ABSTRACTS

“My stunning stream – made with a little mischief”
- Dissensuality, affect and ecological awareness in art and education


Lisbet Skregelid, Associate Professor, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Agder

The concept dissensus is taken from philosophy of art and has proved to be productive in educational contexts. Educational practice informed by dissensus is a pedagogical form that contrasts and creates a tension between normal ‘lines of flight’ and hence aims to disrupt the expected. In my writings I argue that educational dissensus and dissensuality enables the subject to come into existence, or what I frame as events of subjectivation. In this presentation I will exemplify with recent art educational research engaging with these and other related concepts. The main focus will be on a project initiated by the corona situation, here seen as a major disruption, an event of dissensus, and how this affected my being in the world: On the last day of my quarantine, 19. 3. 20, I went out of the house for the first time during lockdown. Every second day from then, for four months on until I was able to travel outside my hometown, I was running the same route for 30 minutes, and made a 30 second film from the same spot by the sea. The 59 films were uploaded on Padlet, a digital platform for creating projects that can be shared. This repetitive activity became a joyful but also troubled embodied need and desire, a need for routine in a tensed and unpredictable situation of life, a need to feel connected to a place, to nature, to the sea, to me. With this research project as the main point of departure I will in the presentation explore how dissensuality and affect are both related, how aesthetics is infused with these characteristics, and thus how we should consider these aesthetic principles as educational guidelines in order to enchance ecological awareness.

 
 

How to be a self, today: A guide for the perplexed

Gert Biesta, Professor, UiA, Maynooth University, University of Edinburgh

 

It could well be argued that one of the greatest challenges we face as human beings, is the challenge of being a self. At some point in our childhood we become aware of our self, of our existence and of its radical openness, and from then onwards the challenge of being a self poses itself again and again, up to the point where our life comes to an end. Being a self is not a theoretical matter but a thoroughly existential one. It is about how I try to exist, how I try to lead my life, how I try to go on in the face of everything that crosses my path, including the remarkable fact that I cross my own path, that is, that at some point in my life I ‘find’ myself. Trying to be a self is a thoroughly first-person matter. It is something I must do, and that no one can do for me, just as is the case with, for example, walking, eating and thinking. Others can encourage me to be a self or they can distract me from trying to be a self, but they can never be a self in my place. In my presentation I will seek to explore in more detail what the challenge of being a self entails by offering a ‘proto-phenomenology’ of the ‘first person singular,’ taking inspiration from the writings of Alfonso Lingis. I will highlight the political significance of the challenge of being a self through a discussion of a number of ‘iconic examples’ of the presence and absence of being a self. And I will highlight the educational centrality of the question of being a self, going back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Émile, or On Education. All this will allow me to raise questions about the particular difficulty of being a self today and will provide the background for a discussion of ways in which education might engage with this challenge.

 
 

You are here: the trouble of being a mental health practitioner

 

Tore Dag Bøe, Associate professor, Faculty of Health and Sports Sciences, University of Agder

Bård Bertelsen, PhD candidate, Faculty of Health and Sports Sciences, University of Agder

As a domain of practice, therapeutic and mental health work always addresses troubles of human existence, trying to provide answers to questions like “what is wrong with me?” Different schools of thought often base their practices on establishing an answer to the «what» of such questions, taking the experiencing «me» for granted. In this presentation, however, we begin from the assumption that the primary task of therapeutic and mental health work is not to identify and resolve troubles, but to «find the other» and to confirm her or his presence as a subject with her or his challenges for leading a life. 

We are born into a common world, each at a unique intersection of time and place, surrounded by a cast of people awaiting us, already involved in the business of living. Thus, to lead a life is never an abstract process, but always a matter of how we engage in and with the world. This, we do with our eyes, ears, voice, limbs and heart in ways that also affect the eyes, ears, voices, limbs and hearts of others. 

Thus, the trouble of being a human that is also a mental health practitioner involves the trouble of “finding the other” and being a practitioner together with whom people can come to exist as human selves without giving up on the troubles of engaging in and with the world. The practice, then, shifts from both problem fixing and person-centeredness and becomes world-centered. Understanding the task of mental health work and therapeutic practices in this way, we explore how such practices can be seen as a parallel on the personal level to the practicing of democracy on the level of society, where both can be seen not primarily as ways of solving problems, but as ways of opposing tyranny.

 

The gestures of the hand as an expression of humanity.

Dag Nome, Associate professor, Faculty of Humanities and Education, University of Agder

In a time where handshake is being discredited because of infection risk, it is of great interest to reflect on what this specific human gesture implies. Handshake as a historical phenomenon goes back to ancient Greece and Babylonian cultures as a way of showing that they were unarmed and hence, that they showed mutual trust and openness. It has followed human civilization ever since, until it has become one of the most common transcultural everyday gesture we know (Andrews, 2020).

The point of departure in this lecture will be how the basic gestures of the hands first appear in early childhood, and I will do a radical phenomenological reflection on how these first gestures can reveal some of the most profound elements of what it is to be human.

From birth the hand is dominated by the so-called palmar reflex. When someone places a finger in the palm of an infant`s hand, the hand will automatically close and hold on tight. Whenever a reflex-movement disappears, a space for intentional human behavior appears, and regarding the gestures of the hand, the human behavior is not to grasp and hold tight. The human behavior is to willingly let go (Brierly, 2016).

For a child that learns to walk, the ability to let go of the table or their parent’s hands is needed, and this processes in early childhood opens for one the most profound experience of emancipation. The hand gives us the possibility to hold on to what we want to hold on to, and to let go when we want to let go. Hence, to meet the other person with open hands is a metaphorical phrase rooted in basic bodily experiences in infancy, and it is indeed a way of experience the joy of being human.

 

Sources:

Andrews E. (2020), The History of the Handshake, History.com

Brierly D. (2016), The wisdom of hands, Waldorfske novice, Ljubljana.

 

The joy of being human and a teacher

Aslaug Kristiansen, Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Education, University of Agder

 

Recently, I was asked: “You have been a teacher for å long time. What keeps you going?” The question was the beginning of a reflection process. A response to the question of what reasons might keep me or keep other teachers going for so many years, it will also involve perceptions of what can characterize teaching. To say something about the joy, one might, take a detour to another challenging question, namely, what could constitute forms of teaching. Regarding this detour, I have taken inspiration from the art, namely from a conversation that the Norwegian novelist Linn Ullmann has with the Scottish novelist Ali Smith in a Norwegian newspaper this summer (Klassekampen, June 28, 2020). Here she asks Smith about the following: "In all your works, before history, before anything, comes the form. How do you think about form when you work?" Her answers allowed reflecting on what may be forms in the educational work. To illustrate this, the presentation starts with a small story by the author Mats Granath called "The pedagogy of the dead mouse." (Granath, 1988). It is about a group of kindergarten children who, together with their teacher, are going on a trip in the wood to collect autumn leaves from the trees, but where something happens along the road that gives the trip an entirely different content from the planned ones. The story, along with the reflections of the novelist Ali Smith, has helped me to anchor the joy of teaching, as well as pointing towards dehumanizing forces in teaching and in educational work. 

 

Granath, M. (1988). Den døda musens pedagogik. Debattserien nr.1, p. 50-51.

Klassekampen, June 28th, 2020.

