Transgression & Brave Spaces in NL From 15-23 April 2023
Five master students and three teachers from UiA`s Master Program of Fine Arts, Kristiansand, participated in PIMDI`s gathering in Groningen, in the Netherlands from the 15-23 of April.
The research project PIMDI (A Pedagogy of Imaginative Dialogues), consists of students and researchers from Finland, Norway, The Netherlands and Iceland, and is a part of the Erasmus Program Strategic Partnership of four European master programs of Arts Education:
· the Master of Education in Arts at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, a joint degree with NHL Stenden University at Leeuwarden/The Netherlands
· the Master Arts Education at the Iceland Academy of the Arts in Reykjavik/Iceland
· the Master Fine Arts at the University of Agder/Norway
· the Master Theater pedagogy and Dance pedagogy at Uniarts Helsinki/Finland.
‘The paradox of democratization’ is the starting point of the PIMDI project. The European Union is based on principles of equality among European citizens, but as it now encompasses 27 member states, the challenge is to bring all these different voices together in the enactment of values that people recognize as more or less their own or as interestingly different. The goal of the PIMDI project then, is to explore and develop a pedagogy of imaginative dialogue, experimenting with the arts as a way of creating dialogues without eliminating differences.
PIMDI started during the covid pandemic with gatherings online, and in the fall of 2021 commenced the first intensive study week in Helsinki, Finland. The second intensive study week was in the spring of 2022 in Kristiansand, Norway, and the third in the fall of 2022 in Iceland. In April of 2023, five students and three teachers from the Master of Fine Arts department at the University of Agder traveled to Groningen in the Netherlands to attend the last of the four intensive weeks with the research group of PIMDI. Most students had attended PIMDI previously while some were new to the project. Traveling through the fields of the Netherlands in the middle of April was a shock to the senses as the fields and trees were already green in contrast to the grey landscape of southern Norway at this time of year. Tiny screams of joy were heard as the cars and trains moved past colorful tulip fields with their bright red, pink, and yellow rows, getting ready for the famous tulip festivals that occur in the NL at this time every year.
Arriving in Groningen, we were first lodged at a hostel with students from Iceland and Finland on our first night, before meeting with the 40 or so participants at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences in the middle of the city. We stayed in a big historical room of nature science. Bikes, canals, beautiful buildings, cappuccinos, and sunshine greeted us and we felt as if we had traveled forward in time and arrived in spring. On the first day, we did different exercises to get to know each other as well as get to know the project, which had the theme of transgression and safe/brave spaces this time around. In the afternoon we arrived at a small country cluster of houses where we would all be staying in the same house for the majority of the week (De Energiek). It was a lovely house with a large room to gather and hang out as well as a large garden and a pub down the street. We had been given a task beforehand, to bring something that would make us feel at home in a new place. In Fannis case for instance, it was the bag from the Artspace where she works parttime; called Bomuldsfabriken in Arendal city (an old cotton fabric), and therefore the name.
In our room we built a blanket fort where we all lay in a pile of pillows and blankets, feeling cozy and at home, remembering our childhood forts, laughing and snuggling in with each other. Another thing we were asked to bring was food that reminded us of home that we could share at coffee time with the other participants. We had brought lefse and chocolate. The Finns brought salty liquorice and the Icelanders brought seaweed to share. Meeting old and new friends all engaged in master studies of arts in different fields is always exciting, and many close friends were made during the next few days when we explored the concept of imaginative dialogues together. PIMDI aims to develop a toolbox of pedagogical methods and approaches to transform student dialogues from discussions to a deeper level of communication through exploring and creating collaboratively through sensory, artistic, and aesthetic practices and in that way access and enter imaginative dialogues collectively. (Anundsen et. al., 2022, pp. 2-3)
The groups were formed by an intuitive exercise where all the participants had to choose their own group and collaboration partners. The only rule was that all countries had to be represented within the group. Each group prepared a proposal for a dialogue which was presented in plenary. After much back and forth, it was agreed that the participants were given the opportunity to change groups if they would rather work on a different dialogue with another group. Some of the participants chose to leave their original group and joined a new one. A after this point, the groups remained the same for the rest of the stay. All the groups chose very different approaches to their dialogues and working methods.
However a fair amount of time was spent trying to understand the word ‘transgression’ and what it meant in the setting of the pedagogy of imaginative dialogues, in all the groups. In the beginning we were a little confused by ideas of conflicts and violation. Some of us became playfully provocative to challenge the boundaries of the setting and the others in the group. Others became cautious and very sensitive to the safety and limits of others. It was an interesting experience that being overly polite and cautious could also seem transgressive. A useful definition of the verb ‘to transgress’ seemed to be: to pass over or to go beyond. In this sense transgression became a useful term in a learning process as it is necessary to go beyond the boundaries of one’s current understanding. The process of surpassing one’s own limits can be demanding, frustrating, and uncomfortable, but also ultimately rewarding.
Each group designed imaginative dialogues and dialogical spaces as inspired by different scripts created by ‘Building conversations’ which is a platform for dialogical art. They were inspired by Bruno Latour’s Parliament of Things, and the theories of David Bohm, and Chantal Mouffe, to name a few. We then shared our prepared conversation spaces with each other and finally invited others from outside PIMDI to experience and offer feedback on our dialogical art. Some groups created dialogues through drawings, some invited participants to move and explore physical dialogues, others allowed an audience to witness the development of a polemic dialogue within the group.
It seemed that intentions of these dialogues were to explore ways to create safe and brave spaces and invite the possibility of transgression as a way to learn from each other. It proved to be a challenging, inspiring, and effective way to learn. Some of us have participated since the first PIMDI meeting and the chance to have continuous, in-depth conversations has offered meaningful relationships. In addition to building conversations, we have also built relationships. Daring to transgress personal borders and intensify interactions proved to deepen social relations, creating friendships that we sense will last a lifetime. This leads us to conclude that a possible way to deal with the paradox of democratization is to cultivate relationships and focus on how we can cooperate instead of focusing on conflicts, despite the differences.