Pedagogy of the Cipher
Let’s start with some guiding lines, illuminating and mysterious:
Desire ignores exchange, it only knows the robbery and the gift. (Deleuze & Guattari)
My anarchy subterraneously obeys a law where I deal clandestinely with astronomy, mathematics, and mechanics. (Clarice Lispector)
It says here, "Play a vibration in the rhythm of the universe." So he said, "What is all that mystic stuff here?" And I said, "I mean, have you never had dreams where you fly from star to star?" (Karlheinz Stockhausen)
There, you have started the study already. The above lines are portals into a specific universe of concerns, values, sensations, perceptions. They turn things upside down, which is a necessary step because the world is already upside down. Most likely you don’t understand what they mean, but you feel an impulse, a little wind, which raises curiosity and amazement within you. This is the beginning of a thaumaturgical pedagogy. If these quotations were to become concrete matter they would be a lodestone: a type of iron which when hit by lightning becomes a magnet. Indeed, lodestone was the very first geomagnetic compass. Lightning, magnet, compass - all we need for travel and thinking.
Step Not Beyond (estb. 2016) is the name of a small - yet planetary - school of geo-ontologies. It's a philosophical disposition: go toward the limit of your thought, experience, work, but not beyond it. Be a tightrope walker, an acrobat who lightly treads across the abyss that is internal and external, creative and political.
Through a series of courses and practices the SNB engages a single comprehensive question without disciplinary borders (relevant to children, astro-biologists, and artists alike): "What is the Creative Act?" Or, how are things, from art objects to political institutions, brought into existence? What do desire, sensation, power have to do with it? This aesthetic question extends into politics (i.e. the creation of communities) and even ecology (i.e. nature is essentially creative). The goal is to define a common nucleus, a vital point embedded in the art-ecology-politics constellation.
Creativity is a response to (existential, aesthetic, political) knots. Yet knots are practical too, as every sailor knows. Even the great funambulist (Philippe Petit) uses them to cross the Seas of Air. This school is like a rope - knotted from ideas, encounters, activities - that students have to tangle and disentangle. We learn from the elastic fingers in "Cat's Cradle" and from the jumping feet in "Double Dutch" games: kinetic solutions to string problems. From there, we extend into string theory. And then back to the wisdom of insects and arachnids.
The school is inspired by the beautiful endeavor of Fernand Deligny in southern France in the 1970s; by Lucretius’ immense poem De Rerum Natura composed in the first century BC; by the great sorcerers from small-scale societies in Latin America that taught us how to make ropes from sounds; by the authors and political revolutionaries from all parts of the world, known and unknown, that suffered deeply for their work. In other words, the SNB school has enormously diverse influences which nevertheless align in their sensitivities toward the world: no matter how small or local, the world always becomes cosmic too. And what exactly is the relation between the an artist's work and the cosmos? A hundred years ago Paul Klee raised this question, many others followed. Hence, this school is both more broad and more narrow than other schools, closer to an ancient society of artisans than to the contemporary academy. For thinking is a stylistic and visceral skill; an apprenticeship. And knowledge is subterranean, vitalist, latent; both prehistoric and of the future.
Moreover, the boring word “school” is both simple (everyone knows what it means) and complex (with multiple meanings): it can refer to a building where education happens, or to a group of individuals that share a particular style, or else to a type of training. But it is also used to describe a group of fish zigzagging harmoniously through the water. This last example is of particular interest for our configuration of art-ecology-politics where archipelagic thought unfolds. For everyone knows that the most insignificant example, seemingly the most distant, is also the most significant, the most energetic and fruitful. Here, then, indigenous (regional) knowledge, avant-garde methodologies, and philosophies of immanence collide.
SNB provides no formal degrees or certificates. It is a training ground for rigorous alignment of elements within and outside of oneself. In sailing we learn how to align sail with the wind so as to move across the Sea; we learn how to be a part of the natural force itself (a true sensation of magic). Similarly, SNB is the wind that moves the sails toward future aesthetics and politics. Thus there are no formal prerequisites for the participants. The only constraint is that of limited space; it’s like going to the movies, you either get the ticket or not (if you’re daring enough perhaps you can sneak in even when the room is full and the show has started).
The school is, on the one hand, completely international (or post-national) and, on the other, highly regionalized, providing young and old islanders with an unusual pedagogical experience based on the climatological forces of their region. Moreover, indigenous youth (those who trace themselves to predate the formation of the State) from any area of the world can attend for free.
Hence, all activities are immanently tied to a microclimate; all thought is climatological here; the syllabus, a series of atmospheres. Furthermore, ideas, when they are unforeseen and rare, produce a specific ecosystem within the individual, a precise ecology of thought, just as there is a planetary ecology of life and a political ecology of the State. The SNB provides a space where these ecosystems can be harnessed and where they can intermingle. Needless to say, building an ecosystem is about health; about growing old and young at the same time; about looking for a new earth. A space where thought and act are the same, where theory and lived experience come together in a palpable way, where gesture and substance are one.
The courses and experiences are offered in two ways:
- On-the-island (or corporeal presence) during Summer: archipelagic, thaumaturgical, climatological, therapeutic engagement.
- Online (or digital presence) at different times of the year, coming and going like the waves; virtual live interactions through video, audio, and chat presentations.
You can chose one or the other, or both. While on-the-island meetings are site-specific, its practice of bioregionalism can be applied to any microclimate in the world. These applications are another pedagogical aim of the project: to revitalize seemingly abandoned regions of the earth, through willful migrations to the unexpected terrains. To initiate a new semi-nomadic life under the radar, so to speak.
We create educational arrangements for other locations and microclimates around the world. If you would like a program tailored for your particular region, use the contact form and provide your interests and budget.
The chief instructor is Dejan Lukic: institutionally trained as an anthropologist (PhD, Columbia University, 2007) and self-trained as a philosopher (with help from the Institute of Philosophy, University of Leuven). More formally, he taught at Reed College, Columbia University, The New School, and currently at the School of Visual Arts. He also conducts philoso-therapy.
Others attached to the running of the school are: Emily Taw, Will Scarlett and Cigdem Asatekin in New York, Aleksandar Norsic in Croatia, and Joshua McCarty in transit.