A knowledge exchange platform by and for refugees and asylum seekers

A lecturer talking to a group of people
Students listening to a lecturer at one of The Silent University’s workshops

The Silent University is a knowledge exchange platform initiated by artist Ahmet Ögüt through a year-long residency at Tate in partnership with Delfina Foundation. It is led by a group of lecturers, consultants and research fellows. Each group is contributing to the programme in different ways which include course development, specific research on key themes as well as personal reflections on what it means to be a refugee and asylum seeker. This platform will be presented using the format of an academic program.

As part of building up this platform, a series of weekly workshops have taken place, with group participants that have had a variety of asylum, migrant, and refugee experiences. In particular the project has involved those that have had a professional life and academic training in their home countries, but are unable to use their skills or professional training in the UK owing to a variety of reasons related to their status. Working together, the participants have developed course topics connected to their qualifications.

The Silent University aims to address and reactivate the knowledge of the participants and make the exchange process mutually beneficial by inventing alternative currencies, in place of money or free voluntary service. The Silent University’s aim is to challenge the idea of silence as a passive state, and explore its powerful potential through performance, writing, and group reflection. These explorations attempt to make apparent the systemic failure and the loss of skills and knowledge experienced through the silencing process of people seeking asylum.

Tate Modern will provide ongoing support to The Silent University beyond its inception, including the creation of a publication, temporary resource area, website and public events. Also encouraging collaborations with other hosting institutions. Ideally in the longer term, the participants will take The Silent University over with dedication, as their own institution, and keep it continuous as a social organisation and as an autonomous platform.

Silent University Resource Room, Welcome Room, Level 0 Tate Modern

7 November – 30 November 2012
Open Monday – Friday, 10.00–15.00; Satuday and Sunday 11.00– 16.00

(Please note: at weekends the space is shared with the Family Team for separate activities and Silent University material is in the library area of the Welcome Room on these days.)

The resource room includes project-related contributions in the form of essays, books, films and catalogues from a mixture of international artists, practitioners, institutions and collectives. Themes include: alternative currencies, knowledge exchange platforms, artist-led and institution-led models of learning, migration and associated policy and silence and performance. These diverse resources will help consolidate and showcase the Silent University to a wider public visiting Tate Modern during the dates mentioned above.

McAulay Screening Room

7 November – 30 November 2012
Open during Gallery opening hours

The screening room features artists’ film and audio works that engage with the key themes of the project. There are films and audio works by artists including Katarina Zdjelar, Antonio Vega Macotela, Nicoline van Harskamp, Berat Isik and Lawrence Abu Hamdan.

The Resource Room moves to the Delfina Foundation between 1 December and 14 December 2012.

Further resources

Project Information

Project type: 
Project leader: 
Synthia Griffin and Nora Raizan