The campus: a place of learning and aspiration, or disenchantment
and revolt? This exhibition explores the unique environment
of university campuses, looking at their recent past and ideas
surrounding their future.
artist Nancy Davenport has produced Campus,
a series of digitally-manipulated photographs, shot at universities
in the USA and Canada. Presenting melancholic scenes of ‘New
Brutalist’ architecture, embraced as revolutionary after
the 1968 student uprisings, these structures now seem fortress-like.
Incorporating unreal lighting effects, the works evoke an uneasy
tension between optimism and aftermath.
Also shown is Davenport’s video piece Weekend
Campus, a slow horizontal pan along the entrance
to a fictitious campus, jammed with stalled cars, accidents
and witnesses. This continuous loop, constructed from hundreds
of still photographs, pays homage to Jean-Luc Godard’s
apocalyptic film ‘Le Week-end’.
Jakobsen and Henriette Heise from
the Copenhagen Free University present Five
Theses on Taking Power Without Becoming Government,
a large-scale sound installation. A mountain of amplified
concert speakers broadcast a spoken statement, almost inaudible
amid the hum of feedback, proffering ideas on what it means
to create a self-organized University. The speakers embody
the huge potential for knowledge and power existing in everyday
Free University is an artist-run, self-organised
institution that works with collective, non-exclusive forms
artist Christian Philipp Müller presents
a series of silkscreen prints, The Campus as a Work of
Art, completed for the University of Lüneburg in
Germany. Each work features an architectural plan of the Lüneburg
campus (a former military barracks), superimposed above campus
plans from other Universities worldwide. Grouped according
to common social or spatial features, these works dramatically
explore the relationship between architecture and institutional
Also, in the Project Room, visitors can view Cinegiornale,
an extraordinary film including footage of the Italian revolutionary
student movement in 1968. The film offers a powerful insight
into the turbulent recent history of campus and student life.
Campus is a collaborative project between
the John Hansard Gallery and the Mead
Gallery at the University of Warwick. Project
Room films courtesy of
Campus has been financially supported
by Arts Council England
Level 4, Hartley Library, University of Southampton
27 September – 12 November 2005
Explore the work of six emerging artists, the first generation to occupy Southampton’s
thriving new art studio complex, ‘the arches’.
This is the first arches exhibition in the University’s
Hartley Library and is due to become an annual event. Exhibitors include
time-based artist Nicky Anderson, installation artist Kate
Grenyer, drawing-based animator Alys Hawkins, film
and printmaker Laura Joy, painter Liz Jones and
printed textiles artist Sue J. Oliver.
arches artists exhibition has been supported
by the John Hansard Gallery, Hartley Library and
Library is located on University Road, opposite
the Students’ Union, and is open Monday to Friday
9.00am – 10.00pm, Saturday 9.00am – 5.00pm
and Sunday (after 9 October) 12.00pm – 9.00pm.
You can watch or listen to a 30 minute
video interview with the artists:
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Instructions on viewing the video can be
the exhibition interview with Jakob
Jakobsen, Henriette Heisse and Nancy Davenport.
BB: Dr Bernadette Buckley
JJ: Jakob Jakobsen
HH: Henriette Heisse
CFU: Copenhagen Free University
ND: Nancy Davenport
BB Good morning and welcome very much to
Henriette Heisse from Copenhagen Free University. We will share copyright of
Let’s start by your giving us some of the background
to the foundation of CFU. Could say something about why it
came to be and how?
HH Let’s start by saying where it is.
The CFU is in our flat in Copenhagen and the flat is on the
fourth floor of a typical building of Copenhagen – I
mean you have to buzz and go through the door to get to our
flat. It’s quite domestic in a way.
When we started the Free University, we had just moved back
to Copenhagen from London and we’d been there for about
a half a year. So we said, ‘let’s do something
here – let’s use of flat to make this…what
do we call it…project or whatever. When you use your
own flat you don’t have all of these economic…you
don’t need to have a big budget do things…you can
just do it actually and it’s fairly easy to do. You invite
people to different events, screenings – we’ve
been doing different exhibitions there. So lots of things are
going on in the flat and that’s very important for us
JJ We have this tradition of building institutions
ourselves. Part of it was about building a university inside
our domestic quarters. That’s been a strategy we’ve
been working with in many situations. So instead of establishing
an alternative…some kind of ‘anti-institutional’ platform,
we work with establishing institutions, or taking the power
of the framework we work within. We’re not producing
an antithesis, or being antagonistic towards other institutions.
It’s more that we make an institution and try to establish
a structure that we’ve found to be the right one.
When we started the Free University, there were so many discussions
about the ‘knowledge economy’ and about how to,
in a way, work with knowledge in relation to the market. There
was much discussion about ‘knowledge transfer’ – that
is a transfer between areas where knowledge was produced and
transferred to areas where money was produced or circulated.
So it was kind of in the middle of a general discussion of
the relation between knowledge and money. And we saw that it
was like – at least as sold in a Danish context – it
was like a big party where knowledge could be utilised within
the economy – the knowledge economy. In a way it was
like the measure of knowledge became money. And we say ‘Hey
maybe we should try to define an institution that we would
like to found on other values. So we founded this university
inside our own flat and in our own domestic situation and said
that we would like to relate this university to our everyday
and not to an idea of a market.
So that was the background – more of an experimental
attempt to see what would happen if we say ‘this home
is a university’? What kind of knowledge is produced
here? And what kind of knowledge could be produced here if
we say that ‘this is a university’?
So that was like (as we usually say) the speech-act of opening
that university. We just say ‘this is a university’ and
then we have to develop the structures later on. But it was
going on in our flat, as Henriette said. We usually say that
the university is not in our flat, but that we are living at
a university. So it’s also like saying that all the different
aspects of our everyday life in the community that is at the
university, is kind of integrated into this institutional platform.
So that was the attempt, the excursion that we started in 2001.
BB So in a way, you’re coming to being
has got something to do with the end of an institutional critique.
Or perhaps the fact that an institutional critique as it was
spun out in the 80s and 90s was becoming quite tired. And rather
than following on from a model of opposition or resistance,
you seem to be saying, we are not going to oppose – we’re
going to ‘self-institutionalise’. Could you just
say something about that phrase – self-institutionalisation – because
you use it quite a bit?
JJ Yeah, it’s about taking power. It’s
a kind of strategy. It’s not like thinking in terms of ‘alternatives’ in
that dialectical way – you have the mother ship and then
you have the alternative, the critique of, for example, the
university. And it’s very important that, for example
in relation to the CFU, our point of departure was not like
some kind of discontent with the University of Copenhagen for
example. It was more like a general discussion about knowledge
and money and especially a neo liberal economy where all social
relation was being measured in terms of money. It was more
like saying ‘What kind of platform could we establish
to discuss this?’ And then we said ‘Okay we’ll
self-institute a university somehow to work with knowledge
and the valorisation of knowledge. So when you ‘self-institute’,
it’s like an idea of getting beyond the institutional
landscape that you are offered. Instead of saying that the
institution you are offered as a person is like nature (i.e.
you can’t do anything except criticise), we go in and
with a weird over-confidence, we go beyond, saying that we
are the future; we establish these institutions of the future.
Because institutions are created by society. It’s not
some kind of evil conspiracy. So we have, in a way, to try
out all other institutional models. And when we talk about
other institutional models, it’s not only the bricks,
the houses, the museums, the universities the prisons. It’s
more like an imaginary thing that is keeping a society together.
I think the buildings are only symptoms - the real institutions
are in our mind. And that’s like our idea of course of
creating some images of potential other institutions. So for
example – and this is a more humorous thing about our
university – when we started, people were asking was
it possible to open a university in a little flat in the outskirts
of the centre of Copenhagen? People came by and pushed the
buzzer and asked ‘hey is that a university?’ because
they believed that there should be a certain architecture connected
to a university.
JJ The thing about language is really important
as well. We have a background in visual art and somehow, that’s
a language we feel comfortable with. And that’s quite
important to us that we use this. The language is not always
a spoken language but also a poetic language. And within this
university, we can use the language we feel comfortable with – I
think that’s quite important.
HH Yes and also bad language – horrible
English for example we quite enjoy to speak bad English. [Both
BB I think it’s interesting the way
your institution crosses over between these different spaces – the
domestic space, the perhaps improper space of bad language – or
the space of learning and erudition – or perhaps on the
other hand the space of cooking and kitchen’s and sleeping.
It’s not a critique of institutions and you’re
not in conflict with the institution and it strikes me that
a good example of the institution – if you had to look
for a core example of the institution – might be the
family. Does that strike a chord with you at all?
JJ Yeah, well we are of course a family living
at this university. And also, by having this idea of living
inside the institution – the institution of the CFU – it
opens up the institution of the family. So we have for example,
our residency programme, which is basically just a mattress.
And we have quite a few friends coming from abroad and staying
for a while – for two days or for two months. And that’s
like, in a way, opening up the institution of the family that
we are of course. So for example we were working once with
Emma Hedditch, an artist from London and she wrote a text saying ‘Being
Part of the Family’ (or something like that). So we see
it also as a potential to open up our own structure of a family
living inside a university.
But of course there will always be institutions – even
the institution of the bigger family structure or open family
or these other institutional models. So it’s more like
a discussion of institutional formations somehow to experiment
with what could happen if you do this and this for example,
with the family. So, it’s more than putting up a very
specifically defined utopia of a certain kind of institutional
structure of the family, or of the university. We are always
in the process of becoming in a way and there’s always
the mess and despair and confusion that are also a part of
HH Very much so. We definitely don’t
want to be a model of a beautiful life – that would be
awful if we were understood as that. Because confusion and
all these kind of things are very central and we try to struggle
with it – see what it is. So it’s very important
for us to work with others, somehow to not be this nuclear
BB Okay, can you just tell me something then
about the piece of work that we’re going to see in the
Hansard Gallery. Perhaps you could just tell me about that?
JJ Yes it’s two speaker stacks – huge
PA systems – like concert size, like rave size – huge
stacks – the biggest we could get into the gallery. And
we are using these speakers to play back a sound piece called ‘Taking
Power but Refusing to become Government’. Then the sound
piece we are presenting is called ‘ Five…’ (oh
it’s only called) ‘Theses on Knowledge Production’.
And these theses are read by the various voices of our friends
and ourselves. And they are played back on the system very
quietly. And hopefully with lots of noise and feedback from
the system, but it’s still under construction.
HH But…did you say that the sound is
not very loud?
JJ It’s very very quiet so you have
to go very very close to the speakers to be able to listen
to these voices. We see this as…it’s like what
we call ‘a propaganda effort’. But, because we
are not moving our university activities out of the space where
they are usually happening – at the CFU – when
we are asked to contribute to exhibitions for example, we think
it’s too hard. Or we couldn’t replicate the same
kind of complex structure of social interaction that we are
doing at home and just travel around with that – so we
don’t. In a way, we are not working with relational aesthetics.
We are doing this as a one-way communication-situation. So
people could, in a way, relate directly to the statements that
we are presenting and see them as something that you can refuse,
or you can use. But we’re using this political rhetoric,
in a way in the line of all these theses in political history.
But it’s all theses that are pointing towards having
a certain utopian direction but also something that is asking
to be approached.
BB So in a way you’re describing it
as a kind of one-way interaction! It still is about social
relations isn’t it? It has that in common with the rest
of your work, in that it’s asking people how they use
their social relations. Are they going to interfere with the
sound, are they going to move closer to the speakers etc. Is
that fair to say?
JJ Yeah I think so. We are quite conscious
about the situation in a way – that there’s a big
powerful speaker system there and the potential blast you could
get and then not using the power…
HH …not using the power to dominate.
Hopefully it’s not going to dominate the whole space.
You have to move closer.
JJ Yeah but in a weird way, it’s also
got this weird over-confidence again – because the big
speakers are, of course, quite dominating! So it’s like
this kind of play around domination and withdrawal in a way.
So it’s like playing between the potential domination
but also the lack of images for example and the lack of imposing
sound levels. It is of course something we like to play around
with. We call it propaganda but of course it’s impossible
to do propaganda – so it’s impossible propaganda
in a way.
BB Or perhaps perverse propaganda…passionate
propaganda… Well Henriette Heisse and Jakob Jakobsen,
thank you very much for agreeing to take part in the Hansard
Gallery interview. Thank you.
BB Hello Nancy Davenport, welcome to the
John Hansard Gallery and thank you for agreeing to take part
in the John Hansard Gallery interview – for which we
will share copyright if that’s okay with you.
BB Let me just start then by asking you about
this body of work that’s on view here at the Hansard
gallery. Let’s start with the series of photographs that
you’re showing. Can you tell me something about how it
came to be?
ND Well I’ve been in interested in
Brutalism as a stylistic form of architecture for a long time – interested
in its history and in how it resonates so powerfully, symbolically – from
it’s beginning in Britain with the Smithsons to it’s
later incarnations in the States and in Canada. It was interesting
to me because it became this dominant form of building on university
campuses and that it eventually came to register as disillusionment,
as bunker space – very anti-humanist – very separate
from how it began as a movement…I just got off a plane
so, if I don’t make sense, that’s why…
BB Perhaps you could just say a little bit
more about this particular kind of architecture. It’s
qualities, it seems to me, retain something of the idealism
of Modernism and yet they have this bunker mentality that you
talk about. They were built in the wake of student riots and
the protestations of the late sixties and seventies and there
seems to be a kind of double message going on in them. Perhaps
you could say something about that?
ND Sure. It’s hard to generalise about
Brutalism as a term because it has such different histories.
But the buildings that I shot – the particular buildings – they
were either the sites of very particular Vietnam War protests
or they were built shortly after ’68. And as a form of
course, Brutalism began post WW2 here in the UK. And I’d
like to separate those two histories, because however idealistic
it was a form of Modernism in the beginning, it always had
a sense of Post War disillusionment – this idea of being
architecture of the status quo, as opposed to other forms of
Modernism that were about forging a new tomorrow. I hope that
answers your question
BB Yes – the disillusionment that you
talk about – do you think that this compares at all to
the disillusionment that one might encounter on a contemporary
ND Well again, it’s really hard to
generalise about disillusionment and about the student body
but the conditions are quite different historically between ‘68
and now. Some parallels that can be drawn…I hope they
are not drawn simplistically. What was your question again?
