Transcript Reflection Workshop

Written by copy-edited and annotated by participants and organisers

We met for this workshop around a table at the école de recherche graphique (erg) in Brussels as well as virtually on the open source video conferencing platform Big Blue Button. We had already done the introduction and the check-in when we started recording.

1. A moment of grounding

Can you give one compliment and/or one complaint?

Teresa A big thank you to everyone. Thank you for sharing and being honest with your feelings, or as honest as we can be, and open. So the next thing I have proposed is to invite everyone to reflect back on the process. I've heard some of you love the project. Some of you are excited about reconnecting. I would like to ask everyone a question. You were given the questions beforehand, so you could reflect and don't arrive here surprised by what we're going to ask.

If you could think back to when you joined the project, what might you have expected and hoped to get out of it? And I'd like you to offer one compliment and one complaint. The session today is not just about complaint, because even in difficult, uncomfortable situations, we learn things. And that can be the compliment. I'm going to give you just a couple of minutes now for you to gather thoughts. You could write them down, and you could read them out, whatever you feel most comfortable with. Let's just take a moment to think about a compliment and a complaint. One more thing: it’s about the project. This is why we're here today. It's not about a general complaint, about life, because we have lots of complaints right now. Okay, I'm going to stop now, and give you that space.

I am going to be respectful of everyone's time. I want to remind you that this isn't an easy process. Sometimes we think it's easier to compliment than to complain. The reason for doing a compliment and complaint is it gives us a space to both release and receive. You might feel you're going to offend someone, or you're going to hurt someone. I invite you to try to think of this not as blame. Right? It's much more about us sharing how we were affected, but in a way that is not going “you did this, or you did that” or “there was just failure.” Even in failure, there are things to learn. I think it's better that we volunteer through this process as opposed to being called. Okay. If you would like to go, please.

N Yes, I thought I'd start because if I'd be somewhere in the middle, it wouldn't make any sense because I left the project quite early. My compliment is that the structure and sort of the description of the project had good intentions, and it was brought in such a way that it felt as if it was doing what was needed at the time. There was a need for such a project – a project that sounded disruptive. And it sounded that way from various points of view. That was exciting for me to engage with, because we want to work with these type of topics, we want to work with decolonizing, and all these things, but it always just, like, fell flat.

Comment on Transcript:1 Maybe it would be interesting to unfold what this “flat” means? I have the same feeling about the organization of the project when we discussed this issue a year ago during the preparation. Things were said tothe partner schools but no real action taken.

So the complaint, then, is that, quite quickly, it had taken the form that felt familiar, the same form that I wasn't interested in being part of. And it had a sort of progressive way of operating, which I don't think reflected the collective understanding of what being progressive is, or like how well we're doing. So yeah, those are the two things that I can put forward.

T Thank you. Can I take another volunteer, please?

A Okay, compliments are way easier than complaints for me in this particular case. I'm going to be completely honest. This programme, TTTT, for me was very new. It was something I was looking for:, feeling part of something and finding people who had the same interest as me. So it was an eye-opener for me and all the materials, the people I met, and the thing I started structuring in my head, helped me a lot. And now when I look back, the TTTT experience that I personally had, I think, has given me the new job that I just found. Because when I was in the job interview, I suddenly started talking about these workshop experiences that we made, with G and I, and all these materials that I had put together, and I felt so grateful for this experience. So I am continuing this TTTT experience in a way in my daily life.

The complaint that I have is like, at some point, I felt that the complaining in general was eating out. I was feeling trapped, I was feeling exhausted. And I felt like I was in this complaint bubble that was taking all my headspace and my energy. I had to take my time and just leave and cut people out. Because I couldn't continue any more. And because, for me, it was such a new experience that I was trying to continue fighting for. There was something, like, pushing me. And I want to thank, particularly, G and I for everything I've learned from you. As a compliment.

T Who wants to go next?

S I'll start with the complaint. My complaint is that it was hard to stay involved, particularly after the devastation of losing members,– but naturally with complete understanding and support of those decisions to leave the project. But with each moment of leaving, we never bounced back. So we never had a culture that could bounce from the that loss. And this really saddened me. It created a space of “no hope” towards working on this cause. And even I tried to leave a couple of times – perhaps never succeeded at leaving, but maybe I did, I don't know. The compliment? N., I'm a little similar to you in my compliment. The compliment is that the idealistic yet challenging start of the project was so intoxicating, meaning, the application process. I spent way more time on that – than I should have perhaps – and I was so excited to be seen as capable of being a participant. I really felt like we were going to radically shift our perspectives. Perhaps this was naive. But I can say my personal transition has evolved quite a bit, and that during this COVID intense teaching online, all of a sudden, and for all these years of this, within this project space, I was able to focus a bit on developing my teaching practice. And this was not something that I had a lot of time to do. I mean, I was, of course, evolving my personal teaching practice by being forced to move online and everything. But this project was where I could put something that I had chosen to try to develop and be better at. So this went above my initial expectations, actually. So I'm going to be grateful. And I think that my teaching practice has shifted, hopefully forever, but at least it has shifted somewhat for now and evolved for now. That's the compliment that I have.

For me also, and this is probably the most positive point of the programme, it has changed forever, I hope, my way of teaching, of building a programme, because of the difficulties encountered in this one. How to leave your place to people who have urgencies for spreading their knowledges.

T Thank you, who would like to go next? Å?

Å My compliment is that I want to thank this project for giving me the opportunity to be part of a network, a community, and a collective that strives towards a common goal: to learn under the spirit of bell hooks, and to learn from each other. My negative feedback is that I believe we were many people coming from different places, with different goals and different expectations. And the TTTT network didn't yet have the tools to process all these goals. We didn't have the tools or the time to create a collective story about what the TTTT network is. That's my feedback.

T Thank you so much. Can I take another volunteer, please?

F I think for the compliment, for me it was a very new adventure. Because it was with people on a bigger scale, and all the projects that I was involved in before were very local. So I got to meet people with very different backgrounds. And it was very interesting to also discover what type of strategies people are creating in other spaces. From that, I think, I've learned a lot, and I think I grew from it. The complaint I have is maybe because it was so broad that sometimes we didn't have much time to talk about our backgrounds, and also talk more about the material, the different materialistic realities we were facing that impacted our possibility of being involved or not.

T Thank you so much. Who would like to go next? Thank you, I.

I My biggest compliment, or the feeling I'm most grateful for, is the Brussels week. More specifically, I think it's the amount of people who this project managed to get together and the amount of energy that was somehow there. I think that was amazing, and I haven't experienced things like that very often. And also, building on that energy, the commitment: I think there were a lot of issues, but also I think it's quite, um… I really want to compliment the commitment that was there, that we're still here and having this session now. And that people kept putting in energies and trying to make things work, in very different ways. My biggest complaint is very linked to this: I feel the project didn't manage to actually “use” the amazingness of many of these people. The specifics of this [why the project didn’t live up to its full potential] I think we should explore together, but at least for me, part of that complaint is that we did not manage to set up collective structures even though that was one of the central project aims. Collective structures of decision-making, of power, of responsibility. And I think some of my disappointment connected to this is that the result of the project… I'm wondering whether it really is, or to what extent it really is, a contribution to the struggles that we are referring to. And whether we used the resources we had in a responsible and accountable way as a result of this [this = the lack of collective rather than hierarchical structures].

T Thank you, who would like to go next? H?

H My main compliment is quite linked to my complaint. The good thing was that the Teaching to Transgress Toolbox application came at a point in my life when I felt very tired and busy. When I read the application, I was like, “Okay, I really need to get there.” This was a gathering of a lot of different people sharing similar emergencies but also their frustration, tiredness, oppression, on different levels or proportions. It was really cool to gather and have a space for your voice to resonate and create and liberate creative energy from those experience of oppression.

And that was really, really good for me. The complaint, then, is quite connected because we have a lot of different emergencies. We were many people, there was a lot of excitement, but the planning on the first meeting in Brussels was really dense. Because of that, we didn't have much time to connect to each other. And superfast, emotions, personal emotions took a lot of space in what we were doing. This is a complaint, which is also addressed to me. Because we started with social emergencies, it went into an "ego reaction" towards each other resulting in defensiveness, white fragility, passive-aggressive ways of communicating, all that in relation to power dynamics. Because these emotions took a lot of space, I think that some voices that didn't get so much space to be heard were isolated. Some of us were able to, I don't know, “explode”. There were kind of dramatic vectors of energy in the room and some people were getting out of these things. So yeah, the super busy schedule and superego emotion stuff raised a lot of emotional defensiveness and perhaps white fragility.

My complaint is that I completely quit the process. And I learned also, from others later that people started gathering in precise atelier workshops, not on general things, but, let's work on how to do a pronoun round – in the working group "who is in the classroom?" for example. This seems a really good answer to those problems: to gather over one specific theme. So I was not able to join that process for some reason, but I wished I could.

T Thank you so much. Who would like to go next, I?

I I would like to speak after H. since my comments have to do with the workshop week in Brussels as well, the only time we actually met physically. At the time, we had no idea it was going to be the only time, we probably just took for granted that particular moment which is, in fact, the moment we are now mostly referring to. Probably because we were in the same room, because there were bodies, real people.

As H said, a lot of emotions, many uneasy moments, and conflicts were arising, which could have been an occasion to work on wider topics that emerged from them. But these were never talked about online later, because what stayed online was only a virtual idea of the group, never the real group which was meant to meet at the beginning in person. It was amazing to witness the incredible potential of this first moment in Brussels. And also the fact that participants toward the end wanted collectively to adapt the project. They were looking at what was supposed to happen and proposed what they saw could happen as well, not solely receiving, consuming, but actively participating. My complaint is that it all went virtual. It is my experience, and the experience of most ISBA people who are not here today [partner school in the programme]. Most participants could not handle more video conferences at a time when the whole world went online and all activities were digitally based, because the bodies were stuck behind a screen, without a real opportunity to share, to really exchange, to meet one another.

