Teaching To Transgress Toolbox

About

Based on peer-learning and collective research practices Teaching To Transgress Toolbox* is a research and study programme on critical pedagogy in the arts.

Funded by the European Union and developed transnationally by three art schools: erg (BrusselsBE), HDK-Valand (GothenburgSE) and ISBA (BesançonFR) this Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership (2019–2022) consists of workshops, public events and an open access publishing platform that shares the resulting works, methods and tools with others to use in their specific educational contexts.

* The title is inspired by bell hooks’ book Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (1994).

Context

Over the past ten years, tendencies towards polarization and discrimination in wider society have had a perceptible influence on attitudes and behaviours within education, with forceful impacts on inclusive learning and teaching in our classrooms.

In attempting to meet these threats to diversity and pedagogical inclusivity we identified the pressing need to respond to these political and social issues. Intersectionality asserts that oppressions (based in racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ableism etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another. Critical intersectional feminist pedagogies have, by now, been proven to provide valuable conceptual and practical tools with which to focus on inclusivity. This is particularly true in the field of art, where teaching is known to be open to devising and applying new critical frameworks, tools of analysis and creative practices.

Aim

The explicit aim was fostering inclusive pedagogies and questioning the so-called neutrality and equality in systems of schooling, production and consumption in the arts. Addressed to artists, researchers, activists, students, teachers and administrators, the TTTT programme invited people from various backgrounds, fields, abilities, gender identifications, sexual orientations, ethnicity and religion to collectively explore how intersectional and de-colonial approaches could activate and spread theoretical and embodied knowledge.

Approach

The programme was built on collective research and peer learning. This meant that roles were constantly negotiated and not necessarlily based on a normative teacher student distinction. A range of working groups formed around a set of proposed issues – laid out in the application — that felt urgent to be explored at the time. We had to stop some activities that relied on physical meetings (such as boxing) due to the pandemic. Other topics followed a new line of inquiry informed by the interests and urgencies of the respective working groups. Each group developed a different approach and the resulting works range from a guide to facilitating a pronoun round to a Bingo equipping the reader with quick-witted responses to stupid questions. In short, the works we share with you on this platform consist of collages, interviews, sound-pieces, videoclips, workshops, assignments and pedagogical guidance material to be used by others.

Findings

The working groups’ findings, the "Works, Methods & Tools", listed in the left hand navigation menu (in green), form the centre of this platform. Each contribution invites you to enter its universe, to test its proposals and guidance materials, to watch video and listen to audio interviews, to inform yourself about already existing activist organizations and networks, and to download and delve into the books, articles and resources we used.

The working groups’ collective research includes, for example, an investigation into the complexities of facilitating a pronoun and access go-round to create a safer and more inclusive classroom. The extensive and illustrated piece Who is in the Classroom? comes with Teaching Materials, including video and audio conversations and a PDF Pronoun Go-Round Guide in English, French and Swedish to download. The working group Questioning the Notion of Neutrality in the classroom presents ten interviews with teachers, scholars and activists from across Europe and Latin America, who critically discuss hegemonies of knowledge, structural exclusions and inequalities, and the concept of the “neutral” teacher from a range of different perspectives. Talking about inclusive classrooms, the Rethinking Admissions — Confronting Segregation research into dominant admission practices looks at one crucial moment of inclusion or exclusion – that of admission to higher education in the arts. Mapping current admission practices at one of the partner institutions, HDK-Valand, this piece interrogates affirmative action as a method of widening participation in arts education. The Bingos created by the “Language is a Virus” group provide suggestions on how to respond to microaggressions embedded in daily life at the art school and in jury work.

Other contributions explore the role of Emotions in the Classroom, and the Complexities of the Institutional Body referring to the bodies forming the institution as well as the bodies formed by the institution. The work of Vibes&Leaks looks at the ways tongue and gender are interrelated. Engaged Pedagogy describes experiments with collective interviews.

One work we would specifically recommend reading, if you are invested in these questions, is the Inclusive Reflection Methods presenting a framework for collective reflection. Here we present the collective reflection on the TTTToolbox programme itself, which is a roller coaster of emotions and a must-read for anyone trying to organize intersectional, decolonial projects in the future.

Activities

On the Activities page, you can follow the trajectory of our journey. It lists the activities in chronological order, from our most recent public events to the first exciting in-person meeting in Brussels. Mapping the programme's activities that share the methods and findings in workshops and other events at art exhibitions, activist spaces, universities, and art schools also show who helped us develop the work, who invited us to share our findings and who was invited by us to give inputs, food for thought, or challenges. This page is illustrated by snapshots, pics, video clips and podcasts of entire public talks, such as Teresa Cisneros' talk Undoing the Institution – one person at a time

Reality-Check

After a Call for Application and through a careful selection process a team of roughly 30 people formed. Originally planned as four joint moments during 2020, most of the planned worksessions and Activities had to be moved online. After the first work session "How to say it" that was still able to happen in person in Brussels just before the pandemic started, the subsequent worksessions had to take place virtually. This was exhausting, at times frustrating and demanding, because the social bonding, the bodies, the quick chats and informal check-ins in the corridor, the getting to know each other during communal dinners, the laughter, could not happen. Due to the impact, stress, and disruptions COVID placed on everyone, the programme was extended for six months. Although this decision was taken collectively, it meant that some people dropped out because they could not sustain their involvement. Others did not want to sustain their commitment for different reasons.

The coming together of two forces in the framework of this European-funded project – (i) the development of a critical collective and decolonial programme and (ii) the reliance on the funding with its coercive regulations – can be described as an explosive encounter that made us aware that we and the programme are contaminated by the biases we are criticizing. These biases and constraints seem to be intrinsically embedded within the principles of this state funding, within the higher-education institutions involved, and within us, the project coordinators as white feminist actors within these institutions.

For a comprehensive reflection on these processes, their pain and pressure points, and for a method of facilitating a group reflection, please see Inclusive Reflection Framework.

Something we could not have anticipated was the harassment accusations within one of our partner institutions and how it tried to use its participation in TTTT to whitewash its reputation. This had major implications for the TTTToolbox programme. Nor did we expect the fire in the first weeks of March 2021 that destroyed the OVH server building in Strasbourg and with it the material we had stored on the cloud up to then.

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TTTToolbox platform

TTTToolbox Programme

Initial Participants

Initial Organizer Team

Thanks to

License

Authored materials: Collective Conditions for (re-)use (CC4r), 2022
Copyleft with a difference: You are invited to copy, distribute, and modify this work under the terms of the CC4r. https://gitlab.constantvzw.org/unbound/cc4r

Published interviews: CC BY-NC-ND: You are invited to download and share, but neither modifications nor commercial use are allowed. This is to protect our interviewees. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

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