing the flow. Being insubstantial without being negligible. Remaining elusive without being intangible. Being in time without occupying space.
… being a shadow?
What is the shadow and where does it meet the ground?
Are we aiming at impossibility? Or a material manifestation of these worlds?
What is a “no other impossible world(s)”? Where is it?
Abstract machines have a role in the production of such worlds. Their separate components not only become the whole mechanism that makes the world possible, but if effective, the machine is only visible to those operating in it. Secret languages can take hold here. The elusive and opaque qualities that once made the common can invert into a vacuum where political potency disbands. Grounding this in a territory can facilitate a coordinate system adaptable to the components of a given machine (a field of production), but it also provides an oppositional blueprint for its dismantling.
What is the difference between ruptures and penetrations?
➝ Flatness (rupture) vs. depth (penetration) ➝ Three-dimensional topologies, (creating a crack but not falling into it).
Do we need more non-conductivity?
If non-conductivity is a valid strategy to embrace, how do we create it? By disrupting flows, creating clogs, rupturing, ripping, dissolving and penetrating; depending on the terrain/ fabric we are dealing with.
How can art and art practices do that? What are the secret languages that art and creative communities can develop, and how can they help simultaneously with the disruptive project as well as that of forming affective connections?
Art should work on common sense. Does art have a language or is it a language? What is the level of intelligibility or legibility that is required from art?
The idea that art is a means to an end is potentially a relic.
The actual value of it lies in its production, its material economy, and how it is made visible. To heed to the opaque nature required to formulate ruptures within the topological subject, the author, the labor, and the object also require an unstable, time-based constitution. To accept art’s vulnerability is to strengthen its potency. Its constant emergence and disappearance depends not on faith and adherence to a secret language—for this collapses into the parallel pitfalls of exclusion—but on the strict production of common knowledge that configures the solace longed for in the elusive worlds. Its programmatic nature should, by default and for its own gravity, operate as an exercise of attraction, not promotion. Delineating its memory becomes then the greatest of its risks and challenges.
We should identify the constituent parts of a possible world and not aim for a whole. As we cannot predict or design another world, it will become.
A world implies a totality—a molecule particularity. Yet at the same time, a molecule can be total, and a world can be particular. Totality also implies rupture and dissent, while particularity implies cohesion and consensus. As a totality, both dissent and consensus are totalitarian; as a particularity, they are peculiar at best.
How does this relate to cannibalism?
Cannibalism is about consuming power and not escaping it or destroying it. It is another type of relation.
The other who is the same as you is power?
After you eat it.
The “Art of Life” might be the last “weapon” to make a revolution. In this sense, Foucault said that the “revolution will be ethical.” What does this mean? Maybe that the subject is a field of power and resistance, and in this field everyone has to play his or her game. This game, finally, is life in itself. But is this a hyper-individualistic perspective? Maybe not: the chance that we have is inside the construction of the common, and within something that can keep us in contact—with others, and against power. So “ethical” could mean something in common. Also as something that we share and that is, in a way, a last wall against the penetration of power into our lives.
In other words we need to take care: take care of us, first of all, and then to be vigilant against strategies of the penetration of power. But also taking care of the common: through the continuous building of a net, and of good affective relations. We have to work on our affective apparatus and this is not only an individual problem. We are involved in an acknowledgement process. That means that we need others. We need to be in a net. Something extremely new is coming: “attraction not promotion.”
We have to be ready.
@ JamalDajani: Egyptian bloggers have been quoting Gandhi “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Via Twitter on 3 Feb, 2011

This diagram, which emerged during the middle of the last century—and more recently via the Egyptian street—maps a subjective position within a particular notion and formation of domination. This formula, if it could be called that, is rather clear in the events that have recently unfolded. But, a question quickly comes to mind: What about the recent events can be thought of as a victory?
What seems to characterize victory here is not any tangible political change. As of the time this writing was produced, there is none. What has perhaps happened, or become instantiated, is a politically reproducible example that is not based on a prior formulation of other possible worlds, but that exists as a type of engaged withdrawal from the status quo. We have a series of actions that have brought together the many, and that cut across class, gender and religion. An emerging community has opened up that has no clearly articulated objective in mind, aside from a desire to become something else, and to have the capacity to find a new way of being. This is taking place now. This is not a possible world; it is an actual one, and something that we can continue fighting for.

[1] See also: