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.

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

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Anhoek-Marfa '09: 5 tours and a Fieldtrip

Our class visited the Chinati Foundation on Friday, June 5th, 2009. One student opted out half through the tour. She said something to the effect that she had her fill. Fill of what? There are a number of answers.

Some people in town asked: 'why even bring the class to Chinati?' There reasons were extremely personal. One woman explained herself: "Donald Judd was very rude to locals. He would not greet us on the street. Just walked on by." (Here street pleasantries are the norm.) Another woman felt protective of Chinati. It was a site of pilgrimage for her (vulnerable, sacred and beautiful) and she was afraid that the critical lens of our classroom would unnecessarily disrupt the space. Another claimed that it was the 'least interesting thing in the area. What about the border?' So many objections before we even crossed the threshold.

I had written about the racial ecology and the institutions that bound it for Afterall a year before in an article entitled "A Politic of Tears: The Museum of Useless Efforts. Marfa, TX." It seemed negligent to gather students here and not visit a site that clearly impacts the town, region, and arguably, has shaped contemporary art production. It seemed they needed to suss out for themselves the dimensions of what Chinati communicated and what it concealed in regards to the object, the viewer, the conservator, the curator, the janitor...and additionally: the legions of ghosts, ranging from the prisoners of war kept here during WWII to the senior citizens briefly housed here, from the stationed chemical brigade to the international artists in residents sequestered on the grounds, from the original troops brought to mediate Pancho Villa's border crossings to the locals who can see Chinati and have never been inside.

The students went inside. They went into the sheds which featured Donald Judd's boxes. There they seemed to be eking out the ruptures in what one student deemed 'the master narrative': One student was preoccupied with a dead spider, another took a photograph of a rubber bin left to collect leaking rain water. Yet, by the end of the course, two students had structured their final project around this visit to Chinati. As young artists, they would not hesitate to make space for themselves within a site that seemed already so bound to a specific demographic and time. Megan focused on the transfer of ownership: how could this be hers instead of theirs? Julia focused on a perversion of the tour: how could the existing narrative include her?

If we had more time in Marfa, I would have liked to have gone on five different tours throughout the duration of our class, each led by a different student, each time the work falling apart and recollecting itself again and again. It has those capabilities.

Photograph by Julia Sherman