School of the Underkraft, 2022

Mark Essen in collaboration with Sahjan Kooner and students and staff from Thomas Telford UTC and the Wolverhampton School of Art. 
Commissioned by Hayward Gallery Touring for British Art Show 9 and made possible with support from Arts Council England Project Grant for National Activities


Mark Essen with Sahjan Kooner, School of the Underkraft, 2020. © Mark Essen and Sahjan Kooner. Installation view, British Art Show 9, 2021-22, University of Wolverhampton School of Art. A Hayward Gallery Touring exhibition organised in collaboration with galleries across the cities of Aberdeen, Wolverhampton, Manchester and Plymouth. Photo © Stuart Whipps.


Mark Essen’s practice is driven by a commitment to collaborative, innovative and cooperative ways of working. Mark is interested in communities and histories, as well as the principles of Degrowth (the political and social movement based on ecological economies) that consider the balance of global resources and the level of consumption. 


“School of the Underkraft is a proposition to investigate the function of education post-covid, having a focus with art schools and what role they have to play in socially engaged labour. The objective of the project is to investigate and provide a platform for real action research and to create an outlet for new thinking and public attitudes towards arts and culture in society.  Many questions are asked within this project to challenge the current situation of knowledge based education. This project created a space to allow a question of: is education heading towards a syllabus which is just a reflection of the economy? In a sense, it’s a proposition for a new way of learning.’’ Mark Essen 



School of the Underkraft is an interactive space within BAS9 at the Wolverhampton School of Art, which has been used by schools and college groups for discussions and art making. Essen has worked with artist Sahjan Kooner and designer Joe Geehan, alongside students and staff from Thomas Telford UTC and the Wolverhampton School of Art, to create and furnish a workshop space that forms the physical core of this project. In partnership with Arts Connect, a bridge organisation funded by Arts Council England to connect the cultural and educational sectors, five artists have been invited to develop self-led school activities and a series of workshops throughout BAS9.


Wolverhampton Partnership is interested in how the commission, and specifically how working with Mark Essen, can develop their understanding of a new model for a creative curriculum that can be an open space for sharing and peer learning. 



With thanks to the students at Thomas Telford UTC: Joshua Aston, Kobe Baker, Lauren Broome, Janay Campbell, Peter Clevely, Arjun Singh Deol, Julia Fetita, Kayden Johnson, Tyrell Levy Jackson, Tori Lindsay, Nadiya Paul, Ethan Pearson, Kara Mia Ralph and Jessica Taft; and the Wolverhampton School of Art Interior, Product and Furniture Design team: Jason Fernandes, Joe Geehan, Wayne Jones and Rhys Thomas.


To read more about Mark Essen and his practice, click here to view his artist page.



Arts Connect Activities 

Mark Essen and Sahjan Kooner worked with artists Thomas Eke, Joanna Fursman, Sophie Huckfield, Mark Riley and Larissa Shaw to develop a series of self-led activities that are available in the space for schools, groups and families to use during their visit. 


The activities aim to encourage thinking about how design education is a part of life and how design can help you express yourself, communicate with others, explore our needs as human beings and fulfil those needs, by contemplating the future architecture of places such as our schools, towns and houses. 


More information about learning activities inspired by BAS9 can also be found on the Arts Connect Arts Hub.


Activities developed for School of the Underkraft: