How do you make a class­room oper­ate like a work of art?

—Felix Guat­tari, Chaos­mo­sis: An Ethico-Aes­thet­ic Paradigm

In the final chap­ter of Chaos­mo­sis: An ethico-aes­thet­ic par­a­digm, Guat­tari (1995) offers a provoca­tive chal­lenge to our des­per­ate times. He sug­gests that the way for­ward is through cre­ativ­i­ty and inven­tive­ness – an ethico-aes­thet­ic par­a­digm. To this he asks: “How do you make a class oper­ate like a work of art” (p. 133). Guattari’s provo­ca­tion also leads us to prob­lema­tize the artist-teacher. Depart­ing from the view that art is work done by an artist to pre­dictable mate­ri­als, or that the class­room is capa­ble of being re-shaped by a teacher, we are atten­tive to what Mas­su­mi writes:

The artist’s activ­i­ty does not stand out­side its “object” and oper­ate upon it…her
action is more an exper­i­men­tal tweak­ing of an autonomous process than a mold­ing of dumb mat­ter. (2002, p. 173)

As an exper­i­menter, the artist-teacher does not mold stu­dents into a work of art, as if the stu­dents sim­ply become raw mate­ri­als. Rather artist-teacher-stu­dent-class­room become a cre­ative assem­blage filled with the poten­tial to open itself to future cre­ative instances. If a class­room oper­ates as a work of art, not as an object manip­u­lat­ed from the out­side, it becomes enmeshed and enlived. A “class­room as a work of art,” we argue, re-con­cep­tu­al­izes the artist-teacher as pro­duc­tive­ly co-min­gling with stu­dents and space.

Respond­ing to the gap between cur­rent artist-teacher mod­els that manip­u­late class­room spaces from the out­side and the pro­lif­er­a­tion of ped­a­gogy as form in con­tem­po­rary art, a series of artist-res­i­den­cies in K‑12 schools and com­mu­ni­ty sites were curat­ed in order to exam­ine the ways that social prac­tice art in the class­room enlarges under­stand­ings of col­lab­o­ra­tion, de-cen­tres artis­tic exper­tise, responds to con­text, and con­cep­tu­al­izes “the class­room as art.”

The res­i­den­cies took place in ele­men­tary and sec­ondary schools in the Toron­to Dis­trict School Board (TDSB), an Inde­pen­dent School in Toron­to, com­mu­ni­ty sites, and in the teacher edu­ca­tion pro¬gram at the Ontario Insti­tute for Stud­ies in Edu­ca­tion, The Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to. Res­i­den­cies ranged in dura­tion from a few weeks to five months long. Artists worked col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly with teach­ers and stu­dents to pro­duce a project that had mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions to the cur­ricu­lum, and to the indi­vid­ual and col­lec­tive expe­ri­ences of the stu­dents in each class.