T Thank you, I. F is attempting to reconnect. So I'm going to go with G.

G I'm going to read what I wrote and start with the complaint. What has been the most difficult for me was how the project embodied contradictions, as a lot of projects that involve people in the framework of academic institutions do. For example, I felt there was a contradiction between the rhetoric used and our ways of operating. That left me feeling very confused at the beginning. The application form, for example, said that it was peer learning and collective research, like, a horizontal environment. But in terms of practical activities, there was a clear division between organizers, like paid institution workers, and participants, like students. It was very difficult to identify my role in the entire project, because it was supposed to be an open and horizontal environment, but we received from the beginning clear instructions about what to do and how to do it. And I think that was limiting for myself. Instead of unpacking all the reflections in its local context and specific problems, there was the aim to create big tools to solve big problems. That's my complaint. And then, the compliment is: I think the project, in the way it was created, has offered an amazing learning platform and was a great opportunity. From my experience, it is a complex and ambitious project that has a lot of potential and also a lot of incredible people involved. It is also a great space for vulnerability and generosity, and that is not so common. Yeah, I never experienced this in other projects, at least not in Spain. I recognize and I'm grateful for the privilege I had being accepted in this project and to learn from such amazing people with different backgrounds. And it's been a gift to share time and learn so much from each person involved, and especially learning from I and A in the “Neutrality” group.

Some people in the group preferred to be transparent about power relations by making the status of each person transparent so as not to pretend a supposed horizontality which in reality did not exist since some people were paid during the project and others were not, some people had to report, write reports, keep the budget and others did not. Indeed, this word "horizontal" should perhaps not have been used in the communication so that it would not be "misleading".

T Thank you G. Somebody else would like to go? Okay, no one volunteers. If it's okay, I will call your name. So I'm going to call C.

C I'm very grateful to be connected to this really great network of beautiful people. This is my compliment. I learned a lot during the chit-chat between sessions or in the small groups. Maybe the bigger group was more difficult. A compliment is also to thank our school (erg) who is running the project till the end. I don't know exactly who to address this to, but it's about giving the space to make this project possible and also the space for today’s workshop! I am also very grateful to my small group, the Bingo team. Because it was really a nice to be in this small group and to keep in touch. We are always connected for two years now. And it was really nice to enjoy this small group inside the bigger group. I would like to thank also H, specifically, to make me discover this really impactful text on white supremacy culture by Tema Okun. It was a really big moment for me.

C At the same time I'm sorry that I didn't take note of some of the things I should have deconstructed beforehand. I really would have been more comfortable in the role of participant in this project and not pretending to facilitate anything.

The complaint concerns the structure itself, which is determined by the application for Erasmus+ subsidies, and impacts the group itself. This is really difficult to unpack because there are so many layers to this structure – since the beginning. It’s hard. And it puts a lot of pressure on everyone to create some so-called “Intellectual Outputs”. Some? A lot of them.

C I wonder how we could address all these structural problematic things to Erasmus Plus and the Agency, because they are not even aware of the problems that arise from their administrative rigidity in running a project like this where notions of structure and power are questioned.

T Thank you so much. A? Did you raise your hand? Did you want to go?

A I think the compliment really goes to the effect it also had on me in different ways of of being in a conversation with multiple angles and needs, and finding ways to listen to those, to accommodate those... actually learn how to, to notice them, and to deal with those which you might not even see, perceive or feel.

And that is also connected to the complaint. I think the rich part of the process actually existed in that friction and in those conversations, and overall, at least up until I was active in the project, I think the project failed to capture really those processes and to actually accommodate those as a kind of end product and to be okay in leaving it as such, even if we didn't really arrive at an end. Conclusion, of course, it's an ongoing practice and process. And part of that, I think it's probably a lack of being brave, at least that's how I perceive myself in relation to that: we didn't allow ourselves to shift earlier perceptions that we had of the project. And then we carry those earlier perceptions, the very old perceptions, very strongly until the very end. So things don't really actually feel that they are changing and moving. An example would be that some conversations that were started were not followed. So then we get stuck in that sensation that things are really not evolving. And I understand the time demands. I'm also complicit in how things were designed and developed.

T Thank you so much. Who'd like to go next? E?

E My complaint and compliment go hand in hand – both are related to our “non-existing” structure to work together, and to the involvement and the commitment of people in this project. My complaint is that we didn't manage to set up some form of agreement, a “social contract” when we started laying out how we want to collaborate. Neither did we formalize our commitment, and that meant people were coming in and out as they liked. And this was really, really hard. When you start a collective project, you need to be able to trust the commitment of everybody involved. The group should have been much clearer about what kind of agreements we need to work together. This was very different, however, in the small working groups I was involved in. Here it was easier to negotiate the working conditions, and we understood the level of commitment each person could give. I am grateful for the almost obsessive work we did in the “Who is in the classroom?” group. We agreed on weekly working meetings and these regular online meetings during lockdown —we were all in different cities — gave me a sort of structure, which was really important. I'd like to thank Flo and Inga and Åke for this tireless returning to this text, reading together, thinking together, sharing experiences… Similar with Andreas, we are working on admission policies and their role in desegregation. It is so amazing, when you co-write a text, how much thinking and learning happens, how you question each other's assumptions —just because you co-create and work so closely with this object, the text, together. To cut it short, I learned so much in these small groups, but it seems we weren't able to do this in the big group.

Partly, perhaps, it was because we wanted and needed to develop these decision-making structures, but all this was even more difficult once all the meetings moved online. Our time together became so tiring and we needed so many more meetings to achieve this goal… I think people were also dropping out because they were too tired. All these meetings were too tiring. In the Göteborg group, four people were involved in the application writing and three of them left the project entirely or temporarily, because of burnout. So there was this really difficult paradox of needing more meetings to set collective structures and on the other hand exhaustion. It’s difficult to deal with, and I think we weren't able to deal with it.

T Thank you, E. Who would like to go?

M I think it's important today to have full transparency on how the project has been put together. I would like to understand how the TTTT call was done. To know about all the meetings that you, the facilitators, that you had and how the recruitment was done in different schools too. We all came in different group depending on which school we were coming from.

So, personally I arrived with the Besançon, ISBA group. And I was selected based on a motivation letter and an interview. I think that most of the students in this group are not necessarily the ones who have been the best in this process. Can I explain it in French? J'aurais aimé qu'il y ait plus d'étudiants, étudiantes de l'ISBA de Besançon, nous n'étions que trois. Certains/certaines avaient vraiment leur place dans ce projet et malheureusement, iels en sont restaes à l’extérieur… quelques ynx ont quand même pu y prendre place après et agrémenter ce projet. Mais je trouve cela dommage, on était juste trois étudianls avec quatres personnes extérieurs. Le projet est censé être horizontal, nous ne savons même pas comment ces “invitaes” ont été “recrutaesé”. À la fin, aujourd’hui, sans mauvaise pensée pour Émilie et les autres, nous ne sommes plus que deux. Sans les inivtaes et sans facilitateurices du groupe de l’ISBA.

L translating M So, I'm translating, and M can correct me. So the other complaint, I guess, was: Can we be transparent how the selection process was conducted in the different schools? For M being part of the Besançon group, she was selected on her motivation letter. At the end only three students from Besançon were in the project and M thinks it would be important and interesting for everyone if there were more students from Besançon joining the project.

C erg side organized a two hour collective moment with all the applicants. This moment was already an exchange. It also allowed us to experience how everyone felt inside a group. We made a mind map to gather ideas about what this project could be and this served to feed the project. Then we voted collectively with the whole erg project team. The group selected was not the choice of one person, but of multiple criteria.

C I regret that the selection protocol was not the same for the three schools. This created disparities between the participants, who then found themselves in the same large group. Some experienced an uncomfortable individual interview or a sometimes very large gap in profiles (PhD / University / Bachelor / Artists) and felt they lacked legitimacy. Some came to this project to nourish a thesis project while others came to meet a wider artistic and feminist network. The differences in expectations were too far apart to create a bond between us.

M When I arrived with the ISBA group, a French group, I stay with them, because I discovered some people inside, the surprise “guests” who weren't students. I was feeling more comfortable, firstly because of the language, and because we have different pedagogies, different ways of review and different experiences between our different schools. And just yeah, I'm very proud of the way that we worked with C and everybody, who's still present. I think at the first meeting of TTTT in Brussels, the big group exploded into a lot of pain and hurt, a lot of people. But with the small group we find some straight threads. I know. Like the group "Language as a Virus" gave me a lot of experience with collective production, a lot of L O V E & R A G E and weapons. And I'm very satisfied that we were able to develop this tool. And yeah, because the beginning of this project was "toolbox". I'm glad that we finally created a tool, which we can all use, at the moment only in French, but soon also in English.

T Thank you so much. Hi I, I'm Teresa. Welcome! As E put in the chat, we're sharing one compliment and one complaint about the project and its process. So we have a balance of looking at it overall. And if you want to take a moment just to gather your thoughts, I think we have still L and x to go. So, um, x, can I invite you to go?

x Yeah, so I don't know if I can connect the compliment and the complaint but I’m just reading to you what I was writing… Yeah, so the compliment is really connected to the project because I was really happy that we got the grant in the beginning. And I was really super-confident that we will manage to put things in motion. This is the first part of the compliment, then also, we are still today 20 people carrying it, trying to think about it and giving time for it – that this is for me the best thing that can happen for change, and a bigger change will come from this thing of caring… Yes, and from a personal point of view, the compliment is that I took the time for it, as many of you said, to experiment with some knowledge that I had from Starhawk, and others, in order to work in collectives. And this was really, really helpful for me and for what I'm trying to put in motion in my pedagogical practice.

