Writing about students who took his courses, Deleuze (1990/1995) explains, ‘nobody took in everything, but everyone took what they needed or wanted, what they could use’ (p. 139).
(St. Pierre, 2004, p 287)
As our two years MA programme in Nordic Visual Studies and Art Education is coming to its end, all of us students are faced with the question, what’s next? Often, one becomes blind to their own learnings and only afterwards do they come to realize what progress has occurred. In this article I wish to reflect on NoVA, with retrospect (and a bit of nostalgia) and ask what in this context, might be meant by end, future or the possible?
To answer, I would like to share a story about my current preparations for an upcoming art exhibition with a fellow NoVA student, Aina Bexell. But before that, I will go back in time, to the first group assignments for the courses Visual Cultures and Aesthetics in Digital Communication, and Learning Designs and Gamification, during the first NoVA symposium, held in Aalborg University, Denmark in 2016. We all had just met each other and were randomly put into small groups. My group consisted of Alexandra Stroganova from Russia (who at the time identified herself as an art teacher, in reference to her previous position in St. Petersburg International School), Solip Park from Korea (who told us about her work experience in Nexon Computer Museum in Korea which left us in awe) and I (still very enthusiastic about community art back then).
The first half of our project planning was spent being lost in translation, staring at each other with confusion, while being in between getting to know our new classmates, getting used to our different disciplinary and cultural backgrounds and ways of working. Everything was done in English, which is a shared second language.
I will not go into details about what our projects were about, but they turned out successful and it is safe to say that we remained in good terms, moreover, learned to pick useful habits from each other. The reason I shared this small flashback is because I wanted to paint the picture of the NoVA students coming together from all over the world having diverse backgrounds and indicate some of the benefits gained in cross disciplinary projects.
Coming back to today, and my current involvement in a future exhibition which is a part of the 30th APECV Art Education congress in Coimbra, Portugal, I suddenly realize with nostalgia how much we are all entangled and how easy and natural working together in the NoVA community has become.
Bexell and I started planning a shared exhibition about feminist issues months before the opportunity appeared. One could say it was a continuity of shared thoughts mostly during the five months exchange period in Oslo and shared projects which included public art interventions such as “Trees of Helsinki” and “Make a Point” and the recent exhibition called Visual Conversations with Cosmic Silence at NODE Gallery along with other fellow NoVA students.
All of this resulted in a natural progression of producing yet another shared project, only this time it was not part of any university assignment. Looking back, I cannot take for granted the ability for collaborative work. Today, I can say that I have great appreciation, not just for our teachers and courses, but for the development that can only happen through living. My skills and world views are undeniably influenced by other students, such as Stroganova and Park, through shared struggles for common aims.
Should this then be considered the end? I argue that the connections we have established during the earlier mentioned processes, are almost impossible to diminish. But what then could the future hold, what is the possible? To answer this, I want to share a quote from Elizabeth Adams St. Pierre’s (2004) text Deleuzian Concepts for Education: The subject undone, which we read in a course called Critical Social Issues in Art Education, taught by Prof. Kevin Tavin. “So you will never get to the bottom of a concept like multiplicity, you will never be able to figure out what it really means.” (St. Pierre, 2004, p. 284). Discouraging isn’t it? I think not. This is one of the most beautiful concepts I have learned during my studies: Never being able to figure out. What the author means by this is we can give up worrying about what might have been intended by the author (Deleuze) and use concepts in our own work ‘‘to free life from where it’s trapped, to trace lines of flight’ (Deleuze, 1990/1995, p. 141) into a different way of being in the world.’’ (St. Pierre, 2004, p. 285). Following this though, the possible could be tracing lines of flight into different ways of being in the world, connecting things and for ever becoming. Considering our past studies, instead of trying to make sure that we have understood everything and close that chapter in our life, we can ask ‘Does it work? what new thoughts does it make possible to think? What new emotions does it make possible to feel? What new sensations and perceptions does it open in the body?’ (Massumi, 1992, p. 8).
To elaborate even more what the possible could consist of, I would like to describe Bexell’s and my upcoming exhibition about artistic-pedagogical practices.
Conversations presents a mixed media exhibition based around the idea of communication through informal learning processes. It is inspired by our perceived need for there to be positive discussions between people, and our wish to bring to the foreground this possibility.
Through joint discussion and individual visual creations that come out of informal learning strategies, the results are two subject positions within one conversation that leads to two outcomes. These two outcomes are art objects that find themselves in constant entanglement with each other and the viewer. The work also investigates the crossroads of Self and the Other in the learning event.
For me this comes as close to the experience of NoVA studies and our future as possible. Being in an entangled, close community and through mutual appreciation, ending up in multiple subject positions and outcomes resulting in exponential possibilities.
Reflecting on this, Bexell and I both use artistic methodology processes and own techniques to discuss and create knowledge about the same conversation, including feminist, emancipatory, pedagogical and participatory issues. However, around the shared conversation, separate works will be created. This presents a possibility of comparative approach and reflection on individual learning processes, which then again, can be shared in mutual respect.
The outcome of Conversations, just as the of out NoVA students remains unexpected and unpredictable. Working with the unpredictable presents the possibility to reflect and critique on cultural contexts (or question their existence), different opinions and views, artistic knowledge, motives, attempts, failures, misunderstandings, achievements, subjective, cultural, historical or societal influences, self-expression, communication and conscious or subconscious meaning making. I consider our exhibition, a summing up of our passed years a readthrough of the entangled, multisensory experience, but not a closing of a chapter but a view into the future, into the possible.
St. Pierre, E. A. (2004) Deleuzian concepts for education
Massumi, B. (1992) A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari (Cambridge, MIT Press).
An Exhibition about Artistic-pedagogical practices
Keywords: Feminist issues; Emancipatory pedagogy; Participation
Artists: Aina Bexell and Matilda Löytty
Aina Bexell is a Lusoswede human currently residing in Finland. Her academic and professional focus has always had a strong link to intercultural communication and advocates for interdisciplinarity in the curriculum. She has a particular interest for material-discursive entanglements.
Matilda Löytty is an experimental, mixed media visual artist from Finland. Her contribution to “Conversations” include painting, drawing and photographic collages, also intertwining with Bexell’s work. Löytty has been exhibiting and working on artistic projects across borders in Finland, other Nordic countries and Namibia. She is interested in inter- and cross-cultural discourses and the intersection of art, cultural history and society.
Written by Matilda Löytty
NoVA Master student from Aalto University