Designing Freedom

An Investigation into Critical Pedagogy and Anarchist Practice

fig. 1 Jan Lenica, 1960

Abstract

This article probes the possibility of creating anarchistic learning spaces within a neoliberal framework by presenting the case study of Critical Kinaesthetics, an experimental game that functions as a learning aid. The game strives to reconnect education with its essential meaning (to draw out each student’s individual capacities) and is intended to contrast neoliberal preoccupations with quantification and measurability, which lead to well-educated mediocrity. Anarchism is praxis from the bottom up. Critical Kinaesthetics revolves around a core concern within anarchist thought: to question the concept of individual agency, the ‘I’ and its embodiment within a social framework. It does this through the exploration of the social construction of gait (walking). The aim is to develop autonomous critical consciousness to learning by using critical practice within a sociopolitical agenda.

This article proposes and questions how a game space could be designed to enhance awareness of each individual student’s unique strengths to support the development of personal authenticity and individual autonomy within a neoliberal socio-political context. Through the game, students become both the basis and the drive for future change and social transformation in terms of true individual freedom. This is the anarchist agenda.

This essay is part of the studium generale research line The Future Art School. How can art education cultivate a rich and safe learning environment in which diverse voices are amplified, and where makers strive for a more just and inclusive society? Are we able to decolonise the curriculum to empower students to get rid of the dominant narratives and write new ones? Can we educate students to become change makers, as ArtEZ wants them to be? And what does this mean for the values and teaching standards that we are used to working with?


‘The way I walk is just the way I walk, the way I talk is just the way I talk’

– Jack Scott, The Way I Walk (1959)

As an artist-designer, I see my artistic development as an inner search and investigation into authenticity,1 based on the notion that you can only grow as an artist if you grow as a person. My research interests centre around the psychology of human development and its translation through creative methodologies and their potential effects on socio-cultural contexts. I believe creation gives direction to who you are as a person, and therefore I explore different approaches to creativity as the main catalyst within my approach. In this way, my personal development, artistic-design practice and academic interest are aligned and intertwined. My ambitions come together in my work as a practice-based researcher, where my interest is in developing various experimental approaches to design pedagogy that attempt to make abstract theory accessible, experiential, and, above all, practical.

Education is inherently political. It provides a space for questioning what society should be like and gives us the possibility to act, reflect and reproduce the kind of society we want to live in. Given the transformative potential of education, I believe it is pertinent to explore what kind of educational activities can help realise an alternative to our current society. A change in education can enable a change in the psyche, which, in turn, can facilitate a structure for lasting social change. It is essential to think beyond the current dialectic entrapment that states that freedom ‘is only felt when passing from one way of living to another, until this too turns out to be a form of coercion,’ or the hopeless assertion that ‘such is the destiny of the subject; literally the one who has been cast down.’2

To realise an alternative to our current society, an entirely different approach and direction in education than is currently present at most universities and art academies is required. Rather than placing the individual student’s learning at the centre of education, most institutions are governed by profit, quantification, measurability, and an obsession with technology. Increasingly required to operate as businesses, educational institutes are competing for the best students or the largest number of them; in short, the field of education has become a market, a catering business. As Pascal Gielen and Paul De Bruyne put it in Teaching Art in the Neoliberal Realm: ‘Even the contents of a discipline, however classic, nowadays have a limited shelf life, subjected as they are to quickly changing demands in the labor market. The transfer of knowledge and the learning process are literally custom made to fit modules and competencies, which in turn are neatly divided into precisely calculated hours of contact… Education has indeed become a form of catering, and just like in catering, the client is well aware in advance of what to expect, which is never the sublime cuisine of a top-notch restaurant, but a well-calculated mediocrity. To the catering regime, after all, quality first and foremost means not delivering outside the norm.’3

Learning is generally seen as the acquisition and internalisation of information, which moulds the student into externally imposed requirements of the market.4 In contrast, I believe education should be about bringing forth and guiding the inherent qualities of a student. I understand being original not as that which is new per se but that which is fully and truly ourselves. Since being oneself is a dynamic relation between inner processes and the social context, one will inevitably be innovative and new within an existing, or a newly created, social context.