The complaint is connected to the fact that we had a lot of expectations. This project is carrying a lot of expectations from the whole group, from all the people that were willing to participate. The point is that we forgot that we are all speaking from a different situated place, we are coming from different situations. And especially also that the TTTT group is not trying to unite, it's not trying to make ONE, but it's trying to regroup. And I think that sometimes some efforts are going into uniting things against something, and actually that’s not the purpose of the project. It's just trying to put people together and trying to move stuff forward. And I think that sometimes we are shifting from one to the other form. Yeah, the desires are not the same. And, yeah, from a personal point of view, I felt alone. And I'm feeling alone sometimes in this project and I cannot breathe because I think that I'm carrying things alone.

T Thank you. Apologies, I didn’t see N on the screen, so I didn't state that he also had to go. So N, I don't mind if you can go.

N Yes, it's a bit mixed. I didn't succeed to find a real place in this project due to COVID and also because I really needed to be super clear, and it was really always mixed in my head. So it was hard to find clearness when going virtual, so I was lost because of that. Then I was between France and Belgium, and I felt suddenly so far from this project. I felt also that I was never starting this project, actually. And this group was super big. And yeah, it was too much and too far to get to know everyone, even if people were really welcoming and supportive. I was always welcome to be part of a lot of the groups, but I didn't manage to find the time and energy to do it and I think I feel down and out of it, and I was like, oh shit, and I just disappeared.

T Thank you so much.

Ch So my complaints would be that I've found like an imbalance between theory and practice. The initial plan was to create tools and to try them in reality, so every day in schools and so. And I found that we talked a lot about things, but I miss the practice and the fact to create those tools and to use them. I think we spent a lot of time on speaking. Also with COVID it was not easy, but I feel that in bell hooks' writing, the thing was to talk, practice, and then talk some more and reflect on the practice. And I felt that was missing and that was why I came. So that would be the complaint. But I guess that mostly it was really COVID that stopped our process. So yeah, I think that is my complaint.

My compliment would be the people I met and, and the things I learned a bit like F said, I guess also I've grown. Thanks to this project I've learned a lot. And that is really important for me. And I think it's the best thing you can get from a group and from a programme like this. It's something that stays. It's something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. And, and I'm really thankful for that. Thank you.

T Thank you. I will be putting her [their] information in the textbox in a moment. So I'm going to ask L if that's okay. Sorry, apologies. I ended up using the wrong pronoun, I!

L The first thing I have to do is to make a confession. It's my fault that I is muted, because he was, they were supposed to be with us here. ad I booked the plane, and I made a mistake. I booked from Brussels to Göteborg instead from Göteborg to Brussels. And I realized it at eight o'clock in the morning yesterday. So they're totally right to just hate me now. Because I hate myself also. I'm sorry, really. As I say: dysfunctional. So the compliment is every minute, I have learned from the project, because now that we are in the process of looking at every detail, every moment there was something to be discovered and praised. And I'm not saying this, for the sake of it. It's hardcore. It's really intense. And the complaint is all what you have said from the beginning: the naivety that we thought that we could do it in the constraints of an institution, a double layer, a triple layer, the quadruple layer of institutions that we were facing here... The institution, the schools, the different schools, the different... I mean, what we went through to every school and situation. And that's, I mean, it's terrible, because the European process and so on. We were naive to think that we will be aware of this from the very moment we began writing the project application.

We counted really on the body experience. And this is how the body is so vulnerable in every step of the institutional project. So of course, we could say, or I could say, yes, I didn't know that COVID was coming, and that we will be left with the technology only and the legal obligations and support. Bullshit. I've learned from this that it is so naive to think that we could, to quote Teresa "be outside the belly of the beast" for just one moment. And that we made you believe that it was possible to be protected from that. So yeah, that's the complaint. So for the people who get hurt and lost time, it's stupid to say that, but yes, we have learned in the process. I don't know if there will be a next time, but we try to be prepared, or at least a bit more.

T Thank you so much. I, now you can go.

I Sorry, I'm late, I have a bit of an oversleep situation. And I agree with a lot of things that have been said. I just wanted to add that, in terms of complaints, I wonder if we would have benefited from reflecting more on the project going online, on the project getting so dragged out, to manage the experiences that we were having under these circumstances, right from the beginning. Because, I think, the project fundamentally changed when we went online.

But it didn't really change at the same time. It kind of stayed the same in many ways. Although it changed by kind of force, and that was really difficult at times. How could we have otherwise managed? Being online together? And also, I am curious if the project kind of bit off more than it could chew — already from the start with all the set directions that it had and then, all the new things that came up in the first session. These are my complaints. And as for compliments, I don't have any! No, I'm joking. I've had a really incredible time. I think the first moment where we all met in Brussels was just a really, really great time and I met so many super-cool people. And I wish that we could have spent more time together. I've learned sooo many things. And I think we in the "Who is in the classroom?" working group really managed something quite great. And I'm really proud to have, yeah, produced what we did. I'm really happy to see all the other things that have been produced. But it kind of saddens me that it did end up going, you know, online and this is like extraordinary circumstances, and it's difficult to do something about. Of course, everyone is struggling at this moment. But I wonder if there was a moment that we should have taken – I don't know, maybe more care? We don't understand how to work like that. Yeah, I think that's my contribution right now.

T N has asked earlier if they could say something. After everybody's gone, I think everyone has now gone. If you haven't, please say. So if it's okay, N you can go, and then we'll take a break. Thank you.

N I think one thing that you also have to put on the table is the number of people that were there at the beginning of the process. And how many of them have dropped out, right? And some of them aren't here today. It would be interesting to also kind of understand their perspective, because in one way the project worked, and in another way it didn't. And another interesting fact, those who had dropped out, or at least those who are not here, most of them were people of colour. So I think that's also quite important to put on the table. And I think clarity as well on how many of those people who are not here, who they were, and, yeah, if they gave any reasons for leaving? That would also be good to hear.

So please, people who were not there at the workshop on December 11, do place some comments here.

T That's okay, thank you. There's a moment later on when we can have this kind of conversations.

This conversation is always for later, this is really problematic to push back the subject when it comes.

And also, if they did disclose, it's not up to, I would say, other people to share that information. It's up to them to share it with you all – in light of privacy, and they felt they have to say something. Everyone was invited to contribute today. And I think everyone was emailed. So people who might have left the process in the project, everyone's been given the space to come together.

H I think because it's connected to what N says, I will not speak in the name of people who are not here today, but I know some of the people who are not in the project anymore, people of colour who quit the project. I will not speak on their behalf, but there was a frustration about the emergency with racism in the schools, and also dealing with emotional labour, a frustration for people of colour in the process. And I think there was an emergency. And that was shared with people that are absent today, that there was an emergency needed to be heard. And then they were against coming back here, to take care of white people, to have to say, hey, it's okay. It's okay. It's okay. They were busy with other emergencies than taking care of like, white fragility things. So that's because N says that, and I know some people will not hear that. They were busy with that. So maybe it's important to tell you.

T Okay so. I'm going to call this process to a close, because we're starting to get into other parts of what we should be doing this afternoon. Because what has been brought up at the end are things, which are really essential to think about. These things occur in these types of projects with these types of bodies. And I'm talking about queer, black, brown, especially these types of bodies that are marginalized by society. What would it mean in the future? What could we impart with others, if anybody else decides to do a project like this? Because I think these are important things for us to reflect on. But we will do that this afternoon, as well. So it's not to say that we're not going to have these conversations. I don't want you to think we're just shutting things down. But it's rather, what can we take from it? Because we can get stuck in a moment of complaint. And I think it's important for us to move through it more fluidly, as opposed to just becoming a barrier or a boundary that doesn't allow us to actually have conversations productively. So I'm going to call a break now. Really sorry, we've gone over by nearly 15 minutes. So if it's okay, can we come back together at 12:15? Stretch your legs, grab a cup of coffee, do what you need to do to remove some of this energy that we all have. I can feel it. This is not my project, but I can feel it. So go and do something that will just bring you back to the space. See you in 15 minutes.

2. Expectations

What were the expectations? Where may we/the project have not met those expectations? Where did things go well? What do you take away from this experience?

T Hi, everyone, thanks for coming back. There are a few people still missing. But because I am respectful of your time, I need to ensure that we start things on time, so we have enough time to continue the conversation. The next thing on your agendas: remember what your expectations were when you started this project. Many of you have spoken about how excited you were about the application and what you were being invited to do. So everyone comes to projects with expectations, whether real expectations, it doesn't matter, right? Because this is what we hope from projects. So it's about being excited and wanting to get involved, that feels going to be different or meaningful.

I have the questions in front of me. Some of you have already touched on this in your compliment and complaint. Now, I would like you to think much more specifically, what were your expectations and where did we meet them or fail to? Think back, for example, to that first workshop week in Brussels that many of you have mentioned. What do you take away from this experience? This is about the learning that happens even when something is not going as planned. Okay, so I'm going to give you all 10 minutes to sit with the questions. Try to answer concisely. I would recommend you write it up, so it's easier to share.

T Hi, I can ask you to start wrapping up your writing? If you want to just share the writing, you can do that. It's nice for everyone to share by vocalizing, but you don't have to. I thought it was important for us to use our voices to introduce ourselves and then do the complaint and compliments. If you don't want to speak, you could just share the text. We can also put it into the pad that E has set up. I'm just going down the sequence on the screen. You can just say "Pass, it's in the pad” or you can take the mic. So the first tile on my screen is G, A and S.

G I'm gonna read the answers. Okay. “What were the expectations?” I was curious to know how a project about intersectional pedagogy will work within academic structures. I was hoping to find the tools because I've never been hopeful about changing institutions, as I had not good previous experiences in my life. Question number two: “Where may we/the project have not met those expectations?” So I think we didn't have time to reflect about local context problems. At one point, we, the participants, wanted to have a critical session. It was during the second workshop week that took place online. We wanted to discuss the topics that were creating discomfort in the group. We created a pad, we wrote our thoughts, but I think the feedback was not taken into account and the material we collected just vanished. And at that point, I think it was when participants decided to leave.

C I wonder what the tool could be that measures feedback uptake? Because it seems like a really personal feeling and hard to measure. For myself, I know that the feedback assignment affected me a lot, and to this day, I have taken a lot of things into account in the continuation of the small group project. But indeed, I could observe that other things had not been taken into account in the continuation, such as inviting white speakers again, whereas the request for more interventions by people of colour was made loud and clear.