 

Creative Commons: Public art and the politics of sensation

Sigurd Tenningen, Research adviser, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Agder

A central feature of art is the capacity to transform personally perceived affects and artistic intention into public artifacts. As soon as an artwork is on display, it can no longer be regarded solely as an extension of the imagination of the singular artist. Instead, it has taken on the form of a material percept available to public sensation. Thus, one might argue that art does not only take place in the public sphere but that it constitutes a common ground for experience and sensation. Art creates an aesthetic event which in turn opens up to all kinds of intellectual and emotional responses—among them, bewilderment, joy, desire, fear, and aggression. In this presentation, I will focus on the role of public art in urban development. Taking my point of departure in recent controversies on public artworks in the city of Kristiansand, I will argue that art serves both as a medium for public sensation as well as a highly valued sphere of social and economic investment. Following art’s radical openness to sensation, it is hard to preconfigure a set of desired ends. Drawn between an open distribution of the sensible and the instrumentalization of political pragmatism, public art presents itself as a dynamic intersection of forces which defines what it means to be human today.

 

Psychotherapy as a process of making and the uniqueness of persons: The joy of moving from evidence to the evident.

Rolf Sundet, Professor, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, University of South-Eastern Norway

The field of psychotherapy is more and more dominated by the idea that implementation of theory-specific, manualised packages of therapeutic practices will give us the best treatment for persons with mental disorders and challenges. These packages are given such a status through the use of the randomised control trials that will establish their efficacy. The assertion is that if you know something about the many, this will give knowledge of the single person. Based in a theory of causation as revealed in statistical frequencies, the targeted individual of psychotherapy is turned into a generalisation, and most often decontextualised, by the reliance on a diagnostic system or theory of the subject. Although helpful for many, this perspective is in grave danger of excluding those we know are not helped by the investigated theory package; again shown by the RCT used. Therefore we need to move beyond the general and enter into investigations of persons as unique and a theory of causation as singularity.  In order to make such a move, the choice made in this lecture is to relate to psychotherapy as a process of making. Although making can be stated as a process of realising a pre-prepared idea, this lecture will expand making beyond such a position, and investigate making as a mutual, creative and practical process where pre-prepared ideas might be a part of the process, but where the interaction and meeting points between craftsmen (patients and therapists) and “the material” (feelings, ideas, thoughts, doings, actions and more) can never be stated beforehand. It is here that I find joy in the experiences of something growing out of our uniqueness as single persons, of making something new, something not met before. It is not evidence that matters here, but what becomes evident in our joint of process of making. 

 

Material-collective practice in a weaving session

Contribution to the exhibition Being Human Today - The joy of being human

 

Monica Klungland, PhD candidate, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Agder

In the final session we will try to weave all the threads together, both metaphorically by engaging in a conversation about what has occurred over the past days, and literally by engaging in a joint weaving activity.

This session is an exploration of the concept material-collective practice as a pedagogical approach for art education (Klungland, 2020). The concept is developed through a workshop where pupils in primary school and their teachers were invited to experiment and play with yarn in the woods nearby the school. It can be seen as a challenge from inside to today`s educational discourses with focus on learning outcomes and emphasize on goals and results. The focus is rather on material and sensory touch, and the goal is to develop the ability to be response-able (Barad, 2012; Derrida, 2002). To be response-able requires that one opens oneself up to listen, to sense and to be touched in a social and material world.


In this weaving session balls of yarn are sent around among the participants at the same time as a talk is going on. You have to pay attention to what comes to you, either words or yarn, to listen, to sense and to be touched - and to respond in one way or another. 

 

In this weaving session balls of yarn are sent around among the participants at the same time as a talk is going on. You have to pay attention to what comes to you, either words or yarn, to listen, to sense and to be touched - and to respond in one way or another.

 

The weaving activity symbolizes the collaboration between three different faculties at the University of Agder during a period of three years, and how we were woven together in dialogue around questions about what it means to be human today. The woven web created between us can symbolize how we are all connected and exist as subjects in relationality. 

 

Barad, K. (2012). On touching - the inhuman that therefore i am. A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 23 (3). https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-1892943

Derrida, J. (2002). Ethics, institutions, and the right to philosophy. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield.

Photos: Amfibium (2020): Jan Freuchen, Jonas Høgli Major & Erik Faber. Kristiansand Kunsthall (2020). 

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