How can creative practice be mobilised to conceive of different approaches to education in order to enhance student autonomy and authenticity? And how can critical awareness potentially shape truly free individuals, and not the sort that conform to the Corporation ‘I’?5 Can these efforts help in establishing a foundation upon which real and lasting social change can take place?

Such questions and ambitions drove my thinking in designing a game for design education. The game design is based on critical kinaesthetics. Kinaesthetics is defined as the study of body motion; specifically, how body motions are perceived, both consciously and unconsciously. It relates to ‘a person’s awareness of the position and movement of the parts of the body by means of sensory organs (proprioceptors) in the muscles and joints.’6 I employ the tools of kinaesthetics because it is through our senses that we communicate with the environment and other human beings: ‘The kinaesthetic nerve paths are bearers of an indirect perception of others; they are mutually modified by our visual, acoustic, tactile, and olfactory needs.’7 Our basic human method of communicating is an emphatic one, and it is through this that the capacity for autonomy surfaces, so that is where we start.

A Case Study: Critical Kinaesthetics

fig. 2 Critical Kinaesthetics box with cards

In the following set of cards, the game Critical Kinaesthetics is presented as a case study, which offers a methodology through which social transformation could be approached. The first prototypes of this educational tool have been trialled in a two-week workshop in February of 2020 at the Geneva School of Art and Design (HEAD). The group of students that were involved represented a diverse range of departments at HEAD, including Fashion Design, Visual Communication, Fine Arts, and Product Design-Jewellery. The average age of the students was 22, and they came from different cultural backgrounds.

Critical Kinaesthetics is a set of educational aids built on key pedagogical anarchist values, aiming to create and enhance awareness in participants to enable autonomy through uncovering and expressing authenticity.8 This is explored in a game format through a series of various playful exercises using playing cards and other media as tools for learning. It does this through breaking down the pillars of anarchist pedagogy into several exercises that invite students to investigate their personal history, their awareness of the body and its movement, the social construction of gait, narrative building, the analysis of culture, economy and technology in a social context through visual essays, and collaboration in order to foster responsibility and empathy.

fig. 3 Critical Kinaesthetics box with cards: all content

Game play is used because it helps develop and improve social skills such as communication, and it teaches cooperation with others. It can heal emotional wounds by replacing negative beliefs and behaviours with positive assumptions and actions. This game is open-ended in the sense that there are no winners or losers and no one dies. Instead, it produces creative output. It’s a type of free play, which, despite having unstructured, open-ended elements, is ultimately goal oriented and therefore structural.

In practice, how do we balance structure with spontaneity, and discipline with freedom? The following exercises are an attempt to reach this.

fig. 4 “I”- card

The ‘I’ card

Everything in our life shapes us. Although we cannot perhaps erase our in-built settings, we can become conscious and aware of our chains and break them. Being free starts with recognition. If you are conscious of the components that build up your identity, then you are closer to being able to uncover authenticity because you then know what you consist of and what your possibilities are.

This assignment asks the participant to question these settings in order to realise what constitutes the ‘I.’ The first exercise is about investigating and learning about the authentic self versus the fictional self. It is about understanding the duality of human nature: what you can change and what you cannot, your own personality traits, learned behaviours, values, beliefs, sense of justice, needs, goals, motives, and how to integrate these to develop your personal model for human interaction.

fig. 5 ‘I’ exercise worksheet

Image five on the worksheet page is divided into circles informed by Louis Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs) and Repressive State Apparatuses (RSAs), which provide a contextual structure. The outer circles represent the fictional self, the personality’s notion of ‘I am’—that which one identifies with in order to function in the world. The inner circle asks questions about what could be called ‘the inner self.’ Students are asked to develop ‘I’ into their own visual ‘map.’ Confrontation and analysis help them realise that identity is a social construct. Opening up to free and open expression is challenging. Therefore, it is advised that the tutor participates in this exercise. Sharing their vulnerabilities can stimulate openness in the group and create a non-hierarchical platform for expression.

fig. 6 Result of ‘I’ exercise worksheets

fig. 7 Result of ‘I’ exercise worksheet (close up)

In addition, a card (see images six and seven) and a set of questions are provided to help participants answer questions to clarify the social, political, economic and technological contexts of the ISAs and RSAs. The aim is to open up philosophical dialogue and question the uncomfortable dichotomy that ‘what is assumed to be the materialization of the inner truth of the self is in fact an idealization of the material-objectified traces of consumer choices.’9 The aim is to lay bare the power structures that have constructed the participant’s sense of ‘I.’ Gaining an awareness of this is the first step.