G Here I was referring to a session organized by participants within the Gothenburg group. During this session some participants proposed a tool for communication that could help to identify and solve some tensions within the group. As mentioned later in a discussion (Interview 02)[http://ttttoolbox.net/Reflections::02-interview_A_G_S.xhtml] there was a lot of work to prepare the session and to gather information from voices that until then felt they had no space. However a lot of material was collected, there was little time for discussion and constructive re-organization. My question here is: Was the aim to create the tools together (internal and external) or were the tools already there to be followed and tested by the participants?

E The collected feedback of the session organized by participants has not vanished. You find it in the annex of this document: “Anonymous feedback, Gothenburg, June 2020”. Someone set up and shared the pad but did not extend the expire date. The pad disappeared from the server, but has been downloaded by me at the time we wrote it. Therefore we still have it to work with.

Question three: “Where things did go well?” It has gone well with the practical and technical tools created for the project. I mean the cloud, the platform to host the work in the form of collaborative writing pads, the friendly peer-review of projects. I think those processes were amazing. And also, personally, the work within the small group went really well, the communication and the relationships that were created, especially in the Neutrality group. “What do I take away from the experience?” I think in the Neutrality group, we really created a space to be equal and share all responsibilities. We collected questions and then interviewed people that generously shared a lot of experiences with us.

This work has helped me to learn to identify what is privilege, also pointing out class and language issues that sometimes were ignored during the entire project. And it also has created a space to hear other voices. So in the process, I learned about the contradictions between institutional structures and how there are some invisible behaviours and dynamics that do not invite people to participate or create exclusions or indirectly create exclusion. And especially, I learned how we embodied exclusion, including myself without being aware of it.

T Thank you, G. Would you like to go, S.?

S Sure, so the project met some of my expectations. I expected to design pedagogical tools that could be put to practice, experimented with, and shared. Interestingly, the word “tools” was critiqued by Nassira Hedjerassi [from the bell hooks institute in Paris] in her talk in the first workshop week in Brussels. After some reflection, I think, this had quite a negative impact. I mean, this influence did not allow me to instrumentalize our explorations and inform what we were developing as outputs. It didn't stop me fully, but it delayed my start — like being a deer caught in headlights.

S Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall’s “Designing for Respect” found in Deem Journal, and the works of Sara Ahmed such as her lecture “On Complaint” were helpful for both the exploration that needed to happen while addressing “the tool” but also to get (at least me) unstuck.

Then, another expectation was to be exposed to forms of knowledge that I had not been exposed to before and to travel to places I've never been to — for instance, to be inside a French-speaking cultural experience.

The way we approached the discussion of tools, the focus on tools that we were trying to make together, did not meet my expectations, even though that is the last T in TTTT [Teaching to Transgress Toolbox]. I leave a little caveat here since there are chances that they're still coming since I have not seen all the results on the publishing platform.

I hoped that the tools could be explained without keeping them so academic or argued for not only in stereotypical academic ways. This was an unmet expectation. Because we had a chance to let go of some hierarchies of always needing to underpin our argumentation, or at least, I hoped that we could expand communication beyond the stereotypical academic set-ups.

My takeaway, then, is the importance of gentleness. I will also take with me that it's a struggle to slow down when you need to reframe a big project, particularly a project with this many characters involved and with the level of reporting that Erasmus or EU-funded projects demand.

Next time, I would start with unpacking, unravelling the funded proposal at the moment where participants join the team who wrote the application proposal. This is a major takeaway, if I’ll ever write a proposal like this in the future.

T: A.?

A I wanted to come together to try out ways inclusion could be more at the centre of educational institutions’ concerns. I was in the group that drafted this project. We wanted to really try out possibilities to create institutional change, and to test, develop instruments, artistic methods and artistic play, and pedagogical tools through this cross-national context. I mean, a clear use and a reflection on prototyping through the artistic. I feel, the project has not met these expectations. The scale of the project was too large, a bit too ambitious. I would now say, after introspection, that the earlier framework felt discouraging for most and problematic at points, although, an incredible amount of work, incredible, beautiful, really powerful work has resulted from that. And I think also — a lot of people are saying this — the idea of tools went a bit too far. It stayed much in the reflection of those concerns, but it neither really met the inner processes that were taking place in the smaller groups, nor developed into smaller tools, pedagogical tools, if you want to be kind of instrumental in the language. I also want to say that despite the openness, there were a lot of conversations that were left halfway. That's important to acknowledge.

So where did it go well? Earlier, someone said that the fact that there are so many people in this final session is really evidence of the involvement and engagement shown throughout. I also realized how difficult it was for me to manage my own role in the collective framework and that lead me to find new roles. I might not have arrived there yet. That's it for me. Thank you.

T Thank you, all three of you. So next is F. Would you like to share by speaking? Okay. Thank you.

F Yes, I can. It's not as structured as the previous. But I will start with “What were the expectations?” When I applied, I was a student. It has to do with my background and the fact that I was raised in an educational system, where you are a student, and that's what you are until you finish. I wanted to be around people that had the same kind of experiences – pretty traumatic experiences with school. And I wanted to be around people that wanted to change that. Maybe that was very naive. Some in the project hadn’t the same experience as I and others had. I think I wanted to be around people that wanted to create something that would impact educational spaces. And I think that in the working group I was in, "Who is in the classroom?", once we got into a smaller group, we had a common goal. And we tried our best to reach it. We took weekly the time and as much as it was hard for me, because it was very outside what I knew, it gave me space to talk about what was going on in my school where I was the only trans student at the time. I wanted to change the school so I could be a student there. The project gave me a space to talk about it with people that had previous and more positive experiences and develop strategies to change it. And the tool we created had an impact inside TTTT for me personally, but also outside. It travelled through other schools and other educational projects. That part too was important for me. I was changed during the process. And it felt important to give away what we made, beyond TTTT, to places that don't even think there are people that are trans, or who have any type of disabilities.

T Thank you for sharing that. H volunteered to go next.

H Okay. I start with my expectations by reading the famous sentence by Audrey Lorde, that “The Master's tools will never dismantle the Master's House.” I do love this question of tools, because I have this kind of naive desire to really change things and to find tools to actively dismantle this house in which we are all, to different proportions, suffering. And I think this aim was also part of TTTT. But perhaps I project that, because I was tired. Maybe I project a lot of expectations that I, and we, will be able to dismantle this house. So we have not met these expectations because this was really bigger than us. I would have felt less lost in the thing, if we had placed it more precisely, or focused on one angle.

And that brings me to the question of intersectionality. I think the group was really diverse in terms of experiences, gender, identity… I don't know. Each experience carries a different emergency and each emergency, leads to, like, one month of super active work. So I felt that intersectionality is really important to what are we building together, but also, it needs a lot of time. And also, possibly, a precise angle on things. I felt a bit lost in this huge chain. I have felt that many people are feeling alone or lost. And on my side, for example, I didn’t work alone, but at one point I dropped. When I tried to come back I felt kind of guilty to not have been there. But also, I cannot deal with this online distance. So maybe really taking more time to “Okay, things are not working, people are not are out of the things. So how can we create new ways of working together and to possibly recentre the project?”

What I took away from this experience? I learned a lot about emotions when working collectively. I felt that I exposed my vulnerability, like a lot of people do. It was the first time for me to really see like, okay, when you are exhausted, when you are tired, then you react with direct emotion... What place do you give to that emotion in the collective process? Because sometimes it's really important to have this emotion and sometimes this emotion creates problematic power dynamics. And I was thinking about that for months: how can we work together and find a good place for emotions to be part of the process? And that's something that I will definitely continue to be busy with.

T Thank you so much for that. So I'm going to go to I, if you would like to share or not, as I said, you can cut and paste.

I I wrote: “I believe what was appealing to some people, as Ch mentioned, is the practice aspect of the project. This was the original idea on the ISBA side, and unfortunately it never happened. The first two workshop weeks at erg in Brussels and HDK-Valand in Gothenburg were more about theory and some practice through inviting external guests. The idea for ISBA was to actually collect what we had learned during the first two workshop weeks and transform them into practice within the walls of a school, ISBA, and experiment for a week with first year students and other volunteers. So the fact that it could never happen was a failure for me, because theory without practice stays as theory. We can only blame it on COVID. So the project aimed to share new ways of teaching and learning and practising in art schools, and beyond. The project was about feminist pedagogy, and that implies experiments. Practising in an institution is not just about the curriculum and the tools, but gives us the opportunity to question the institution. We are back to the missing bodies. How do we feel about an institution? This includes the people who are actually working there, not solely students and teachers, but the administration, the people who are cleaning, the people who are gardening, etc. What I question now: can we really do all this work within the institutions, when, in the case of my school, the institution was using TTTT to justify their problematic behaviour. This is one reason why I quit. In our school we had multiple cases of harassment and the administration used this project to portray the school as a feminist and supportive institution to the public, and the city... It was impossible for me to continue and back up such lies.

C The TTTT project took a public stance so that the then management of ISBA Besançon would not use its involvement in the project to absolve itself of its responsibilities. The collective writing of this letter was a moment of connection between the partners to protect the people inside this institution. [The letter here : https://cloud.ttttoolbox.net/s/L66zoQZwYjRNZTR ]

The question of tools? Yes, it's really important. It was hard to develop tools together, simply because we were not together and our computer screens were imposed as our main tool.

“What do I take away from this experience?” Well, ironically enough I'm actually hopefully embarking on a new European project and what I've learned here will be a starting point to not reproduce the mistakes and take with me the good parts of it all.

T Thank you so much for that. M, would you like to go?

M “What were the expectations?” I wanted to meet concerned people, allies, reussff [concernæs, alliæs, reussff] to deepen my theoretical knowledge and to continue my/our work of deconstruction in order to share it with our school — which needed this tool of deconstruction, of inclusive pedagogy. To make weapons for us! To create together a toolbox that we could use, evolve with reality.

