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Friday March 15 | Session 15:05 - 16:05 (20 min)
De Brakke Grond | Grote Zaal
This research examines how a visual artist might use performance to affect change and influence decision-making within the administrative spaces of the educational workplace.
Using The Failure Institute as a framework, Sarah Britten-Jones operated for two years, as both artist and staff governor on the board of a large education and training organisation. Through ‘power dressing’, The Failure Institute used the artist body to activate the bodies of others. Through interactive enquiry and iterative design processes, it created a rupture in the habitual conventions of these educational decision-making spaces.

Creative strategies were used to establish alternative and informal chains of power, revealing discrepancies between espoused democratic governance structures and traditional patriarchal realities. Conventional attitudes towards authority and knowledge can still dominate educational organisational ideologies and shape attitudes towards organisational learning. This can prevent the organisation from genuinely engaging with others and otherness.

The education institution that is unable to apply its expertise in learning to its own internal operation and strategy is a paradox that suggests self-limiting behaviours derived from sector-sensitivity towards a fear of stupidity. Perhaps the very nature of the educational institution as the place with the knowledge, prevents its agents from admitting to not knowing? Since awareness of not knowing is an essential prerequisite for learning (and therefore change), the organisation operates in a perpetual closed loop.

By operating as the artist in the boardroom, this research showed how change happens in action and through action, towards an open -looped, self-learning organisation. 


Sarah Britten-Jones is a visual artist and educator with an MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics. She is currently a Ph.D candidate in Service Design at the Royal College of Art in London. Her research interests include how creative processes can instigate change within educational institutions and the paradox of the university that is unable to learn. As a visual artist, Sarah uses appropriation and collaboration to examine and critique power structures and familial institutions. She is currently a lecturer in design at Oxford Brookes University and a member of Open Hand Open Space artist studios. 
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