March is a journal of art & strategy.

Tools for Radical Study

KUNCI Study Forum & Collective

March 2024

Why Tools?
Tools for the Damned, the Educational Turn, and Knowledge Production

Why do tools become the locus of conversation? readers of Tools for Radical Study may wonder. At least for those of us who reside amid the proliferation of collective practices in the Global South, this is particularly significant. Talking about and sharing tools means talking about and performing the redistribution of power – a power that is most likely derived through the process of knowledge accumulation. Talking about tools also means talking about things one finds in places like public kitchens, village meeting halls, slaughterhouses, and residential gardens – places where theory and its methods are rarely found, whether on the ground or in quotidian conversation.

Using the Indonesian political context as an example, the New Order and its developmental ideology instilled uniformity.1 It is expected that we should say, “This tool caters to a particular purpose.” The uniformity is entrenched in our heads. It dictates our understanding of what productivity means. Power relations determine what tools mean and what capacities they enable. The working of tools can be tied up with subordination. To refer to certain things, individuals, or organizations as “tools” is to assert that they are being oppressed. Here, oppression means the reduction of the agency of things, individuals, and organizations. Their capacities are defined by how they function to serve the purpose of the authorities. We talk about tools to reconsider what we mean by freedom, or scales of independence.

If you look at the constellation of artistic practice in the last two decades, attention to tools has gained relevance – at least in the midst of what is called the “educational turn” where the scope of the arts, including the curation process, “increasingly operates as an expanded educational praxis.”2 The idea of tools thus could be seen as a way of articulating the educational process. As a group of researchers experimenting with various methods in the form of a school, this wave gives rise to our curiosity – particularly regarding how the various initiatives and experiments carried out by the contributors of this publication can eschew some of the pitfalls mentioned by Marion von Osten and Eva Egermann in their book Curating and the Educational Turn (2010) quoted above. What is known as an “educational turn” is very likely “displacing the real questions of knowledge economies and cognitive capitalism” and may be only a meta-theoretical stunt to perceive the learning process differently while not changing the actual learning process itself.3 Through our short survey, we are also curious whether this wave forms a historical continuity in one hemisphere – a continuity previously unknown and deemed novel from the binocular vision of those conquerors in the other half of the world where the collection of practices is imbued with a colonial dynamic.

Echoing Audre Lorde’s forewarning long ago in “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” there is one thing we anticipate.4 Publishing this compendium of tools is also a means of retracing the context – a provision to prevent the trap of reification by perceiving it merely as a tool that brings no positionality. Publishing the tool is also an effort to reflect on what we might have “dismissed” from our radar. The search for tools under the umbrella of pedagogical practices also talks about the possibility of community formation. A question that is still spinning in our minds is: Can dexterity in the use of the tools and the effort to distribute the tools equally create a community trying to deal with similar problems? Of course, this is with the awareness, as Lorde touched upon, that “Without community there is no liberation, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between an individual and her oppression.5 We are aware of the oppression experienced by our friends who are in precarious positions without any help from institutions. They are the ones who could define what is considered valid as a tool. Our simple effort to search for tools is also a way to accompany them and ask: Is it only institutions that can define and support the trajectory of their activities?

Who Owns Tools?
On Commoning Tools and Maintaining Ethical Principles

This collective editorial has become a chance for us to revisit things that have helped shape the culture of our organization: the experience of learning together and the spirit of continuously questioning our own position in that shared experience. The first memory that came to mind concerned the School of Improper Education (SoIE), our regular program that has become our lifeline since 2016.6 SoIE emerged as a means to embrace the unknown and precariousness, unlearn the productivity regime of schooling, and expand our vernacular vocabularies for studying. We perceive the school as a means to survive the ongoing uncertainties in the contemporary social and political situation through the act of studying together.7

Our practices in SoIE reverberate with our involvement in The Global (De)Centre (GDC), a platform that brings together a growing network of scholars from across the world committed to producing new knowledge and using different epistemologies and methods. We have been meeting virtually on this platform on a regular basis for the past two years. In parallel with the process of KUNCI’s collaboration with MARCH on this publication, the Arts and Pedagogy GDC working group is currently developing an online repository for decentering pedagogy tools.