BB I was asking about the disillusionment
of the late 60s and 70s in comparison with say the cynicism
that one might encounter today…do you think there are
ND Again, I’m not sure I could globally
talk about the cynicism of campuses or even where I teach and
my students. For example in my video, I don’t see the
students represented there as being passive, or cynical or
blank or disengaged. I see them being shocked in trauma – shocked
by out-of-control forces, into an appearance of passivity.
And that’s a difference. In this historical moment, one
can’t repeat the same gestures of ’68 obviously
and the question is, you know, what is radical now or what
is a form of political engagement that could be significant
now…I don’t know.
BB And that question of what is radical,
and what is political engagement seems to be opened up by your
photograph in which one sees the papers being blown about in
an empty campus, their reference to Iraq, to the Gulf War,
and yet not a body to be seen.
ND Right. In each of the images here, I’ve
added elements of recent war protests – multiplied them,
exaggerated them. And in other images, I’ve added unreal
and unreasonable lighting effects. And I think there’s
an oscillation that’s reflective of my ambivalence – my
conflict between idealism and still believing in the university
as a context of possibilities, of knowledge, of discourse and
questioning what might have been lost and what are the conditions
and aims of this space now.
BB And into this oscillation between idealism
and possibilities lost, comes…Photoshop – the technology
to be able to manipulate. It seems to be an ideal form for
bringing together these antagonised or oppositional qualities.
Would you agree?
ND Well it is for me. I mean I see it as
a tool that is the general state of photography in this point
in time. But I also am interested in the seamlessness, the
flatness of digital images and I do a lot of manipulation that
exaggerates even the structural form of the buildings. So there’s
something ‘off’ about them – hopefully in
a positive way, in an intriguing way. But in terms of my interest
in photoshop and the way the medium can reflect on the content,
I think it would be interesting to speak about the DVD in that
way. Because it’s actually not a film, it’s not
a photograph – it’s an animated montage of hundreds
of stills that I took at campuses and junk-yards across Canada
and the US. When animated, it has this horizontal movement,
like a tracking shot, but it doesn’t pass as film and
it wasn’t supposed to. It’s sort of neither/nor,
sort of in-between this state as a medium. And there’s
a kind of apocalyptic temporality that I like to talk about
in relation to the seamless digital montage. Because it’s
not about those different moments photographically – which
moments – it’s not about the past, it’s not
about the present cinematically. But there’s a kind of
temporal congestion that’s interesting to me, that I
like to think about in relation to the apocalyptic. That sounds
completely nuts, but let me try to explain. I think sometimes
when people talk about ‘apocalyptic temporality’,
it’s like being late for one’s own funeral – it
has that absurdity. But of course, it isn’t as simple
as that. There’s no beginning and end. It’s not
a linear. There’s never an end or else how could one
have the discussion. There’s always the constant delay
which makes it possible. It’s structured like a move.
Each generation does its apocalyptic rhetoric differently.
So the relationship of this kind of temporality to the idea
of how does one represent a community at this point, like the
student body. What is the state of that? It’s almost
an acknowledgement of a kind of irreducible idea. I think I
did it better the time before. Does that make any sense?
BB Well yes absolutely and we spoke before
a little bit about the opposing qualities that came across
in the DVD – where on the one hand, there is almost an
amusing quality to some of the images in the DVD and on the
other hand, there is the sense of strain of shock, of shock,
of the aftermath of something awful having happened. And again,
this interplay between something that isn’t quite fiction
and something that isn’t quite ‘unreal’ either,
seems to be quite important in your work.
ND Yes hopefully, it has an interesting tension
like that. Another thing that I should talk about I think is
the relationship of the DVD to various histories – for
one to the Warhol’s disaster series. And then obviously,
it’s an homage to Jean Luc Goddard’s magnificent
tracking shot in his film Weekend. So for example, in Goddard,
there’s a continuous take – without dialogue – that
is almost like a magnificent mapping out of French society
at that time. And I was thinking about how impossible it is
to make such a social map now…how is it possible to talk
about ‘community’ in a time of post-community,
post-feminism, blah blah blah…and the idea that the witnessing
of catastrophe is something that renders these irreducible
communities visible. Like Warhol’s disaster series. So
referencing these two photographic histories and changing the
context to the contemporary university, which is also where
I spend most of my time (which is also apocalyptic) – that’s
what I was thinking about.
BB Okay, well thank you very much indeed
for that interview Nancy thank you.
ND Thank you.