[-empyre-] Critical Pedagogies from Brazil

Ricardo wrote: "So from this point of view, education, as much as it, in a way or
another, may involve art, can happen in many situations outside
institutional contexts or market-driven interests. I believe education
is a very broad term, and if we talk about art, (or activism, in
another guise), why not see an artwork that intervenes in the public
sphere as educational, or else an activist manifestation as a form of
"critical pedagogy" as in Freire's idea?"

I agree that it is useful - in this context and in general - to think of community based activist art practices as a form of education. Freire's pedagogy is, of course, a well known and extremely productive approach to the problem of hierarchies and relations of power mentioned earlier in the month in this discussion.

In the projects Ricardo described the artist often apparently functions as an organizer. I was lucky enough to be able to attend a one day symposium led by the members of the UltraRed collective where there was considerable discussion of the difference between the terms "organizer" and "activist" in relation to art practice. Here is their record of the event.
And here is Leonardo Vilchis's statement that addresses how he sees the difference between organizer and activist http://www.ultrared.org/publicrecord/archive/2-01/2-01-011/2-01-011-05.mp3
for him the difference has to do with the artist/activist/organizers' position within the community that is engaged by and in the work itself.

I'd like to add to the list of descriptions of work that "intervenes in the public sphere" as critical pedagogy an organization in Buenos Aires that I have had the privilege of working with - Crear Vale la Pena
http://www.crearvalelapena.org.ar/ The foundation was started by choreographer and sociologist Ines Sanguinetti in the mid 80's. Crear has established educational, community and program centers in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. They use Artistic training for Social Transformation.

Crear Vale la Pena is an independent non-governmental organization based in Buenos Aires. Founded and directed by sociologist and choreographer Ines Sanguinetti, Crear Vale La Pena works for Art & Social Transformation. Crear has established educational, community and program centers in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, providing nearly 1,000 children and young adults every year with a range of some 90 different courses in various artistic disciplines. The courses offer young people living on the social and economic fringe the opportunity to receive training in modern dance, Hip Hop, street dance, theatre, music and comedy from professional artists. These young people also learn important social skills at the three self-administrated cultural centers in the city.

In my opening post I mentioned two projects - one of these, Palabras_ <http://palabrastranquilas.ucsc.edu>, is in part a collaboration with Crear Vale la Pena. In August 2005 Argentine Choreographer Susana Szperling began working with Palabras_ at the Foundation with a small group of young dancers who collaborated in developing choreography through improvisation based on their day-to-day experience in their own neighborhood (a shanty town in the northern part of Buenos Aires called "la cava"). The dancers used Palabras_ tools to extend their investigation of life in their neighborhood and provide a background setting for a dance performance. The palabras tools are also being used in schools in Buenos Aires and Kiel, Germany as a platform for cultural exchange. In Buenos Aires these workshops are directed by young people who have been trained at Crear. The Palabras_ collaboration is just a very small part of the extensive, long-standing and very successful efforts of Ines and Crear which are described at their site. I have included a description of/reflection on my work with Crear in a residency in Kiel below for anyone who is interested. This was cut and pasted from a piece written for another context so I apologize for the length - again - a brief description of a workshop residency collaboration with Crear in Kiel is near the end.



Palabras_ http://palabrastranquilas.ucsc.edu is a web application that employs tagging to generate a spontaneous or "improvised" map of correspondences and connections between communities in various locations.

The project was based on the concept of the "community computer," first proposed by activist Bruno Tardieu. The "community computer" is a social and technological system much like a typical computer in which words can make things happen and associative memory evolves over time. While the "personal computer" provides a communications gateway to the Internet where communities of interest can evolve regardless of distance, the concept of the "community computer" is intended not to bypass, but to strengthen, communities of place - particularly marginalized communities - and to enable and empower them.

Unlike other Folksonomic media sites (Flickr, and Utube, for example) Palabras_ employs tagging in the context of place-based workshops designed to allow communities that may not normally have access to the internet to use media and information technologies to represent themselves and their own circumstances. Palabras also adopts the tactics of Do-It-Yourself technology to provide low cost and context appropriate media acquisition tools. Through Palbras_ workshops communities not traditionally thought of as scholarly or academic, produce knowledge and interpret their own experience.

The Palabras_ website currently provides access to an archive of over 2000 video clips created in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Kiel, Germany, San Francisco and San Jose, California (US) and Darfur, Sudan, through the folksonomies participant-communities have evolved. The Palabras workshop tools and database browser adopt the folksonomic method to give participants the opportunity to interpret and classify their own content. This method also simultaneously generates a map of semantic associations between the self-representations created by participant-communities across languages and cultures.

At each site Palabras_ workshop participants document their daily lives with inexpensive, disposable digital video cameras "hacked" to make them reusable. They subsequently "tag," organize, and share their videos online using the Palabras_ "editor". This custom-built web-application was designed to facilitate the discovery of relationships and connections between participants' personal stories by allowing them to label or "tag" their video content with a shared vocabulary that is both originated by, and familiar to them. The web-application also provides simple tag search, editing and sequencing tools participants may use to create video sequences using clips created by members of their community as well as their own clips. Participants can search for relevant clips from their site by tag or browse via their site's tag cloud. The tag cloud visualizes all of the tags that belong to a site using a distribution algorithm, which scales the size of a tag related to the number of times it has been used. For example, a participant at Crear Vale la Pena in Buenos Aires might scan the site's tag cloud and decide to make a sequence of clips tagged with "cuerpo" or "body" by which is very large in the site's tag cloud - indicating that there are many clips associated with this tag. The participant may select a tag and then choose from the clips that are subsequently displayed. The clip editor also lists related tags for each clip - all the other tags associated with the clip - and the participant may choose to search these tags to look for clips in order to construct a sequence based on this network of semantic associations. Visitors to this site may also add tags to clips and sequences in the archive.

Palabras_ workshops in local cultural centers at each Palabras_ site have focused on strategies for collective self-representation. Most recently, Palabras_ was used by participants in a ten day workshop/residency in Kiel, Germany. Dancers and Musicians from Foundation Crear Vale la Pena (creativity is worthwhile) <http://www.crearvalelapena.org.ar/> in Buenos Aires traveled to Kiel to collaborate with young people from the Mettenhof neighborhood on the development of a media and dance-theater presentation exploring the concept of "respect." Participants used Palabras_ video cameras, tagging and editing tools in a series of "investigations" of the concept which were incorporated into the media/dance-theater presentation developed over the course of the residency. The results of these investigations are accessible through the Palabras_ browser under the site named "respect". The Argentinian dancers and musicians from Crear Vale la Pena and the young people from Kiel did not speak the same language. For several of the young people from Kiel, German was a second and relatively new language. Therefore, discussions on the meaning of respect were conducted in several languages simultaneously (Spanish, German, English, Romany, Kurdish and Russian) first in translation and then through the development of extra-linguistic means of communication in exercises designed to develop trust and mutual respect among the participants. These exercises engaged the participant pairs in a joint effort to articulate and represent their own experiences of social exclusion and inclusion through movement, music making, video making, discussion, and analysis.

For example, the first video making exercise began with a discussion (translated) on the meaning of respect and social inclusion. Everyone present participated in developing a series of ten questions on the nature of respect, which were written down in Spanish and German. The participants were then organized into pairs - one Spanish speaker and one German speaker - and given one of the "hacked" video cameras. The partners used the camera to record each other's answers to the questions and then to record each partner attempting to interpret the other's answers. Since the partners did not speak the same language they had to develop extra-linquistic means of both communicating and interpreting meaning in order to complete the task. Over the first five days of the residency the same pairs were given several other tasks in video making, movement and music making, which involved extra-linquistic communication. There were also many other translated discussions and rehearsals. When all of the video exercises were complete the pairs worked together to tag and sequence their clips using the Palabras_ editor. The clips were incorporated into the public media/dance-theater presentation primarily as segments displayed in a projection of the Palabras_ browser between each dance or musical segment. During the performance each workshop participant triggered a clip to play by selecting a tag and told the story and meaning of the clip to the audience while the clip played. In the dress rehearsal there was a moment of confusion. One of the narrators, Vanessa, whose first language is Romany and second language is German, could not remember the tag she had used for the clip she was to narrate and was searching for her password instead of the tag. Confusion increased as the problem was translated in English, Spanish and German - to no avail. Finally, Cachito, Vanessa's video making/tagging partner, who's only language is Spanish, was called upon to help. Vanessa and Cachito sorted things out in a few seconds, communicating by means of idiosyncratic gestures, facial expressions and un-translated Romany and Spanish 'key' words.

Through the tagging, editing and video exercises, Vanessa and Cachito, and all of the Spanish/German speaking pairs, improvised a method of communication that used translation, not merely in its linguistic sense, but in the sense of "a motion across, a traversal." Their method of translation reflects its mathematical definition -- "a transformation in which the origin of a coordinate system (in this case, the complex coordinate system of nationality - language, cultural identity, political citizenship, class, and race), is moved to a new position or across a boundary, while the direction of each axis (in this case, each individual's subjective identity), is maintained (respected, recognized, accepted, and acknowledged)."

This is mode of translation mapped in Palabras_.

The "hacked" disposable cameras provide the means by which participants can document and represent their own experience. The browser interface allows a global and international audience online to examine the ways in which place-based communities and individuals describe their own social contexts. Visitors online can contribute to the evolving folksonomy that organizes these representations in clusters of semantic association.

What is shared among and between participant communities, and interpreted by both visitors and participants alike, is visualized in the tag cloud as an improvised map of correspondences across cultures.

The folksonomy generated here constitutes an emerging language - a common language that is associative and cross-contextual - a hybrid language that merges word and image into a kind of mediatized Esperanto. This common language - this folksonomic Esperanto - is the result of the use of media and information technologies and it is the use of technology.

The Palabras tools and interfaces translate - shifting the social location of knowledge to produce critical consciousness necessary to challenge existing relations of power.

The fundamental premise of Palabras_ is that the images through which we view the experience and perspectives of others should be originated in context, interpreted, organized and disseminated by those who are represented. In this way communication, exchange, awareness and understanding can be generated from the bottom up, not the top down.

This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.