Pedagogies, Territories and Mobile Devices. Ramon Parramon
This account is the result of one of the work groups organized by the Museo Reina Sofia in one stage of the project Ceci n’est pas une voiture entitled “Direct Action Devices”. A meeting was held to discuss the processes and tools that aim to modernize the usual roles of contemporary art. The proliferation of self-organized initiatives that go into greater detail about the possibilities derived from art practices in the public space, have enabled new devices to be developed which run like a file between different institutional ambits. These devices sometimes become tools of direct participation serving social research, and sometimes they are a displaced extension of art institutions or become travelling exhibition formats promoting spaces while others try to silence them, and some are mere mobile artefacts while others are genuine strategies of direct action. At the starting point of the debate, the first question put forward was whether a combination of devices, mobility and territory could be constituted as producing agents of knowledge.
The seminar entitled “Pedagogies and Territories” was held on 30 November and 1 December 2011 and taking part were Antonio Collados, Yaiza Hernández, Javier Rodrigo, Aída Sánchez de Serdio and Ramon Parramon, who took on the role of secretary. On the first day issues were raised that would chart a course on what the dialogue and arguments would cover, but these were largely characterized by shared positions which enabled a collective construction of the concepts. The experiences contributed by each of the participants acted as a backdrop reference point while using the necessary self-critical sense required by a synthetic rating system. The whole result is difficult to put down on paper but it will be enough if we manage to convey a series of ideas, issues and suspicions to finally draft a more or less orderly map based on this dialectic experience. Hence this account echoes the debate sessions, and is conducted based on notes taken featuring the contributions by the participants which were later written down by the secretary. Therefore the text will not be without certain subjective interpretations, as happens in this kind of work, and in which references have been included which I considered opportune. The work group bore moments of exchange with the second work group organized on the theme of “Mobility and Social Space”. A third table was scheduled entitled “Other Institutionalities. From Institutional Critique to Institutions in Crisis”, but in the end it was agreed to limit them to just two final work groups called “Pedagogies and Territories” and “Mobility and Social Space”. In the latter were Joaquín Barriendos, Jesús Carrillo, Pep Dardanyà, Edgar Endress, Martí Peran, Matthias Rick and Tomás Ruiz-Rivas.
The fact that, prior to holding these meetings, a special issue of the publication entitled Desacuerdos1 had featured the theme of education or the “educational leaning” taken by art practices, curatorship and institutions, and also the fact that many who took part in these debates had an article published in it –Jesús Carrillo, Javier Rodrigo, Antonio Collados and Aida Sánchez de Serdio–, turned this publication into an indispensable item of one’s library to complement and extend many of the ideas that appear in this account / summary.
We were eager to discuss pedagogies and specifically to analyze the possibilities of developing educational processes based on projects that use this kind of apparatus, equipment, artefacts, inventions, or in sum devices used in public spaces. The words pedagogy and education which appear in this text are used as synonyms, and without wishing to go into great depth about the terminological definitions we are aware that they do not always mean the same2. In any case both are used with certain nuances but always related to today’s art practices and specifically to mobile devices as part of some of these practices. One of the definitions of some issues that appear below is the work of Javier Rodrigo and Antonio Collados, which focused on the concept of collective pedagogies, based on a project by Transducers. They use the word collective to describe projects that move between education, art and activism, and which seek to transform specific social problems by using participative methodologies and strategies in visual culture developed by interdisciplinary work groups3.
Device is a word which popped up throughout the meetings and also in this text. Foucault and Agamben have theorized on and expanded the concept of device from whom we modestly take some of the references to use tendentiously for the objectives sought in this debate, for example the strategic sense and relationships built up between a heterogeneous series of items (speeches, institutions, architectural facilities, laws, etc.4). These mobile devices have been created from considerations which combine items such as aesthetics, the use of space, the specific nature of all things local, political, subversive, recreational, collective or shared, as well as other possible ones. Hence they are devices based on a strategy and require putting some of these elements in order, i.e., they are based on complex networks of relationships. Another idea that could be of interest to us was one proposed by Agamben on today’s agglomeration of devices, the result of an extreme stage of capitalist development, an accumulation of equipment from which almost no one can escape, “there is not one moment in our lives that is not modelled, contaminated or controlled by one device or another”5. Many of today’s devices lean towards dematerialization, or at least a micro-materialization fuelled by technological research which has managed to synthesize multiple tools into just one piece, such as smartphones. However the devices described herein lean towards a certain staging of an event, and rather than being just a prostheses of an individual, what they seek to do is achieve a presence in public space, attract attention, compete with publicity, communicate brands, and be significant elements in the commercial public space. The technologies used tilt towards self construction, recycling and the precarious nature of materials, distancing themselves from the logics of the market and patents. It might be considered that while minute technological devices lean towards a subjetivization of relationships, the devices herein seek socialization based on creating new situations which activate relationships using temporary specific strategies. These specific activities may be “socialized” in the sense of promoting a community of users (audiences) who reactivate creative uses of the object, methodologies or strategies.
