An initiative of Hayward Gallery/Southbank Centre, Wide Open School is an experiment in public learning. From June 11 for a period of one month, the gallery transforms its exhibition and event halls into classrooms and studio workshops. Noted artists, and academics, give lectures on various topics and otherwise inject you with creative vibes – all for the humble price of £10 per event.
While some of the events sold out immediately (celebrities as Tracy Emin, Mark Leckey or Jeremy Deller were in high demand), there is still plenty of great stuff to chose from. We booked 7 events and we have attended 3 so far. They left us with mixed feelings. While Antony Gormley’s conversation with Michael Newman was fantastic: well structured, engaging and providing real insights into Gormley’s work and philosophy, Cao Fei’s & Pak Sheung Chuen’s discussion The Orchid Pavilion was just plain bad, at least the first 30 or so minutes.
As much as we like both artists’ work, freezing our asses off while sitting on an improvised wooden installation outside the Hayward and trying to have pseudo philosophical talk through an interpreter – Pak Sheung Chuen at least tried to talk English and connect with the public, but he was fighting cold, wind, rain and bad acoustics all at the same time, so that battle was clearly lost – is not our idea of evening well spent. We gave it our best shot, but when we began to smell religious-tinted discourse, we were out.
On Sunday we went to Yinka Shonibare’s and professor Richard Phillips’ talk Sex in the Colonies /Who’s Fucking Who. Catchy theme, you’d think, and Shonibare being one of our top favs, the expectations were high indeed. Only to discover that being a great artist doesn’t necessarily make you a great lecturer … plus accrediting public with 30 mins of Q&A is a really bad idea.
Sadly, our initial enthusiasm is therefore somewhat tempered, but there are 4 more events to attend (5, if we get reimbursement for the flawed Orchid Pavilion thing ;-)), so let’s reserve the final verdict for later. Tonight: Jane & Louise Wilson in conversation with Brian Dillon about the concept of ruin and it’s representation in contemporary culture. Looking forward!
You can follow tweets about the lectures on #wideopenschool.