Without Walls: Performance Art and Pedagogy at the ‘Bauhaus of the North’

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This essay explores a period of education in the early 1970s when performance art briefly flourished under the auspices of a libertarian approach to art pedagogy. Charting developments at Leeds College of Art and Leeds Polytechnic from the 1950s to the 1970s, I analyse how the teaching of Basic Research mingled influences from the Bauhaus and elements of sixties counterculture to create an exceptional educational environment which, in the early 1970s, made possible student exploration of inter-media performance work. Drawing upon newly-obtained oral histories from former students the essay explores the work of large-scale student collective Soft Soap in order to delineate how performance practice was shaped by a pedagogy focused on the possibilities of open-ended cross-disciplinary creativity. Recollections and analysis of sometimes literal, oftentimes metaphorical, ‘walls’ show how performance-making developed as a practice of ignoring or traversing disciplinary barriers and exploiting the relative accessibility of an art college education for students from multiple economic backgrounds made possible by post-war UK state-funding of higher education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-144
Number of pages19
JournalTheatre, Dance and Performance Training
Issue number2
Early online date6 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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