“Where we may not have met the expectations?” If you want to work horizontally and keep the system fluid, give the same place to everyone (the same documents, the same emails, the same admission protocols, the same tools). Everyone is a part of the system. Be transparent about all the building of this project and how people came in this project, and why they came in this project. Create a common and open-source toolbox. Regarding inclusiveness and language: don't see language problems as a barrier between everyone, but as a strength, by creating common word tools or using online translation tools.

“Where things may have gone well?” One of the good things in this project were when we were a smaller group with more listening to each other and being more comfortable and taking the time to talk and listen to each other.

“What will I take away from this experience?” To be very transparent from the beginning to the end, and think about how you can share this project from the beginning. I'm quite sad that we didn't have a common place. Yes, we had our shared server space... I was thinking about more public common places to share with others, for example, students at our different schools.

T Thank you so much for sharing that. It's nearly one o'clock and we're supposed to be going to lunch. But if I have your permission, I would like to keep going a little more. So thank you for your patience. I'm going to ask, Å, if you'd like to go please?

Å So, my expectation was to work together, especially as a male, I wanted to do this against the idea of masculine individualism, and to do peer learning and research about questions of inequality and unequal opportunities for marginalized people. I wanted to be able to contribute from my specific knowledge about mental health problems, like neuro-atypical people, such as people within the autism spectrum, and ADHD, or dyslexia, and so on. And also I started this project towards the end of my masters studies, and I wanted it to be like a bridge into working as an artist and researcher outside the academy.

And where my expectations were not met were questions surrounding the definition of work. I think that we have very different understandings of what work means. And if work means to process something, what do we then do with it? Does it need to become an academic text? Or could it become something else? That is something I have missed.

“What has gone well?” I would say mostly the rubbing-off effects, or the in-between things that I've learned and picked up from listening to other people and working together. And what I will take away from the project is mainly the texts and materials that were shared, especially the “White Supremacist Culture” text by Tema Okun, that I kept working with and that I translated into Swedish. Also other books like "Conflict is not Abuse" by Sarah Schulman, and the concepts of feminist hospitality, the ethics of care, and the brave space. And, also, last thing, the importance of using open source tools, especially when it becomes apparent now that we need to use these tools to be able to communicate and also almost like a Marxist kind of taking control over the means of production, or the tools that we actually need to have to be able to communicate in today's society. So this is what I take from this project. Thank you.

T Thank you so much. A, would you like to go? Thank you.

A “What were the expectations?” To find a group where I feel I belong and feel understood. My biggest expectation was to learn a lot of stuff that I don't know, make new friends, and find some sense and structure in all this mess. And by mess I mean society, the world. Where we may have not met the expectations for me, there was a really big lack of honesty and positive communication sometimes. So that made me feel really like being not in a safe space, or lonely. And where things may have gone well? It's all the resources and the pedagogical tools we have created. Also, the importance of open source, like Å said, and my work in the small groups with I and G, and what we experienced with this process and also the people I met. “What do I take away from this experience?” That it is super, super hard to work in big groups, but also that it is possible as long as we deal with our emotions, and the creation of meaningful pedagogical material.

T Thank you so much. N, would you like to go?

N My expectations were to develop tools and practices to create a more inclusive pedagogy in institutions that are racist and LGBTQ+-phobic. For example, in Belgium, there is a question around the concept of neutrality, and we know who owns the neutrality… I wanted to find a place where I could meet a militant community and have the time to be together and not to resist or fight just by ourselves. I wanted to meet teachers and students and artists who are concerned by this “minority stuff”. I'm reading now, because I'm a bit lost, tired. The participants came from different places and we didn't manage to really connect to each other. Vulnerability was a word used many times, but I saw more times violence and in French “impasse”. I don't know how to say that in English. Then, we didn't really know how to debrief, to debrief slowly, and to question our fragility or our toxic self construction. But I was happy that everything was set to make things go well, to connect to each other even if we didn't succeed to make it like paradisical, I don't know, “quelque chose de paradisiaque”. Paradise doesn't exist. Sorry. I am down. So it's like that. And so that we missed the goal, because we have to measure idealistic expectations and I want to have something that — I identify as a transgender person. We tend to see like a lot of transgender students, but not really transgender teachers, and it's really… I have no answer for that. I'm really sad that this project is ending because the only model that I have is in the French movie "Laurence Anyways,” when Laurence is expelled from her school. So yeah, um, I'm sad that we didn't really talk about that.

T Thank you so much. Some examples too. That's useful.

N Okay, so my expectations, as simply as I can put them, is that I hoped it would be a space of radical and somewhat vulnerable honesty and humility, a place of undoing and building collectively, figuring and building tools to help with the pedagogy around decolonizing — tools, basically, everybody was talking about. I think that the failure rather than the “Where we didn't meet the expectations” was to not acknowledge the experience of those who were, or rather are marginalized in society. And then yet again, marginalized within this space that claimed they wouldn't be marginalized. And the other thing was that there were little or no strategies of addressing the structures that exist at school. I think that's something F said. But yeah, basically being the one with a sword at school, fighting on your own, and then hoping somebody is going to be behind you with another sword. And I think that there was this expectation that this group would be that, and they would all fight together in some way. So having no strategies to help with that was a bit of a missed opportunity. And then another was, within the process in itself, that when problems were brought to light and strategies to fix those problems were also brought to the table, they were brushed off or left to seem as if it's so complicated to do certain things when, I mean, there's been lots of people who've done it before, who've done the work that we were trying to do in the project. Saying that some things were a bit complicated, kind of meant that there wasn't really an intention to fix those things. Or to make everybody feel heard, to make them feel seen in their problems.

“What might have gone well?” Putting together voices that had the same intentions, the same hopes. I think it was really nice to be able to see also the different contexts we were all speaking from, but again, the institution being the enemy of some sort. And then another thing that went well, was that the project opened up opportunities for different people to work together. I think it was really nice to hear the different projects that different people worked together on and to see how much momentum was built.

“What do I take away?” That institutions, projects, all these things that we become a part of, are made of people. And as long as those people cannot come to the humility of understanding self, these institutions will not change. So we have to do the groundwork for ourselves. And then when we come together, we have noticed that there are obviously some loopholes, and there are obviously some things we don't know. And then we just have to be on the same level of vulnerability, which is what the expectation was when I began. Another thing is that in the process of creating knowledge, we need to simplify our language. As much as we are academics using all the beautiful bombastic words, I'm very much anti big words. When it comes specifically to decolonizing, we have to go back to basics, which means understanding that everybody has a different way of working, everybody has things that they don't understand. And others have things that they know better and whatever, but we need to slow down the process. We need to listen. We need to listen to each other's lived experiences and make space for that. Because they influence how we create and how we move in the world. Let's minimize talking sometimes, especially when it comes to decolonizing, to black feminism. If not we will be in conferences ‘til Jesus comes back, black Jesus comes back, you know, but we really have to DO things. We have to make things happen. And I think that a few people also expressed the practice part of what we were envisioning. That was lacking.

T Right. C?

C So I will answer this question from the position of the facilitator because I think it’s important to situate oneself, from where one is talking today. So-called “horizontality” is bullshit. So maybe it shifted a bit, the question and expectation and so on. Just to be precise, my expectations were to meet people who share the same struggle and to exchange experiences from different situated points of view; to build together tools, with our creative and artistic practices (graphic design, performance, paintings…). So maybe, yes, special tools or innovative tools, in a sense that we didn't know really how to build with all the nice practices we had. I was very confused when Nassira Hedjerassi challenged the idea of a tool. Because at that time I really felt the need to have tools to help me in my daily life. So it was really, really perturbing. I thought that the project was useless if we gave up the idea of building tools together. So in our small working group, we still decided to create this Bingo as a tool, because other people in my group also felt the need for these tools.

Probably, we didn't manage after all to take into account, or integrate the different backgrounds around the table. We didn't really manage to trust each other in the large group, and among the three partner institutions, already in the beginning, in the construction of the programme itself, in particular, with regard to the question of representation or whiteness in the teams of the three schools. Within erg, we tried some things to balance whiteness in the team, like inviting people of colour to lead workshops or shifting the team by freeing up a place in the team for others, for example. But it was not enough. Things may have gone well in the smaller groups, it's something I heard a lot around the table.

“What do you take away from this experience?” In a very pragmatic way, I’d say:


Maybe for myself then:


T Thank you.

I I'll just read out what I wrote. It was written very quickly, so it's a bit unfiltered, but maybe that's good. My expectations were to meet and exchange with people about their practices and experiences and working with radical politics in different contexts. And from this exchange to discuss and document tips, best practices, reflections on struggle, organizing and learning.

“Where may these expectations not have been met?” The groundwork or frame of the project contradicted the ideas and made it difficult for me to engage, like behind-the-doors meetings. There were expectations that were not collectively decided, like intellectual outputs, that became the focus rather than a process of creating from the experiences and interests of everyone involved.

And “What might have gone well?” That it was well received, or that I felt like it was well received when we decided to do our own thing as a working group, that this was a possibility.

And what I take from the experience is to be very careful with looking at who is starting a project, or initiating and leading it, and that words can misguide. And to trust or mistrust people rather than expressed ideas or ideals.

T Thank you for reading that. I, can I ask you also to go?

I My expectations were to connect to learn, to explore and workshop together — learning about perspectives, challenges, resources, and sharing these across the different contexts.

“Where things may have gone well?” Well, on a personal level, I did have the experience of a trans*person at HDK-Valand needing assistance with misgendering. And through this project, I was able to tackle it with them and that really quite drastically changed their experience. This was a very, very positive part of the whole project. I do know a lot of people in unions, equal treatment committees, and we can directly take the tool that we created [Who is in the classroom? / pedagogical guidance about inclusive classrooms] into the institutions and possibly actually change some things.

