teaching to the question

[more notes from the ICAN conference]

If one has attended convenings of this kind over the past several years, one notes, here, omissions adding up to progress.


We have not centered our attention on issues of quality, fearing contamination by either what has been called the amateur on the one end or the esoteric on the other. That debate could be stirred up, I’m sure, but we seem to have enough security in our field – art for social change – that we can tolerate esthetic diversity, and in fact feed on it. This is the hallmark of a healthy ecosystem – it thrives, systematically, specifically through diversity.


“Noh” translates as skill or accomplishment. We have Noh – and like the form, we are worked out, or more worked out than we were, but not to completion. Noh is 600 years old and still arguing itself. Perhaps this is a further translation of accomplishment – in a state of accomplishment we are in the form of an argument.


What we have worked out: That performance, being social and live, not only effects social change, but its material is social change – namely liberation and healing.


As we build technique, we gather ourselves as a school. A school, if it is to avoid being at the very heart of oppression, is a place that learns. We teach only as much as is necessary to the advancement of learning – we teach to the next question – we disturb the surface. We teach the process of questioning. As a school for social change we are a pedagogy of the oppressed, not “at” and not “them.”


As with Friere and Boal, there is a push to a kind of mental ambiance – to dialogue and image, a move beyond binaries.


Friere from Education as the Practice of Freedom:

Naïve transitivity is the consciousness of people… in whom the developing capacity of dialogue is still fragile and capable of distortion. If this consciousness does not progress to the stage of critical transitivity, it may be deflected by sectarian irrationality into fanaticisms. The critically transitive consciousness is characterized by depth in the interpretation of problems… by the testing of one’s “findings” and by openness to revision, by the attempt to avoid distortion when perceiving problems and to avoid preconceived notions when analyzing them; by refusing to transfer responsibility; by rejecting passive positions by soundness of argumentation; by the practice of dialogue rather than polemics; by receptivity to the new for reasons beyond mere novelty and by the good sense not to reject the old just because it is old. [This is as about as much Friere as I’ve read in my life; i cite it here because he came up, and keeps coming up. Homework!]


Human rights are universal, but know in the human, in person. Freedom may mean freedom to own a gun or freedom from the threat of guns. The broader values of art express themselves in local forms – images will differ from place to place.


So our work is specific but not binary. Our work is not Nationalist or Loyalist, we intercomplicate. As we move to the local we remain spherical – many ways (all ways) does to a centrality. This does not mean we are without a point of view – hurling…


We advocate for arts funding, not in address of proscribed solutions – we are not seeking money for Aids research, we are seeking funding for Artistic research. Our funders must be induced to funding the art, namely the questions, the pedagogy, rather than the answers. This is no easy thing for a funder to accept – “Being seen to be undone.”


Consequently, we must always first live out our ideal in solidarity with one another. Prior to being a profession we are a movement – a momentum, the energy between points.

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