On the one hand, the image that appears related to our collective tinkering experiences in SoIE when we try to define tools through the frame of “schools” is closely linked to material things; benches, desks, uniforms, and other formal classroom objects have become part of that process. On the other hand, the keyword “improper” leads us to define “education” far from materiality – a distance that allows us to treat the experience of learning or education not merely as a commodity, but as a way of commoning. This leads us to a question: How can a tool become a shared resource?

If tools are a common resource, ownership, access, and the tool’s framework of care are ideally based on togetherness and justice. To achieve these goals, we may need a set of “ethical” conceptual proposals that are more supportive of the tool’s nurturing function than its ruling function, which comes together with punitive consequences. In other words, we need a set of procedures that allows resources to be circulated while providing a spotlight on any elaboration of goodwill from its community of users. This is the meeting point between the good intentions of the creators and the accessors – good intentions that can trigger the commoning of tools by placing collective justice into consideration in the tool’s creation phase while continuing to carry these objectives out in its utilization phase. When the dividing line between the “creator” and the access to tools gets blurry, the perception or emphasis on the extractive nuances of the tools may also disappear. We believe that the existence of a space that upholds this kind of articulation can encourage new interpretations during each negotiation process every time the benefits of these tools circulate in a more constructive manner. For example, it can serve as a trigger to work on making these tools’ benefits more adaptive for everyone.

We think that in order to make the tools more adaptive, it is important to study the communication plots that are formed in that space of negotiation, including the thought process and collective response from hands touching these tools and the senses felt relevant by those hands. If feelings become a starting point, it means that there needs to be a more sensitive atmosphere that enables us to capture and place these feelings in an effort to reconstruct those tools. As mentioned above, consideration of these things deserves to be placed at the tool-creation stage and, of course, done together with the intention of maintaining these processes in a way that circulates the tools’ benefit; in other words, commoning the tools.

For this publication we have invited education practitioners from diverse learning spaces to share their tools, which have been developed through collective learning practices. Questions include: What kinds of strategies, tactics, and methods have been created, tested out, and developed to redistribute power in the learning relation in these spaces? How could they be used to create and manage the condition of safe and democratic spaces to pose oppositional views? How can the goodwill of each person involved form the basis of a nurturing, ethical principle? What kind of space is able to capture and at the same time re-narrate – to make tools become more universal?

What Can Tools Do?
Self-Defense and Bending Power through Art and Education

The survival game is rigged. We often feel treated as mere pawns. We want to break free from linearity and stagnation. Obedience is our biggest enemy. Silence is impossible. To tool is to resist. We have invited the contributors of this publication to theorize their paths for self-defense. Tina M. Campt’s conceptualization of quotidian practices of refusal as “creative” is useful here. According to Campt, such practices “[highlight] the tense relations between acts of flight and escape, and creative practices of refusal – nimble and strategic practices that undermine the categories of the dominant.”8 We define refusal as an ongoing attempt to build a kind of “bending power” – the power to bend certain matters, expanding them beyond their predefined capacities.

In line with the spirit of MARCH, the tools assembled in Tools for Radical Study make this publication readable as a manual rather than an academic journal. We are also aware that a compendium of tools has a form that is not much different from an exhibition. This propels us also to look for various tools within the pedagogical framework that could be used as “modes of resistance.” As shown in the essay “Re- and Un-Defining Tools” by Feminist Search Tools, the discussion about tools leads to further discussion about the “disruptive mechanism” and how to address pressing questions.9 Contributors may work in various existing and temporary spaces – classrooms, libraries and catalogs, migrant workers’ communities, women’s groups in villages, traditional art groups, Indigenous communities, and art institutions. Taken together, they represent spaces where a specific vision of futurity is shared, explored, and prefigured. The diverse character of these spaces allows the contributors to keep experimenting with redefining and subverting the meanings of tools. In doing so, they make active links and develop new bridges to what communities need.

