Interview with Michelle Teran

Michelle Teran (born in Canada) is an educator, artist, and researcher. As practice-oriented Research Professor of Social Practices at Willem de Kooning Academy (WdKA) / Piet Zwart Institute (PZI), she is, among other things, developing the research profile connected to the Social Practices study programme for the Research Centre WdKA. Her research areas encompass socially engaged and site-specific art, counter-cartographies, social movements, feminist and critical pedagogy. Together with Marc Herbst, she is co-editor of Everything Gardens! Growing from Ruins of Modernity, one of a three-part publication (ADOCS and nGbK publishers) on how the global ecological crisis and its social repercussions raise questions regarding new forms of education.

Through the Neighborhood Academy (NAK) collective learning project, she was engaged in eco-social learning practices around the Prinzessinnengarten (Berlin). She is part of the editorial collective for Situationer Workbook/Situationer Cookbook, A Transformative Pedagogy Reader (Research Center WdKA and Publication Studio Rotterdam publishers) that brings together experimental practices of learning otherwise. She initiated the Promiscuous Care Study Group, an interdepartmental research group (WdKA/PZI) on caring infrastructures and promiscuous care. The group gathers under the aegis of study which encompasses the research and learning and sharing undertaken outside of the formal educational frameworks within which they work. The forthcoming publication Promiscuous Infrastructures (forthcoming) makes public this collective research.mich

What is the first thing you see in your mind’s eye when you visualise the Future Art School?

That is such a complicated question and not an easy one to answer. Mainly because there is no first thing that comes to mind, nor a specific location, but a rich tapestry of potentialities. On the Future. What is this Future? Is it something somewhere in the as-yet-unforeseeable? Or has it already happened? Is it happening now? Is it to be found in multiple timelines and storylines? Where is it located? Who are the learners? What is an artistic practice? And what do you mean by school?

Let me warm up by giving you an example of something I reread the other day. It was the book of conversations between Paulo Freire and Myles Horton—We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change. In their exchanges, they discuss their pedagogical work around literacy education and collective struggle. As critical pedagogues, Freire and Horton weren’t considered educators, at least initially. Education was something that took place within the educational institution and not something on the outside.

As you probably know, Freire was exiled from his country, Brazil, for his ideas and approaches to literacy education. Freire began his work and ideas around popular education by creating educational programs for the rural poor around Recife. Freire considered literacy a way of ‘reading the world’ and key to critical consciousness. Based on this approach, literacy was not text-based but built from the people’s literacies, or knowledge, within the learning environment. Horton situated his work in the rural mountains of Appalachia, in the deep American South, where he, with others, started Highlander Folk School, an independent learning centre outside of formal education and for training activists for workers’ rights and racial equality. In the 50s, Highlander Folk School created Citizenship Schools, where they enlisted popular Black leaders and community organisers as teachers to Black students to read and write in order to gain the vote. So, Freire and Horton connected reading and literacy to social justice and social change and being shaped by social movements.

In one of their conversations, Horton speaks about his love of books and reading and its limits. And Freire says this as well. And it’s not against books, but rather (for Horton and Freire) that they allow one form of reading to take over too quickly by suggesting one mode of analytics or model to think through. Another way to consider reading is to listen and learn from the situation and lived experiences of people and communities. Nobody knows the answers in this form of reading, but everybody brings in some expertise and works on it together. They are so learning from experience, learning from place, and holding space for different knowledge.

Another thing Horton introduces into their conversations is the term ‘bootlegging education.’ Bootlegging refers to the illegal sale of alcohol and hiding a bottle in a boot, referring to prohibition times in the US when it was illegal to buy and sell alcohol. If you attach that term to education, it refers to a type of education that is improper and illegal, but you do it nonetheless. ‘You have to find a way to bootleg it [education]. It’s illegal, really, because it’s not proper, but you do it anyway.’1 And so he’s asking: if one were able to work within the system, by bootlegging some of these practices, would it affect change? Or would it make the dominant school system a bit palatable and humane but little else? Essentially, he is critiquing the possibility of educational reform. 

But I like this term as a tool for thinking. And it could be a way to start thinking about this Future Art School. For example, what is the relation between inside and outside? How to occupy the space within the institution in other terms, in other forms? Or should we ditch the current system because it has no future?

