School of Imagination

Over a period of seven days a group of residents from Tower Hamlets in East London signed up for a one-off, bespoke workshop led by contemporary artist Marcus Coates. The workshop focused on developing the participants’ imagination as a practical tool for identifying and addressing their individual concerns and problems.

Using methods drawn from a broad range of cultures and disciplines School of Imagination is the first time Coates had attempted to teach members of the community the skills he has developed.

The project asks not only how our imagination can help us solve problems in our everyday lives, but also whether the abilities of an artist to think creatively can be passed on to others, and enable them to do the same.

Designed to develop the functionality of the imagination and enhance creative thinking, School of Imagination is driven by Coates’ conviction that the solution to any problem must come from within the individuals affected.

Marcus Coates

Marcus Coates is a performance artist, writer and film maker. His work takes audiences on a dark and humorous journey in an attempt to explore the full potential of imagination, while simultaneously questioning the artist’s role within society.

IMG_0352Coates has an extensive knowledge and understanding of British birds and mammals and continually draws parallels to examine how we perceive human-ness through imagined non-human realities.

These ornithological observations have led Coates to develop a unique method of interpreting the natural world and its evolving relationship with society, exploring the degrees to which one can test perceived boundaries and entertain the possibility of ‘becoming something else’.

Cardboard Citizens

For over 20 years Cardboard Citizens have been making life-changing theatre with and for homeless people, demonstrating how participation in the arts can make a real difference in people’s lives.

School of Imagination photo iconCardboard Citizens creative methodology draws inspiration from  Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed. Boal's techniques use theatre as means of promoting social and political change where the audience become active participants in the formation of the narrative. As "spect-actors" the audience explore, communicate, analyse and transform the reality in which they are living.

Cardboard Citizens draws upon this tradition of storytelling as a catalyst for personal and social change, translating ideas shared on stage into the real world.


The School of Imagination film is an expansive and complex artwork which aims to influence contemporary attitudes and provoke fundamental questions about the way we think and use our imagination.

School of Imagination - FilmCreated from footage shot during a week-long workshop, the film challenges the over-dependency of rational thinking in ‘modern’ western society.

School of Imagination presents how these alternative problem solving techniques can help answer everyday questions which remain ‘unsolved’ despite complex rationalisations.


UR... A Practical Guide To Unconscious Reasoning
Published by Book Works, ISBN 978 1 90601 261 8.


This book comes with a few warnings: It’s not mystical. Reading it won’t help you see into the future or talk to the dead. And it isn’t therapy, although it might have beneficial side effects. What it will do is help you access your imagination and use it, in ways that you might never have imagined possible.

Using a series of exercises and increasingly in depth ‘trips’, the book sets out clear and concise steps to enable individuals and groups to access their imagination and unconscious reason, to work on behalf of others. Using a series of exercises such as ‘Becoming a Bat’, ‘Crawling’, ‘Draw a Sound’ and ‘Impersonating a Human’, Marcus Coates has developed his own practical techniques to solve problems that we might otherwise remain dumbfounded by.

Supported by

CREATE and Cardboard Citizens


School of Imagination