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Remembering Tolstoy College

UB Art Galleries has invited Collective Question (CQ) to organize an exhibition and a series of summer programs around their research into Tolstoy College, an anarchist educational community that was part of UB between 1969–1985. What was Tolstoy College? Jennifer Wilson’s “The Unlikely History of Tolstoy College” offers a brief overview of the intrepid experiments in learning, living and being that took place in Buffalo more than thirty years ago.

In the lead up to the exhibition planned for Fall 2021, CQ invites any and all interested Tolstoy College alumni—faculty, staff, students and other comrades—to share their stories. CQ is eager to conduct interviews and gather recollections, with the intent to both document and eventually present them as part of the exhibition at UB Art Galleries. Please email if you would like to be involved.

Meanwhile, CQ has designed a summer program titled CQTC100: ANARCHISM IS NOT A DIRTY WORD. This program takes the form of a syllabus that outlines a recommended 4-week schedule of readings, walks, screenings and an online symposium, which, taken together, explores the themes and sites of Tolstoy College and their resonances today. Participation in this program is voluntary and self-directed, and requires no registration. All are welcome to use the syllabus for free in the spirit of a collective inquiry. Explore the syllabus here.

The online symposium will take place August 20, 2020, 5:30pm EST and will feature two short conversations between researchers, artists and alumnus of Tolstoy College to speculate on the possibility and relevance of an anarchist education today. Guest speakers include Michael Basinski, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Nicolas Vass and Jennifer Wilson. This symposium is free and open to the public. Please register here.



About Collective Question:

CQ is a working group whose independent practices in art, design, pedagogy and political action coalesced around collective research about the life and activities of Tolstoy College.

Steven Chodoriwsky is an artist and educator based in Salt Lake City. In collaboration with individuals and institutions, his research deals with experimental pedagogical models and participatory design practices for the built environment. His work employs a diverse range of media including installation, publication, performance and audio-visual artifacts. Steven teaches architecture at the University of Utah, with previous posts at Cornell, Cal Poly Pomona and at the University at Buffalo SUNY, where he was the Peter Reyner Banham Fellow. Previously, he held research positions at the Jan van Eyck Academie and the Center for Contemporary Art, Kitakyushu.

Chris Lee is a graphic designer and educator based in Buffalo and Toronto. He graduated from OCADU (Toronto) and the Sandberg Instituut (Amsterdam), and has worked for The Walrus Magazine, Metahaven and Bruce Mau Design. He was also the designer and an editorial board member of the journal Scapegoat: Architecture/ Landscape/ Political Economy. Chris’ research explores graphic design’s entanglement with power, standards and legitimacy. Chris is an Assistant Professor at the Pratt Institute.

Julie Niemi is an independent curator, writer and editor currently based in Los Angeles. Through research, design, writing and exhibition making, her projects deals with minor histories in the United States. These projects typically look to the built-environment as a starting point for inquiry, utilizing scraps of local archives and natural resources to tell a longer story of unknown persons, regional places, nameless figures and collectives. Currently, she co-runs Diagram Press, a risograph design studio and publishing imprint dedicated to the production of artist books and independent publications. Previously, she held positions as Assistant Curator at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Curatorial Fellow at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo, Norway and Communications Associate at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. She received an MA from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College in 2017.