How do you see your own practice within this institution considering terms as inside and outside? And to what extent do you see your own practice as a ‘bootlegging education’?

My interest and current research on education and experiments into ways of learning otherwise come from previous experiences before joining my current place of employment. When I joined the Willem de Kooning Academy (WdKA), Rotterdam, as an educator and researcher, I brought in experiences in my artistic research and work. Precisely, my interest in para-institutional projects—social movements and self-organised autonomous spaces—where education was integral to their ongoing activities. By education, I do not refer to education as formal learning within government-sanctioned classrooms. I instead refer to living experiments as forms of learning as continuous, collective, intergenerational, political, and world-building endeavours, imagining a possible future in the here and now.

There are two examples that come to mind.

From 2013-2016, I made several trips to Madrid, developing research on the Spanish right-to-housing movement Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH). Launched in February 2009, the PAH is a politically independent, non-violent, and leaderless movement established to address an acute eviction crisis faced by many individuals and families throughout the country as a result of the 2007/2008 global financial crisis, which caused many people to lose their jobs, savings and then their homes. The PAH facilitated information assemblies for newcomers-in-need, negotiated with bank managers, coordinated nationwide bank occupations and other bank campaigns, participated in anti-eviction blockades in front of homes of soon-to-be evicted people and reclaimed empty buildings for rehousing the recently homeless. Everybody was the PAH, even the newcomers to the meetings. An ethos of collective learning permeated every aspect of the movement. Each person attending the meetings brought their lived experiences of eviction and, therefore, knowledge to share and learn from one another.

Furthermore, if somebody supported your housing problem, you were also expected to help others. As in the conversations between Horton and Freire, the PAH considered the people’s knowledge and lived experiences as key to the movement and the learning environment. 2

I also spent time around a worker-run printing house Cooperativa Artes Gráficas Imprenta Chilavert 3, in Buenos Aires. Workers in the factory took over the factory in 2001, at a time when Argentina entered into an economic crisis, causing massive unemployment and political and social strife. Companies declared bankruptcy, and workers decided to take over the factories to maintain their livelihoods. After neglecting to pay people’s salaries for months, the printing house’s company owner fraudulently declared bankruptcy while surreptitiously moving assets (printing machines) out of the factory to set up elsewhere. A mechanic hired by the company was responsible for dismantling the machines. One morning, the eight remaining workers surrounded one of the machines, forming a wall of bodies and preventing the mechanic from fulfilling his assignment. The mechanic got cold feet and left. From then on, workers decided to occupy the factory and form a co-operative.

Detail of a secondary (middle) school classroom located in the Cooperativa Artes Gráficas Imprenta Chilavert, Buenos Aires. Slogans reference Paolo Freire’s critical pedagogy work. One slogan says: ‘Education doesn’t change the world. It changes people who are going to change the world.’ Image credit: Michelle Teran.

Bird’s eye view of the Cooperativa Artes Gráficas Imprenta Chilavert, Buenos Aires. Image credit: Michelle Teran.

Several years later, these recuperated factories started hosting a secondary (middle) school network called Bachilleratos Populares. This network of schools is a learning environment for building critical subjects. In practice, the school focuses on the relationship of learning as collaborative and non-hierarchical, and sharing knowledge that is ongoing and emergent. In the Chilavert factory, the school 4 uses three rooms of the printing house as classrooms for approximately 60 students who attend lessons from 5p.m. to 8p.m., Monday to Friday. During workdays, the worker co-operative uses one of the classrooms as their lunchroom. Co-operative members are part of the teacher’s collectives and teaching teams. 

Several courses in the curriculum relate to the printing house’s political history and working environment. Students take a class on work and working relations where students learn about co-operatives and forms of self-organisation. In another course on media literacy, students learn how to collectively edit and produce printed material, such as a magazine, researching subjects connected to the local situation (the factory, neighbourhood, and classroom) and their own lived experiences. Many students live near Chilavert, in a low-income, working-class area.

As part of their curriculum, students also hold weekly assemblies where they can introduce and discuss themes about their studies and the school’s governance. These are complex exercises. Students have a say in what takes place in school and their studies. Teachers attend these meetings, but they do not lead them. They do step in as facilitators when specifically requested by the students. Lastly, students participate in political demonstrations related to their studies. For example, to show solidarity for another Bachilerato Popular under threat of closure by the government (which is ongoing).

