UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

In/visibility of the abandoned school : beyond representations of school closure LeBlanc, Natalie Elizabeth


This research is an artistic form of inquiry in which knowledge is generated from a closed school because it is a de-institutionalized and de-commissioned place that has not yet legally been re-zoned, re-sold, or repurposed. Much of the research on the topic of school closure suggests that its aftermath wreaks havoc on cities and neighborhoods. The abandoned school, marginalized and forgotten, enters into a process of neglect and decline (Chambers, 2007). This research demonstrates how acts of ‘re-territorialization’ (Smith, 2010) in the context of the socio-political state of the closed school, holds pedagogical possibility. To complete this project, I photographed multiple closed schools in cities across Canada and I spoke with principals, students, board directors, faculty, and community members about their experiences with school closure. For one of the final stages of my inquiry, I projected images of the inside of the decommissioned school onto the outside’s physical structure and invited the public, community members who experienced the closure of the school, to take part in an immersive experience in which they could project their own stories and imaginations onto the artwork. Encounters with the abandoned school are brought forward in five ‘concessions,’ articulated here as a virtual spatial practice that explores the abandoned school through photographic images and text, provoking readers/viewers to (re)imagine relationships between space, time, place, and memory. I articulate how this inquiry acts as an intervention — an experience that occurs because of art and because of the artist who is working as a catalyst within the context of the everyday. Drawing attention to the architecture of the closed school as an archive — a repository of memories (both individual and collective) that has been locked off from the community in which it exists, the abandoned school brings forth a possibility (however partial) to (re)construct, (re)store, and (re)present stories of the past with our own existing narratives. Conceptualized as a work of art, this exegesis challenges the more traditional dissertation structure. Rather than answering or advancing a hypothesis, it asks that you look at artistic inquiry in a new way, perhaps even provoking a shift in thought itself.

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