The notion of “really useful knowledge” emerged at the beginning of the 19th century alongside the workers’ awareness of the need for self-education. In the 1820s and 1830s, working class organisations in the UK introduced this phrase to describe a body of knowledge that encompassed various “unpractical” disciplines such as politics, economy and philosophy, as opposed to the “useful knowledge” proclaimed by business owners who had previously begun to invest more heavily in their companies’ progress through financing workers’ education in “applicable” disciplines like engineering, physics, chemistry and mathematics. In this reference to the long-forgotten class struggles of early capitalism, the title of the exhibition suggests an inquiry into “really useful knowledge” from a contemporary perspective.
The exhibition endeavours to position the notion of critical pedagogy as a crucial element in collective struggles, and explore the tension between individual and social emancipation through education with examples that are both historical and current, and their relation to organisational forms capable of leading unified resistance to the reproduction of capital. In doing so, the exhibition highlights the collective utilization of public resources, action and experiments, either forgotten or under threat of eradication, taking the museum as a pedagogical site devoted to the analysis of artistic forms interconnected with actual or desired social relations.
Organised by Museo Reina Sofía within the framework of “The Uses of Art,” a project by the European museum network L’Internationale.
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