Where does arts education happen?
This event will critically engage with current debates in arts education, while insuring that a historical perspective remains stimulus for current critical investigation into this highly debated topic. Our discussion will focus on different spaces and socio-cultural contexts in which arts education in the UK was and is currently embedded. Thereby we will focus on arts education in relation to social class, artistic autonomy and the emergence of different pedagogic spaces. This will allow for a contextual debate on the value, structure and philosophy of arts education, which leads to further discussion on its relevance within a creative industries agenda that favours commercial practices rather than strong artistic positions. Thereby we will jointly investigate new perspectives for the “survival” of art schools and independent pedagogic initiatives, which includes questioning existing institutional structures, funding systems and professional development trajectories.
The New Terms ‘Human Library’ provides an opportunity to share radical education experiences and opinions, by means of private conversations which take place in a safe and comfortable environment. Individuals identify themselves as human ‘books’ with a specific ‘title’, in order to be ‘read’ by a member of the public. For example, Disgruntled Art Teacher might wish to discuss aspects of their work in the classroom. Disgruntled Student likewise. These ‘books’ might be members of the group, or other interested volunteers.
When is Art?
Crafting a trans-discursive response: This dynamic, participatory workshop opens an (inter)space for trans-discursive dialogue in response to the question, When is Art? In a play environment, participants collage post-consumer waste (the spillage of collective cultural identity) into ubiquitous ‘like’ symbols, considering art as a way of looking at the world. Summarising their (shared) responses to indicate whether they believe they are engaged in Art altogether. A large wall ‘results chart’ acts as Visual Document to this relational pedagogical praxis, whilst inviting it’s own appropriation as Art, by questioning Institutional art validation within this very context.
The Democratic table
Children learn to enact democracy by sitting down to a family meal, night after night after night. The collective table is a means of survival, a form of vulnerable existence, and an instantiation of community. The Democratic table performatively stages a participatory learning experience – food preparation, eating, and conversing – to investigate how shared culinary encounters can create alternative (radical?) spaces for affective education. “Democracy has been described as four wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.”
Cutting up theory
Using William S Burroughs cut-up techniques, collage and other anti-narrative strategies to investigate how we position ourselves within race, gender, class struggles within the the arts education curriculum, and its canons-and beyond. Reflecting on conscious and unconscious experiences, by organising a dialogue between people of different backgrounds and histories.
The Crinkle Cutter Project
Children learn to enact democracy by sitting down to a family meal, night after night after night. The collective table is a means of survival, a form of vulnerable existence, and an instantiation of community.
The Crinkle Cutter Project performatively stages a participatory experience – food preparation, eating, and conversing – to investigate how shared culinary encounters can create alternative (radical?) spaces for affective education.
“Democracy has been described as four wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.”
What will it look like?
Tables and chairs will be laid out – each will have a few participants and one facilitator to establish the research methodology and motivate discussion
Participants will be asked to cut vegetables with a crinkle cutter and various dips will be provided
The conversations will be recorded with dictaphones and these will be anonymously transcribed and published online
Interviews with individuals who participated will be conducted, transcribed and similarly published online
Participants and facilitators will be invited to submit text-based responses, or other, yet-to-be-determined interpretations of the process and findings
The Crinkle Cutter project is an act of affective and practice-based research. Although a number of questions have been developed to motivate discussion, it is not the intention that the participation be overborne with historical premise. Rather, by starting with a looser style of discussion free from presupposition, we hope to facilitate a more organic interaction amongst participants, which will no doubt open many more avenues of research to be pursued. The crinkle cutter has been chosen because it subtly subverts the process of collective food preparation – we anticipate that most people won’t have used a one before and this enables a slight redress of food privilege (access to and knowledge of food and food preparation).
Subject for discussion
The role of the dinner table in facilitating political education – namely, the enactment of democracy. This is here loosely understood as a collective process of decision making where equality is prioritised. The premise is that negotiation, communication and survival skills are required at the dinner table. When families learn together, and learn to enact these skills with grace, individual development is achieved. But we wonder what happens when this process fails? Is it failing now? Has it ever succeeded?
Proposed facilitator questions
What does our reliance on the dinner table as a principle space where children learn the tools of democracy say about our current ‘democratic’ systems? How can we create (metaphoric?) dinner tables which teach us the skills of more direct, radical, forms of democracy?
What sorts of learning styles does the dinner table privilege? Who misses out?
How do the power dynamics of the dinner table (grandparents/parents/older family members vs. younger family members) enable politicised education? When do they inhibit it?
What did your dinner table look like as a child? What has it looked like throughout the stages of your life? What does it look like now? What has been lost or gained and what has changed?
Can other spaces e.g. schools/churches/community facilities replace the dinner table in educating children in how they might operate in the world? Is our reliance on parents too extreme? How might we share the burden more evenly among wider communities?
- Are children without a family, and without a table, also without democracy?
Where does arts education happen?
- 1:30h panel discussion consisting of 3 contributions (x 20mins each) from academics and cultural practitioners
- Participation from audience to establish new perspectives (30mins)
- Event to be recorded for further research purposes
Aims and objectives
This event will critically engage with current debates in arts education, while insuring that a historical perspective remains stimulus for current critical investigation into this highly debated topic. Our discussion will focus on different spaces and socio-cultural contexts in which arts education in the UK was and is currently embedded. Thereby we will focus on arts education in relation to social class, artistic autonomy and the emergence of different pedagogic spaces. This will allow for a contextual debate on the value, structure and philosophy of arts education, which leads to further discussion on its relevance within a creative industries agenda that favours commercial practices rather than strong artistic positions. Thereby we will jointly conclude with new perspectives for the “survival” of art schools and independent pedagogic initiatives, which includes questioning existing institutional structures, funding systems and professional development trajectories.