How can you devise tactics to create a productive counter-institution without necessarily burning down an institution? Chen Yun’s essay, “‘51 Personae’ and the Challenges of Institutionalized Art in China,” offers an insight that this can be done through creating neighborhood-based practices using museum resources. Here, usefulness is not perceived as something that caters to the mainstream authorities and conventional productivity, and therefore a sense of community emerges in the process.

The notion of “working” serves as an important reminder to understand what tools can do. Tools are not perceived as objects to fix something. Rather, they emerge as verbs, or as a lubricant used to transform habitual practices into a more workable social environment. In Sanchayan Ghosh’s essay, “Circl(e)ing Inside Out: Tools for Pedagogy as Art Practice,” engaging in games is understood as a mechanism to circulate energy.10 In Al Maeishah’s essay, “Walking in a Shifting Image,” walking is seen as a means to inhabit, make space, and collect stories.11 Sima Ting Kuan Wu’s practice, discussed in the essay “Let’s Stand Together: Supporting Migrant Cultural Work in Taiwan,” manifests in various acts of accompanying Indonesian migrant communities in Taiwan. These range from organizing migrant workers’ literary competitions, cultural festivals, mobile libraries, and visual arts exhibitions to traditional dance, film, and writing workshops. Sima’s recent work revolves around collecting migrant sounds and songs.

In both Sima’s and Moelyono’s practices, we observe nimbleness and agility. Questions around shared conflicts, histories, and solidarity propel such nimbleness. We also observe that the agility is driven by questions about the usefulness of art practices and how to be together. In Moelyono’s work, discussed in the essay “A Praxis of Critical Consciousness in Rural Indonesia,” an exploration of useful values culminates in pedagogy and community-organizing practices. Moelyono’s roles keep transforming in the process: he is an artist, drawing teacher, activist, advocate, facilitator, friend, and neighbor. Attempts at ethical actions are woven together in the intricate relation between the resourcefulness of the authorities and the limited resources in the communities. Nothing is black and white; everything seems sticky.

The uniform character imposed by the national education authorities engenders stagnancy, alienation, and disconnection from the social environment. As Fawaz’s article “Contextual Education and the Zeal of Common Cause” elaborates, this often puts Indigenous communities in a more vulnerable position. Due to their remote position, they often cannot access basic necessities such as education. At the same time, globalization forces them to face cultural shocks that threaten their hunter-gatherer identities. The national school system tends to flatten the diverse realities of Indonesian communities instead of developing contextual pedagogical practices that attend to their situation. Through his work at the Sokola Institute, Fawaz asserts that providing basic literacy skills combined with listening to the daily struggles of participants might be effective in puncturing the existing school system. In this way, Indigenous communities strengthen and rediscover their sense of indigeneity.

How to Share Tools?
Nurturing Friendship, Forming Communities, and Publishing Tools for the Commons

​​We treat KUNCI’s editorial role in Tools for Radical Study as an opportunity to network and cross-reference our educational initiative, the School of Improper Education, with other initiatives and their publics. We understand cross-referencing as a framework to provide a grounded understanding of local study contexts while also engaging in the mobility and connection of people, ideas, tools, and institutions that, in turn, multiply the frame of references in each implicated study practice. Inhabiting the space of sharing and collectivity, this multiplication creates a commons-based production of knowledge rather than a centralized accumulation of intellectual property. All contributors to this publication offer alternative forms of studying that are fundamentally practiced as a mode of sharing and nurturing alternative publics or counterpublics.12 Counterpublics are a radical form of commons as long as they are formed by a shared dissatisfaction with the dominant mode of schooling and advocate for the redistribution of the right and ability to think, study, and collectivize knowledge.

In his seminal thesis on “print capitalism,” Benedict Anderson argues that imagined communities are formed through the proliferation of printing technologies, which maximize the circulation of languages, discourses, and an affective sense of national belonging.13 Embracing print culture but at the same time resisting capitalism, our publication works toward sharing common tools and commoning a network of study communities. Publishing can be a soft infrastructure to facilitate the reproduction and redistribution of commons. Thus, for us, making a publication is not only about publishing something to show the world who we are and what we think – it is also about reaching out to people to create a community of study. It is a process as simple as forming a new friendship and as complicated as organizing a sustainable, trans-local network.

