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ps/o6 public education | school of echoes | pedagogy of the ear

Ultra-red | From Theme to Thematic Universe

Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths University
Graduate Seminar, MA in Visual Cultures: Friday, 14 November, 11:00 to 16:00

Goldsmiths University
Lewisham Way
New Cross
SE14 6NW, UK

In the flurry of current cultural and intellectual production, encounters with art are frequently framed in the language of the theme. Whether "Art and Pedagogy" or "Political Art," the theme is often formulated either as per the Latin "subject or thesis," or the Greek "a proposition, subject, or deposit". Theme as deposit carries echoes of what Paulo Friere describes as the "banking concept" of education; a relationship of narration in which the Subject is articulated to a listening object. Exploring Freire's thematic investigation as elaborated in chapter III of the 1968 book, PEDAGOGY OF THE OPPRESSED, the workshop will explore critical notions of time, narration and subject. A close reading of the text will examine the ways his methodology provokes the temporalities, languages and relations in which activist, relational or pedagogical art are currently performed. How might a practice of thematic investigation lend concepts and tools to an aesthetic articulation of political struggle?

Facilitators: Janna Graham and Dont Rhine


11:00 - 11:30 INTRODUCTION

Divide the class (fifty students) into eight small groups. All of the students had been asked to prepare for the workshop by reading Chapter III of Paulo Freire's PEDAGOGY OF THE OPPRESSED ( The small groups are asked to locate within the chapter the precise steps that constitute each stage of the method outlined in the text. Groups one and five are asked to outline the first stage, groups two and six are asked to outline the second stage, groups three and seven are asked to outline the third stage, and groups four and eight are asked to outline the last stage. The groups should map each step using one sheet of flip-chart paper.

At the end of the small group period, each group posts their flip-chart paper to the walls. Groups one and five are asked to begin by describing the steps that constitute stage one. In this manner we make our way around the room with each small group reporting back on their reading of the text.

13:00 - 14:00 LUNCH


14:20 - 14:50 SOUND WALK
After the lunch break, the students return to their eight small groups. For the next thirty-minutes each small group is asked to go on a walk. Each member of the group will have five-minutes to lead the group anywhere that is 1) safe and 2) publicly accessible. One person is asked to volunteer as the time keeper. After five minutes, the time-keeper is to announce, "Time" and the next person in the group takes over leading the walk. Other than the time-keeper announcing "Time," there is to be no talking during the thirty minutes.

14:50 - 15:00 REPORT ON THE WALK
"What did you hear?" Write down all the responses on pages of flip-chart paper taped on the front board.

15:00 - 15:15 DEFINING SILENCE
The eight small groups are given the following task: Based on your observations from the sound walk (i.e. What did you hear?), how do you define silence? Write down your definition.

Each of the eight groups are asked to select one volunteer. Seated in the middle of the room, these eight volunteers are asked: Based on the definition developed in your small group, come up with a synthetic definition of silence. The remaining students are asked to gather around and observe the process by which the eight volunteers go about coming up with a synthetic definition. The observers are asked to write down precise statements made by the spokespersons about the process.

After fifteen minutes, the facilitators announce "Time." The volunteers are asked to be silence and obverse the discussion. The students who observed in the previous step are then asked to describe the process by which the volunteers came to their definition? What terms did the volunteers keep and what terms did they lose in defining silence? I.e. what did you hear. All responses are written down on the flip-chart paper taped on the front-board.

Based on the flow of contributions from the students, the facilitators ask the following questions, still writing responses on flip-chart paper: How does this process confirm and/or contradict Freire's methodology? Where can you imagine this process being useful? Where can you imagine the process going from here?

Portions of this workshop were previously presented Wednesday, 27 February at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Part Two) and on Thursday, 12 June at Goldsmiths University (Part One). Thanks to Lin Hixson and Andrea Phillips for those prior invitations and thanks to Kodwo Eshun, Simon O’Sullivan and Irit Rogoff for inviting Janna and Dont to present both parts of the workshop in November. Thanks to all the students who contributed to the collective work of investigating the thematic methodology.