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Shift/Work: Workshop/Workshop


Developing participatory workshop models for educating contemporary artists Monday 2nd April 2012 Studio C02, School of Art, University of Edinburgh

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 2/4/12 Curated by Neil Mulholland & Dan Brown Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Shift/Supervisors: Neil Cummings & Dave Rushton


Professor Neil Cummings - Chelsea College of Art & Design |


Dave Rushton - Institute of Local Television |


Shift/Work Workshop Workshop was supported by the HEA-ADM Discipline Workshop and Seminar Series 2011-12



Shift/Work is a knowledge exchange between the School of Art, University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop that develops and shares open educational resources for artists and art educators. The purpose of this workshop is to enable its participants to develop their own models of collaborative practice-based learning.


Developing new sites in which art can be produced and expanding the ways in which production is supported are central to learning how to practice as an artist. To facilitate this, art education conventionally combines ‘structured’ historical and theoretical scholarship with ‘open’ practice-based learning agreements. This incoherent approach perpetuates the legacy of Romanticism, producing ‘autonomous’ auteurs rather than artist-learners. This does not prepare artists to participate in today’s artworld, a horizontally integrated network that is highly dependent upon reciprocal altruism.


Re-imagining the learning environment is key to facilitating the kinds of knowledge that artists now require. Developing an iterative action-based approach to artistic learning that is at once theoretical and practical is imperative.


Shift/Work aims to examine and reconfigure ways in which we can facilitate comprehensive workshop-based approaches to artistic production that are theoretically informed, practical and participatory. Shift/Work will facilitate new experiential knowledge, practices and tools for artists and art educators to adapt and implement.


Structure and Format


The workshop will be hosted in three studios in the School of Art, Edinburgh College of Art. It will accommodate up to 30 participants, two speakers and their facilitators. It will consist of a two and a half hour morning session and a two hour afternoon session.


The workshop began with two presentations - one by Neil Cummings and on by Dave Rushton - followed by two break-out sessions. A rota-based approach to curriculum design focused attention on the workshop as a convivial means of knowledge production and distribution. Learning and exchange were developed through ‘on-the-job training’, engaging the participants in a collective approach to learning.






Neil Cummings and Dave Rushton will give presentations on their considerable professional experience of workshop models in art education. Following the presentations, the two speakers and one of the workshop facilitators will then each chair a small break out group (3 groups in total).


Group Work 1: 


The break-out groups examine the models presented by the speakers with the specific aim of generating a set of conditions, desires and prohibitions that will govern a workshop-based curriculum.


Feedback 1: 


The three groups reconvene in the main studio. The group chairs feedback the conditions, desires and prohibitions to the whole workshop. From this, the workshop iterate and agree a shared set of guidelines.


////// BREAK


Group Work 2:


The break-out groups reform and use the guidelines to collectively develop a workshop model.


Feedback 2: 


The three groups reconvene in the main studio. Their chair presents the model and further proposes means by which it might be implemented and adapted.




The shift/workers have a holistic view of the entire process and are in a unique position to put it to work as a means of generating their own workshop models.




At the end of the discussion there is a public finissage. This makes the immediate evidence of the workshop (video footage the presentations, feedback sessions, diagrams and notes) available to all shift/workers and reproduces the resulting workshops as an OER.

Supported by:

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 April 2012 Shift/Work (Neil Mulholland & Dan Brown) Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International


Performed by Shift/Work at: Rhubaba, Edinburgh, Scotland Nov 2017 | Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India March 2017 | University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway August 2017 | Listaháskóli Íslands, Iceland Sept 2016 | Malmo Art Academy, Sweden 2014 and 2016 | OCADU, Toronto, Canada April 2013



In April 2012 Developing participatory workshop models for educating contemporary artists, saw artists Dave Rushton and Neil Cummings supervise a day shift devised to enable shiftworkers to develop their own models of collaborative practice-based learning. Crucial to this workshop has been a shift towards discourses and practices that engage with the values of unlearning, deschooling, improvisation and amateurism.


The proposals that emerged from this workshop, none of which required a ‘shift supervisor’, became future Shift/Workshops in their own right.


The April 2012 Shift/Work session was, effectively, a workshop that generated ideas and processes to implement in future Shift/Workshops. This has since become our main focus, bringing together learners to design, develop and share open educational resources for artists. 

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