In the next exercise, the participants work with a dancer and are made aware of their own, as well as of others’, bodies and their movements. In this way, the students are confronted with their own helplessness. Through these exercises, the students experience what the body is, how they walk, and how the body relates to and senses space and the other. By way of this, they also become aware of the relations between body movements and the projection of their identities. How much of a walk, a way they move, is really ‘them’? And what is actually, in fact, projection or acquired? At the end of this practice, they develop and express their own walk and visually document this afterwards. Here, they work not from the outside in but from the inside out through embodied learning.

fig. 8, 9 & 10 Body-Movement-Space exercise with Aïcha El Fishawy

Gait, or the way you walk, is generally thought of as the result of a bio-mechanical process, but is as much a result of socio-economic and political issues, and therefore a sign of the times. Walking is an activity that has always unnerved the powers that be. We walk to wonder and dream and to be non-productive; we walk to flaunt and seduce in order to lead astray; to demonstrate our opinions and beliefs, as refugees for a better life elsewhere, and so on. Walking is a social act; walking is political.

Aphorisms: A Small Archeology of Walks

fig. 11 Aphorisms: A Small Archeology of Walks card

This exercise uses Honoré de Balzac’s Théorie de la Démarche, the first analysis of the walk and its social connotations, based on the notion that ‘society has very specific ideas on how we have to stand and move to convey certain aspects of ourselves.’10 Much of our gait is in fact a social construct. Participants are given a card with a pinhole that functions as a frame to observe a passer-by. They are asked to record an archeology of ten passengers walking on the street. By placing the camera behind the card, the passenger will be framed and only the walk will be recorded.

On the backside, they are asked to write a little aphorism. This should consist of the psychological (for example, feelings and emotions), social, cultural, economic, demographical, etc. traits they project onto the person’s kinaesthetics. They have to do this purely on the basis of the gait and body movements: the way they walk, and not through what they wear. They are challenged to be creative with their analysis and descriptions. At the end of the exercise, each participant presents their visual archeology to the rest of the group. Through active learning and discussion, the group will participate by guessing which general truth each walk and/or movement signifies.

The aim of this exercise is to learn how one can look at the same things from different perspectives. In this way, it opens up an interactive space for group learning, which facilitates and brings together diverse perspectives on this matter. It shows how different perspectives can be used to build a shared outcome, or how some of the conflicting interpretations can nevertheless co-exist.

fig. 12 Stroller cards

Strolling Cards

The strolling cards are an introductory exercise to observing and analysing society and the individuals in it in an emotive way. Conducted in groups of two, each group pulls ten strolling cards and sets out a walking route on a map. Each card has a set of directions (e.g., ‘Left / Right / Continue / Continue,’ etc.) that creates a random route. They are asked to express their personal experience and how that environment makes them feel, as well as visually document the various aspects of the microenvironment they are encountering. Presented in a sequence, like a social documentary, they document the route itself, the environment and its social context by photographing, sketching or filming the things they find relevant on their route. The exercise asks what type of society do you see and how does it feel?

fig. 13 Setting out a route

Context Cards

There are four groups of context cards with different colours, which refer to the following categories: political, socio-cultural, technological, and economic. Each card has keywords relevant to its category. Taking one card of each colour, the participants are asked to research the words on them: What do they mean? Each participant has four randomly selected words that they will use to construct a scene. The keywords characterise their fictional microenvironment and expose the multi-layered dynamics that underlie and drive their society. The words are the pillars that the participant needs to flesh out. The aim is to deepen their perspectives on and insight into how the environment informs our convictions and actions. On a practical level, telling stories with images is experienced while enhancing analytical thinking through a socio-cultural lens.

