"Please, teach me...": Rainer Ganahl and the Politics of Learning

By William Kaizen

Introduction by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Commentary by Rainer Ganahl

For more than 10 years, Rainer Ganahl has been engaged in a subtle exploration of the points of overlap of art and learning, using a variety of media including photographs, videos, books, wall texts, and tapestries. Much of Ganahl's work falls into the following categories: Libraries, collections of scholarly books, intended to be perused by gallery visitors; Seminars and Lectures, where he attends and photographs seminars and lectures by leading scholars; Readings, where he photographs and/or videotapes invited participants as they analyze theoretical texts with him; Studies, portraits of himself as a learning machine, documenting his efforts to study new languages; and Dialogs, either interviews or collaborations outside educational institutions. Ganahl has had numerous solo exhibitions in Europe and New York and was selected as one of three Austrian representatives to the Venice Biennale in 1999.

William Kaizen, a Columbia University doctoral candidate in art history, is the curator of the Wallach Art Gallery exhibition and primary author of the exhibition catalogue, which provides a comprehensive overview and a scholarly exploration of the artist's work. In her introduction to the catalogue, Professor Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak discusses her personal connection to Ganahl. She sees in his work an answer to Marx's question, "Who will educate the educators?"

Kaizen's essay takes up the politics of Rainer Ganahl's claim that education is art's "abhorred other" and discusses the means through which the artist creates possibilities for both art and knowledge production. A color plate section with commentary by the artist includes more than 400 images that document Ganahl's varied artistic practices during the past decade. Two additional contributions by the artist—"Marx and again Marx: Antonio Negri interviewed by Rainer Ganahl" and "A Portable Library for Columbia University"—expand the understanding of his practice.