Experimental Graduate-Level Education for Women

The Anhoek School is an educational experiment. It investigates alternatives to traditional American education at a moment in time when many experimental schools have closed (Black Mountain School and Antioch College) or ceased to develop inventive and/or radical methodologies.

In short, The Anhoek School is an experimental all-women's graduate school located in Brooklyn, New York. The curriculum is based on cultural production (political, aesthetic, and theoretical). Classes are small (5 to 7 people). Tuition costs are mediated by a barter system; that is students labor for the school in exchange for classes.

SEE http://anhoekschool.org FOR CORE DATA

The 'mother site' (http://anhoekschool.org) contains:

0 Mission Statement
0 Course Descriptions
0 Campus Locations
0 Exchange Economy/ Tuition
0 Samples of Student Work
0 Student Podcasts

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Anhoek School's Marfa Session: If food is what you are after

Susan and Anne harvest greens. (Photograph by Julia Sherman)

At the now moribund Black Mountain School, a landmark in American educational experiments, students initially ate meals described by Michael Rumaker as ' a salad of bananas and hot dogs.' Eventually, the system for feeding the school shifted. Students were required to work on the college farm which provided most of the school’s food.

At Deep Springs College, an all male school in the Mojave desert, students divide their time between ranching and scholarly pursuits. The campus is isolated; ranching underscores the demand for self-sufficiency and the complications of stewardship. In Chicago, sculptors Jim Elniski and Frances Whitread have been asking: "what if each institution has to grow its own food?" Whitread conducts a sculpture course within the School of the Art Institute of Chicago that begins with teaching students how to grow their own greens. Determining whether these agricultural acts fall within the sculptural or ecological appears to be a matter of framing and self-persuasion. Despite the fact that the majority of the 15 students who have attended three sessions of the Anhoek School, are categorically artists, the relationship to this garden is not intended to be sculptural, even within the broader rubric of relational aesthetics. We aren't set up for that approach, as it would require fields, school to be continuously in session, and a full-time farmer. We have to borrow others' gardens.

In Marfa, students spent the mornings gardening and their afternoons in class. Food from the garden was prepared by students for a shared lunch before the afternoon meeting/field trip. The work in the garden was guided by Farmstand Marfa's Sandra Harper. The students were bartering their labor in the garden for the food they cooked at lunch and dinner. However, this garden could not provide all of the ingredients we have become accustomed to integrating. The dishes were supplemented by the local supermarkets and Sandra Harper's larder.

My pedagogical intention was for students to uses their time in the garden to think through ideas without a myriad of distractions. They could incorporate the manner in which repetitive work sustained over short periods can sometimes strip superfluous chatter from conscious thought .

Besides allowing the woman working to hone in on and follow a deeper and more complex idea, it was another way of defraying the cost of the schooling for the students. It is difficult to think of anything else if food is what you are after. So as much as I get an absurdist pleasure in the notion of a lunch of bananas and hot dogs, the reality doesn't measure up. This problem, of combining food and art, reminds me of Gordan Matta Clark's less celebrated work "Pig". Down by the East River, he roasted a pig, serving up the half-cooked pork with bread. It was a sandwich afterall and the event was fun for awhile. Then people got sick.