fig. 14 Context cards
fig. 15 Developing an antagonist for a visual essay

Character Cards

In this exercise, participants investigate how to build an in-depth character that interacts with the society created in the previous exercise. Two cards are selected, each representing an essential element for character building, one persona and one Arche card.

fig. 16 Arche cards

fig. 17 Persona cards

Arche means origin, principle, the beginning. Arche cards provide typical models present in a human at any given time, which form the blueprint of the core self. Persona cards represent aspects of character presented to and perceived by others: the social role adopted by someone, the identity one takes on, who one wants to be, the way one presents oneself to the world. Persona cards reflect our identification with the outside world. The conflict between the Arche and the persona is what defines character. The character represents how the person deals with this conflict; how they solve or control them.

fig. 18 Constructing a character

After pulling one card from each group, the exercise follows the same structure as conducted in the ‘I’ exercise at the start but now aimed at creating a fictional in-depth character. The aim is to enhance empathy in participants. Through building a character, they realise that the other is constituted in the exact same way as them. Hopefully, this aids in understanding that to design for somebody is to design for another living being.

fig. 19 Character worksheet

Utopia

All of the above exercises culminate in a final exercise that, essentially, asks participants to investigate notions of freedom, critical consciousness, and an awareness of themselves and others within a socio-political framework. They work in groups of a maximum of five, which are organised by themselves on the basis of mutual aid principles: a voluntary reciprocal exchange of resources that benefit all. They are stimulated to form a participatory act, for which each takes their responsibility to care for one and another, and in line with their project, to propose change in the current socio-political conditions.

The students are asked to do the following:

1. Micro Society. Create a diverse micro society by putting their characters together. What is the dynamic of these characters between one another? How do they live together? What are the power relations? How does this society look like? They are asked to produce visual boards or films of this society and the members of that society explaining the above relations. They can use any information from the previous exercises for this.

2. Conflict and Oppression. From this, they diagnose a conflict and/or a form of oppression that this particular group experiences in society. This can range from social inequalities, racism, sexism to environmental problems. It is important that this conflict is contemporary, current and relevant to their society. They will have to underpin this with research.

3. Manifesto. They are asked to write a manifesto proposing (a) solution(s) to liberate people from the conflict and the oppressing system and dynamics.

4. Design Project. Design a walk or body movement. Use kinaesthetics to design an object, or set of objects, that change movement in alignment with the manifesto and the aim of solving the conflict. Proposing that, in essence, walking is a political act, since ‘walking is an indicator species for various kinds of freedom and pleasures: free time, free and alluring space, and unhindered bodies… (and so) … The history of both urban and rural walking is a history of freedom and of the definition of pleasure.’11

Each participant designs their own object, but it should exist within the group. The designs should be both aesthetically pleasing, as well as socially and politically critical. Its function can be dangerous, grotesque, perverse, sexual, comforting, sweet, playful, and the language can be ironic, aggressive or decorative, as long as the final result is an artefact with an experiential function that changes or produces movement and/or gait.

5. Presentation: It is expected they perform the walk as a group and visually document the object, the performance and the characters, all within the social context of their society.

Conclusion

This case study proposed how a playful space for exploration of anarchist pedagogies could be created in the form of a game. Situated within a neoliberal framework, it offers a critique of its power structure while opening up an area of investigation and providing insights into how current educational outcomes and methodologies can be challenged, and how anarchist pedagogical theory can be revisited and refined in practice.

How can we look back to the goals set out at the beginning of this article? Could the questions set out in the introduction be answered through the development of Critical Kinaesthetics and the reflections on the process as outlined in this article? Freedom, autonomy and authenticity are not goals that one can expect to achieve through one workshop only, but what can be looked at are the experiences of the participants, and how they relate to the desired learning outcomes.

