‘We often underestimate the potential of art, its capacity to achieve things,’ says Ahmet Öğüt, the artist who founded The Silent University in 2012 in London. ‘The Silent University is encouraged by necessity, urgency and need. It’s both people’s and institutions’ concern to think and take action on this issue,’ answered Öğüt, in an interview for Sleek magazine, when asked about his art in the context of migration challenges.
By Shay Raviv
The necessity to exchange knowledge beyond the limitations of citizenship, has led Öğüt – a native of Silvan, Dyarbakir who lives and works in Amsterdam and Berlin – to the creation of The Silent University, an autonomous knowledge exchange platform by refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. It is addressed above all to those who have completed their academic and professional education in their native country but are unable to pursue their profession due to their being asylum seekers, refugees or immigrants.
Activate academic knowledge
Since September 2012, lecturers and consultants at Silent University have worked out a structure that will make it possible to activate academic knowledge that is rarely employed in the context of fleeing, asylum, and immigration. The Silent University raises questions of autonomy in the field of education. How can we find alternative ways of practicing knowledge in the context of migration? How can we celebrate different cultures without creating alienation?
The alternative education platform offers various courses and lectures, from ‘The history of Kurdish literature’ and ‘Didactics for learning new languages’ to ‘Ten types of Arabic calligraphy’ and ‘The history of food preparation through visual arts’. The lecturers develop their seminars based on their academic and professional background and current interests. To supplement these efforts and broaden the exchange, international guests are invited to public lectures and discussion panels.
The Silent University started initially in London in 2012 in collaboration with Delfina Foundation and Tate and later hosted by The Showroom. Since then, it has been established in other locations including Stockholm, Hamburg, Mulheim and Amman.
Top image: Installation The Silent University as part of solo exhibition by Ahmet Öğüt in Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2015
Shay Raviv is a service designer and design researcher living in Utrecht.