Over the past ten years, tendencies towards polarisation and discrimination in wider society have had a perceptible influence on attitudes and behaviours within education, not to mention forceful impacts on learning and teaching in our classrooms. In attempts to meet these contemporary threats to diversity, questions about pedagogical inclusivity have risen to the forefront among European communities. As three major art schools engaged in higher education (erg Brussels, ISBA Besancon and Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg), we identify the pressing need to respond to these political and social issues, and with urgency propose to address this historical challenge through a collective focus on questions of inclusive learning and teaching. Intersectionality asserts that oppressions (based in racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another. Critical intersectional feminist pedagogies have, by now, been proven to provide valuable conceptual and practical tools with which to focus on inclusivity. This is particularly true in the field of art, where teaching is known to be open to devising and applying new critical frameworks, tools of analysis and creative practices.
"Teaching To Transgress Toolbox" – the title is inspired by bell hooks' book "Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom" – is a two-year research and study programme, which focuses on critical pedagogy, using artistic tools based on peer-learning and innovative research practices. This programme enables strongly interconnected research and teaching and is developed transnationally by the three schools, each of which contributes a strong track record of engagement and complementary expertise. Partners have already embarked on specific research and teaching agendas which tackle discrimination in their local context. These include (but are not limited to): "Teaching to Transgress Working Group” at erg; "ARC T(c)ool Box Study Day" at ISBA; and “Let's Mobilize: What is Feminist Pedagogy?”, the KUNO seminar “Inclusive Actions–Art Schools Imagining Desegregation?”, "PARSE Conference Exclusion" and “Decolonising Film Education" at Valand Academy.
After several highly beneficial exchanges between the partner institutions (shared participation in workshops, lectures and exams), the moment has come to formalise and connect previous research and action. This two-year joint research and study programme would have the attendant aim of serving as a springboard from which to develop a future, much-needed, transnational Erasmus+ Joint Masters Degree on critical pedagogies in the arts.
The "Teaching to Transgress Toolbox" is addressed to artists, researchers, students and teachers. The explicit aim is fostering inclusive pedagogies, and questioning the so-called neutrality and equality in systems of schooling, production and consumption in the arts. The programme invites people from various backgrounds, fields, abilities, gender identification, sexual orientation, ethnicity and religion to collectively explore how intersectional and de-colonial approaches can activate and spread embodied and theoretical knowledges.
The programme consists of four common moments: four one-week workshops hosted at partner institutions, personal/group projects, and a series of public events with external partners. In its first phase, the program offers a historical approach to critical, feminist and de-colonial practices. This entails a close study of the infrastructure and organisation of each institution: How do we work? With whom? Where? And under which conditions?
This will enable insights into the variety of educational systems and respective agencies within local, political and cultural contexts, and will investigate politics of knowledge practices. Having introduced this groundwork, the next three phases will focus on creating and sharing pedagogical/artistic tools e.g.; experimental teaching assignments, policy proposals and innovative good practice guidelines.
Part of the programme is dedicated to (i) developing an open access archive and dissemination platform to share findings with a wider public. The platform’s editorial objects are to include papers, studies, manifestos, interviews, video podcasts, radio broadcasts, and digital objects that will circulate in a range of educational, artistic contexts, both inside and outside higher education; (ii) a print publication that will be distributed internationally and (iii) a one-month exhibition of historical reference material in dialogue with contemporary responses. This newly formed knowledge, crucial in light of the lack of material on the topic, will be distributed to art schools and disseminated over European borders, informing curricula and providing critical tools for day-to-day learning/teaching practice in higher education. Forming connections with other schools and universities will be taken into account in each phase.