Decade of the Damned: Notes on School of the Damned 2013 – 2023

Steans, David ORCID logoORCID: (2023) Decade of the Damned: Notes on School of the Damned 2013 – 2023. In: Cooperative Education, Politics, and Art: Creative, Critical, and Community Resistance to Corporate Higher Education. Routeledge. (In Press)


One of the benefits of 'graduating' from an alternative art school is that you don't get Alumni emails from the Careers department. This is especially unlikely if you graduate from The School of the Damned - an unaccredited, student-led MA Fine Art programme that effectively resets every year, with each outgoing cohort passing pedagogical authority over to the next intake. Whatever the issues with this model, it has become a central feature of The School, founded in 2013 and still going strong in 2022. Such a radically amnesiac approach to institutional legacy might seem resistant to any kind of definitive history, and that is certainly not my intention with this essay. I was part of the co-founding cohort of The School of the Damned, and will reflect on the 2013 program — in theory and in practice — as well as speculating about the School's interim past and soon-to-be-reset future, canvassing opinion, anecdote and analysis from all former and current students. Necessarily subjective, and a partial history in both senses of the former word, this discursive essay aims to capture some of the ambition and spirit of the ideas and positions that formed The School of the Damned, a project initially conceived in protest, using free labour exchange as its primary and exclusive means of funding and organisation. Whatever is remembered or forgotten, I hope this essay opens dialogue with past and future students, artists, educators and activists

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