25 SES 09 A, Mixed Issues - Aesthetics, Justice and Rights Language
The starting point for the presentation is to account for part study of an ongoing research project financed by The General Heritage Fond and Umeå Munipicality called ”Alla har rätt” [Every one is/has right/s] in Sweden. A well established municipal organisation in Umeå, Kulturverket [The Culture Service], has performed artistic projects of diverse kinds during fifteen years, based on the statement: ”Children tell the professionals what to do” (Ferm Thorgersen & Georgii-Hemming, 2012). The ambition of the current project is to contribute to understandings of the UN convention on the rights of the child, which since 2019 is statutory in Sweden. The project was designed in the form of several workshops where two schools at a time work together with Kulturverket to express their thoughts on children´s rights through art. The 4th graders also visit each others’ schools (during covid-19, the visits were arranged online). Each period is finnished by puexhibitions of the artworks.The project is still ongoing, repeating in all schools of the municipality during 3 years. As researchers we are following the project with an ambition to increase understandning of particiaption in such artisitc activities based on a phenomenological way of thinking.
As a theoretical approach we use the concept of aesthetic communication (Ferm & Thorgersen 2012; Ferm Thorgersen, 2015). According to Dufrenne (1953/1973) aesthetic experience includes three perceptive phases in which the experiencing subject responds in a multi-dimensional and engaged way: presence, representation and imagination, and emotion and reflection. Aesthetic experience can be defined as a process where all senses are involved in meaning-making, and wherein it becomes possible to engage with the world through perception, expression and reflection (Ferm Almqvist & Andersson 2019; Ferm Thorgersen, 2008). Based on the definition of aesthetic experience, we state how aesthetic communication presents itself. Three dimensions of awareness can be helpful (Ferm, 2007; Ferm Thorgersen, 2008; Ferm & Thorgersen, 2007): awareness of own artistic knowledge, awareness of others’ artistic expressions, and awareness of one’s own role in communication. Awareness of own arts knowledge concerns grasping what one’s body is able to express, to listen to oneself and try different expressions, to be able to choose and motivate expressions, and to conceptualize arts knowledge. This dimension of awareness can be seen as a base for active participation in aesthetic communication. The dimension awareness of others’ expressions regards openness towards surrounding expressions in the context. It is about seeing, being inspired by and imitating others, taking in and reflecting on what the pedagogues mean, being open to the multidimensions of arts, and relating to the responses from an audience. Finally, when it comes to awareness of one own’s role in communication, being visible for others through arts expressions come in focus. It is about being able to take initiatives, knowing how to act to be visible for others, and being aware about how to function together with others. Not least, it concerns how to contribute in the communicative setting. Safeness, curiosity and respect should be important components in such a view of learning, closely connected to children´s rights.
The aim of the study is to describe the phenomenon of aesthetic communication within a project on the UN convention on the rights of the child, from a participant perspective; How do pedagogues, artists and teachers create intersubjective rooms for communication and learning for the participating children? How do the participating children experience the aesthetic communicative situation? How was the UN convention on the rights of the child, expressed, performed and understood by the participants in the project?
As mentioned, the study is based on a phenomenological way of thinking, where access to humans’ lived experiences become crucial to be able to describe the phenomenon of aesthetic experience and communication. The first circle of study lasted for four weeks in February 2020, and was performed at two local school, in Kulturverket’s premises, and at an art museum. The second circle of study took place during four weeks in November 2020 and was conducted at two other schools, including virtual meetings performed via the video communication tool Zoom. To grasp lived experience of aesthetic communication among the participants we used ethnographic methods, including classroom observations (firstly in school, and then online during covid-19), which were documented by field notes. In addition, we performed interviews and studied the artistic artifacts of the project as well as the results of the artistic communicative activities. The interviews were partly conducted as informal chats with children as well as adult participants in direct connection to the workshops, and partly as focus group interviews with artists and pedagogues via the communication tool Zoom. The latter were transcribed verbatim. Finally, we got access to Kulturverket’s own evaluations of the project based on interviews with children and collegial meetings.The material was analysed in a hermeneutical phenomenological manner, aiming to grasp the meaning of aesthetic communication focusing understanding of the UN convention on the rights of the child (van Manen, 1990). At this stage in the research project, (January 2021) the first step of analysis has been performed on an intuitive, analytical and descriptive level (Spiegelberg, 1982). These stages of analysis were performed by both researchers in collaboration.
Possibilities to deepen understanding of children’s rights through participating in the arts workshops showed themselves as three dimensions; as didactic actions, as content in used materials, and as results of aesthetic communication. It also became clear, that aesthetic communication as a way towards understanding children’s rights in a cooperative project is demanding. It demands all involved to be present, curious and respectful, to avoid the risk that the intended understandings only touch the surface. It showed be challenging to parallelly manage meaningful meetings and developing relationships with and between the participants, contribute to knowledge production on the UN convention, and offer participation in the artistic process and product. Also, the ambition to involve all 4th graders in the municipality, made each circle of workshops short. But, the function of constructed artifacts and public exhibitions created in this short time, seem to function as important contributors when it comes to aesthetic experience and communication. Meaningful meetings and building of relationships between the children from different schools took place. To perform such a project during a pandemic as covid-19 was challenging for all participants involved and forced rethinking regarding tools and spaces for collaboration and communication. Kulturverket decided not to cancel the project, but to adapt it to the situation. Since Sweden didn´t go into total lockdown but instead underwent several changes in relation to social distancing in school, the participants had to be flexible and manage a variety of adaptions during the year. This resulted in that aims, goals and philosophical grounds for the actual activities was thoroughly reflected upon, which made the pedagogues and artists come closer to each other and be more consistent. The idea of facilitating meetings and relationships with and between the children in order to diminish segregation in Umeå is still central, even during a pandemic as covid-19.
Dufrenne, M. (1953/1973). Phenomenology of aesthetics. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. Ferm Almqvist, C. & Andersson N. (2019). To offer dance as aesthetic experience and communication among people 65+. International Journal of Education in the Arts. International Journal of Education and the Arts, 20(12). Ferm Thorgersen, C. (2015). Grundskolelevers lärande som estetisk kommunikation: aspekter av översättning och delaktighet. i B-M. Styrke (Redaktör), Kunskapande i dans: om estetiskt lärande och kommunikation /. (pp. 70-88). Stockholm: Liber utbildning. Ferm Thorgersen, C. (2008). Aesthetic communication in higher composition education: dimensions of awareness. Nordisk Musikkpedagogisk Forskning, 10, 167-184. Ferm, C. (2007). To learn an aesthetic language: a study of how hard of hearing children internalise dance. Australian Online Journal of Arts Education, 3(2). Ferm Thorgersen, C., & Georgii-Hemming, E. (2012). Social networking and democratic practices as spheres for innovative musical learning. National Society for the Study of Education. Yearbook, 160-176. Ferm, C.& Thorgersen, K. (2007). Aesthetic communication in music education: Students awareness. Paper presented at International Society for the Philosophy of Music Education Symposium, London, Ontario, Canada, WesternUniversity. Spiegelberg, Herbert (1982). The phenomenological movement. Ahistorical Introduction. London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. van Manen, M. (1997). Researching lived experience. Western Ontario, Canada: Althouse Press.
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