Co-working Speculations

Transnational Alliance of schools: We Cannot Work Like This

Contour 9 Biennale  Assembly at Thomas More – Campus De Vest, Mechelen
18 May – 19 May 2019 12:00 – 17:00

The cross-disciplinary alliance We Cannot Work Like This: Decolonial Practices and Degrowth brings together several departments of academies and universities in the region in Belgium, France, England, and Hong Kong, and enables that students work together in each of their schools on a proposal for sustainable, decolonial and inclusive practices in relation to, on one hand, cultural institutions, and on the other, their own professions (artistic, architectural, design or research-related). The students are invited to look at sustainability through the self-reflexive, intersectional feminist, anti-capitalist, and anti-racist lens. The participating professors prepare a joint curriculum and discuss it with the students in each of their schools. The aim of this alliance is that it stirs interest in the creation of a legal document or charter that would promote sustainable and decolonial practices for the institutions and for the practitioners themselves.

Members of the Transnational Alliance are HISK (Ghent), Department of Architecture, Hong Kong University (Hong Kong), St. Lucas School of Arts (Antwerp), School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art (London), Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Antwerpen), Thomas More University (Mechelen), Ecole de recherche graphique (Brussels), Ecole européenne supérieure d’art de Bretagne (Rennes), Open Design for Refugees and Asylum Seekers, KASK (Ghent).

Opening statements 

The Open design Course for refugees and asylum seekers is an educational platform based on peer to peer learning and co-creation taking place at KASK, Ghent. The 2018 generation of participants invite you to a speculative presentation of the course, as well as to imagine a post O.D.C future. Taking the next step, the POST COLLECTIVE grew out of the 2018 version of the course. It continues to try to develop possibilities for co-learning and co-working directed towards the building of a sustainable and collaborative environment for its participants, regardless of their legal status. The handout provided today explains some of the goals and aspirations of The Post Collective.

The Open Design Course began in 2016 by the initiative of Bram Crevits. This initiative was approached as a way of trying to formulate an answer to some urgent needs: but mainly as a way to offer support for an unseen influx of people fleeing war and seeking refuge in Europe. Due to regulations of higher education it was (and still is) almost impossible for most of these refugees to start or to continue their studies as ‘regular students’ within the Belgian education system. The ODC initiative is intended to create a space within KASK, where it is possible to bypass the technical/administrative restrictions, to welcome refugees and asylum seekers, and provide them with a high-quality learning context.

As well as being a specific initiative taken for refugees and asylum seekers the course reflects the broader project of rethinking education and which is something that the ODC team is working towards and actively involved. The perspectives and motives that were behind the setting up of ODC are closely intertwined forms of dissatisfaction with education / or higher education. For it was felt that higher education is mainly organized to further sustain and reproduce this system, by mainly focusing on ‘innovation’; in order to further support a logic of endless economic growth. This is not only about pedagogy and content, but also the way higher education is governed and financed. In the same way, art education (and even art in general) is not immune to this logic of reproducing a failing system. But here some hope is possible – as a way of offering unique opportunities to fight or overcome such failings. Bram Crevits and the team that continues now ODC believes that there was an urgent need for a type of education that brings together different voices from different fields and that might be used towards activating change within society generally. Bram Crevits wrote about the origins of ODC: “It was thought that a school can and should be an open tool for society. Schools should resist by all means to reproduce the system we feel trapped in, i.e. by what they focus on and by the way they organize themselves.” Bram also stated “But as long as we can overcome our fixation on the identity of the artist, and on what art has been or should be, institutes of higher art education could be the ideal context for this -combining theory and practice. Critique and creativity. Creation and reflection. Art education should challenge itself and urgently needs to re-invent itself.

To activate as much as possible what art education is good at being a place of creation, of imagination, of constructive experimentation… but at the same time a place of resistance and of dialogue. To further activate art as the collective conscience of our society. And what is needed now is not a silent conscience, but a highly engaged conscience ….”  

P E R F O R M A N C E 

“The form of the poem is like the form of a new public sphere, as the structure of a new idea. Looking for forms in the arts is like looking for new standards of what we may regard as a society, power, and so on.”

-Paolo Virno


After the performance, we initiate a 20-minute discussion with all those attending.

_the idea of the post collective was already born inside ODC_

The Post Collective offers an autonomous platform for co-creation, co-learning, and cultural activism for refugees, asylum seekers, sans papiers, and invited participants. It seeks to introduce a range of artistic, cultural, and employment opportunities as well as provide an overall collaborative environment for the participants regardless of their legal status

We at the post ODC collective believe that it is essential to create an environment where people like us do not struggle to get assimilated but strive to rethink and reconceptualize critically a future where the identity of the refugee is celebrated as Hannah Arendt would say: as “the vanguard of their peoples”, people who can think beyond the limits of the nation-states constructions, where “history is not a closed book to them”. for this to happen these people deserve a level of participation in the society that is not just filling in the gaps of representing diversity but allows them to take active control as stakeholders. 

The agency and existential empowerment of the individual “arise only when people act together” and, as such, the collective seeks to forge ongoing connections and modes of exchange with other groups and organizations. 

This call allows us to ask questions and to do the inviting rather than just getting invited to be present. As Tania Cañas would stress “This is a conceptual shift from working for the community, and not even with, but as a community.” 

We should have a number of points and questions ready that we can use to initiate discussion if need be. Important is to try to bring Post Collective and ODC into comparison/relation to the goals and methods of The Alliance and the different issues raised at Mechelen.

How members of the alliance can take action and provide space for research, exploration, and partnership for such projects to exist and to not stay in the margins of education/art and design? Mention the Kunsthal application maybe? Also the example of the post collective teaching in the next ODC 2019.
How institutions can help a project as the post collective to find its way?
Is there someone in the alliance with expertise in financial management? Is there a legal status that can help us develop the post collective as we imagine it? Should it be an art project or an organization? Speak about the idea of Mirra of organizing workshops of exchange.
Taking on the example of the critique of the silent university where the power it created was monopolized by the most recognizable, already with agency members -How can we distribute the power but also seek support from powerful allies? 
How do we deal with the black or invisible work of those sans papiers? Are there sustainable alternatives?
As an individual, you cannot have access to education if you do not have legal papers, but you can get a visa if you are accepted in a school. Is there a way through this for sans-papiers to gain legal status and proceed in higher education? How could we create such solidarity hacks?