Indeed, we got to know the contributors of this publication from a growing, rhizomatic network of friendship between people who have invested their collective resources into the arts and education; a diverse range of self-organized groups, radical pedagogues, community activists, and artist-teachers. Since creating SoiE in 2016, the school has allowed us to both organize and attend forums, conferences, workshops, and residencies – different kinds of trans-local gatherings to learn critical educational practices from each other. These gatherings have lasted from one day to three months, but often the friendships and camaraderie remain longer. Our choice of contributors for this publication is not just based on our belief that their tools are valuable and worth sharing. It is also a way for us to follow up on the intensity of previous friendships and to consolidate shared intentions. As a small, self-organized group with precarious material conditions to actualize our ideas, we try to nurture deep networks of solidarity whenever there is a chance (energy, time, money, infrastructure, etc.). Not all contributors know each other. Thus, we also imagine this publication could serve as a platform to cross-fertilize emerging friendships – to ignite another possible route for future collaborative study.

Most close to our local context in Indonesia, Moelyono is an artist-teacher who, since the 1980s, has been working with communities impoverished by the developmentalist political regime. His spirit and way of teaching and studying have been affective and intellectual fuel for us to imagine a political relationship between arts and pedagogy inside and outside of Indonesian art and educational history. Meanwhile, the stories from Fawaz, a radical pedagogue working with Indigenous communities under the umbrella of the Sokola Institute (originally formed by Butet Manurung), reached us through his book Seandainya Aku Bisa Menanam Angin (If Only I Could Plant Winds, 2019). For KUNCI, whose struggles are mainly set against the urban context of Java Island, the chronicle of Fawaz’s experience provides a window to reflect on how the modern educational system enforced under the hegemony of the Javanese elite’s dominance in Indonesian culture and politics has colonized Indigenous peoples in the archipelago. More than that, the Sokola Institute’s work can be politically located along the trajectories of decolonial activism enacted by Indigenous communities across the world.

We make new friends beyond our local reach through residency programs and opportunities to embark on short trips across the oceans (not without being guilty of adding to our carbon footprint). Artists’ mobility programs have enabled us to expand the intellectual itineraries of our study journey. The enticing scent of what the Feminist Search Tools working group is currently cooking approaches us through our long relationship with Read-in, a self-organized group initiated in Utrecht, the Netherlands in 2010.14 KUNCI has shared a publication kitchen with Read-in through self-publishing activities such as Uncommon Reading: A Glossary of Sticky Terms of and for the Commons, developed when we invited Read-in to do a residency in Yogyakarta in 2015, and a series of immaterial publications documented mycorrhizally online and co-edited with Display Distribute based out of Kowloon, Hong Kong,15 after our trinity collaboration at the Seoul Media City Biennale in 2018.

In 2019, through a platform for exchange called Parliament of Schools held in Dessau, Germany, KUNCI members met with, among others, Al Maeishah, a group that creates an egalitarian learning environment to practice hospitality, neighboring, and communal learning as a radical political act. The notion of hospitality practiced by Al Maeishah within the threshold of domestic and public space really resonated with KUNCI’s search for an ethics of care in collective study. Chen Yun also addresses care as a form of (de)institutionalizing within and against contemporary art museums and biennales, speaking from the gentrified ground of China’s urban cultural centers. A KUNCI member connected with her through the Curatorial Practice in Asia residency program sponsored by Shanghai’s Rockbund Art Museum, also in 2019. In her text, Chen Yun reflects on the idea of neighboring practice as an attempt to form an intimate public through the museum, thus promising a point of cross-reference with KUNCI’s and Al Maeishah’s practices, which aim at building an alternative form of institution based on long-term friendship instead of formal working contracts. In this way, we all seek strategies to sustain study as a practice of commoning within, against, and beyond hegemonic institutions.

