10th Floor

Programme and events September 2009 – August 2011

The 10th Floor began in November 2009 as a store room/sorting office for archival material linked to the history of St. Martins School of Art. It was initially set up with the aim of identifying and securing material considered to be ‘at risk’ in advance of the move to Kings Cross in 2011. In the course of gathering this material – mostly fragments from a much larger and now, sadly dispersed and lost archive – a productive exchange between CSM Fine Art students, former St. Martins staff and students and the University as a whole started to take place.

Memorial to the Unknown Art Student. ONE Magazine. Issue: , 1973. Barry Martin Collection. Utilised as a poster for the 10th Floor, January 2010 and presented at In Exchange, February 2011.

In order to introduce 1st year students to the complex history of the School and situate themselves within its current social, cultural, political and geographic/physical coordinates – a space opened in which a more general discourse on art and education emerged informally as it were, in unison with newly discovered and yet to be archived material. With subsequent ‘introductions’ this gave way to student-led weekly meetings and regular interviews/discussions in what became a productive cross generational exchange on debates relating to art education, the contemporary art system as a whole. As such the 10th Floor quickly became a ‘pre-archive’, a process where students put material to work, brought it to life within the framework of studio practice and course curriculum – prior to it’s cataloguing and subsequent integration into the CSM Museum and Study Collection. Interestingly, it’s been here, in the active engagement and dialogue that has accompanied the gathering of archival material/personal testimony that many students regarded themselves as part of a continuum and in turn, orientate in relation to both the institution itself and more contemporary debates on art.

10th Floor ‘office’. Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. The former lift machinery room at CSM Charing Cross Road site. March 2011

The pre-archive process as such, offered an extraordinary opportunity to tap into a ‘living resource’ with a number of former staff, students and workers passing through the space for interviews from: Peter Kardia, Garth Evans, Gareth Jones (St.Martins A Course staff 1969-73); John Burke, Peter Venn, Andrew Darley (A Course students 1970); Jeff Sawtell (film reviewer for the Morning Star and former student involved in John Latham’s Still and Chew event 1967) to Steve Sprung and Chris Reeves (former students linked to Cinema Action and Platform Films respectively mid 1970′s-1990′s). Much of this fed into ‘A’ Course; An Inquiry, a two day event at CSM where the surviving members of the ‘A’ Course were invited to reflect on their pedagogic experiment in the Sculpture department in the early 1970′s. The overarching theme of the two days was to engage radical, experimental and ‘contingent’ pedagogy – taking into account the theoretical and material conditions faced by those working in art education in the 1970′s and 2010. As an example of how the 10th Floor has worked to date, this was a project initiated and developed almost entirely by students from across the CSM Fine Art department, who tracked down and interviewed former students, gathered, displayed personal archives and posed questions during the conference.

This particular initiative might also be regarded as exemplary insofar as the primary concern throughout had been to find ways to haul in, connect the past and present in a productive and critical exchange. To complement this 10th Floor developed an ongoing dialogue with researchers, writers and contemporary artists/groups ranging from the Berlin based Basso Collective and Rosa Perutz (artist-run-space and collaborative project), the Barcelona based C.A.S.I.T.A (on institutional engagement), Marina Vishmidt (on art education), John Cunningham (on collaboration) and many others.

William Dixon. 10th Floor Website page. December 2010

By early 2011, the 10th Floor had evolved into a something more than an ‘archive’ and was regarded as a potential learning and co-research platform feeding directly into and out of the Fine Art departments. At the core of this was an onus on student-led discourse and exchange, supplemented by regular talks/presentations linking the history of the School to contemporary debates on art and education. This process arguably reached a point of articulation with In Exchange and 43 Theobalds Road, initiatives which moved the process into a institutional gallery framework and ‘outside’ self-organised space. The 10th Floor came to an end in June 2011 as part of the transition, ‘restructuring’ and relocation from Charing Cross Road to a new site at Kings Cross.