Going beyond education habits.

The Visual Seminar was organized 27-30 September 2012, within the Polska.doc program of  The Association of Creative Initiatives “ę”.

We met to work on the changing forms of educations and the sense of the use of visual tools; to reflect on the circulation of images in contemporary culture and the role of seeing as a way of bringing the marginalised subjects to the state of visibility.

One of the aims of the Visual Seminar was going beyond our habits related to the daily work of animators/educators/coordinators. We are often so deep in realising our activities that we cannot find time to ask questions outside of the grant application forms. We have decided to stop for a moment and to critically reflect on the work and methods that we use, the sense of which seems so obvious to us.
We invited 17 practitioners – people who educate, animate and coordinate projects with the use of photography, film, art and the Internet. The participants represented big institutions, small NGOs and freelancers. What brings them all together are the same tools and practices related to visual issues and the readiness to think about the concept and meaning of “visual education”.

We invited 16 guests – visual culture anthropologists, sociologists, new media researchers, education theoreticians, artists and curators. We spent 4 days on intensive important work full of challenges and questions. In the beautiful surrounding of the Oczyszczalnia we listened to demanding lectures, led lively discussions, criticised “good practices” during workshops, analysed images found online and YouTube videos, worked out conceptual experiments with the use of the camera and the Internet, summed up our experiences asking new questions and drawing unexpected conclusions.
Łukasz Zaremba and Magda Szcześniak, visual culture researchers working for their doctorates at the Warsaw University, opened the seminar with their workshop that presented seeing as an activity that seems transparent, yet there is nothing obvious in it; as an area of social conflict. Dr Iwona Kurz from the Film and Visual Culture Institute gave a lecture during which she presented issues related to researching visual culture. She focused on the consequences of the non-existence of this idea in the educational system. Ruben Diaz of the Spanish Organisation Zemos98 and the Seville University presented a speech about the ideas and practises related to the remix culture. The next day he presented his concept of “widened education” that can work anyplace and anytime breaking the system and the hierarchy of the school education. Edwin Bendyk of the Collegium Civitas presented scenarios of the future related to the development of the new media and technologies and their relationship with social and political change. Dominika Widłak-Mańka from the educational department of the British Film Institute described its goals and the operating model. She gave examples of specific activities and programmes aimed at diverse groups and societies. A sociologist team – Agata Nowotny, Michał Danielewicz and Agnieszka Strzemińska – moderated the ongoing process of generating knowledge. In the workshop blocks they initiated group work and discussions aimed at summarising and drawing conclusions as well as questions arising thanks to the different perspectives presented by the guests. They worked non-stop – there was no end to conversations during the brakes. We continued debates, exchanged stories about our experiences and working methods. Only sometimes did we find time to lie on the hammock, go for a short walk or lie at the pond.

Summarising the 4 days’ work opened a new stage – we divided subjects that we will work on with the collective publication in mind. In the cooperative work and the on-line consultations we will create texts, interviews, recordings and podcasts on the most interesting subject matters. We will analyse, among other topics, visual education as the tool for teaching critical thinking, the changing role and meaning of an “educator”, seeing as a bodily and space-related activity, the value of education as arousing doubt – not standardising knowledge, the notion of “effectiveness” of images in social projects, ethics and politics related to the valuation of aesthetics, the visuality of the public space and the role of photography in projects related to human rights and diversity. 2 months of intensive work await us. The publication will be out this winter!

We would like to thank all the guests for inspiration, knowledge and support. We thank the participants for their involvement and openness and we congratulate on your courage to reflect and on your persistence in work. We would also like to thank the National Centre for Culture, The Foundation for Visual Arts, Political Critique, the Archeology of Photography Foundation, the Center for Citizenship Education) for books and materials for the newly initiated “visual library”.

The Visual Seminar is part of the Polska.doc programme run by The Association of Creative Initiatives “ę” executed within the Doc Next Network with the financial support of the European Cultural Foundation.

The Visual Seminar is supported by the Polish Film Institute.

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