So, considering ‘bootlegging education,’ it is not necessarily about my practice but how and where bootlegging manifests and under which circumstances.

Are these ways to approach The Future Art School? How can we make space for these kinds of experiments within the institutions, as they are now? Could this be a way to change the institutions?

When I think about these kinds of experiments within the institution, most have been para-institutional activities instigated by students and teaching staff members. These fugitive acts have occurred outside of scheduled classrooms and contracted remunerated labour. Yet, paradoxically, these actions which advocate for institutional change have provoked the most disturbance and discomfort in the academy in the last years. Namely because what these initiatives and activities have tried to do is carve out a space for experiments in imagining otherwise 5 (borrowing from Lola Olufemi) to take the academy to task and make it a more responsible, collectively accountable learning environment by continuously challenging the status quo. Doing the work. These experiments and interventions occur at the institution’s thresholds and liminal spaces, or cracks.

Again, allow me to think through some examples. 

For instance, you might recall how, almost two years ago, there was a two-week sit-in and occupation of a fire escape at the Piet Zwart Fine Art building. This sit-in evolved after an initial dispute between the Piet Zwart Institute (PZI) students and leadership over a banner hung over the fire escape in solidarity with the people of Palestine and evicted Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. After being removed several times by security staff, Lebanese artist and Master’s student PZI Fine Art Diana Al Halabi decided to use the banner in her performance Holding Palestine.6 During seven days, teachers, students, and other academic staff members worked in pairs, taking turns holding the banner for one-hour shifts. Around the performance were also teach-ins and reading circles, daily picnics, a karaoke session, radio broadcasts, and otherwise improvisations and experiments in practising pedagogy.

Another action quickly followed. Shailoh Phillips (artist, activist, educator) and Tomi Hilsee (architect, activist, educator), teachers in the Social Practices department, embarked on an intervention of their own. Over a weekend, they assembled an alternative classroom using supple twigs and branches, which they carefully wove into a large nest in front of the Blaak building at the Willem de Kooning Academy. Many friends and colleagues joined in the work. By Monday, that ‘nest’ was an elaborate environment with windows, a secluded shelf, and a seating area. Some of the community of weavers painted banners and encrypted pictograms on used fabric and bedsheets, entwining their messages (‘silence=violence,’ ‘we don’t have to stay the same’) into the branches of the classroom or over a clothesline strung between the woven space and the surrounding tree. A waterproof, decolonial library also took form, which the weavers braided in amongst the woven branches. For one week, the nest transformed into a site for daily, early evening learning circles, where a small group organised early evening discussion groups. 

In both these examples, teachers and students called the academy into account for their official position of (art) education as neutral and the art academy as being no place for political activities. Furthermore, they questioned an institutional logic that, on the one hand, was very much in favour of ‘decolonising the academy,’ yet were reticent in taking an active role in putting decolonial pedagogy into practice. Perched along the edges and margins of the academy, both nest and fire escape operated as sites for catalysing insurgent acts of resistance, part defiance, but equally as propositions for imaginations of communal, community-oriented, and collectivised forms of learning.

Decolonial scholar Catherine E. Walsh, whose work focuses on decolonial pedagogy, defines these edges and margins as ‘cracks and fissures.’7 And she’s asking: what are the possibilities within the cracks for creating ruptures and schisms within the supposedly immovable business-as-usual of dominant power. The praxis of learning from within the cracks is an active, living, listening, relational practice of learning, unlearning, and relearning that is (quoting Walsh) ‘grounded in people’s realities, subjective histories […] struggles, practices, processes and wagers for life.8 At its core, it is a pedagogical praxis that directly engages with confronting the systems of oppressions manifested within the dictates of the patriarchal, capitalistic, and colonial system. It creates cracks and fissures in the dominant practices working against life. It unfolds in multiple sites and classrooms, weaves through and in the service of community and community struggles, and is committed to social justice and social transformation. And it asks us to listen, teach and learn holistically with our senses, stories, knowledge, minds, and hearts. 

If I could return to the academy and the para-institutional, I immediately think about the plethora of student-led initiatives that have emerged in the last years, bursting forth like mushrooms after a torrential storm. For example, there is the SPIN Collective, Reading Rhythms Club, Cooking Something Up, BIPOC Creatives, Diversity Tokens, and WdKA Student Haven, among others.9 Students form independent groups to develop programmes and invite guests into their learning circles with whom they want to collaborate. Each contributes to the learning journey within these autonomous learning spaces by bringing abundant knowledge and experiences. They host reading groups, collective reading events, workshops, intimate forms of study around kitchen tables, and practices of conviviality, such as cooking, gardening, sewing, etc. In addition, they organise student-initiated petitions, campaigns, and public protests. 

How do you specifically see these para-institutional structures?

As mentioned, these para-institutional structures foster a learning experience where everyone brings in abundant knowledge. There is also a deep relationality and reciprocity in these learning environments based on community accountability. Learners make decisions together; each contributes to the learning experience. It is a fleshy, bodily, intimate, vulnerable, ethical, holistic learning experience connected with community and life struggles.

Nick Montgomery and Carla Bergman, in their book Joyful Militancy: Building Thriving Resistance in Toxic Times, introduce the term ethical attunement, which I also find a valuable tool for thinking. They write: 

Squeezed out by morality, we think, are common notions: ethical, responsive ways of relating that are tuned to the complexities of each situation and capable of supporting collective transformation […] Ethical attunement disrupts universalising moral frameworks that would dictate how people deal with oppression. It enables exploration, collective questioning, and responsiveness that is tuned to the situation at hand.10

To be ethically attuned to the situation, much like Horton and Freire’s critical approaches to literacy education, proposes learning as an engagement in complexity and a willingness to go deep, to not arrive at ‘solutions’ quickly based on a rigid set of predetermined rules, checks, and balances. Montgomery and Bergman propose ethical attunement as an alternative to morality, yet not as an anything-goes-everybody-is-entitled-to-their-own-opinion kind of relativism. There is absolutely nothing neutral, one-directional, or universal in these exchanges.

Attunement can mean call-outs on oppression and systemic violence. Ethical attunement also means holding space for collective experiments, willingness to try things out and make mistakes, and tuning in each other’s capacities, approaches, and energy levels. Again, there is no standard method, but tuning into the specifics and particularities of that coming together. Essentially it is about an attunement to the complexity of the world (its joys and sorrows) that begins with how we might reshape relationships and take care of one another.

Although I’ve focused on para-institutional examples, I also want to highlight the work of my teacher-colleagues in Social Practices, who I consider all bootleggers and doing important work. And at the expense of immense emotional labour and exhaustion. Last December, we published the living document ‘In Search of Otherwise (A)Positional Paper: Social Practices,’11 a 750+ word manifesto for living and learning otherwise, and our vision for the Social Practices study programme. Twenty-four present and former Social Practices tutors, lecturers, researchers, and programme leaders co-wrote this document. 

Is the Future Art School your dream of a school of life?

My colleagues and I, working both inside and outside the academy and across generations, embrace the idea of study. When we speak about study, we refer to study as something unstructured, informal, and enmeshed within daily practices and life processes. It is ongoing. When we engage in intimate forms of study, we are aware of all the informalities of learning. Study happens within living practices of conversing while touching the soil, walking together through neighbourhoods where we might live, growing, cooking, sharing food, grieving, making jokes, fucking up and failing, political and community organising, forming networks of solidarity, gossiping, breathing, dreaming, communal writing experiments, field trips, learning journeys, meeting others, or doing nothing. All of these practices of unstructured informality make space for different ways that ideas might come together to generate other relations.12

These classrooms are everywhere, but what we usually think of as classrooms. 

These conditions advocate learning for and in support of life processes, as otherwise to the dominant practices that work against the life—of the human and more-than-human and this planet. So yes, this is very much about a school of and for life.

Here, I see the potential for collective and emergent learning as an otherwise to filters of assignment and assessment-oriented ways of learning. Assessment-based learning is part and parcel of (modern/colonial/neo-liberal) educational systems. When an assessment is a part of learning, what it does is re-centre the individual’s need for validation and certainty that their way is the right way. As criteria for success and failure, rightness and wrongness, this assessment filter follows us even after our studies are long over. Speaking for myself, it isn’t easy to unlearn. I fail constantly.

Yet it is necessary to do so. Try and fail, and try again. Assessment shuts down emergent practices and their transformative potential. It reduces rather than embraces complexity. Informal learning gives more space for ambiguities, uncertainties, contradictions, non-linear meanderings, fragmentation, playfulness, vulnerability and building trust, community-building, and open-ended experimentation.

Regarding study, some things I’ve been discussing might come across as frivolous activities when the world is on fire. However, I want to return to this word: Future. What I find so problematic about this word is how it is often coupled with this idea of progress and moving forward. Yet is this notion of the future as something that we must reach for somewhere in the distance, towards some ideal, in itself problematic? Does it not replicate universalisms and a singular way of moving forward? For me, it is more about looking at habits of being and how they intentionally or unintentionally reinforce violent and unsustainable systems. 

In her visionary fiction novel Maroons, adrienne maree brown writes: ‘History repeats itself, this is true. But it is not only history, it is also the future, all of the time, all of existence, cycles and cycles in more directions than we can comprehend-like wheat, like waves, like wind.13 I relish her poetic, pluralistic, swarming invocation of ‘Future.’ Moreover, her invocation brings me to other examples for which I am immensely grateful as they offer a rich tapestry of alternatives and experiments in an otherwise future, moving in multiple directions and timelines and questioning expectations of arrival. 

When I think about schools of life and future learning, one example is an international alliance, Ecoversities, a trans-local network of over 100 learning projects in different regions worldwide.14 Heterogeneous in its composition, the alliance stems from a collective disenchantment and critique of (modern/colonial/neo-liberal) school systems and their efforts to re-imagine education by reclaiming local knowledge systems in their local communities. Member organisations encompass eco villages and eco-neighbourhoods, indigenous, feminist, Black, and environmental movements, workers cooperatives, youth centres, accredited and non-accredited universities, civic organisations, and other autonomous learning spaces. They offer a rich tapestry of alternatives that embrace multitudinous pluralities of experimental forms of learning in the future. I will help organise an Ecoversities meeting in the south of Italy this June. Over a week, we will gather to exchange practices and participate in building a regional network of alternative learning projects.

I am also indebted to the work of the Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures Collective (GTDF),15 a research group based around the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, with members coming from outside the university, including the Latin American indigenous collective Teia das 5 Curas based in Brazil. The collective creates pedagogical, artistic and cartographic, and relational experiments that aspire to disengage and unlearn harmful habits of being. Global Tapestry of Alternatives (GTA)16 is another initiative and solidarity network that proposes alternatives for radical systemic change. Additionally, many collectives included in the last Documenta 15, including the curatorial team Ruangrupa, have collective learning projects and alternative schools as their socially engaged practice.

There are many other examples that I could list here. Instead, you could look at my public archive,17 where I include many of these examples, other references, and case studies on transforming education. This archive is ongoing and a work in progress. 

Are you practising the future? Or exercising what this could be like and trying to learn from what you are doing?

I want to return to reading and literacy from which we began with our conversation. And this conversation now moves to a garden. Or gardens. Since Covid-19, and through several lockdowns when most activities in the academy moved to online, digital spaces, some of my colleagues started hosting their classes and meetings with students in their allotment gardens. Meeting outside meant they could continue having face-to-face meetings with students while ensuring a modicum of safety. It was also beneficial to people’s mental health. Finally, the outdoor space and proximity to green space was a reprieve from the disjointed, destabilising lockdown experience. Most importantly, I propose that my colleagues could connect intimately with the seminar topics by teaching from the site. For example, Irina Shapiro and Renée Turner used their gardens as the classrooms for their seminar Learning with Others18for the students in the Master in Art Education at Piet Zwart Institute. Their seminar focused on education of the future and the current ecological crisis.

Last year, I also acquired an allotment garden in the South of Rotterdam, a five-minute bike ride from my apartment. There I focus on regenerative agricultural experiments, growing organic food, meeting neighbours, trying to learn Dutch, and being present in the day-to-day experiences of the garden. I have also hosted several educational activities there: a kick-off for the third year Cultural Diversity Social Practices course; an assembly and workshop with Social Practices teachers on building group agreements; and a meeting with the Promiscuous Care Study Group, my research group on caring infrastructures and collective care. Many of my most valued conversations and exchanges of ideas around practising the future took place in one corner of the garden, under the grape vines, together with a myriad of visitors over late spring, summer, and early fall.