Although intended as the basic framework of a yearlong M.A. course structure, the experiment was first tested on students of accessories and footwear in a two-week workshop. Participant feedback in the HEAD workshop indicates that many of the intended learning outcomes were indeed met. It was found to be a creative, interesting, and out-of-the-box workshop. The cards were found to be directional and helpful. The students were interested in the character analysis, as they learned how to analyse and gain greater awareness of their own inner world, and of the inner world of those for whom they wish to design. This indicates that the projected empathic part of the workshop worked successfully. Some of the students found it challenging to reveal themselves in a group, yet the majority found the ‘I’ exercise a good way of analysing the self and getting to know who ‘the other’ is.

It was felt that the experience widened and changed the perspectives of the students and empowered their socio-political awareness. They experienced the imaginative and creative challenge the activities brought. It was striking to witness that the students found it difficult to engage beyond the ‘liking’ of certain objects and things that they encountered. It shows how much students need to be supported in strengthening their sense of critical and analytical thinking, directional and purposeful creativity, comfort zone, awareness of themselves, and the interdependency of things. These are all essential capacities and qualities that could lead to a greater sense of autonomy. Students found it difficult to imagine characters in-depth and, consequently, were struggling to see the relationship between themselves and the people they were designing for. This seems to point to limitations in empathic understanding, a fundamental quality or skillset. Critical Kinaesthetics aims to address limited empathy, as I believe the lack thereof is the perversion of our time. It is vital to re-establish as empathy serves as a catalyst for building personal autonomy. This is the essence and aim of this game next to reclaiming authentic selfhood and enhancing critical awareness.

The students reported that the workshop was different from what they were used to. It was defined as a unique experience in which some of them had the chance to get out of their comfort zone. The process of creating fictional characters, narratives and visualisations proved to be very helpful and insightful. Being asked to produce visual essays, which most did amazingly on their phones, produced interesting outcomes. Technical literacy and mastery of digital media was generally excellent. The resulting projects indeed attempted to probe us to become more critically engaged with socio-political issues.

Critical Kinaesthetics is an experiment that can be seen as critical practice. The game implements a critical and experimental design approach, which provides a framework to place design ideas into educational contexts by testing out novel ways of designing pedagogical experiences and learning methodologies. Here, design is used as a speculative ideological tool to facilitate social change because these design approaches ask what role design can fulfill in helping to establish new values by proposing ideas ‘of possible futures and using them as tools to better understand the present and to discuss the kind of future people want, and of course ones people do not want.’12

In Critical Kinaesthetics, the students experienced and questioned different notions of freedom and their own individual agency within an anarchist learning space because ‘only the anarchist position reveals fully whether and to what extent you are free, and to what extent you actually care you are free. Only an anarchist can show you that… you don’t want to be free and you don’t trust yourself with freedom.’13 It is in this respect that anarchism is confrontational as it is where both the individual and society as a whole will find their limits to what can be done and endured. In this way, the game is critical by default, and at least makes users conscious of power relations. Even if only implemented as a little seed, this is the basis of a way of thinking and being that is fertile for the responsibility and empathy needed to see through such structures of power and enable an evolution in the psyche that can create a higher consciousness in society at large. It is essential for the personal to become political because one cannot separate personal transformation from social transformation. A start can be made now within neoliberal macro frameworks, as it fits in with the anarchist tradition of prefiguration or the development of a new society in the shell of the old.


This article is part of an ongoing research project of ArtEZ studium generale in which visions on the art school of the future are shared.


Eelko Moorer

Eelko Moorer is an artist-designer with his own studio and academic practice. He lectures, gives workshops and offers consultancy for educational programmes on the creative process, along with conceptual and critical thinking. His independent research interest is focused on how learning experiences can be enhanced through performative teaching and learning tools that encourage critical awareness through design.

Moorer’s research results in the development of experimental educational tools for pedagogical contexts, such as the games Critical Kinaesthetics (2019-20), Pandora’s Box (2020), which explores ethics and design, and Anxiety Island (2018), a proposal for learning in a socio-therapeutic context. These practical proposals are supported by articles such as ‘Critical Approaches in Footwear Design Practice,’ (2017) which was published by Fashion Theory Russia, and the paper ‘The Pervert’s Critique,’ which was presented at ‘Imagining the Unusual: Cognitive Dissonance, Pattern Breaking and Other Fantastic Beasts,’ an interdisciplinary conference in Moscow in 2019.

