A 1969 Experiment in a Locked Room Changed Art History—and Predicted Remote Learning

Inside the Locked Room.COURTESY GARETH JONES

The first rule of the Locked Room was that you didn’t talk about the Locked Room. The second was that you didn’t talk to each other, or remove any material from the room or document it in any way.

In September 1969, newly arrived first-year sculpture students at Saint Martin’s School of Art in London were handed name badges and a cube of polystyrene wrapped in brown paper, and ushered inside a bolted and padlocked room. Inside, they found their names pasted at distanced intervals on the floor, along with a list of rules. Students were told that they were not allowed to leave the room between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., except to fetch tools, and were silently supervised by at least one professor at all times.

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