To speak more in detail about how I consider my garden a learning ground, I want to focus on an event last December during one of the coldest and darkest days of the year. In my garden, I organised an event with the student initiatives Reading Rhythms Club and SPIN collective. The Reading Rhythms Club experiments with forms of embodied, situated reading. SPIN collective works on climate and social justice issues as well as being stewards of a rooftop garden at the Willem de Kooning Academy. For the event, I proposed a reading event based on a text ‘There is No Away19by Vanessa Machado de Oliveira of the GTDF from a chapter in her book Hospicing Modernity: Facing Humanity’s Wrongs and the Implications for Social Activism.

Instagram posting of All Ears for Jina reading event, organised by WdKA Haven, SPIN Collective, teachers, students and activists. Image credit: WdKA Haven and SPIN Collective.

Learning with the Living event co-organised by Reading Rhythms Club, SPIN Collective, and Michelle Teran. Image credit: Reading Rhythms Club.

Machado de Oliveira writes about modernity’s unhealthy relationship with shit and its tendency to flush away waste out of sight. She refers to the shit that comes from our bodies and the other ‘shit’ that is not so easy to decompose, plastics, toxic waste, and other pollutants. But there is no away. We are all entangled with everything else. Modernity has taken away the metabolic literacies and ability to read dead and decaying matter. Reading is the ability to read decay and waste and to decipher which waste causes sickness and which provides the nutrients for new life. In this text, she advocates for recalibration from the separability imposed on us by modernity towards entanglement through our shit.

For the event, I proposed two forms of reading. We began with a collective action where our group wandered through the garden and its environs, ‘reading’ for any organic matter, leaves, branches, and desiccated plants that might help replenish the soil, which we used to assemble a new raised bed for growing food in the coming season. Once completed, we transferred ourselves into the garden hut to read the text from Hospicing Modernity. The warmth from a smoky fire, cookies, empanadas, cornbread, and other delectables fuelled the reading. The group also worked on a collaborative quilt, translating some ideas from the two texts into images of shit, decay, and other metabolic entanglements. The toilet in the hut was not working. I had turned the water off to prevent water pipe damage from the intense cold. The small greenhouse in the back became a temporary toilet, where the readers took turns making trips to the greenhouse to relieve themselves of their waste and fertilise the soil.

I need to say that after hosting these activities in the garden and then returning to the academy and its classrooms, it becomes crystal clear that there is something very wrong with these classrooms, with their fluorescent lights, carbon-copy generic tables and hard seats, structured schedules, and rigid bodies. In these moments in the garden, time stretches, roles shift, and there is a tender, intimate attunement that unfolds in bodies, breath, rhythms, and forms of listening.

Learning with the Living Event: Preparing a garden bed out of leaves and other organic, decaying matter from the surroundings. Image credit: Michelle Teran

Learning with the Living Event: Reading the section ‘Toilet Teachings’ from the book Hospicing Modernity, by Vanessa Machado de Oliveira, while working on a collaborative quilt. Image credit: Michelle Teran.

When people start formulating new values, it can become somewhat abstract and it is really interesting to hear your specific practices and experiments which upload these other values. We also had a question about the structure of teacher and students, but if I understand correctly, there is no hierarchy in your ideal Art School?

Thanks for that. By speaking about specific practices and experiments, I aim to draw out some qualities of learning as a collective, ethnically attuned, reciprocal, relational, intergenerational endeavour based on principles of community accountability and care. Art School is a school for life, enmeshed within life cycles and as a lifelong process. This research is for me ongoing, and part of a lifelong learning.

A non-hierarchical environment is ideal but challenging to achieve. Mainly because, consciously or unconsciously, we are continually drawn back into systemic power relations based on domination and control. Even when this is not in any way desired or sought after. I have already discussed how these power relations manifest in assessment procedures and with morality. Let me end with how bell hooks writes about hierarchy and power. Instead of thinking of power in terms of domination and control, hooks considers how to redistribute power as a form of empowerment and means of engendering creative and generative relations.20 It’s about changing our power relationship, challenging but critical work nonetheless.

Michelle Teran

Michelle Teran (born in Canada) is an educator, artist, and researcher. As practice-oriented Research Professor of Social Practices at Willem de Kooning Academy (WdKA) / Piet Zwart Institute (PZI), she is, among other things, developing the research profile connected to the Social Practices study programme for the Research Centre WdKA. Her research areas encompass socially engaged and site-specific art, counter-cartographies, social movements, feminist and critical pedagogy. Together with Marc Herbst, she is co-editor of Everything Gardens! Growing from Ruins of Modernity, one of a three-part publication (ADOCS and nGbK publishers) on how the global ecological crisis and its social repercussions raise questions regarding new forms of education.

