Experiencing Life in Common

Free Home University (FHU) is a pedagogical and artistic experiment created in 2013 in Southern Italy by a local and international group of artists and thinkers. It focuses on generating new ways of sharing and creating knowledge by experiencing life in common. The name Free Home University wish to be a non vertical, energy-liberating, insurgent environment (Free), within a protected and intimate space (Home) committed to create a temporary, autonomous, community of learners (University).

A full immersion into a collective experience, sharing aspects of life and getting deeper in the context and struggles of our local communities, as well as designing a coalitional approach in the definition and construction of the inquiry, are considered fundamental values in this open–ended, research-based experiment in alternative education.

In Free Home University, the lines of inquiry and methods of study vary following the proposals, desires and perspective of people participating in the project. Shaped by different artistic processes and practices, artistic production and result-driven outcomes are welcomed as part of the pedagogical tools shaping our on going research.

The 2013-14 class in conversation.
The 2013-14 class in conversation.

In its first iteration from 2013 to 2014, FHU is been co-designed in collaboration with artists Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri, Lu Cafausu (Emilio Fantin, Luigi Negro, Giancarlo Norese, Cesare Pietroiusti, Luigi Presicce), Adrian Paci and Luigi Coppola together with more than fifty participants and contributors from different locations and back grounds, approaching the crucial notion: HOW WE WANT TO LIVE. In this first year and in different forms, the group concentrated on questions related to the commons, to the use of land and the food production cycle, meditated on death as a perspective that can offer a meaning to the living, and explored the issue of the representation of experiences, beyond and, in some cases, through the failure or the refusal of image and language. Some aspects of the research deepened in the local context and brought the group to work together with the local community, thought the agency of a group of activists and farmers, Casa delle Agriculture, with whom FHU collaborated on the creation of the Parco Comune dei Frutti minori and Mercato Comune dei  Frutti Minori (common orchard and common farmers’ market).

Central to FHU and its pedagogical intent are experiential forms of learning, processes of reflection and dialogue, and accessing different ways of knowing, including the wisdom of the body and intuitive forms of co-creation, community cooking, peer-to-peer learning, explorative derives, collective reading, and film screenings. This breadth of approaches holds the delicate balance of autonomy and community living.

In 2015 FHU , the question how we want to live has deepened in the question how to practice solidarity through the pedagogical methods of listening developed by Michael Robertson, Chris Jones and Elliot Perkins from Ultra–red, an international group that works at the intersection of sound art and politics. Using sound walks and protocols around the listening, collecting and analyzing sound objects in relation to What is the Sound of Fredoom and What is the Sound of Justice, the group was invited to interrogate personal and social conditions, struggle and other modes of collective process, questioning given binary divisions between the aesthetic and the political.

The investigation around solidarity in the local context of Salento brought the group into a deep dialogue with a newly formed LGBTQ organization and a group of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants residing in the area, that joined as fellows in the program. Attempting to build solidarity with these communities created a space for reflection on systems of oppression, questioning (our own) privilege, power and discussing positionality, intersectionality, interdependence, womanism, and processing the struggle to build collectivity and community. Engaging in bodily practice and performativity using theater, dance, vogue and political tools and props create a context where differences and conflicts emerged as important part the learnings. It is in this way that with legendary Pony from vogue evolution (NYC) that the first experiment in creating a  Ballroom in Lecce was launched under the title We Wear the Masks.

Brochure cover for Lecce Ball
Brochure cover for Lecce Ball


Filed Under: Articles & Essays


Alessandra Pomarico is a curator of international and multidisciplinary residency programs at the intersection of arts, pedagogy, social issues, nano-politics, and community building. Her practice is based on research and context-based art projects, with a focus on social change.

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