The Independent Studies Program at MACBA is a learning mechanism whose fundamental goal is to mobilize critical thinking and activate the political imagination, at the crossroads between artistic practices, the social sciences and political-institutional interventions. One of the key features of the program involves developing critical capacity, so as to facilitate free movement between thought paradigms. In this regard, the PEI (for Programa d’Estudis Independents), quite beyond its role as a space for the affirmation of representations and identities, seeks to query enclosed categories by activating an antagonistic imagination, able to elaborate fronts of aesthetic and political struggle from out of new possible forms.
The para-institutional nature of the program (both inside and outside the museum, beyond the realm of the university) makes it possible to break with the preconceived idea of what an institution of “higher learning” might be, as well as fully circumvent the logic of acquired competences and professionalisation. The PEI believes that the organisation of knowledge is a political domain where contents are related to a variety of traditions in pedagogical and discursive experimentation. These traditions are understood not only as subjects of study, but also as a set of living practices, able to configure new spaces for knowledge.
The program constitutes an intellectual and experiential challenge, for its students as well as its academic leadership, professors and the institution that promotes it. The fissures opened up by students of different origins, and their contributions in the form of various epistemologies and thought traditions, encourage the program to be constantly looking for a new balance, where being radical can only be understood as “going to the root of things”, where practice is engaged on the basis of empathy. It is a space for the mobilisation of various forms of knowledge and the reconfiguration of actions, where students and teachers take on the challenge of putting a conception of education as a space for experimentation and liberation into practice.
One of the fundamental concerns of the program is to think of the ways that studying might create new forms of political subjectivity from progressive, feminist, anti-racist and critical perspectives. The program takes on this difficult challenge together with its participants, conceiving of research as a space of commitment with the world, rather than in terms of the development of a semio-capitalist subject-I-brand. Responding to this commitment from out of life itself, in the new cycle begun in 2017-18, the program is particularly concerned with activating a political imagination linked to the material grounds of survival. Basing itself on eco-feminist positions, it conceives of interdependence and vulnerability as the necessary basis from where to respond to the neo-liberal forms of capitalism that represent a total mobilisation of life, breaking up each day into a diversity of differentiated crises: migratory, ecological, institutional, political, and so on.
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Academic Direction and Subjects
This new cycle, under shared academic leadership, brings to the program sufficient plenitude and variety (as well as a degree of complexity, undeniably) to encourage thought on the edge, able to take on the difficulties that distinguish contemporary antagonisms. In this edition, the program will continue to reflect on the possibility of forging bonds with the community of southern Europe, with the goal of strengthening networks between Mediterranean countries sharing similar geopolitical realities.
The program does not conceive of knowledge in terms of the accumulation of information, but rather from out of the potential of collective study and the activation of theory. To accomplish this, it draws from the tools of critical theory, artistic research, cultural materialism, feminist and queer thought and practice, as well as decolonial critique. Three major orienting features—Criticism and Thought, Cultural Ecologies and Technologies of the Body—are related to other exploratory terrains, such as multiple pedagogies, visual narratives, a-disciplinary knowledge and writing as a tool in activating language, sharing experiences and articulating research.
The program has been organised over four trimesters, from April 2019 to June 2020 (with no classes in July, August, half of September and December). Apart from featuring lecture-style classes, workshops are included with the aim of initiating specific research projects (collective and individual), along with other events that will be open to the public as international seminars, monothematic courses and lectures. Throughout the course of the program, students will do their own research (whether individually or in groups, accompanied by a tutor connected to the trajectory of the PEI, such as members of the academic direction, former students, program professors or museum curators). At certain times, they may have the opportunity to discuss their respective projects in open debate with the other students. These research projects can be presented in any final form deemed adequate, including as a performance, in film, as a curatorial project or as academic research, amongst many options. Furthermore, during the program three projects in collective research will be carried out (“Cultural Ecologies”, with Jaime Vindel; “Memories of Sexual Dissidence in Barcelona”, with Lucía Egaña; and “RED LOVE”, a research, writing and practice-based group, with Dora García). Each student will be required to choose one of these three groups for the collective research project, an essential feature of the program’s methodological proposal, grounded as it is on the idea of cooperation, collaboration and coexistence. These projects will generate working methodologies that step beyond the productive logic of privatised and individualised knowledge, spilling over the edges of traditional disciplines while settling in an a-disciplinary space.
Addressed to: people from a variety of disciplines, with different backgrounds and professional orientations (from artists to professors, architects, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, activists, curators, psychologists, etc.) who share an interest in research as a collective learning experience and who feel drawn to projects that connect art and artistic practices with human sciences and social, political or institutional action. There are no age requirements or academic prerequisites, but profiles with a certain experience, or an academic or professional track record, who can share their knowledge with the rest of the group, will be appreciated.
Academic Direction 2019-2020
Lucía Egaña, Marina Garcés, Dora García, Pablo Martínez and Jaime Vindel.
Franco Berardi Bifo, Marcelo Expósito, Yayo Herrero, Aurora Fernández Polanco, valeria flores, Daniel Inclán, Germán Labrador, Ana Longoni, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, Carmen Romero Bachiller, María Salgado y Emilio Santiago Muiño, amongst others.