Currently living and working in London, Moorer is Course Leader for the M.A. Footwear at the London College Fashion and Visiting Lecturer for the M.A. Fashion & Accessories at the Geneva School of Art and Design (HEAD).

Bibliography

Bibliography

  • Bauman, Zygmunt, Freedom. Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1988.
  • Careri, Francesco, Walkscapes: Walking as an Aesthetic Practice. Ames: Culicidae Architectural Press, 2002.
  • Dunne, Anthony, and Fiona Raby, Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2013.
  • Elias, John. L., Conscientization and Deschooling: Freire’s and Illich’s Proposals for Reshaping Society. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976.
  • Freire, Paulo, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Penguin Random House, 1993.
  • Freire, Paulo, Education for Critical Consciousness, reprint ed. London, Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.
  • Fromm, Erich, The Fear of Freedom, 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2001.
  • Gielen, Pascal, and Paul De Bruyne (ed), Teaching Art in the Neoliberal Realm: Realism versus Cynicism, 2nd ed. Amsterdam: Valiz, 2013.
  • Gruen, Arno, The Insanity of Normality: Toward Understanding Human Destructiveness. Berkeley, California: Human Development Books, 2007.
  • Gruen, Arno, The Betrayal of the Self: The Fear of Autonomy in Men and Women. Berkeley, California: Human Development Books, 2007.
  • Han, Byung-Chul, Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power. London, New York: Verso, 2017.
  • Haworth, Robert H. (ed), Anarchist Pedagogies: Collective Actions, Theories, and Critical Reflections on Education. Oakland, California: PM Press, 2012.
  • Jenks, Chris, Transgression. New York, London: Routledge, 2003.
  • Malpass, Matt, Critical Design in Context: History, Theory, and Practice. London, Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017.
  • Sartwell, Crispin, Against the State: An Introduction to Anarchist Political Theory. New York: State University Press, 2008.
  • Solnit, Rebecca, Wanderlust: A History of Walking. London: Granta Books, 2014.
  • Suissa, Judith, Anarchism and Education: A Philosophical Perspective. Oakland, California: PM Press, 2010.
  • Stirner, Max, The Ego and His Own: The Case of the Individual Against Authority. London, New York: Verso, 2014.
  • Varga, Somogy, and Charles Guignon, ‘Authenticity,’ The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online (Spring 2020 edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/authenticity/).

References

Authenticity is who you are before what you have learned from parents, from society, from school, from TV, from socialisation. It’s hard, if not impossible to attain, but for me always an aim.
The acting out of authenticity in active doing and being creates alignment. This leads to authentic selfhood, or the making of your own personal story that is self-directed and morally independent: a personal autonomy. ‘The term “authentic” is used either in the strong sense of being “of undisputed origin or authorship” or in a weaker sense of being “faithful to an original” or a “reliable, accurate representation.” To say that something is authentic is to say that it is what it professes to be, or what it is reputed to be, in origin or authorship. But the distinction between authentic and derivative is more complicated when discussing authenticity as a characteristic attributed to human beings. For in this case, the question arises: What is it to be oneself, at one with oneself, or truly representing one’s self? The multiplicity of puzzles that arise in conjunction with the conception of authenticity connects with metaphysical, epistemological, and moral issues. On the one hand, being oneself is inescapable, since whenever one makes a choice or acts, it is oneself who is doing these things. But on the other hand, we are sometimes inclined to say that some of the thoughts, decisions and actions that we undertake are not really one’s own and are therefore not genuinely expressive of who one is. Here, the issue is no longer of metaphysical nature, but rather about moral-psychology, identity and responsibility.’ (Somogy Varga and Charles Guignon, ‘Authenticity,’ The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online [Spring 2020 edition], Edward N. Zalta (ed.), https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/authenticity/).
In my work, this comes to the fore in three ways. First, in my artistic practice, where I craft ideas into artefacts. Here, I investigate the interplay between the (trans-)personal experience, methodologies and processes of making, and their relations to the meanings that these designed objects evoke and invoke. I think through making, and in this way, I use my practice as a tool for personal growth and alignment by peeling away, in the process of investigation, layers of my own socialisation. And in doing so, I investigate the meaning of power and knowledge of the object and myself, because the only way to know an object is to make it and the only way to know yourself is to express and manifest. This process is metaphysical. My artistic practice provides a place where I can feel the space and freedom to be allowed to play and create freely without constraints. It is through this that I constantly renew myself and grow. That inspiration brings me to new discoveries that make my life richer. This again feeds and enables me to understand my own world better, and myself within ‘that’ world that has been made for me.
Second, in my artistic practice I question what do the viewer and user experience? What are the emotional energies stimulated by and projected onto objects when they are opened up to more than one interpretation? The resulting ambiguity, by being both essence and ‘other’ makes an audience question the object’s authenticity, but also the nature, origin and limits of their own knowledge.
The third and last aspect is my practice-based research, in which I operate as a designer and provide spaces and tools within my educational practice for students to raise questions. I hope to stimulate them, in order to become conscious of and formulate their own authenticity, and how this (can) inform(s) their work and the positioning and place of their work in a social context. This aspect is about moral-psychology, identity and responsibility and that is what we deal with in this article here.

