On Not Knowing: How Artists Teach
The Glasgow School of Art convened in partnership with Uniarts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Art

Event Type:



The Glasgow School of Art 167 Renfrew Street Glasgow G3 6RQ


9 Jun 2023 - 10 Jun 2023
Fri - Sat, -



in-person conference
Join us on Friday 9 June 2023

On Not Knowing: How Artists Teach

Event info

In Person Conference
June 9 & 10, 2023.

convened in partnership with 
Uniarts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Art

The not knowing is crucial to art, is what permits art to be made. Without the scanning process engendered by not knowing, without the possibility of having the mind move in unanticipated directions, there would be no invention.

Donald Barthelme, Not-Knowing, 1997[1]

How do artists teach in higher education, galleries and beyond, within the current climate. If not knowing is crucial to making art[2], is it also important in the teaching of it? As artist-teachers, what might we learn from each other, and how do artists’ pedagogies change and evolve? 

Within art schools, academies, departments of art, and across the range of environments in which artists teach or facilitate learning, there has for some time now been a sustained questioning of the values and assumptions that had previously underpinned various aspects of artist’s pedagogies[3]. This conference sets out to determine what is special about the way artists teach, asking how and why artists’ pedagogies in the post compulsory sector have developed in the first part of the 21st century. Structural challenges including massification, standardisation,[4] and financial constraints have had significant impacts but so does our relation to culture and ideology. A changing world requires us to address issues of justice and equity with varying degrees of urgency, to explore virtual and hybrid approaches in the pandemic, and to reconsider our pedagogical practices in relation to critical methodologies. How are we changing curricula in light of ongoing challenges to the canon? There has also been a shift in the socialising aspect of Fine Art education which had typically asked the student to come towards the educator’s world through the process of learning, more recently however students have begun asking educators to come towards their world so that this learning might be more effective. Within this context the reliance on student centred approaches has been critiqued for promoting a consumer culture[5] and failing to put anything on the table to which students might respond and grow[6]. Yet art schools still offer a glimmer of possibility for the critical education of individuals. As Barthelme suggests, ‘not knowing’ is crucial to the creative process, but also, we suggest, vital to pedagogy in the arts and the way artists teach.

The On Not Knowing: How Artists Teach conference will share and explore the various approaches, methods and understandings of artists who teach in the field of higher education and beyond. 

Steering Committee: Professor Jaana Erkkilä-Hill (Uniarts, Helsinki), Dr Elizabeth Fisher (Northumbria University), Professor Rebecca Fortnum (GSA), Dr Marianne Greated (GSA), Dr Luis Guerra (Uniarts, Helsinki), Dr Roddy Hunter (GSA), Rory O’Neill (GSA SA), Professor Magnus Quaife (Uniarts, Helsinki), Dr Timothy Smith (Uniarts, Helsinki), Dr Henry Ward (Freelands Foundation).


We are delighted to announce that the Keynote speaker for On Not Knowing: How Artists Teach will be Scottish artist Susan Phillipsz.

Susan Phillipsz is an artist from Glasgow whose work deals with the spatial properties of sound. She was winner of the 2010 Turner Prize and exhibits internationally. Recent solo shows include, San Francisco MoMA; KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Kröller Müller Museum, The Netherlands and Tate Modern. She is a Professor at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden, Dresden.


Friday 9 June

9am: Registration desk opens

10am - 12:30pm: Morning session

2 - 4:30pm: Afternoon session

5 - 6:30pm: Welcome & Keynote

8pm: Evening event


Saturday 10 June

9:30am - 12pm: Morning session

1:30 - 4pm: Afternoon session

4pm: Reception in the Degree Show


We are pleased to be able to offer 10 travel grants of €500 to contribute towards the cost of travel and accommodation for the conference. Priority will be given to applicants who meet most of the criteria outlined in the application form. The deadline to apply is the 20th of April. The grants are supported by the University of the Arts Helsinki.
Please find the application form below:


For more information please contact: HowArtistsTeach@gsa.ac.uk 

[1] Not Knowing: The Essays and Interviews, Donald Barthelme, Vintage Books 1999

[2] On Not Knowing: How artists think, edited by E.Fisher and R.Fortnum, Black Dog Press, 2013

[3] See for example Art and Design Pedagogy in Higher Education, by S.Orr and A.Shreeve, Routledge, 2018; and 

 Envisioning the Future of Arts Education, Edward P. Clapp, proceedings of the Second World Conference on Arts Education, 2010.

[4] Factories of Knowledge: Industries of Creativity, by Gerald Raunig, semiotext(e), 2013.

[5] World-Centred Education: A View for the Present, by Gert Biesta, Routledge, 2021.

[6] In Defence of the School: a Public Issue, by J.Masschelein and M.Simons, Translated by J.McMartin, E-ducation, Culture & Society Publishers, 2013.