The clean green field outside is about to get messy. Later this month the collective Red76 arrives to conduct a three-week project aimed at enacting radical modes of education through the exploration of the connections between surplus goods and surplus knowledge–the notion that we throw away under-used ideas in the same way we toss out material stuff (more on that below). Umbrella’d under the moniker Surplus Seminar, a flurry of activities make up the project:
- The improvised construction of “Anywhere/Anyplace Academy”–a schoolhouse of sorts built from scrap materials and the skills of whomever shows up
- Book-making using a fancy digital printer, a perfect binder, surplus paper and the internet
- Saturday afternoon picnics with local artists and musicians to discuss the counterculture of underground music as pedagogy
- a lecture on utopia by Stephen Duncombe, the author of Dream: Reimagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy
- a screening of Bill Daniel‘s hobo film Who is Bozo Texino? with an introduction by the director himself
- discussions on topics ranging from Paul Wellstone and Rural Labor Organizing with Dan S. Wang to native land rights with Unsettling Minnesota
- screenings from the YouTube School for Social Politics–an ongoing Red76 project that invites artists, historians, theorists, etc to create “essays” about social or political ideas using only clips from YouTube. Several YTSSP essays are on view in the Walker’s Lecture Room until August 1st.
- YOU. Surplus Seminar is a project that depends on public participation. Someone has to build the A/AA and someone needs to make books out of all our extra paper. We need your ideas, join up!
How do you get involved? There are many ways.
1. Come to the BBQ Kick-off on Tuesday, July 20 from 6-9 pm on the Open Field to meet the crew and pick up a schedule.
2. Call the Red76 toll-free hotline 1.888.339.4496 anytime, any day during the project (July 20 – August 8) for up-to-date info on daily activities or where to go to scavenge for surplus or help build.
3. Stop by the FlatPak House in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden any day Wednesday through Sunday and jump into whatever is going on!
For those readers who want some more context, one of Red76’s main instigators Sam Gould answered a few questions for the July/August WALKER magainze about the ideas behind Surplus Seminar. Read on.
Tell us more about what people will experience with this project.
The Anywhere/Anyplace Academy is a collaborative and somewhat anarchic exercise. Its practical aim is to build collectively a space for learning, whatever that might entail. We use the combined skills and know-how of whomever is on hand to help build it, and we glean and reuse surplus materials such as shipping palettes, old doors and windows, sheet metal, whatever comes into our orbit. While aesthetics are of interest, the concern is more about the conceptual design of an educational space. It’s a means of gathering people to imagine, agitate, and activate the ideas that reside all around us and within us; it’s an investigation of surplus knowledge.
What do you mean by surplus knowledge?
We look at surplus knowledge as a mirror image of surplus material: ideas that all too often go under-utilized, to the detriment of the whole. It’s based around the notion that we are each a consumer, creator, and clearing house for knowledge, just as much as we are the receivers, producers, and disposers of material goods. But when we are acculturated to believe that our thoughts and concerns are somehow limited, we are put at a disadvantage—intellectually, socially, and in turn, politically.
On the positive side, repurposing ideas, expanding and agitating them, much like repurposing physical materials, is infectious and generative. Like the many-headed Hydra, a good idea set free spawns another, and another still. No matter how one might like to kill it, codify it, or capitalize upon it, it cannot die. It cannot be stopped.
Why are ideas so important?
In an economy where ideas increasingly serve as the major bedrock for monetary growth, those zones where social and political capital converge can easily become compartmentalized to continue a top-down, hierarchical economic system. The collective and inventive reuse of ideas, therefore, becomes politically necessary as almost never before. Open thought, the sharing of skills and knowledge, and the generative growth that develops from them encourage a horizontal system of benefit.
Working collaboratively—within Red76 and with the public—means leaving a lot of things to chance. What are the benefits of working in this manner?
Even within progressive circles there are plenty of places for one to go and be told what to do, say, think, how to act, how to engage a situation. I find those types of absolutist platforms more acceptable for rallying, capital-P politics, and the like. Sites of learning, the types that I find most encouraging, don’t have an end result, but rather a frame around them that encourages the intangible, the unknown, and the anarchic.