Thirteen years ago, we began to explore, at the College of Fine Arts of the University of Barcelona, what it might be to research (inquiry) from another logic, with another conceptual frame, with other praxis (Hernández-Hernández, 2006, 2008). Not from conceptual frame linked to the individuality of the modernist artist and the neo-positivist research, but as a proposal that is lived and grows rhizomatically in company of others.
We are developing this approach taking advantage of the margins of the academy and under those changes introduced in the curriculum of undergraduate Fine Arts programmes following the Bologna agreement. In this context an optional course on Arts Based Research was implemented at the University of Barcelona and offered to a maximum of 15 students, in which we invited ourselves to learn about Arts Based Research (ABR)… doing ABR. In these years we have found in the ABR not only a way of doing art saying that we do research, but ways of researching in the company of the arts. This has led us to explore other forms of writing, and to rehearse artistic ways of developing inquiry processes around the social, educational and artistic. This means hybridized knowledge from diverse fields and facing all the time the suspense points of not knowing (Atkinson, 2011). Configuring the praxis that derives from the ABR as a map, of which we always know that it will never be the territory.
From September 2018 to January 2019, after exploring students’ initial meanings of what research in arts and beyond, and facilitate the practice of being a group by sharing our current visual culture, we focus our inquiry interest on the concept and experience of ‘precarity’, the category of ‘precariat’ and on what could be to be 'precarious'. We explored these notions from three main perspectives. As the emergency of a new social class (the precariat) as consequence of the working relations under neoliberalism (Standing, 2011); as an alternative to generate other experience of living in common, by assuming that we all are precarious needed of others to live (Butler, 2004; Gil, 2014); and specially on the creative precariat’ (De Peuter, 2014; Zafra, 2017) associated to these professional working on cultural, media, and creative fields who are outside the fraying ‘standard employment relationship’. They are role model subjects of contemporary capitalism. It was this third notion the one that demanded our attention the most, as it is the condition that affects, in a special way, art students. They are living and will live professional experiences of being freelance, precarious contract, self-employed, and intermittent workers in the arts, the media, and cultural industries are invoked as paradigmatic figures of 21st century capitalism.
Through the conversations, some students expressed interest in exploring how precariousness relates to affection. This led us to explore this notion from some of the contribution to the called ‘affect turn (Bakko and Mer, 2015). Particularly we explored on the way Spinoza approaches it, by considering that the body is understood as its capacity to affect and be affected, where this affection refers not only to emotion but also to the movements of the body (Camps, 2011; Rivera de Rosales, 2011). And, from this starting point, we bring the notions of precarity and affection into the experience of being student in the College of Art. This was, at the end, the focus of the ABR project.
Finding a way to link precarity, effects and students' relation with the College was not an easy task. It took time and live moments of uncertainty which were considered part of the inquiry process. The process was set in motion when we decided to explore the different spaces of the four faculty buildings, as well as their immediate surroundings. It was proposed to explore the faculty to locate and indicate visually, through sketches and photographs, places linked to "the precariousness in the administration that affects my personal life, the communicative precariousness and common spaces" (Anna). In this journey "we have analysed our university environment focusing on the search for affective precariousness transmitted by both, physical and institutional elements. I liked the most creative part of this process since there were no fixed rules on how to develop this search" (Asia). An affective thermography was applied on the faculty plans, following the intensity criteria used in weather maps to indicate temperature changes. We placed in each zone or corners of the faculty a colour that was linked to the intellect of affections that it denoted: red as more intense affect, blue as less one. Coloured photographs of the spaces were also linked to the maps, generating a cartography of the precarious affections of the faculty. At the same time, a subgroup took as a reference a medieval map of the Garden of Eden and made a cartography of the course's trajectory and movements. Finally, the whole process was reflected on a series of collages in which it was shown the paths followed during the course in interaction with the process of inquiry into the precariousness of affects in the faculty. With these collages a fanzine was made in which the different movements and learnings of the ABR course are explained.
In the research we have carried out on Affects and Precarity at the College of Arts we have generated some knowledge about the onto-episte-methodological and ethical frame of ABR. A synthesis of this could be related in the following statements: 1. ABR approach allows to develop and carried out a corporeal process inquiry. 2. The living inquiry process on ABR does not follow a predefined methodology. 3. Displacements during the process follow a rhizomatic move, because it depends on the movements of the group. 4. The assemblage of the different moments and operations is like that which takes place in the editing process of a film 5. Participants on an ABR process pass through different situations that affect them. 6. During all process intra-actions between the human and not human are taking place. 7. The arts, the artistic, is not a method, but rather an onto-epistemological approach. 8. ABR puts in question and broaden the ways of communicating the inquiry process. 9. Finally, and our case is an example of this, it places emphasis on the collective and collaborative nature of the inquiry process. “This process has made us learn how to develop an ABR project and understand things in a more rhizomatic way. We have been able also to integrate information about the precariousness in which we are living and open our vision about each element that affects us every day. One thing I appreciate very much about this course is the form of shared group work. I realise the importance of the diversity of each person who can at any time bring a new and special point of view” (Asi).
Atkinson, Dennis (2012). Contemporary Art in Education: The New, Emancipation and Truth.” The International Journal of Art & Design Education, 31 (1), 5-18. Hernández-Hernández, Fernando (2006). Campos, temas y metodologías para la investigación relacionada con las artes. In M. Gómez-Muntané, F. Hernández-Hernández & H. Pérez-López. Bases para un debate sobre investigación artística. (pp. 9-49). Madrid: Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia. Hernández-Hernández, Fernando (2008). La investigación basada en las artes: propuestas para repensar la investigación en educación. Educatio Siglo XXI, 26, 85-118 Bakko, Matthew., Mer, Sibille (2015). Towards an Affective Turn in Social Science Research? Theorising Affect, Rethinking Methods and (Re)Envisioning the Social. Graduate Journal of Social Science, 11 (1), pp. 7–14. Butler, Judith (2004). The Precarious Life. The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London: Verso. Camps, Victoria (2011). Spinoza: La fuerza de los afectos [The force of affection]. In El gobierno de las emociones. (pp.65-87). Barcelona: Herder. Gil, Silvia (2014). Ontologia de la precariedad en Judith Butler. Repensar la vida en común (The Ontology of Precariousness in Judith Butler.Rethinking shared Life). Éxdoxa: Series Filosóficas, 34, pp. 287-302. Rivera de Rosales, J. (2011). Spinoza y los afectos. Exit Book: revista de libros de arte y cultura visual, 15, 38-49. Standing, Guy (2011). The Precariat. The New Dangerous Class. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. Zafra, Remedios (2017). El entusiamo [The enthusiasm]. Barcelona: Anagrama.
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