29 SES 06, Propositions to Think the School and the Arts in Contemporaneity
On August 17, 2017, the Islamic State (ISIS) struck La Rambla, the heart of Barcelona, and left 16 dead and 131 injured in the most serious attack suffered by Spain since 11-M and the first jihadist since then. On August 26th, under the slogan “No tinc por” ("I am not afraid"), a demonstration was held in Barcelona to repulse terrorism and in favour of peace and coexistence. These two events took place when we were preparing the course on Arts-based Research, as part of the undergraduate program in Fine Arts, at the University of Barcelona. The theme we had thought for inquiring with the students was their (our) relationship to social fears. This issue had arisen from the reading of Heing Bude's book “The Society of Fear” (2017). This book, unlike others that focus on the relationship between fear with power and social control (Robyn, 2006); neoliberal society (Han, 2018); a geopolitical explanation based on tv series such as House of Cards or Game of Thrones (Moïxi, 2017 ); or as an experience that tends to be inaccurate, mobile, elusive, modifiable, difficult to identify and accurately situate (Bauman, 2006), is that Bude considers fear as a symptom of a social situation of uncertainty. This situation is generated because the majority social class (the called middle class) sees their future endangered, and the individuals feel thrown into a world in which they no longer feel protected or represented. He explores this situation on different groups and scenarios. One of these groups is young people, who transits, as also Recalcati (2016) mentions, in a state of tensions, where the promises and hopes of a clear and favourable future have been reduced since 2008, when the financial crisis exploited. According to Han (2017) this is happening because “today we live in a neo-liberal system that eliminates stable structures in time, which to increase productivity fragments life time and makes the binding and obligatory obsolete. This neoliberal temporary policy generates fear and insecurity, and neoliberalism individualizes man, making him an isolated entrepreneur of himself. The individualization that accompanies the loss of solidarity and total competition provokes fear. The perfidious logic of neoliberalism prays: fear increases productivity.” (p. 56).
We took this frame of reference to university classes, to explore with students, their (our) thoughts, actions and affections around these fears. To this end, we proposed to adopt the approach of Arts based Research. In this paper we will explore how we—three professors and a group of 12 undergraduate students— develop and document a research project on ‘The social fears”. The class Arts Based Research is an elective we offer at the Fine Arts Faculty, University of Barcelona. Now in its 8th semester, this class is constructed around a collaborative research project that both the students and professors develop, thus inviting fine arts students to learn to research, by researching. This research was carried out, Monday and Tuesday, from 10 to 12, during 32 sessions of two hours each, from September 2017 to January 2018. The whole process was, in some moments video recorded, photographed and field notes were taken, both by teachers and students, for building a collective memory of this learning (and formative) event (Atkinson,2012). And as a starting point for developing different stories (in video, in narratives presented in different contexts...) that would give account what it can mean to take up Arts based Research as frame to learn and explore, as a group, our social fears.
In the following paragraphs we present an account of how this research process took place. 1. The course begins in a large classroom, where, being so few, was easy to feel lost. We started with a series of corporal actions and movements to learn sharing and trusting each other. 2. The first encounters were tricks. There was no a teacher who talks, and their role was not listen but participate in an unknown and unpredictable process. 3. On the second week they were asked to bring references from newspapers which reflect contemporary fears and organized them in a cartography. The cartography was one of the artistic strategies they learned as part of the inquiry process. For three days we explored different notions, examples and possibilities of cartographies, in arts and other disciplines. 4. In the third week, we carried a text that we had written for a MOOC on alternative research perspectives. We read it in group, clarifying meanings, establishing relationships with questions and authors that were not in the text. 5. We moved to a small room where we can sit around a table. There was a kettle that facilitate having breakfast together every day. This new scenario facilitated a closer relationship. 6. We name our fears: rejection, being wrong, not finding and having a job, failure, , , fall into marginalization, commercial appropriation of political struggle, destruction of the planet (and so on). 7. We placed these names as titles on a wall and began to look for photos that related to each of those fears. We generated an archive of 62 photographs. This allowed us to explore the possibilities of an archive in the research process and in artistic practice. 8. We decided to write texts based on the images of our fears. We also gave voice to a fear, which ‘explained’ how it operates and affects us. This writing process allowed to explore the possibilities of crossing images and texts. 9. We read those texts in front of a camera. With these stories and other visual and textual documents, we generated a video in which we not only gave an account of the research carried out, but also of what it had meant to learn as a group and horizontally. 10. Finally, we wrote or mapped what all this process had brought to everyone. We also decide the assessment of the course and… we said goodbye.
This course was not limited to the process that we have briefly described. It generated ‘derives’ and led to new encounters. A video was prepared to tell students from other two universities about this ongoing process and to invite them to think about how social fears affected them. This generated a network of exchanges and discoveries. But above all, as Clara pointed out, “it allowed us to experience that what is done at the university can have effects beyond it.” A journalist knew that a group of students were researching on current social fears. He came to the university and shared with the students the process followed and, above all, how it had affected them. The group shared with him their stories, journeys and discoveries. The account of the experience has been published in a digital journal dedicated to Education. During these process and events we entered into spaces of multiple meanings, as a rhizoanalytic opportunity for thinking different of -and-in- a network, where the diaries of our encounters, the photos we collected, the decision process for making the two videos, and the presentations with our thoughts and reflections we shared, were part of these assemblages and an immanent ethics (Cumming, 2015), that transformed what teaching, learning and researching could be. All this happened because, in our view, ABER opens an alternative to other ways of researching the experiential, the relational and the subjective. This means, “making new worlds; enabling others to re-experience vicariously the world” (Barone & Eisner, 2012: 20). We understand ABER as a critical apparatus for dialoguing, thinking with and generating images, art practices and representations, which expand the research process into new territories of thinking on the ontological, epistemological, methodological and ethical implications of what research could be and do.
Atkinson, D. (2012). Contemporary Art in Education: The New, Emancipation and Truth. The International Journal of Art & Design Education, 31 (1), 5-18. Barone, T., Eisner, E. W. (2012). Arts Based Research. Los Angeles: SAGE. Bauman, Z. (2011). The liquid fear. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. Braidotti, R. (2006). Transpositions. On Nomadic Ethics. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bude, H. (2017). La Sociedad del miedo (The Fear Society). Barcelona: Herder. Cumming, T. (2015). Challenges of ‘thinking differently’ with rhizoanalytic approaches: a reflexive account, International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 38:2, 137-148, DOI: 10.1080/1743727X.2014.896892 Guasch, A. M. (2011). Arte y archivo, 1920-2010: genealogías, tipologías y discontinuidades, (Art and Archive: Genealogies, types and discontinuities).Akal, Madrid. Han, B. Ch. (2018). The Expulsion of the Other: Society, Perception and Communication Today. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. Manoff, M. (2004). Theories of the Archive from Across the Disciplines. Libraries and the Academy, 4, January , pp. 9-25. URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1721.1/35687 Moïxi, D. (2017). Geopolítica de las series. O el triunfo global del miedo. Madrid: Errata Naturae. Recalcati, M. (2015). El complejo de Telémaco. Padres e hijos tras el ocaso del progenitor. (The Telemac complex) Barcelona: Anagrama. Robyn, C. (2006). Fear: The History of a Political Idea. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
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