As mentioned earlier, friendship emerges not only through the movement and meeting of people but also through print cultures. Indeed, books, zines, booklets, and other printed materials may have their own lives, creating affective ties between the writer and reader in organic and unexpected ways. In 2015, working together with Indonesian migrant workers/writers in Hong Kong and Para Site gallery,16 KUNCI initiated Klub Baca Selepas Kerja (Afterwork Reading Club) and published Afterwork Readings, a book in four languages (Indonesian, English, Tagalog, and Cantonese) consisting of poems and short stories around the act of reading, writing, and migrating. The book was found by Sima Ting Wuan Wu, who has been working with Indonesian migrant workers in Taiwan to form a similar reading group, having previously worked with the Taiwan Literature Award for Migrants (TLAM). Our exchange of knowledge, networks, and access has allowed KUNCI to learn various narratives and modes of writing developed by migrant workers/writers who use literature as a vehicle to study collectively and to speak for themselves.

Finally, a story of a delayed friendship. In 2019, KUNCI was invited to “a self-organized gathering of unlearning” initiated by the Slow Institute within the school grounds of Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan, India. Unfortunately, we were not able to secure funding to travel to Santiniketan at the time. The invitation, however, incited shared curiosities and connected us, albeit minimally – which, in turn, encouraged us to invite Sanchayan Ghosh, one of the organizers of the gathering. The contemporary engagement to reactualize the historical tools of collective study in Santiniketan is particularly attractive to us given that KUNCI’s current method of studying also attempts to re-engage with the history of Taman Siswa, an anti-colonial school established in the 1920s during Dutch colonization in Indonesia. Its founder, Ki Hadjar Dewantara, envisioned Taman Siswa as a national form of consciousness-raising in the field of education. Interestingly, many historians have shown us that Dewantara’s ideas were built not only through local values and philosophies but also through his cosmopolitan interaction with thinkers like Rabindranath Tagore, who is the central figure in the Santiniketan school. We embrace this historical cross-referencing process by including a 1954 text titled “Principles of Art Education in Taman Siswa,” written by Sindoedarsono Soedjojono and Sindhusiswara, and translated by Pychita Julinanda.

Teaching staff of the National Education Institute Taman Siswa in Yogyakarta, Java. Courtesy of COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM, TMnr 10002264.

These stories of friendship are fragments of the affective and intellectual network in which the School of Improper Education has taken part. We also learn from folks who are active in the Arts Schoolaboratory network17 and Another Roadmap School,18 to name a few. All of this is to say that these networks consist of many people with diverse trajectories of collective study, and there are so many educational tools out there beyond this present publication. Locating our practice within this wider network and friendship of alternative schools, we hope to make clear that there is definitely more to learn and more to common from the different possibilities of collective studying.




Tools for Radical Study is available as a free digital PDF (8.6mb) and for purchase from The Luminary in the US and Motto Books in the EU and Internationally.


