Today, I had the great pleasure of attending the American Holocaust Museum’s Conscious Un-Conference, which addressed issues of using social media for acts of social good. Between myself, and my former colleagues Mark Auslander and Penelope Taylor from Brandeis University, people were uninterested in the art museum as a site for social justice.
The projects at Brandeis University (often instigated by members of the ‘Cultural Production program’ community) have focused on art, and consequently the art museum, as a site for repair-ative justice in under-served and under-represented communities. Among other things, we have focused on a) collaboratively constructing utopian narratives around the themes of a work for purposes of community building, b) using interpretations and critical readings of art that engage in visual literacy and the re-signifying of art in new cultural logics, which often (c) turn into auto-ethnographic narratives that address various facets of racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual inequality.
In bringing these experiences to the table at the (un)conference, I tried to stress the ways in which the critical reading of art is foundational to the multitude of the other critical literacies based around text and media. In one session, I went so far as to point out that one possible explanation for contemporary youth’s lack of critical reading skills is the dismissal of art from public school programs. Although seemingly a stretch, it is actually quite logical. The purpose of art is to create alternate realities; students learn, through making art and creative writing, how reality is constructed and not something stumbled upon and found in the world (many of our greatest authors have found this at an early age). With the constant focus on disciplines that rely on a singular level of reality (math, science, english technae, etc.), students have increasingly been distanced from the notion that reality IS constructed. In another session, later in the day, I had the chance to discuss social media and education with a fine group of people, drawing on my internship work at Brandeis University in “technopedagogy” and participatory media. In this session, collectively, a link was drawn between the lack of consideration for the liberatory potentials of creativity and the restriction of web-media materials. Media, in many cases, allows for the authority of the institution to be undermined, just as art-based actions and creative expression…
This is the impetus of this new blog. It is a chance to engage with the everyday in a critical way; to re- recode the spaces that we take for granted; to take note of the aesthetics that discipline our actions of space; to question the ways landscapes serve as signifieds to the floating, or stable, signifiers of memory; to investigate and interrogate the sensory experience of the ‘delirious museum’ that is the city. My hope is that I can encourage the educators out there (parents, curious students, teachers) to examine the aesthetics of the everyday and the art of lived experience, so that they might empower their students and children with the skills to critically understand their spaces as works of art, and critically engage with the construction of those spaces.