In terms of questions of what was met or not met in the project, I would just raise the question of ownership. I don't think this was an expectation that I had prior. I do not know if we all own this project together. Where, how do we come in, not just the group that started the project? Interesting here to think about hierarchies and the fact that we bring hierarchies with us when we come. I've had this experience in different groups when I've been the original organizer, that the hierarchy is so solidified. And I think the question for me is what is the role that we have in this group and in this project?

And “what do I take away?” I mean, it definitely solidifies lots of thoughts and understandings that I previously had in working like this. I take away new relationships and knowledges. I take away that inclusivity can suffer, no matter what good intentions you have. And I think this needs to be tackled, proactively, right from the start. I take away that there were so many similarities within the marginalized experiences throughout the contexts. And that it was interesting how these structures are present, no matter where we are, although they might differ in how far along they are. And I take with me as well this understanding of group dynamics and collective working methods from a semi-outsider, semi-insider perspective, I think. Many of the things that I experienced as, maybe “not have gone so well” have actually been huge learning experiences. This is, I think, positive and negative, because we can take these experiences with us and try to do better in the future. Cool.

T Thank you so much, I. Quite succinct. Okay, E.?

E I had expectations when we received this grant that we’d be able to create a collective structure in order to work together on topics that seemed relevant at the time and to the group who wrote the application. There was a long list of topics. The plan was to keep these pretty open, to be adjusted and changed according to the priorities of the persons who eventually would pick them up. To articulate these priorities within the bigger group, we had several mapping sessions during the Brussels workshop week, which was the first encounter of the three partner schools. So these topics were the starting point, the expectation and the offer.

I also hoped that we would be able to develop methods, focus on the ways we worked together, the process, rather than only on the outcome. There is a certain tension, though, because we needed to produce outcomes for the funding body. This was a prerequisite of the funding. But despite this pressure, I was curious how we would invent these processes and methods to produce these works together for the online publishing platform.

Another expectation was that while working together, we would be able to develop a kind of trust and generosity to learn from each other that would allow us to unpack difficult topics that came up during the programme. I'm referring to an anonymous feedback session organized among the Gothenburg group, when several points were made in a written document, but no room was made to address these points together, to make them tangible and to learn from them. This is an example of where we have not met my expectation to create a space where we could learn together and make mistakes and help each other to learn from these mistakes.

One quite important observation is that the project just became too big, too exhaustive, the way it was set up. Sometimes I wonder whether we actually speak about the same project here, because it seems there are so many projects within this project. And I wonder where the common space is in this project. I mean, who holds this common space, and how?

For example, many of you said today that it was good to work in smaller groups. And that some interesting works have been created in the smaller groups. As a moment of sharing with the big group, we set up the “friendly peer review sessions”. These moments, in May and June 2021, were intended to share and test our work with others, to support the working groups in finding blind spots, accessibility and comprehension, and to come up with ideas for how the work could be adjusted. But it was only a tiny group of people who joined these moments of sharing. Really, the sharing with the bigger group didn't happen. There was no common space. This is why I'd suggest that we actually cannot talk about “the one project,” because there were all these things happening that other people maybe still today are not aware of.

I sometimes heard that people were discussing things in a smaller group — just assuming that the bigger group would know about it, without sharing it explicitly with the bigger group. So there were so many conversations and it was difficult to hold this common space.

What do I take away from this experience? That it's fucking hard to work with the funding conditions we had to work with, funding conditions that determined clear hierarchies and roles. To understand your own role in this, or to try to adjust your role, was very hard.

I also take away all these amazing contributions, which are now nearly finished. The editorial group meets once a week and we can already get a sense of how complex and rich this material is, and this is really great. What is still a question is how this material that we produced — all these interviews, workshop outlines, teaching material, guides, games, etc. — how can we share them with the wider public beyond the online publication? How can we activate them, make them meaningful? This is a question, which, I think, will stay with us in the future. I can speak for the “Who is in the classroom?” group: we have planned a series of workshops in different (educational) contexts.

T Thank you so much, E., I've just put a little note, we have three people to go with, we could just stick around for hopefully, five, six minutes, max because I'm quite hungry. I'm sure some of you are hungry too and need that break. So I'm going to ask x to go, and so we could just keep it moving quickly. Thank you.

x Okay. So I'm going to give my expectations that were not met: I actually had the expectation of myself, as an organizer, to be able to bring already tools into the project before we all met. This was a bit of a mismatch, because actually, we should have built the tools together. Another point is, I think that “shared responsibility“ is a big term. And so there's a lot of things that are not blocked by this expectation. And the third expectation was that we would build a community. I think we missed that because we probably didn't give enough critical space. It would have been good to discuss the traditional structure first, and then understand how the traditional compares to what we wanted to do. How can we work in between these spaces? And maybe also the question of belonging. We haven't given space to emotions. I have to say, I'm feeling this need of emotion, a desire that wasn't shared and wasn't given the possibility to be shared.

Then, for the good things: this project helped me to make a choice, make the choice of working on an urgency. And the second one is to have the feeling of success that the project is carrying something that we are still carrying ‘til now to build up something that will go out.

And what I'm taking away is probably, again, the possibility for me to test different dialogical tools and to have the possibility to experience this within a smaller group. Also, to have the possibility to feel that my emotions are still heard and that there will be possible spaces for this emotion to be shared. And here maybe something that's kind of new for me, because I came to this conclusion lately: I think that I resembled too much “the enemy,” and that I cannot carry this type of project. And I don't feel legitimate in my position.

T Okay, thank you for those words.

L I will be quick because a lot has been said already. The position I have, as a director, enabled me to use the means and to open the space, the collective, the research, the experiments, you have all mentioned. “Where did we not meet the expectations?” Well, this was from the very first moment we began to write the first line of this project. As was said before, we should have known better that we needed time, and that the ways we responded to the call for applications for an Erasmus grant will already affect who would be in the project, how one can relate to the project, and so on. So this is something that I've learned. And it's interesting how the system is reproducing this kind of pressure within the speed, you have to answer who is responsible and accountable for this. So we, I, positioned myself as “the institution”, “the enemy”, as it was said today. We put ourselves in the position of answering such calls for applications with big names, then big words, with the impossibility to share any moment of its construction. We should be able to have the resistance and the humility necessary to fight this pressure all the time, it was said too. So yeah, we didn't meet the expectation from the first moment on. “Where did things go well?” I think, this is something important. How can we share this knowledge of being careful, taking time and giving the insider knowledge of this experience? And so this is all I take away with me in the future. I will always think of you all the time.

C I wanted to create a tool that can help others where they needed help. Sometimes, I guess, it was expected of me to build a bridge between the English and French language. And I think sometimes I failed to do that, because I have a really hard time dealing with responsibility. What went well was the work in the small working group with the creation of the Bingo tool. That work helped me to get to my expectation, which was to create something for people who needed help.

What I'm taking away is knowledge that even if it's really difficult and hard, it is possible to work together. And that I'm not alone, trying to not be alone. There are other people trying to not be alone too. And, that we can work all together. Thank you.

T Thank you, everyone. It was good to hear some commonalities and everyone's reflections and experiences. It's a quite complex project. There are many people, many characters, many needs, many dissatisfactions. And many, as the word has come up, “emergencies”. It's an interesting word to use in relation to what we encounter every day, from the COVID, to our politics of identity, to the institutions we work in and what we navigate, what we do, and we don't do. So there are a lot of questions that this project was actually trying to hold. And think of how could you collectively create the tools when you're in these educational spaces? So in many ways, you should all just take a moment and say, “I survived this process,” even if you weren't here through the whole process, right? So just kind of go, “I'm still here, and you're here, because you actually care.”

I want to say thank you all for showing up. That's a really important thing. You all actually care. If you didn't care, you wouldn't be here today. So you have come back to close something, but also to share, and you will probably continue to speak to some of each other after this project.

S Adding here a quote from Adrienne Maree Brown’s “In the study and practice of emergent strategy, there are core principles that have emerged and that guide me in learning and using this idea and method in the world. I gather them here with the expectation that they will grow. [1] Small is good, small is all. (The large is a reflection of the small). [2] Change is constant. (Be like water). [3] There is always enough time for the right work. [4] There is a conversation in the room that only these people at this moment can have. Find it. [5] Never a failure, always a lesson. [6] Trust the People. (If you trust the people, they become trustworthy). [7] Move at the speed of trust. Focus on critical connections more than critical mass –build the resilience by building the relationships. [8] Less prep, more presence. [9] What you pay attention to grows.” (from Emergent Strategy; Shaping Change, Shaping Worlds, 2017, p. 41-42 with footnotes omitted from original text)

Anyways, we're going to go have lunch. I think we all need a break. We come back at 2:15 If that's okay, because of the next part. Yeah, thank you so much.

3. Using the material

How to use this material

T Welcome back, I hope you had a nice lunch and stretched your legs. So after listening to one another, witnessing each other, also just acknowledging some positive, some negative impact of the project on ourselves, but also on one another. That's actually part of what the learning is also about: how to do things differently in the future? What should we take into consideration? We can think about things in retrospect, like, “Oh, we could have done… It should have been…” But there's no point living in the past, but going, “What can we do next time, if we decide to work in collectivity with others?” And also, “How do you set the parameters to work in collectivity?” Working in the collective or in collaboration is really fucking hard. At the heart of it is, we're all humans. We’re trying to care, we want to take care of things, we want to change things. That's our human condition, we want to make things better for one another. But in that process, it's really hard. And institutions, they're just made up of people just like you and me, we all have many institutions inside ourselves. So every time we say “the institution this, institution that,” that's also part of who we are, whether we want to be in them or not, we are forever tied to them in different ways. Even family, to some extent, is an institution – chosen, or blood family. I wanted to add that, to remind you that, we're all in these things, at different points in our lives.

One of the things we wanted to discuss with you was how to share the learning of this encounter today. But also, what are the things that might be important to share? So, there are different ways. As you know, we are recording this workshop, and with your permission, would like to transcribe some of it. We would redact your names, so it would be anonymous. And an ethical practice is that you will be shown the document, so you all can sign it off before it gets published. Also, maybe you want to do a piece of reflective writing, that you like to share with the group. This could also be added to the overall reflection to share what has or can be been learned from this experience.

