Dasha Ilina & Benjamin Gaulon, No School Nevers | Tech + Art Podcast

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OVERVIEW

Welcome to the new Tech+Art Podcast!

Join us on this adventure as we meet & speak with: artists, makers, researchers, designers and creators from all background and fields.

Our objective is to understand their creative perspective, dive into their workflow & creative process, be inspired by new ideas and their work – and stay one step ahead of cutting-edge industry developments.

"Right now because they are training people to find jobs - to fit within a system that’s actually in crisis. What we are trying to do [...] will maybe push those questions in other places. "

IN THIS EPISODE...

In this episode, we’re chatting with Dasha Ilina & Benjamin Gaulon, Today we’re speaking with Dasha Ilina & Benjamin Gaulon – the co-founders of No School Nevers – an international summer school, held in Nevers in Burgundy, aimed at students, artists, designers, makers, hackers, activists and educators.

Dasha & Ben are also independent artists & creators outside of No School Nevers. Dasha’s work explores the relationship we develop with the digital devices we use on a daily basis, specifically in regards to the human body – primarily centering around the concepts of care and technology.

Benjamin has previously released work under the name “recyclism”. His research & work focuses on the limits and failures of information and communication technologies; planned obsolescence, consumerism and disposable society; ownership and privacy; hacking and recycling and more. His work spans several mediums and formats.

Question 1: What really pushed each one of you towards this unique combination of technology & art within your research and work?

[ 2:36 – Dasha ] – Actually for my undergraduate, I went to Parsons Paris, which is where I met Ben because he was my teacher and program director. And I studied Art, Media & Technology, so the whole program was around the dialog within art & technology which included a lot of different things like coding things, video, graphic design – really anything that is related to the medium of technology.

[ 4:18 – Ben ] – As I mentioned, I started from Graphic Design and was really interested in the idea of sampling and remix culture and issues around copyright & reusing when it came to graphic and digital art. And from there, I got interested in the darker sides of technology I guess: planned obsolescence, over consumptions, the consequences of our overuse of technology and how you can rethink hacking & recycling in that lens.

Question 2: You’ve both come together as of last year to launch a new program - a school - that focuses on many of these same subjects and questions that has driven your careers to this point. Can you tell us more about No School Nevers?

[ 5:57 – Ben ] – The idea of No School was also I think from years of teaching grad students and myself kind of looking for an alternative to PhD for example. There was really nothing in between that time of, you done studying or you’re about to finish and you want to continue having serious conversations about technology and their social and environmental impacts. There was really nothing like this.

[ 6:37 – Dasha ] – […] because it kind of sounded more like a continuation of what I was doing with my bachelor’s, but more free I guess in a sense as there’s no specific course structure at least for the summer program which we’re organizing now. It’s more like 2 weeks of workshops – so we invite people that we’ve worked with in the past or would like to work with to just run workshops on the fields that they are specialists in and it’s a great space for the students to just figure out what they are interested in or to continue their own research or practice…

Question 3: What have been some of the biggest challenges have you both had to face in starting this type of program?

[ 8:25 – Ben ] – So that independence is I think is also very important. It kind of feels like all of the participants, whether they are teaching or being part of the program, are part of the same group. And they’re in charge of this school as much as we are. It’s very much a community practise and creating networks between people – that’s a very important aspect for us. So for now it’s mostly the summer program as we are in our second year, and we are actively trying to open more events in Paris, but for now, well the cost of running an event in Paris is very different from running an event in the countryside […] it’s also a nice space to be a bit isolated from the big city and other distractions. So when people come to this summer program, they have two weeks of real focus.

[ 9:37 – Ben ] – But also give people skills for taking ownership of these tools – so creative coding, doing electronics, being really able to make your own tools and not be dependant from industry standards or other limitations that you may have when working with these tools.

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Question 4: When you both tackle putting this type of multi-disciplinary program together, bringing creators, artists, makers together and having them collaborate, discover, and create - what do you both, or all, end up seeing as missing? What are you hoping to create with the outcome of this program in this space?

[ 14:32 – Ben ] – I think one of the key aspects for us is really trying to question – it’s a big word – but capitalism and how we function within that. And how technology has a big role to play in this rapidly changing climate and how we have a responsibility as an artist and designer within that space to question how all that technology is impacting us and the environment. And I think it’s not necessarily what schools are really doing right now because they are training people to find jobs, to fit within a system that’s actually in crisis. What we are trying to do is to maybe teach activists and rebels and people who will maybe push those questions in other places.

Question 5: You quickly mentioned the role of the artist & designer - can you elaborate on that further? What role do these creators need to play in this evolving landscape?

[ 16:46 – Ben  ] – […] It has to start from the bottom-up. Designers and artists have a responsibility towards what they use and how they use it and how they can change those discourses, how can they bring new discussions and new narratives on other ways of living and sharing and exchanging life, data, devices and so on. So I think this is one of the aspects that we are trying to explore and we don’t really have the answers. That’s why we need all these people to think about these issues.


[ 17:17 – Ben  ] – That’s the only way we can move forward, is towards understanding those tools, owning them, being able to make something with it or not, and then having the type of discussion and imagination for other ways of living […]


[ 17:34 – Dasha ] – I think it’s just important to have a critical view on the situation in which we are now…. I mean of course technology brings a lot of really helpful, really great tools. But I think it’s also important to take a step back and think about technology critically and about what the tech industry is doing to our society, how they’re harvesting data and what they are doing with it […]

Question 6: And so just to cap off this episode, is there any advice that you’d share with a younger version of yourselves? Someone just getting into this field?

[ 23:29 – Dasha ] – Don’t underestimate the power of documentation. There have been lots of times where I’ve thought: ‘Oh I’m exhibiting in this place and they’ll document it – it’ll be fine’ and then never actually having any documentation of the work, or just being lazy and not doing it – and then not having anything left of the project essentially.

[ 23:53 – Ben ] – I would say learn about how to use Excel properly and deal with money because I think that’s also one thing that I always found in art school – as a student and as a teacher – that is really a taboo subject. Money and how do you deal with it and how do you generate an invoice […] It’s really not something that we teach enough to designers and artists and I think this is what can make a big difference whether you survive this field or not.

RESOURCES

Here are some of the link mentioned in the show:

 
No School Nevers
 
Dasha’s Links

 

Ben’s Links