Monday, October 16, 2006

Wonderful World

Just back from the screening of The Seafront as part of the Document 4 International Human Rights Film Festival in Glasgow. It was very intelligently programmed, screened alongside two great documentaries: Giovanni and the Myth of Visual Arts, directed by Gabriele Gismondi and the really intelligent, thoughtful and thought-provoking Wonderful World by Coco Schrijber. Wonderful World (2004) provides a beautifully shot and edited portrait of a number of characters living their lives literally on the edge of Amsterdam, homeless philosopher kings and queens just about surviving in the face of the barrage of development, demolition and the forces of the elements. This film really deserves a much wider audience than it's got so far.

And The Seafront stood up pretty well on the big screen too.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Creative rhetorics

Graham is doing a seminar at the Open University on the 30th November. If you're interested in attending get in touch and a place can be probably be found for you...For those people that like academic writing, here's what he will be talking about:

In the last decade there has been a remarkable growth in the number of ‘creative experiments’ involving artists, teachers and students in both secondary and post-compulsory education. Whilst they have not been restricted to the arts curriculum, they draw heavily on methodologies and approaches from the community and participatory arts movement. Such experiments foreground student participation and authorship, often occupying time and space in new ways. They sometimes challenge orthodoxies and encourage participants to rethink relationships between curriculum subjects, artform practices and established institutional frameworks for learning. They tend to bring to the surface problems in the dynamics of collaboration, often making bold claims for their effectiveness in reaching learners, featuring strong rhetorics of participation, empowerment and curriculum change.

Using examples from my work at Newham Sixth Form College and from the Teacher Artist Partnership professional development programme, I will argue that the conditions under which these creative experiments are undertaken – both policy discourses and the social and institutional frameworks within which such projects take place – may limit the democratic potential of the learning that they seek to provide. (Whether ‘democratic’ aims and purposes are even discussed in many education institutions is debatable). Elsewhere, I have argued that learning institutions need to learn to adopt an ‘intermediary’ position in which teachers and those that work with them are encouraged to improve their skills in negotiation, inclusivity, brokerage and dialogue, if democratic arts pedagogies based on equitable partnerships are to be reproduced or developed on a wider scale.

In the context of wider discourses of school reform and ‘workforce remodelling’ such creative partnerships are likely to have limited impact, unless there is serious examination of creative pedagogy and serious attention to institutional change. This has implications for educator training and professional development, curriculum and assessment, learner empowerment and the models of leadership and professionalism that are required in order to grow and develop these approaches.

I will briefly compare the situation in England with some examples from other nations. Democratic pedagogies seek to empower arts education professionals and learners to make change, adapt their own surroundings, and engage in forms of emergent reflective professionalism. These play out differently in different contexts, depending on social and cultural discourses of the function and purpose of school and post-compulsory education, different institutional cultures, the particular social dynamics of projects and partnerships, and the status of arts education and cultural learning within the official curriculum.

Democratic arts pedagogies offer transformational potential, but without proper engagement with the challenges that they raise to policy and practice, there is a risk that they will be reduced either to ‘special treats’ within a diet of relentless testing and surveillance or annexed to an uncritical functionalist rhetoric of developing ‘skills for the creative economy,’ both of which are likely to undermine the transformational claims that are made for them. Meanwhile, a powerful do-it-yourself ethic is developing in young peoples’ out of school learning, in virtual communities, and in the youth arts movement which offers some alternative approaches from which arts educators working in schools and post-compulsory education institutions might learn.