This project will be evaluated as part of reporting that is normal when you get a grant. So, evaluation takes place in different ways and this kind of information can be used as a process to evaluate. This is an opportunity for you all to actually have a say in this process, compared to only the organizers evaluating from their perspective.

4. Narrative Interviews

Can you recall a moment in the project when an issue/problem came up?

Do you remember how it was solved? Can you think of other ways it could have been solved?

T Okay, as the last part of the workshop today, I invite you to do one-to-one narrative interviews with each other. Sometimes we're more comfortable disclosing, sharing between just two people, as opposed to being a massive group like us today.

And I thought it would be good, if we're going to share our learning: How did you work through some of the problems that might have come up? And I know some people did not participate the entire time. But maybe it's about “Well, this problem came up, it could have been addressed X, Y, and Z.” So it's almost like creating mini case studies.

If somebody else will encounter this reflection on your learnings, for example, on the TTTT publishing platform – they can also go, “Well, in our project, we encountered that the marginalized voices in society were still marginalized in the project. They could have done, we could have done, we could have thought about…” So it's almost like creating solutions together as opposed to going, “It happened, you know,” or feeling disenfranchised by it, feeling that there's no point, it's hopeless, things don't change.

I am convinced it is important to share these, because I am a super-institutional person. I work in institutions, I do work in them to try to change them. Sometimes they do change, slow, but they do.

So we'll break up into groups of two. I think everybody has the questions. And if not, we can put them in the chat, which I can, we can do very quickly. We're not going to share today whatever we talk about in the interviews with each other. But you record these conversations we'll keep it as one part of the collected information, so we can share further. So these conversations are not confidential. Let’s go for 30 minutes. I just want to give you enough time to feel relaxed to talk to each other.


5. Closing Remarks

T Okay. Thanks for coming back. I want to acknowledge that things did come up that we're not going to be able to address — thinking about other ways they can be addressed. I was speaking to L. [in the narrative interview], and some questions have come up about how things didn't get resolved, or the challenges that might have been faced that we've not addressed. If you feel it's important to say what you think, or you feel about something, please write to the project managers. If you want to share with everyone, you can do that too.

This is my way of saying to you: if you have something you think is significant for an institution to learn about, and it's not causing you extra labour, emotional, intellectual, etc., then you should share it with them. Because now, we don't have the moment to get into the discussions of why something didn't happen, or how it happened, where things weren't transparent, and how decisions were made. This is what happens quite often in different forms of projects. We've all experienced different kinds of projects and different types of institutions.

What I'm trying to do, is to give you an invitation, a space to close off. I think about this: all projects are like a wound. And sometimes we leave them quite open, and they can fester. And they can just make you angrier or more upset. Or a wound can also heal. And over time, but also by sharing and releasing, you start closing off the wounds slowly. That's quite a big part of my institutional practice. I open up cuts and wounds and — how should I say — yeah, “I wound institutions”. And I know by doing that, I also have to go through a process of closing them, especially for my colleagues that I work with, because not everyone is used to working in this way. And it's an ethical way of being together and witnessing each other.

So I invite you if any of you would like to say something. Take a couple of minutes to say something, or just acknowledge something before we close. It's important for us to create this final space. My debrief is really about how we start closing things and not letting them just stay open. I invite you all, if you'd like to do one last comment to one another. A moment of, I guess, being convivial and not staying just with the negative. Does anybody want to go? Don't feel like you're forced to do this either, right?

Å Yeah, I'm very happy to have been, and still be, part of this group. And I'm also interested in doing some kind of continuation of it, maybe more towards public stuff. And I'm thankful that I participated today, even though I was really not feeling alright, but thanks for all the voices today.

A I just wanted to say that I'm really interested in creating inclusive pedagogical tools, and continuing this research and this collective-ness stuff. So, you guys have my email. If you want to work or build something, even though we don't know what it is, please text me. I'll be very happy.

G I would like to say thank you to E. for taking care of the editing and helping with all the content that we have created online. I think it has been amazing how you have taken care of all the work. Also, now when this is being edited. I hope it will be published soon! And I also want to thank L. for arranging this afternoon and just taking care of it until now. I don't know how to formulate it, but I want to say gracias to you. I want to thank you, Teresa, for your talk yesterday. It was amazing! And also for your help today. It's been great. You have created a really safe space and I felt really comfortable with all in this session. And I really want to say thank you.

T I want to say thanks for allowing me to be here in the space with you. I was invited by L. and E. but I could, at least for this moment in time, create a space where you could be as open and honest as possible. So, thanks for being present. Does anybody else want to say anything?

N Yeah, it's great to have this evaluation process happen. I still do think, voices that we silenced at the beginning of the project, will continue to be beside us. We have a few minutes left to talk about things that are quite critical in the creation of this group, to unpack the process, that’s what we said we would do. Yes, people had the opportunity to sign up and be part of this process. But it still doesn't mean that the voices and concerns that were raised in earlier moments shouldn't be brought to the table.

And so in that way, it's very nice to say, “Yes, we've done great today, and we've done well,” but in another way, I don't think that we have been completely honest with that process. I don't have much more to say because I don't know what has been produced and where everything is, what these tools are that people talked about that had been created. But I do know that on the path to getting there, there were a few that were left behind. And those voices are just as important as the ones who are contributing today. And having to be asked to, you know, kind of give solutions, to give a way forward in one way or another, feels a bit unfair, because that has been happening throughout the entire time. It happened in the beginning, it happened in the middle, it now it's still happening. And so it doesn't feel very comfortable for me to be able to say, “Okay, here's the solution,” when solutions are constantly being given to change things and to change the way we work with one another.

T Thank you for that. Somebody else wants to go?

Ch I agree with N, because one of the problems was the COVID situation and the shift to meeting online. Well, I feel guilty that we did not try to find solutions for the people that could not follow, that struggled to follow. And maybe it was really hard to find a solution. I'm not blaming anyone. I think I blame myself first. It's just that I feel that it was very complicated and that acknowledging this is very important. What N says is important to say and to acknowledge and not to blow it under the carpet and move on.

T Thank you. Did anybody else want to say something?

H Yeah, you hear me? Okay. Yeah, I have two “thank-yous”. One is a bit negative and one is a bit positive. Okay, I want to thank bell hooks, because the group project was called “Teaching to Transgress Toolbox”, referring to a book, “Teaching to Transgress” written by black activist and author, bell hooks.

I think referring to someone's work, especially to a black person’s work, whose life is dedicated to activism, comes with a huge responsibility! It’s not just a cool title, for a cool curriculum, showing that you are a good ally, etc. That’s what I often see in the art context, in white majority groups. So I want to thank you, bell hooks, and also say, “Sorry,” because I wished you took a bigger place in our group. You seemed a bit absent, and I wished you’d be more than the title. And, then the cool thank you is for everybody. I think that we all exposed a lot of fragility in a situation of exhaustion. I don't have so much opportunity to meet a person, on an intimate level, and I feel that I had in the Teaching to Transgress Toolbox group. So I want to thank you for that generosity. Thank you, bell hooks, again.

If you say thank you to bell hooks, maybe the organizers should apologize. I apologize. The choice of the name Teaching To Transgress was a mistake from the beginning and it was in question several times during the year of preparation, but we felt so confident that we could carry it, inviting some people of colour, and because this text is so inspiring, but it was absolutely not enough. The use of the acronym TTTT was a trick to get everyone to reappropriate the letters, but we didn't even explain that well to the group.

This project should clearly have been a project about deconstructing white supremacy culture, as it was carried out by a predominantly white team. We should never have put people of colour in the position of deconstructing the white people in the room or providing us with solutions, nor should we have used the bell hooks title. It's the job of white people to do their job.

T I think G, A and S are going to say something.

S I just wanted to say I am thankful for all those moments when participants took initiative or, or called the bigger group for feedback sessions. Or when we were told to shift what and how we were doing things by informing us, that the ways we were working were, even, unethical at moments. I think that's a really brave stance. And it happened many times during the course of the project. It didn't happen in a way that we could fix the problems completely, but it did happen in a way that —at least from my perspective —we could become more aware. I learned a lot from that. So I just want to thank the group for being capable of doing that, even when perhaps frustration happened afterwards when things seemed to fizzle or detach. And doing it more than once, I think that's kind of brilliant, actually. It happened repetitively. So I'm very thankful for that, including, N, what you've said even in this session. That bravery is really commendable. And I'm impressed to have been inside a group that can do this. Yeah.

T Thank you. Anyone else would like to go?

I I just want to highlight my concern about who is taking the role to publish or create collective reflections? The most obvious dynamic being, who is even present in this session today, and whose perspectives then would be drawn from it? Or included into any format, any output that would be shared with the wider world. I want to highlight my hope that this is handled with care. Or maybe also put some energy into whether there'd be any forms of including other perspectives than those present today.

T Oh, thank you for bringing that up. I think it's to do with ethics of care respecting the practice of people who are unable to be here. But we also have to respect when people, who we keep asking to participate in something that actually… might have been too traumatic for them. This is not okay, either. So, you know, sending emails out and reminding them whether they'd like to participate… that’s the invitation. But some people don't want that wound to open up again. So as much as we say, we want to include everyone, even those that are not here, we also have to accept that they are not here for a reason. It's, of course, to leave the door open and say, “You're welcome.”

I am saying this from an experience of a project where I worked with eight artists and three of them accused me, as the curator working for an institution, of all sorts of things: Being unethical and uncaring, not giving them contracts, XY and Z. I actually opened up mediation saying, “well, let's talk about this because I want to be held accountable. And I'm responsible for the project. I invited you in, and take care of you. If I've done something, what did I do?” I spoke to five artists, but the three who accused me never met and never spoke to me again. They just refused. So for me, this thing opened up, but there was no closure. And I'm still around them, and I see them. I will never work with them again, of course, because it was an unethical practice. It's about everyone's accountability and responsibility to a process. I make the offering and the offering is rejected. It can't just be one-way… But sometimes we have to just accept that others don't want to enter that process, because it might be too triggering, too traumatic. That's something we must remember when we enter these spaces.

