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        Learning Place, Text

        Learning Place

        Boris Buden

        18 March 2013

      1. There is a sort of meta-text for contemporary knowledge and art production. We work on it for a significant part of our lives, continuously expanding and improving it. Curriculum Vitae is its name but it is usually called by its abbreviation, “sivi” (CV). Structurally, the CV repeats, on the scale of individuals, the nineteen-century myth of progress. This is the fiction of linear progression presented in the form of a gradual acquisition of knowledge, skills, and recognitions, a progression imaginable only in a life that unfolds through a homogenous, empty time with no meaning outside the CV. 

        In the CV, life becomes a race to catch up with time, and life can never be fast enough. The CV follows the pattern of a historicism that is not only intrinsic to the hegemonic model of education but to the modern idea of society and today’s global relations of domination. The CV equalizes our lives on the level of abstract values only to reproduce existing inequalities, dismissing the majority of individuals, societies, and cultures as “delayed.” At the same time it regulates knowledge and art production, standardizes its selection procedures, unifies its field, guards its boundaries, maintains its hierarchies, and disciplines its workers. 

        This is the point from which the critique of contemporary sivization of life departs in order to challenge the neoliberal commodification of education—it is the point where the course of life antagonistically crosses the praxis of social transformation, labor, and politics. Learning Place is a week-long educational performance modelled on an application for academic job. Approximately 170 students present for the 7-day event are divided in up to 15 groups and invited to draft a CV of an imagined academic applying for a job at the “Academy of the Cultures of the World.” The task of each group is to create a dummy CV with a name, an educational background, as well as a list of publications, exhibitions, curatorial achievements, academic affiliations, etc. Designed to facilitate this task, the program of Learning Place offers a variety of theoretical and artistic interventions by almost 50 theorists, artists, curators, and activists through over 30 workshops, lectures, panel discussions, and public interviews some of which are open to the wider FORMER WEST public. The program focuses mostly on topics such as the commodification of knowledge, critique of creativity, and functioning of edu-industries in today’s cognitive capitalism. At the end, visitors and participants are given the opportunity to vote on their favorite CV. Two side modules of Learning Place tackle the problem of copyright, plagiarism, and translational processes in the production and reproduction of knowledge. 

        The performative engagement with the program of Learning Place, and especially with the ideological construct of the CV, aims for an estrangement effect following dramatist Bertolt Brecht. It should strip the dominant educational practice of its self-evident normality and so foster its critique and necessary transformation.