Here is Peter and here is Jane, 2018
Here is Peter and here is Jane: Footnotes to a schooled imagination – Foyer, Valletta Campus, University of Malta, June 2018
Peter and Jane are the main characters in a popular reading scheme published by Ladybird in the 1960s and 1970s for generations of primary school children. The scheme, especially its earlier editions, makes use of repetitive key words and realistic illustrations that represent stereotypical scenes in the everyday life of a white, middle-class family. Daddy drives a car and Jane helps Mummy in the kitchen. The reading books therefore function simultaneously as a standardised literacy tool as well as a tool for schooling society. The exhibition Here is Peter and here is Jane: Footnotes to a schooled imagination explores alternative ways of living and learning and creative flights from the failed promises of conventional schooling. Surrounded as we are by processes of standardisation, how can art help us to rethink relations of knowledge? Loosely inspired by Ivan Illich’s classic book Deschooling Society (1971), the exhibition revolves around some of the philosopher’s ideas about the schooling of society, educational systems that favour standard assessment packages and readymade outcomes, and the possibility of imagining what Illich called the “institutional inverse” of schools: “educational webs” that allow people to transform each moment of their lives “into one of learning, sharing, and caring”.
Four artists, all ex-students at the Faculty of Education (University of Malta), were invited by curator Raphael Vella to produce new installations for the Foyer at the university’s Valletta Campus. Combining regular classroom furniture with animal life, Matthew Schembri questions how power, freedom and intelligence are perceived in educational institutions and beyond. Moira Agius proposes a new form of learning and knowledge exchange in a simple, interactive piece that challenges the hegemonic order. Focusing on the commodification of knowledge, the participatory installation by Kristina Borg links the school or university to a supermarket. Finally, the animated film in a simulated classroom by Robert Zahra projects a two-year-old girl’s scribbles onto a blackboard, where they intermingle with his own ‘schooled’ drawings.
- June 10, 2018