Thanks for listening to me talking about this time. Does anybody else want to say anything?

A I want to thank, on a personal note, for all the moments where I felt individually unable to actually work in a collective setting. These revealed many inadequacies in me: lack of openness — even the capacity — to learn, and lack of sensitivity. I take that as a gift of learning, something to be improved. So that's my personal thanks to meeting my short-handedness, my incapacity to deal with things in the best way. That was very important for me.

Then I want to say that it has been a pleasure to just learn so much and to witness people trying to do something together without knowing each other beforehand, based on their shared concerns. As well as how we dealt with the mismatch of expectations and what came out of the project. That it hasn't been an easy process. But it has been quite fantastic to see the different things coming up and the different discussions. And, yes, there's a lot to continue to work on. I disengaged from the project at a certain point, for personal reasons that had to do with other commitments. I wished I could have been more active in this project. There's rich potential in it, opening and exposing issues emerging throughout and, yes, there is much left unaddressed, something to work from. So thank you for all of that, to all of you. It was really, really great to meet you all.

T Okay, does anybody else want to go?

I I'm going to try not to take too much time. But one of the main reason why I wanted to attend this meeting today is that I first wanted to apologize to everyone for removing myself from it. I was never able to express my apology to you, at the time. I remember only sending a very short note. It took me a long time to make this decision. I want everyone to know that it was not at all an easy one to make, but I had no choice. I really felt like I arrived to a point where it became a health issue. I was the person who was in charge of the ISBA team, and I felt responsible for the other people who were also involved alongside me. The situation was just unbearable. And still today, I'm on sick leave due to a burn-out.

T Thank you, everyone, for staying back an extra few minutes. Any closing remarks? No.

N I believe that with whatever effort to try and build something new, and especially within the context of decolonizing, we have to make space for conversations to happen – real vulnerable conversations. In fact, this makes me emotional to think about it. So often we want to get to the solutions. We want to get to the good parts. We want to get to the part that helped us move forward. But sometimes we don't have to move forward. Sometimes we have to stand still and deal with what is there at that particular moment. Moving forward with whatever projects and whatever things we're going to work on — and I specifically direct this towards people who are not of colour (I've never said that before, but white people and people who don't see their privileges don't understand their privileges in the context of race and ethnicity) — this space is needed. A space to discuss, a space to sit, a space to dive into those fields, a space to address the reality that exists around us and a space to talk about our lived experiences and acknowledge that somebody else does not have the same lived experience as you do. And only then we will be able to have a TTTT project that reflects the things that bell hooks talks about, the things we hoped we would do, the things we wanted to do. All I'm saying is that, yeah, it requires listening, requires space. Make space for those voices, so that we can move forward in a way that is honest, and in a way that wants to genuinely build our society in whatever context that may be.

S While reading N’s above call for action, the designer/researcher Yoko Akama comes to mind. Akama has been working with a Japanese philosophy “Ma” or “between-ness” in relation to participatory design and co-design practices (the part of design that gets nerdy about facilitating experiences in groups). Akama stated “co-designing among the plurality of between-ness means that we are all implicated, embedded and changing as part of a whole of ever-changing moments. The potency of “Ma” is that, after some time, one can no longer feel part of a world of predefined boundaries that seek to distinguish and compartmentalize. Instead, one can willingly step into the ‘empty’ voids that are not yet inscribed, not yet ‘formatted’, not yet known to pursue uncertain paths towards open-ness and potentiality. Seen this way, co-designing is also to bring others along on this journey of uncertainty in a pursuit to create ‘empty’ in-betweens within and among ourselves as we mutually become together through interrelatedness” (2015, 273). Thus, situating “Ma” into the project, could we have called upon “Ma” as a potential notion? Could it have helped us create a plural-loving-common-ground that embraced the voices, the silences and everything in-between? Could “Ma” have helped us create a space for the voices to be heard better? Could “Ma” be a way to understand the space of the silence being equally powerful, effective and active even in their absence? Could we have exposed this in-between more and begin to articulate the between-ness? Maybe we did this in so many ways and formats, actually. We just did not know it could be called “Ma”. Undoubtedly, we each have so much more to learn.

T Å, I acknowledged that you wanted to say something. Can you make it quick? Then we'll close off.

Å Yeah, I just remembered reading the text “Virtual Workplace Culture and White Identity”. It takes up the ways online meetings, for example, reinforce White Supremacist Culture. This is interesting in connection what has happened to us and what N said.

Å The links to the text and to the Swedish translation I made are in the “References” section below.

T Thank you. This brings us to the end of the day. I want to say again, thank you all for being present and sharing. Seeing how the project gets reflected on with different voices, from different perspectives, from where you stand as opposed to the positionality of the administrator. So, with that, I guess I say goodbye to you all and good luck, and hopefully you will apply some of what you've learned in your future projects and engagements and your practices because you have many years more to practice in the future. So, thank you. Have a good Saturday. Bye.

H I want your tracksuit.

Bye bye. Oh my god.

Take care.

Reflections via email

We invited participants who could not attend the reflection workshop to try to answer the same questions via email.

Email by E, sent in December 2021


What were the expectations?

When I submitted my application to the TTTT programme, I was full of hope because all my experiences in art school were very exhausting , and I was looking for a new way to exist in those spaces. I was tired to have to earn my right to navigate in cultural spaces despite my skills and hard work. I was tired to be perceived as a problem or a sort of curiosity and never be allowed to raise the subject.

I wanted to escape the loneliness and be able to raise theoretical and practical questions without being treated as an ungrateful child. Most of all, I wanted to engage my works and research in any direction without being trapped in some colonial mindset.

To be honest, I also deeply wanted to travel and see something else than our Belgian walls and institutions in order to see if I could fit in different kind of organizations. I tried to achieve all that by myself before, but either I was discouraged by some teachers or my financials status didn’t allow me to go further. So, when I had been accepted into such a program that would allow me to do so, it was pure joy for me. I hoped to be part of a collective and immersive creative experiment surrounded by people who wanted to share, meet, experiment, reflect, discover all together. I wasn’t expected to heal or redefine the entire art pedagogy in a such short period of time, but I was wondering if we altogether could be strong enough to get around the distractions that we usually encounter, as people from a minorities background.
I was looking for a sign that we can create an independent art community without collapsing over individual, ego and financial issues. (Gosh, I was such an idealist, wasn’t I… ahah).

Where the project have not met those expectations?

I wonder how the whole experience would have been without the COVID crisis. I am almost sure that I would have lived the entire experience if it wasn’t for this urge to meet our goals (produce) despite the crisis. To me, everything lost sense once we lost the meeting in-real-life experience. I was alone for so long. All I needed was a true, vivid communal experience. The fact to be able to travel to share this communal experience was to me (and at that time) non-negotiable. I could have handled it, but I think that we all came with our burdens, and mine was too heavy already to let me keep going this way. And I felt like there was no alternative, whether you jump in this new boat with us, or you drown trying to reach the coast swimming.

Unfortunately, the pressure of the funding goals and achievements were noticeable. I absolutely don’t blame anyone, because I can imagine how hard it must have been to build this project, and the pressure behind it. But, the urge to keep going and produce something despite the distress of some students who were struggling in this period is for me a huge missed call. Once again, those with the capacities, and resources to follow where welcomed and the others, just evaporate.

Where did things go well? What do you take away from this experience?

I met some amazing people within the group, and I had the occasion to curate so great events with some of them in a short amount of time after the first session. We are still occasionally in touch and don’t hesitate to recommend each other when we see an opportunity to do so. That’s gold. Also, they made me discover very cool networks here in France and Italy. Our will to organize and energy just matched, and it was a pleasure to work with them. I am looking forward to repeating the experience. Those people were black as me, it might be relevant to emphasize it. To me, it is not a problem at all, it reveals the fact that even in those kinds of group, we respond to the need to gather with the people we feel closest to. We were very careful to bring an intersectional approach throughout the program, but I have to say that, I couldn’t help but notice that racial issues are evacuated too easily when we are not diligent enough. I really didn’t want to fight over it, so I naturally chose to relate to those for whom those questions were obvious.

It might appear anecdotal, but at a personal level, I have a very painful period. I can't walk sometimes , and it is terrifying to go out, or meet my obligations when I am obviously not able to do it. At the beginning, I didn’t feel pressed because of that. I received help, I had a place to lie down and afterwards, I never had to justify myself. After years of school and work experience where I just had to “go through it”, I felt very grateful for this.

Can you recall a moment in the project when an issue/problem came up? Do you remember how it was solved? Can you think of other ways it could have been solved?

During the Brussels session, I was late one morning and barged in the middle of a group conversation. It was very early in the week session. One of the organizers took badly feedback from a participant regarding the organization. I was surprised by the intensity of the reaction , but not judging. It helped me evaluate the involvement of the team to make this project happen beforehand.

It has been solved by settling some systematic group sharing session in the morning (for what I remember). Which can be a good idea , but doesn’t suit everyone. I was personally wondering if we were not fouling ourselves by the wish of this experience to be perfect and as hurtless as possible. But as a consequence, by trying to solve everything, we didn’t achieve any work (or at least, I was frustrated by how slow we sometimes worked). So once again, our traumas kept us away from our goals , and it was frustrating. Even within the safe space that we managed to create, we are distracted from our goals and that can be infuriating.

Also, I sincerely don’t think that we should expect anyone to expose themselves in group sharing. Even with strategies such as anonymous notes or whatever, I felt we were so anxious to avoid conflict that we didn’t even allow for the chance to let our feelings mature.

References used in the workshop or in later annotations


  1. In the following the indented and bolded style indicates a comment that had been added to the transcript by participants or organisers after the workshop 

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