Allan Sekula

School Is a Factory, 1978-1980

In School is a Factory, Allan Sekula refers to one of his own experiences:  in a Community College in Southern California, between 1976 and 1979, he gave evening classes about the history of photography. This work, which alternates black and white photos, texts and graphic panels, questions from within not only the teaching of photography, but also the more general teaching in these colleges, which, in reality, offers nothing more than a perfunctory training which only rarely culminated in a job. With his sociological and political discourse about resistance and opposition to the American capitalist system, Sekula pointed a finger at the normative aspect of school whose function is to format pupils, so that they accept their conditions and become part of the social system as it is. The first image/photomontage is a perfect expression of this:  against a backdrop of a de-humanized landscape, human hands brandish a school model placed on a funnel filled with small figures which, one by one, in their identical casting, will slip into the mass. Far from being a part of egalitarian liberation, as it would have people suppose, school is in reality a place of highly hierarchic reproduction and segregative selection, based on the class, sex and race that schoolchildren belong to, and ushering in all too little social mobility. Diametrically opposed to the soothing pictures decorating the promotional brochures of universities, these photographs reveal a rationalized, bureaucratic, mendacious and monstrous environment, which merely renders the fate of these people more pathetic. The narrative sequence alternates plans, texts and images which develop a whole strategy of temporal marking and question the status of the narrative, somewhere between documentary report and formal construction.

Nadine Labedade

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