The University of Leeds expands through the north of the city. But, what do we see? A major educational institution is perhaps the answer… but what else?… Can we see the layers of reality unfolding over, the same way as an amalgam of different buildings from separate epochs compete for space?
Do we see a leading force in teaching and research? Yes, but what are its aims? Knowledge of what and for what? Is it there for supplying skilled labour to local and international businesses? Is it imagined as a kind of garden for individuals to flourish, or a well thought and managed sausage-factory?
Consider coldly, and rather impartially, who takes the decisions and who influences its strategies and plans? What is its role in the society; is it part of a process serving social needs -and who defines those of course, or elitist aspirations and stakeholders’ interests? Is it part of a wider movement toward the democratisation of education and well-being, or reproduces the existing structures of social power and control? Maybe we should start from the simple question, who has access to this institution, and who hasn’t…
In 1896, the first female student began a course here, who, according to Wikipedia, studied Modern Literature and Education – itself quite a feminised subject as we may comment now. So, have things changed? Considering of course that we want social change and inclusion, rather than just rhetoric. Is social class, and gender and ethnicity and dis-ability and all the other social barriers finally entities of the past, or are they still reproduced? What about young people with a history of mental health difficulties or with a criminal record, do have they access?… What about the millions of international students whose parents can not afford the £25,000 approximate fee (without counting other costs) for a three years degree?…
Maybe it is not a question of ‘either/or‘, maybe it’s a question of ‘both/and‘. And it remains for the viewer to make sense of some form of reality through the pragmatic and modernised new rhetoric. So, can we see through?
This is a song by Sokratis Malamas (from a live performance last September in the Theatre of Rocks in Athens). It comes from the last work by Thanasis Papakonstantinou and is called ‘Diafanos’. It means transparent.