Brown Mountain College

Brown Mountain College's contribution to Nought to Sixty

Brown Mountain College of the Performing Arts was founded to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration within the context of performance. It boasts the most departments of any art college, including both traditional and non-traditional disciplines, the latter featuring circus skills, magic, activism, bar tending, sports, dating and creative accounting. As the College is without permanent premises, staff or students, it invents new scenarios for each project, proposing formats and engaging practitioners. For Nought to Sixty the College will stage Those That Can..., a cabaret-style showcase of skills, including stage fighting, giant origami, dog-paw reading, sideshow illusions, chainsaw carving and string saving, demonstrated by experts from the faculty. Sir Gideon Vein, Professor of Re-skilling, will present this esoteric display to an audience that, by implication, will become prospective students.

Brown Mountain College considers Black Mountain College (1933-1967, North Carolina) to be its staid younger sister. Brown Mountain relishes scatological humour, metafictional nuisance and general absurdity, while also honouring the integrity of the work it facilitates. Like its sibling institution, the College champions experience as education, regarding the invigoration of curiosity as paramount and aiming to construct situations in which historical and theoretical insight and ribald humour can coexist. With its metafictional approach, Brown Mountain College produces multiple implicit and explicit jokes about performance and its frame - a comedic strategy that has been employed throughout the twentieth century by the likes of the Theatre of the Absurd, Monty Python and Fluxus.

The ultimate aim of the College is to revisit and reconfigure, through explosive laughter and the keener tools of comprehension, the overlooked roots and offshoots of performative genres and critical discourse. As the late, great anthropologist Mary Douglas suggests, "Aesthetic pleasure [has] something in common with the joy of a joke; something which might have been repressed has been allowed to appear, a new improbable form of life has been glimpsed."

Brown Mountain College was founded in 1906 and claims such influential faculty and alumni as Paul Robeson, John Cage and Lamb Chop. The current Deans of College were appointed in 2006 and aim to revive an avant-garde ethos of collaboration between artists, dancers, actors, filmmakers, political activists and comedians. The Deans are Mel Brimfield (born Oxford 1976, lives in London), Sally O'Reilly (born Portsmouth 1971, lives in London) and Ben Roberts (born London 1976, lives in London). Previous Brown Mountain College events include an ongoing series of thematic screenings, The Erratic Film Club (2006-ongoing), the celebratory Centenary Cabaret (Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, London, 2006) and Cabaret of Curiosities (Royal Academy Life Room, 2008), while the forthcoming Brown Mountain Festival of the Performing Arts will take place in the Slade Research Centre, Woburn Square, London, during Frieze Art Fair, October 2008.

Emma Ridgway