?+ Does a mobile device wandering through the public space create a kind of pedagogical relationship? How do you start the collective process and what kind of transfers of knowledge can arise within a context of interdisciplinary work? Is it necessary to establish a mechanism of coproducing the device by activating work groups? Is it necessary to promote a shared appropriation of ideas, aims and processes?
The actions based on transferring knowledge, reciprocity, exchanging wisdom, mediation, speaking and listening can be built around the concept of opposite devices, and this can be applied to some of the projects which were structured around the kind of art practices and carried out in a certain context or space. For example two opposite devices are the microphone and loudspeaker, the first collects sound and transforms it into electricity and the second transforms electricity into sound. These teams are called transducers. A transducer is a device that is able to transform or convert a certain kind of input of energy into another different kind as an output. In fact this is a simile used by Antonio Collados and Javier Rodrigo in the aforementioned project. A word also used in the theory of social networks, acting like a trigger, a catalyser of social changes and multiplier which fosters the exchange of knowledge, new ways of working among those involved and opens up new possibilities of transformation6.
Another concept similar to that of “opposite devices” is “reversible actions”, as used in the meetings organized by ACVic in 2008 regarding experiences that interrelate with art practices, educational processes and public space, and which was later compiled into a publication7. The “reversible actions” concept refers to the notion of reversibility seen as the condition in which all the acting elements are present at the different levels of reciprocal dependence. In this case, these art practices have an impact on the public space by conducting educational events in which there is an underlying purpose of leaving an impact on the context and also one in which this practice will be affected by the surroundings or those involved. The aim consists of promoting projects in the field of modern art practices which are placed directly in relation with the public through public and educational spaces or social work applied to specific contexts.
The artist as promoter, catalyser and mediator is a recurring theme often used by the type of practices that originated in the field of art and which seek to become legitimized in a space that is not their own, since they belong more to the sphere of social and cultural mediation where educational actions play a decisive role. These are projects which require long-term preparation, where it is convenient for artists, mediators or teachers to establish work groups, in which trust is built with the public, groups or individuals who live or work in the area of action. However some things may go against their implementation, for example the situation where the art and social-educational field belongs to institutions which do not always provide permeability between each other, another could be the lack of funding; when the budget is low it encourages artists to adopt multitasking. This weakens the chance of teamwork based on cooperation and the distribution of tasks. Another feature is the tension existing between timing and rhythm, it is important to take care of the different pre, during and post moments. Long-term actions require a prolonged presence in the location, taking care of the relationships by creating spaces of reciprocity, all the necessary features to create interfaces which will enable the activation of creative projects based on sharing methodologies, tools and establishing a network of connections and projects which will provide continuity in the territory. Educational work is long term, building these organizations or social relationships prior to, during and following the project; it is a different pace from the show business-like, party-like festival nature of culture.
?+To what extent do institutions support projects with a long-term work view? To what extent can or must they, or do they want to, take on the role of mediation internally? In times of economic downturns, how can one justify activities that are mainly funded by public money? Which would be the signs of social impact that would enable an assessment of these practices? Is there any tension between considering these practices as a public service or when viewed from the logic of research and experimentation?
Open Code Devices
One of the experiments today that has clearly fuelled transformations in the social, political and cultural context is practices which build open code tools and software. This mechanism is based on the act of sharing results and processes, where individual or group achievements are also the starting point for others. A linked succession of features which mixes creativity, skill and material production, built and consumed in a shared experience, creating a community of users and even becoming instituted as a social movement. One of the features invented directly for users, which enables the creation of contents and based on collective experience is the wiki, a website that enables the creation and editing of any number of linked web pages, sharing a common language and which provides collective access and control, it has one of the best services, and thanks to the marketing agencies they approach to the customers in an excellent way. From this shared perspective, one may consider moving it to urban space, where self-managed collective tools, tactics and practices may be applied to building creative projects which will have an impact on the social dynamics of the city. Some of these mobile devices are organized within this node option, with the aim of creating new shared strategies that can modify the social and cultural context.
Art Institutions and Educational Institutions
It is obvious that there are practices that mix art, education and action in social space. These practices have been introduced into both art and educational institutional spaces. Sometimes the relationships between both may be based on mutual instrumentalizations, yet this is also legitimate for a negotiating area that responds to an expanding of its limits and necessary connections with social areas. While educational institutions (generally speaking) carry out an exponential turn towards companies, it seems that the art institution tends to continue expanding its limits of action in different directions. When these limits invade the area of education, the doubt may arise as to whether these aims are purely for social legitimization or whether they actually respond to a new logic of production. If what you seek is to introduce new dynamics, the relationships between art institutions and educational institutions must be formed in the ambit of research, production and debate not just in exhibitions. Art centres usually focus on specific results (the fact that they can be exhibited and published) and do not coincide with the aims of the process, which is able to experience the educational side, and is also distanced from producing representations. It also occurs that the cultural managers in the field of education have no recognition or time to spend producing thought and knowledge regarding their work. The main aims of each field and those common ones must be considered when projects are set up to unite the art sphere with education. Different timing, different processes, different results may, at a given moment, be synthesized, conceptualized and formalized using ways of forming multiples due to their interrelationship. Also one can see in each field the specific aims they were set up for which is complex uniting different profiles and participants.
