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The Venice Declaration

Knowledge is the sign of tyranny: Questioning is the sign of liberty The process of European financial and cultural homogenization which incorporates the Bologna Process - an accord signed by the education ministers of 29 European Countries in Bologna in 1999, signaling the intention to unify tertiary level education in the signatory countries - is indicative of a faulted logic which underpins policy making on a local and international level. Whilst the principles of freedom of movement for students and the encouragement of time spent exploring and learning about other European cultures - both encouraged by the Bologna Process - have provided a valuable contribution to education, emphasis on the promotion of European 'Knowledge', and its accreditation via a universal credit system risk curtailing diversity. A universal credit system, which determines the length of time studied for individual modules has implications far beyond making knowledge more easily comparable across territories. It by necessity influences methods for the delivery and reception of knowledge, whilst reducing widely varying perspectives, subject matters and cultures to a reductive framework. Similarly, the introduction of tuition fees across many European Territories risks the reduction of learning to a financial value, encouraging a focus on vocational courses at the expense of humanities and arts subjects. Fees also make debt inevitabile for the majority of students - who are led to believe that they cannot get well-paid work without a bachelor’s degree – and are increasingly put in a position of studying subjects useful to industry, commerce and finance, whilst being indebted to those same sectors from the start of their careers. That this model is being applied across Europe and beyond is cause for alarm.

At this year's 55th Venice Biennale the Venice Process proposes an alternative to the Bologna Process, rooted in artistic endeavor, but not limited in scope to arts education. The Venice Process seeks to replace the dissemination of homogenised knowledge and its accreditation via universalizing and reductive system, returning to the powerful currents of independent creative inquiry that characterised the early Enlightenment Period in Europe. As such we call for a free mode of education delivered via art institutions with free 'horizontal' accreditation system enabling students to evade the debt trap that University level education has become. The Venice Process proposes that free schools everywhere can accredit learning using a new online platform which will be developed continually, allowing for diverse modes of accreditation, reflecting an open ended mode of continuous enquiry. The process also supports the writing of free courses to supplement the many free courses available internationally, which can all potentially benefit from a new free accreditation system. The undersigned support this process of continual development and enquiry towards a free education. Signatories Mike Watson: Curator, Joan of Art: Towards a Free Education, PhD Goldsmiths College Dorian Batycka, Curator, Joan of Art: Towards a Free Education Professor Alexander Duttmann, University of the Arts, Berlin David Blacker, Professor of Philosophy of Education and Director of Legal Studies, University of Delaware (USA) Elvira Vanini, Curator, PhD (Department of Visual Art, University of Bologna), Teaches at NABA – Nuova Accademia Belle Arti di Milano. Wolfgang Berkowski, Artist Cecilia Canziani, Curator Simon O' Sullivan, Goldsmiths College Lorenzo Marsili, Director European Alternatives