Byung-Chul Han, Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power (London, New York: Verso books, 2017), p.1.

Pascal Gielen and Paul De Bruyne (eds.), Teaching Art in the Neoliberal Realm: Realism versus Cynicism, 2nd ed. (Amsterdam: Valiz, 2013), p.3.

Today’s crisis of freedom is not so much the oppression of freedom in the dictate ‘you should,’ but the exploitation of freedom in the promotion of ‘you can.’ Neoliberalism functions according to the logic of the market, but goes a step further than liberalism in that it not only exploits by capitalising on work, but the person and their life altogether. The seeming possibility of the individual to achieve, perfect and make life conform to his or her own desire, paradoxically, does not lead to greater freedom but to greater submission. Thus, the feeling of freedom that choice gives you is illusionary.

Neoliberalism fuelled by capitalism represents a highly efficient and intelligent system for exploiting the idea of freedom in which one is made to believe that the self is measured and quantified like a business. This Corporation ‘I’ thinks they are an artificial artifact that can and should continuously self-optimise by the dictates of a positivity that is entirely fake. However, the self is not to be bought and collected, yet needs to be uncovered as it is already latent within each individual and therefore unique to that person.

Lexico.com powered by Oxford Dictionary.

Arno Gruen, The Betrayal of the Self: The Fear of Autonomy in Men and Women (Berkeley: Human Development Books, 2007), p.7.

So why opt for the anarchist perspective? The anarchist tradition from the onset is the only ideology that is based on and concerned with the idea of freedom and autonomy. Therefore, anarchist education forms the structure of the values for this type of education. The anarchist conception of freedom, a freedom that signifies relationship, encompasses the full development of a person’s potentialities and expressions in her full nature and puts them to use to social account. In a so-called imagined anarchist state, education takes a central role in maintaining and remembering the principles that anarchism is based on. The goal of anarchist education, then, is the emancipation from oppression of any ideology through an awakening of critical consciousness. This can happen in an educational environment that supports and facilitates the development of the people as autonomous individuals with empathic understanding in relation to a social framework. When achieved, critical consciousness encourages individuals to live authentically and effect change in their world through social critique and political action. It truly is a critical pedagogy.

Simon Dawes, ‘Interview with Zygmunt Bauman on Freedom, Inequality and Liquid Modernity,’ Theory, Culture & Society, December 22, 2010, https://www.theoryculturesociety.org/blog/interview-with-zygmunt-bauman?rq=bauman.

Arno Gruen, The Insanity of Normality: Toward Understanding Human Destructiveness (Berkeley: Human Development Books, 2007).

Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking (London: Granta Books, 2014), p. 250.

Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction and Social Dreaming (Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2013), pp. 2-3.

Crispin Sartwell, Against the State: An Introduction to Anarchist Political Theory (New York: State University Press, 2008), p.7.