?+ Why propose a relationship between the spheres of education and art? With whom or for whom are we building this relationship? Are the aims of the art institution and social institution the same? How does one transform a project when its moves from art to society (or vice versa)? How is this reproduced or recreated? Are cultural institutions the executor’s arm of social organizations?
Mechanisms of porosity
The works that combine art and educational elements and make an impact on social space are mediated by relational aspects established with individuals, groups or communities (sociability) and elements that belong to a specific area (symbolic, historical or according to themes). This means projects based on processes, which at times aspire to building long-term relationships within the context they are used, result in a significant activity of symbolic, historic or theme-like terms that directly come into contact with other creative activities carried out in the location. For any of these “practices” to become socialized it is necessary for a community of users to reproduce it innovatively. That is, by starting from an initial pilot scheme which results in an action in the ambit of public space, it may be appropriated by its citizens and reproduced with new variations. This would mean public space acts like a porous territory between art institutions, educational institutions and citizens, a space that is both inside and out, the place where the community is built and which may shed creative interaction. Thus this would not mean either spectators or users become “participating citizens” or “participating communities”. Aesthetic practices remain far removed from most people, and cultural policies have too often promoted the building of large palaces and temples of culture. These decisions have not fostered the existence of semi-permeable membranes which enable a multidirectional nature between aesthetic practices and everyday life, between inside and out, between creative production and creative reproduction. The activation of cross-contaminating programmes is necessary and thus creative practices which introduce education, art and activism are developed in this complex concept we have decided to call public space plays a vital role.
The desire for social change is implicit in many of the aforementioned practices and must be explicit in cultural policies, yet something that can clearly speed up this process of change is the citizens’ power to creatively take sides. Faced with this, art and educational practices can participate by using their tradition of critique by fostering processes that activate mechanisms based on collective creativity, as long as they do so by considering the joint implication of placing them in an area of shared porosity.
Mobile devices are formal elements that participate in an action strategy which is, and must be, much wider and complex and can contribute to highlighting this tensional network of concepts we have aimed to convey in this account such as: making-reproducing, art-education, process-result, public service-experimentation, articulate-disarticulate, appropriation-distribution, practical community-total institution, multitasking-specialization, self-referential-networks, long-term-direct action, self-management-institutionalization, inside-outside… concepts that when referring to real practices will not mean polarizations but degrees between both. Tensions that act like files to shape movements of art practices and education, and affect strategies, processes, times, uses, audiences and call for the establishment or increased mechanisms of institutional porosity between both practices.
?+ Will we be able to increase the permeability between art and educational practices? Will both achieve greater interaction in the social sphere? How may projects have made an impact on more complex or institutionalized structures? What does the future hold in store for us in the context of a market-controlled power?
Text by Ramon Parramon based on a work group featuring Antonio Collados, Yaiza Hernández, Javier Rodrigo and Aída Sánchez de Serdio.
1 VVAA. Desacuerdos 6. Sobre arte, políticas y esfera pública en el Estado Español. Arteleku, Centro José Guerrero, Contemporary Art Museum of Barcelona, National Museum Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, International University of Andalusia – UNIA Art and Thought, 2011
2 For example Fernando Hernández in an article in the publication Desacuerdos 6 considers they are not the same, while pedagogy consists of producing experiments of identity, and therefore any space of relationship, whether institutional or not is pedagogical, the educational way seeks to build citizens of the republic and is the result of the alliance between three institutions of state, school and family. This alliance has deteriorated since the 1970s and has found no alternative. The educational way consists of a pedagogical view, but not all that is pedagogical is educational. Op. cit. (p.279)
4 “What I’m trying to place under this name is, firstly, a decidedly heterogeneous series, which comprises speeches, institutions, architectural facilities, decisions regarding regulations, laws, administrative measures, scientific lists, philosophical proposals, ethical, philanthropic; in sum: the features of the device belong both to the spoken and the unspoken. The device is the network that can be established between the features.” Foucault, Michel. Saber y verdad, Ediciones de la Piqueta, Madrid, Spain, 1985.
5 Agamben, Giorgio. ¿Qué es un dispositivo? In Contextos, pretextos y apetencias desde Alejandría. http://espectroalejandria.wordpress.com/tag/michel-foucault/
7 Parramon, Ramon, Rodrigo, Javier. Coord. Acciones Reversibles. Arte, Educación, Territorio. ACVic, Centre d’Arts Contemporànies. Vic, 2009
(Despesses d’enviament incloses)