Through the Neighborhood Academy (NAK) collective learning project, she was engaged in eco-social learning practices around the Prinzessinnengarten (Berlin). She is part of the editorial collective for Situationer Workbook/Situationer Cookbook, A Transformative Pedagogy Reader (Research Center WdKA and Publication Studio Rotterdam publishers) that brings together experimental practices of learning otherwise. She initiated the Promiscuous Care Study Group, an interdepartmental research group (WdKA/PZI) on caring infrastructures and promiscuous care. The group gathers under the aegis of study which encompasses the research and learning and sharing undertaken outside of the formal educational frameworks within which they work. The forthcoming publication Promiscuous Infrastructures (forthcoming) makes public this collective research.

Els Cornelis

Els Cornelis is a teacher/researcher/visual artist who trained as an experimental psychologist (PhD) and visual artist (B.A.) The common thread in her teaching, research and visual work can best be described as questioning social and psychological constructs. Currently, she is interested in how artistic interventions and strategies can contribute to actual social change and strengthen critical thinking, as well as critical acting within art education and (art) institutes.

At HKU, Cornelis mainly teaches at Fine Art and Design in Education and at Master of Education in Arts. In addition, she is one of the founders of the working group Roadmap to Equality in the Arts. In association with ArtEZ studium generale, she is investigating the Future of the Art School/PLURIVERSITY OF THE ARTS. As part of this project, artists, art educators, thinkers and students are invited to radically dream in order to think through alternatives. The subsequent question to all of us is how to take specific steps according to new values towards a future in which everyone feels at home.

Catelijne de Muijnck

Catelijne de Muijnck works at ArtEZ University of the Arts as programme maker for the Studium Generale and as editor of APRIA, the (online) Platform for Research Interventions of the Arts. At ArtEZ Studim Generale, she is involved in the research group Future Art School, in which visions of the art college of the future are researched and shared.


↑ 1

Brenda Bell, John Gaventa, and John Peters (eds.), We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990), p. 205.

↑ 2

Ada Colau and Adrià Alemany, Mortgaged Lives, trans. Michelle Teran (London: Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, 2015).

↑ 5

Lola Olufemi, Experiments in Imagining Otherwise (London: Hajar Press, 2021).

↑ 7

Walter Mignolo and Catherine E. Walsh, On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2018), p. 83.

↑ 8

Mignolo and Walsh 2018, p. 88.

↑ 9

Here is a list of past and present student and bottom-up initiatives: BIPOC Creatives, Wdka Changing, PZI garden, Spin Collective, WdKA Teacher Memes, Alternative Workers Assembly (AWA), WdKA Sux, WdKA Dance, WdKA Codarts Memes, WdKA Haven, Cooking Something Up, Reading Rhythms Club, Room for Sound, Safe Zone Couch Surfing, A Dope Book Club, Trash Bunker, Rooftop Garden, Diversity Tokens, PZI Archipelago, AV Hub, WdKA Toilets, WdKA Affirmations, Movie Club, South Side Connection, and the Food Station.

↑ 10

Carla Bergman and Nick Montgomery, Joyful Militancy: Building Thriving Resistance in Toxic Times (California: AK Press, 2017), p. 209.

↑ 12

See also Trisha McCrae, David Rousell and Portia Ungley's visual essay ‘Image-inary 5’ where they exchange ideas on study: Pamela Burnard, Tatjana Dragovic, Elizabeth Mackinlay, and David Rousell, Doing Rebellious Research: In and Beyond the Academy (Leiden: BRILL, 2022), p. 312.

↑ 13

adrienne maree brown, Maroons (California: AK Press, 2023), p. 237.

↑ 14

For more information, see:

↑ 15

For more information, see:

↑ 16

For more information, see:

↑ 17

For more information, see:

↑ 19

Vanessa Machado de Oliveira, Hospicing Modernity: Facing Humanity's Wrongs and the Implications for Social Activism (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2021), pp. 215-232.

↑ 20

bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (London: Pluto Press, 2000), p. 84.