About Nightschool on Anarres

Nightschool on Anarres was one of the projects in the King’s College London presentation, Utopia 2016. The artists Onkar Kular and Noam Toran set themselves the task of creating an educational environment that reflected the social ideas described in Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. The project provided a space where anarchistic approaches to learning and teaching could be explored. The designed environment was intended to encourage students to negotiate their own way to learning; and encourage teachers to teach towards the expressed needs of the students, and not to the teachers' expectations of the students' needs. The experiment was intended to work in two ways: to discover new ways to learn, and to discover new ways to teach.


The learning sessions were originally focussed on two types of knowledge inspired by The Dispossessed: How to Speak Pravic , the language of Anarres; and How to Think Like an Anarresti. This second form of study was based on Pravlish, a direct transliteration of Pravic into English. Concepts like the reduction of ego, the absence of ownership, and the importance of joint enterprise can be explored using Pravlish, simply by comparing the linguistic assumptions of English with the assumptions of Pravic.


The sessions were delivered to two types of audiences. There were five day school sessions for students aged 10-12, with classes provided by Hitherfield Primary and Thomas Tallis; and there were eight night schools for adults who signed up for the experience on Eventbright.


In the day schools, led by Namuun Zimmerman and assisted by Joe I’Anson and Martin Edwardes, the students were introduced to the concepts of non-ownership, sharing, living without money, and other features of the anarchistic society of Anarres. They were shown a video about Anarres, designed by Nestor Pestana. They took Anarresti names, used Pravlish to greet each other, and learned through a series of games and activities. Their final activity was to produce a clay object for the Museum of Unknown Things, and these were displayed on the shelves in the classroom.


The night school sessions were led by Martin Edwardes. The students were introduced to the concepts in Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed via Nestor’s video, told about some ways of thinking in Pravic, and then asked to render some - rather difficult - English texts into Pravlish.


The lesson plan and resources for the night school sessions can be reviewed here.


In total, 132 students and teachers attended the day school sessions, and 140 students attended the night schools. Some pictures of the sessions can be viewed here.


Nestor’s video, and an interview with members of the team, can be viewed here.


Onkar Kular and Noam Toran had been involved in a wide range of successful art projects before creating the Night School on Anarres. They had previously worked together on an installation for the 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale, a piece of Worker's Theatre depicting the imprisonment of two anarcho-syndicalists during the 1910's. Because the Night School project involved teaching, learning, and a constructed language, two academics were also involved in the collaboration. Dr Simon Coffey designed the lessons for both day school and night school sessions; and Dr Martin Edwardes was responsible for the formulation of both Pravic and Pravlish.


A report on the night school is given here. It is in full Pravic script, goRoman Pravic script, Pravlish, and English.