“The usual model for schools is that students come in dumb and leave smart,” says Sean Dockray, cofounder (with his partner Fiona Whitton) of the Chung King Road gallery space Telic Arts Exchange. “The Public School isn't like that. Instead, it's user generated, inspired by online culture and its validation of the amateur and the hobbyist.”
Founded in 2004, Telic has hosted a long list of smart, alternative projects, including Showing, artist Jordan Crandall's provocative five-week string of discussions, presentations and screenings about exhibitionism, as well as shows featuring giant inflatables, live geese and interactive shadows. The Public School Dockray refers to is Telic's latest venture, and while still a work-in-progress — orientation is January 25 — it already embodies Dockray and Whitton's desire to explore interesting ideas through practice. An artist, curator and teacher, Dockray has little interest in the usual trappings of school, such as curriculum, grades and top-down authority. Instead, Public School classes will be proposed by students, and people who want to teach can respond, or offer ideas for classes as well.
“But we're hoping that everyone really pushes the idea of the 'class,'” he says. “If I said I wanted to take a class about, say, picnics, everyone who participates would approach the picnic with a certain attitude, a different kind of attention. And what happened with that picnic could be really, really interesting.”
Dockray cites local precursors such as the Black Mountain School, or courses offered through the Mountain Bar just around the corner. But even alternative schools and those founded by artists generally have rules regarding admission, as well as a sense of hierarchy and authority. In contrast, the Public School fronts a Web-based ethos that touts access for the curious. That said, the school is decidedly not about distance learning.
“It's actually the reverse: Online learning often allows people to access information, but they don't get to make the connections with other people. The Public School is all about making those connections.” Dockray thinks about that for a moment, his green eyes wide and intense, and then adds, “It's really like this engine for bringing people together.”Telic Arts Exchange, 975 Chung King Rd., Chinatown, (213) 344-6137