Presentation of a research paper
Banks, M. & Oakley, K. (2014/2015 forthcoming) The Dance Goes on Forever? Class, Art Schools and the Myth of Mobility
- British arts education history
- Social class mobility
- Institutionalised artistic autonomy
- Creative industries agenda
Ivison, T. & Vandeputte, T. (2013) Contestations: Learning from Critical Experiments in Education, Bedford Press, London
- Experimental pedagogics
- Alternative arts education approaches
Open School East, Alternative arts education
- Introduction to the emergence of OSE, mission statement, deliverables
- Key issues in running the programme
In 1963, Howard Becker put together some articles he had written in the mid 50’s and adding a few more chapters, he published the ‘Outsiders: studies in the Sociology of Deviance’. Back then, Becker’s case studies were among others the marihuana users, the dance musicians, the homosexuals. The contemporary reader might smile with the way the marihuana user is described as an outsider, laugh at the direct and one-way connection of the musicians with an underground subculture and get frustrated with the author’s lack of guilt when the homosexuals fall in this same category of deviants. If we isolate though Becker’s methodological tools from his case studies, we will be left with a very accurate description of deviance, applying to lots of current social groups.
The starting point of my research is this exact arbitrariness of deviance and its social impact on the lives of groups and individuals. The main issues to be examined is the initial social exclusion of individuals and on a later stage their assemblage in groups and communities, their self-education and mutual aid and support, either through the acceptance or denial of their definition as deviant.
Key element here is the understanding of the group as a political formation with limitless possibilities. Felix Guattari describes group therapy as a struggle against individualization, against the way we have been produced as subjects. Seen as a laboratory of micropolitics, the group is called to respect and give space to the personal (experience, trauma, language, gesture, image, sound) and through its shared memory and knowledge accompany it to its politicization. Through this process the initially weak, ‘ill’ individual becomes the vital element of a powerful multitude of social voices and differenting flows that claims its own space in the social field.
Going back to the event, all the above will be visualized through mappings of groups and texts as well as archival presentations of radical therapy groups that operated in the UK from the 1970’s onwards.
Final target is to explore the potentials of the group by setting up a human library where individuals are called to share their personal stories of exclusion and deviance and then participate in a collaborative process that will bring back these stories in the social field through techniques used by the theatre of the oppressed.
The concept behind the Human Library is simple and well established: individuals identify themselves with a specific ‘title’ and make themselves available as human ‘books’, in order to be ‘read’ by a member of the public. Volunteer ‘books’ often have something to say which focuses upon experienced discrimination or prejudice. Within those terms, I would estimate that everyone involved with New Terms would make a suitable volunteer! For example Disgruntled Art Teacher might wish to discuss aspects of their work in the classroom. Disgruntled Art Student likewise.
The environment of a Human Library (usually situated in a quiet, safe and comfortable space) provides the opportunity for scheduled conversations with strangers. It might be that the New Terms group see the implementation of a Human Library as an opportunity to focus upon education-related experiences and opinions. The ‘books’ might be members of the group, or other interested volunteers.
In order to keep the happening as easy to organise as possible, perhaps just four books could be made available for one hour? Perhaps a couple of learners and a couple of educators? That might make a total of twelve ‘conversations/’book’ readings available for reservation. One can imagine person A reserving Disgruntled Art Student for a conversation:
DAG: Hi there, my name’s ****. Thanks for coming. I’m here to talk about some of my experiences as an art student, especially as I’m not happy about the way some of my tutors have treated students. Do you have a question for me?
A: Yes I do! I’m **** by the way. What sort of art do you study?
And so on and so forth….. Conversations, though started by the ‘book’. may be guided by either party: the ‘book’ or the ‘reader’. Important factors to consider are: there is a specific starting point to the ‘reading’; the atmosphere is relaxed and mutually respectful. My sole experience of a Human Library was informative, memorable and pleasant.
So, perhaps folk coming to a New Terms event might give up to an hour of their time to sit down as a Human Book and discuss their ideas/experiences with people attending the event? Or know of someone who would like to volunteer as a ‘book’? Attendees would look over a catalogue of offered ‘books’ (usually on a board outside of the ‘library’) and reserve that time slot. For example, one might reserve Anarchic Art Teacher, available at 1.00 pm, 1.20 pm, and 1.40 pm.
The concept of the Human Library movement is based upon the promotion of positive dialogue which reduces prejudices and promotes tolerance and understanding. ‘Visitors to a Human Library are given the opportunity to speak informally with “people on loan”; this latter group being extremely varied in age, sex and cultural background.’ 1
Previous groups which have used the Human Library method include CRISIS (the homeless charity), People’s Parlour at WOMAD (World of Music and Dance annual summer festival), Year Here (social innovation focused organisation for postgrads).
Those who volunteer as Human Books would need to adhere to the timetable of reservations and make themselves at home in the designated space, which should be furnished as comfortably as possible. The suggested timeslot of 20 minutes is not long for an indepth conversation. At the same time, it is a suggested maximum and can be shortened.
Previous organisers of Human Libraries are able to offer advice and guidance on setting and running an event.
One important question: would it be useful (or appropriate) to make audio recordings of conversations? Might this prove useful in terms of defining a group identity and offering evidence of the existence of such?