- What is your approach to knowledge transfer when that exchange happens online?
Working in any mode, I look at what opportunities that mode might offer and I try to find a way of working that actively engages both its possibilities and limitations. With online exchanges, I have been interested in how to actively work with, or exploit if you will, distance, which is a fact you have to contend with when doing things online with other people, all connecting from different physical locations (and often also from different geographical, sociopolitical, etc. contexts)… I’m interested in what might this fact of being physically distant afford you, what questions it might throw up – about different kinds of distance, about ways of making a connection, about what is possible and what is impossible, about materiality, about presence, about the body, and so on – questions which you can try to answer in/through that particular mode, and which you will certainly answer here differently than you would in any other mode.
I’m very interested in the question of presence when sharing space with others online – there is a kind of doubling happening – of attention, of locations, of modes of inhabitation. Being present simultaneously in a physical space of a room, in which you are alone, and in this other space, a communal space you share with others. I’m drawn to this mode of being both ‘there' (in multiple places/modes at once) and also not quite ‘there’ there in either of the two places, digital or physical one.
In my artistic work, I work a lot with restriction - often with a set of self-imposed restrictions which I overlay on top of other restrictions that are there ‘by default’, created by the frames, contexts, circumstances within which I happen to be working (and living) – approaching restriction as something generative. Working with other people online is a kind of a restriction and the challenge is how to use this condition in ways that can open things out rather than close them down. This state of doubling of presence and attention and being in two places at once, which I mentioned earlier, is for me one such opening I find productive.
Working with this year’s WHW Akademija cohort remotely, we have been using Miro, which is basically an infinite whiteboard on which you can share all kinds of material – images, films, sound files, pdfs... As well as being a growing, collectively generated depository of works, ideas, notes, texts etc., the program also gives you different tools for brainstorming and collaboration, and different materials can be shared and exchanged live, in real-time, while we are in a joint session on Zoom. But besides Zoom and Miro, we have also been using other forms of connecting over distance: old-fashioned phone calls, exchange of letters, both synchronous and asynchronous methods of exchanging with other people. Technology glitches and things not working properly have sometimes created interesting openings - when modes of communication and exchange break down, people have to come up with other ways of making a connection to one another, and sometimes exciting things happen when there is a missed meeting or undelivered message or when information doesn't get across efficiently or as intended. Glitches and breakdowns can create productive and often humorous misunderstandings and repositionings and give rise to new strategies and solutions that have to be improvised or made up on the spot.
- Can you describe modalities and possibilities for experimentation in contemporary pedagogical methodologies conducted through art practices?
I see my teaching and my practice as reciprocal – teaching is a practice that goes beyond imparting information to others. I see it as an encounter, as a process of exchange, in which one of my roles as a teacher or a facilitator or a workshop leader is to help students or participants define for themselves the kinds of questions that can only be answered or pursued through practice, through doing, through going through with something. My desire is to expand spaces and to make connections, to create situations where a broad range of encounters can take place – encounters that are dialogic, collaborative, contextualized, lead by curiosity and inquisitiveness, and by a sense of responsibility.
I’m a fan of peer-to-peer exchange structures in which all the participants are learning something from one another while doing or embarking on something together. In my own work I’m often making propositions for myself, constructing frameworks within which I can then explore, play, test ideas, define problems and look for solutions, and when teaching I frequently take the same approach: I propose frameworks to others that can guide our interaction, and then together we work out how we might inhabit them and explore them, with each person bringing their own lens, interests, ways of working to the table. I make the proposition about the frame, but I don't determine what happens inside it or decide ahead of time what I think should happen. For me, the key in that approach is making propositions that are fixed enough to guide and frame a range of possible interactions but open-ended enough to allow for things to go in different directions, be pursued in different ways, for different things to happen. Art practice is a mode of studying and investigating, and making and learning or discovery are not separate from each other.
The thing that’s important to me when working is to look and listen and pay attention, and respond to what is actually happening. I think this applies to both making and teaching. Not being too much in love with your initial plans, but being open to chance, to discovery and surprise, to trial and error, to having to tweak ideas and start again, to having to have another go at something, to being willing for the process and the encounters to alter the direction of what you are doing, to changing course (sometimes) and insisting (sometimes). Being open to things not working as you planned or intended, and being ready to improvise, to go along, to try to work things out.
- How would you like to see informal education influence and intertwines with the formal educational system?
I would like to see less emphasis on marking and assessment and on demonstrating what you've learned, and more emphasis on openness and open-endedness of outcomes, on processes and on not knowing what it is you are looking for (until you find it, hopefully, maybe). More commitment to discovery, experimentation and also failure, which are all essential parts of any investigative process...
A full-on commitment and participation of everyone involved are important - and you only can have that if there is complete transparency and a sense of shared responsibility for the activity/project you are pursuing together - as teachers, as students, as peers, as participants, as collaborators, however you want to frame the interaction. That sense of shared responsibility for how things will unfold is not a given in the formal educational system. So much of the activity within that system is instrumentalized, serving various institutional agendas and operating inside models that treat the student either as inferior in status/knowledge, or as a consumer/customer who has paid for a service and who therefore expects (is meant to expect) to get their money’s worth.
So there is an expectation from the students (often, not always) that the teachers (seen as the representatives of the institution they are employed by) should “deliver”, and in turn an expectation from the institution (again mediated by the teachers) that the students should deliver in the end by demonstrating that they have learned what has been prescribed as ‘learning outcomes.’ An exchange that often feels transactional, and that is framed by the institutional imperatives to make education and its outcomes quantifiable, to fit learning into matrices, and justify it in market terms, subject to the logics and demands of capitalism.
The resistance to all that inside the formal educational system happens on the local level, the level of interaction between teachers and students; but unfortunately a radical set of structural changes doesn’t seem likely considering how things are going. The whole model that the formal educational system is based on would have to change very radically, and indeed the whole broader system within which the educational system sits, and according to whose demands and logics it is shaped and run.
Participation of Vlatka Horvat is a part of i-Portunus Houses pilot scheme. The i-Portunus Houses pilot scheme is implemented, on behalf of the European Commission, by a consortium of organisations that have been pioneers of European cultural mobility programmes themselves. Coordinated by the European Cultural Foundation (Amsterdam), the i-Portunus Houses consortium involves MitOst (Berlin) as main mobility implementer and the Kultura Nova Foundation (Zagreb) as lead in evaluation and analysis.