October 9, at 16.00, room A101
Open Lecture by Jan van Boeckel
Art and Sustainability Education in an Age of Uncertainty and Climate Fear
Jan van Boeckel will give a presentation on fostering attention through arts-based open-ended approaches in an age of ecological emergency and radical uncertainty. If we are to respond adequately to the rapid and deep changes taking place in the world in our current times, we may need to envisage a very different type of education. Not one that is predominantly based on knowledge transfer, but a kind of teaching and learning that foregrounds engaging with radical uncertainty. In more open-ended modalities of education, learners tend not to know on forehand what the outcomes and expected deliverables will be. Such approaches may cause a sense of unease because of a presumed lack of control, of missing framing guidelines and clear target objectives. It is exactly in this space of vulnerability that it is essential that learners feel that their educational experience is safely contained and held by teachers and facilitators. A way of achieving this may be through employing arts-based approaches. Through such practices of artful exploring (for example together with a group of students) a sense of excitement, of curiosity and wonder may be prompted.
One of Van Boeckel’s key areas of interest is in educational activity as primarily and fundamentally an open-ended process. The outcome is not given, though the participants follow certain sequential steps which frame the process. Through teaching and hands-on doing, it aims to promote understanding of interconnected systems – both biological and cultural. Van Boeckel contextualizes this form of arts-based environmental education by valuing it as a form of ‘poor pedagogy’, as articulated by Jan Masschelein. Such practice is expressive of a view on education that is not about the transmission of knowledge but rather is a way of attending to things (Tim Ingold). It is also ‘weak pedagogy’, in which is foregrounded what Gert Biesta regards as ‘the educational imperative’: to arouse in another human being the desire to exist as subject, in dialogue with the world. For him this means being ‘in the world without occupying the centre of the world’, trying to exist in dialogue with what and who is other.
Exactly because artistic activities and research, as part of this kind of education, aren’t prima facie linked to urgent themes such as climate change – that they may lend possibilities, affordances, to take up such subjects in new ways. For, on a meta-level, they can also be seen as exercises in facing complexity, uncertainty, not-knowing, and of discovering and forging new relationships between phenomena and processes, in ways that are often far from obvious. Van Boeckel suggests that it is precisely this element of sustainable education (Stephen Sterling) we need, if we are aiming to equip new generations with skills to live in ‘postnormal times.’
Jan van Boeckel is an artist and art educator who has worked for many years on the intersections of art, education and ecology. He was professor in art pedagogy at EKA from 2015 until 2018. Before he was a teacher at the Iceland University of the Arts and other places. In academic year 2018-2019 Jan worked as senior lecturer in art education at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and as visiting lecturer and teacher on the themes of art, sustainability and climate leadership at the Centre for Environment and Development Studies (CEMUS) in Uppsala, also in Sweden.
More info: www.janvanboeckel.wordpress.com
The lecture is in English, attendance free.