  1. The New Order refers to the political period during Soeharto’s presidency (1967–1998). The term signifies the military dictatorship, shrinking public space, and oppression of human rights and political and creative expression during the period. Today, the term serves as a reminder of how the New Order-oligarchy attitude lasts and continues to haunt subsequent political periods. According to Edward Aspinall and Greg Fealy, the political and economic mission is best summed up through the production of slogans, neologisms, and acronyms throughout the period: “dwifungsi (the ‘dual— i.e., military and political—functions’ of the military), ‘floating mass’ (the passive role assigned to the rural population when it came to politics), ‘monoloyalitas’ (the unswerving political loyalty that all state officials were required to give to the regime’s Golkar party), ‘accelerated modernisation’, ‘take-off’ and the like.” To learn more about how to contextualize the New Order within the Southeast Asian context, see Edward Aspinall and Gred Fealy, “Introduction,” in Soeharto’s New Order and Its Legacy: Essays in Honour of Harold Crouch, ed. Edward Aspinall and Greg Fealy (Canberra: ANU Press, 2010), 5.
  2. Paul O’Neill and Mick Wilson, “Introduction,” in Curating and the Educational Turn, ed. Paul O’Neill and Mick Wilson (London: Open Editions/de Appel, 2010), 12.
  3. Marion von Osten and Eva Egermann, “Twist and Shout: On Free Universities, Educational Reforms and Twists and Turns Inside and Outside the Art World,” in Curating and the Educational Turn, 281.
  4. Based on a speech given as part of a panel at the 1984 New York University Institute for the Humanities conference, Audre Lorde’s subsequent essay “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” has been published in many different forms and contexts. See, for example, Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essay and Speeches (Berkeley: Crossing Press, 2007), 110–13.
  5. See Lorde, 112.
  6. The School of Improper Education (SoIE), originally called the School of Invisible Economies, is a long-term collective learning process initiated in 2016 by KUNCI Study Forum & Collective. SoIE offers avenues through which unlearning can be practiced and unknowingness can be transformed into a productive tool for understanding social ecosystems and resourcing independent artistic and cultural organizing.
  7. For further reading about SoIE, see KUNCI Study Forum & Collective, “The School of Improper Education,” Critical Times 3, no. 3 (December 2020): 566–78,, and Letters: The classroom is burning, let’s dream about a School of Improper Education (Brooklyn: Ugly Duckling Presse, 2020).
  8. Tina M. Campt, Listening to Images (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017), 32.
  9. Feminist Search Tools is an ongoing artistic research project that explores different ways of engaging with the items of digital library catalogs and their systems of categorization. The project attempts to stir conversations around the inclusion and exclusion mechanisms that are inherent to current Western knowledge economies.
  10. Sanchayan Ghosh is an artist pedagogue and works as an Associate Professor at Kala Bhavana (Institute of Fine Arts), Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan. He has been practicing site-specific art as a workshop-based collective community dialogue leading to numerous forms of public installation and pedagogic engagements and various kinds of self-organized initiatives in different parts of India and the world.
  11. Al Maeishah (“the living” in Arabic) is a communal learning environment in which participants explore and practice neighboring and hospitality as radical political acts. It creates temporary and critical platforms by engaging in conversation with people of similar social and political urgencies. Al Maeishah tackles these urgencies—related to displacement, diaspora, citizenship—with the imagination of a future beyond borders and an understanding of the challenges in prompting the common.
  12. On counterpublics and the queerness of print culture, see Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics (Brooklyn: Zone Books, 2002).
  13. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflection on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991).
  14. Read-in is a self-organized collective that experiments with the political, material, and physical implications of collective reading and the situatedness of any kind of reading activity.
  15. Display Distribute is a now-and-again exhibition space, distribution service, thematic inquiry, and sometimes shop founded in Kowloon, Hong Kong.
  16. Para Site is Hong Kong’s leading contemporary art center and one of the oldest and most active independent art institutions in Asia. It produces exhibitions, publications, and discursive and educational projects aimed at forging a critical understanding of local and international phenomena in art and society.
  17. Arts Schoolaboratory is an international collaborative of nine contemporary art institutions that focus on the pedagogical or “learnalogical” challenges imposed by their specific contexts. Arts Schoolaboratory’s goal is to develop a highly adaptable open-source model for information-sharing that organizations can incorporate, modify, and improve based on their own needs. Participants include KUNCI Study Forum & Collective and ruangrupa (Yogyakarta, Indonesia), Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art (Jerusalem, Palestine), RAW Material Company (Dakar, Senegal), Platohedro and Casa Tres Patios (Medellín, Colombia), Cooperativa Cráter Invertido (Mexico City, Mexico), PICHA (Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo), and Ashkal Alwan (Beirut, Lebanon).
  18. The international network Another Roadmap for Arts Education is an association of practitioners and researchers working toward art education as an engaged practice in museums, cultural institutions, educational centers, and grassroots organizations in twenty-two cities on four continents. Another Roadmap School, launched by the Another Roadmap network, aims to provide open spaces for trans-regional exchange and learning in arts education as an engaged practice committed to social change. The participating working groups of the Another Roadmap School carry out local practice and research projects and collaborate in thematic clusters.

KUNCI Study Forum & Collective experiments with methods of producing and sharing knowledge through acts of studying together at the intersections between affective, manual, and intellectual labor. Since its founding in 1999 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, KUNCI has been continuously transforming its structure, ways, and medium of working.