2018 — Take fragilities as listening mode in arts education practice

“Take fragilities as listening mode in arts education practice".

in CROSSING BORDERS in Higher Arts Education, ESMAE/IPP, 8 de junho.

José Carlos de Paiva

i2ADS – Research Institute in Art, Design and Society

Good day to all those present.

I apologise for assuming this conversation using the only tongue in which I know how to think.

I thank ESMAE, for this invitation,

… to António Augusto Aguiar, Bruno Pereira, Mário Azevedo, …

This invitation gives me the opportunity to realize a movement intended to be strengthened within the framework of arts research and in arts education, 

cutting through the conservative and disciplinary manners of understanding the complex challenges which are laid upon is, often faced solely in the domes of each and everyone’s isolated circles.

The forces which compress us, the ones of the assessment and financing models, require determination, clarification and collectivity.

As one can see, I’ve been a young man for quite a while. I ask for your forgiveness regarding my tired voice and accumulated disappointment, which feed my enthusiastic activism and my stubbornness.

I’m just the result of the accumulation of time which forms us all, of the memories, of the accomplished, of dreams and disappointments.

From what I am I will say what I’m capable of, daring to think out loud.

Who invited me hasn’t measured the risk of allowing me to be raw and outspoken, so, in no way, neutral and innocuous. 

I don’t intend to divulge and consecrate what I will say, what I’m capable of reading from what I’ve lived, from all I’ve been, from all I’ve heard.

I will try to dislocate me from myself, from what could be a comfortable and so round discourse, 

towards the encounter with the fragility of what I think, the capacity to question myself.

I’m from within schools, art, arts education. I belong to them, although bothered and uncomfortable with what I find and share.

image 11. FA (Belas Artes? Então Fine Arts, logo ‘FA’ será)

So I say:

A large part of European schools, particularly in the countries of weaker economy, are limited today by the utilitarianism that neoliberal pressures exert on school curricula, imposing a bureaucratised institutional model, determining inadequate assessment models, managing unjustified budget restrictions.

These pressures assume an unacceptable scale before the space of arts education, 

freezing the developed practises that intend to break innocuous routines, that don’t accept the comfort of the stagnation of the normalised and naturalised procedures, 

that cut through the ease and the pretentiousness of futile innovations of disoriented approximations to contemporary art.

Standing on this European ground and that of the practises in arts education, I recognise these practises do not isolate themselves from an inscription within the mechanisms of reproduction of the reigning political apparatus,

and I can’t see a way to face art, the artistic practises and arts education, as processes that promote irreverence,

that strengthen the abilities to be a whole subject,

understanding the illusions that govern each and every one of us, detecting the seduction exerted by stardom and the desirable success.

How the schools we inhabit mould us and how do we mould in them.

In this world, hopeless, where I live, I feel tormented.

I know there are attempts in tricking me with sweet carrots so as to forget what’s around us, I know I’m offered positions and titles, the possibility to be entrepreneurial and creative in the exercise of the powers given to me, so as to feed the existent, the reproduction in simulation of mitigating reforms. 

Where are the words that guided my/common dreams

the smiling tomorrow

the necessary peace, the handy happiness 

the ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’

So much change operated between the 19th century and the present, such hope destroyed, such illusion, such failure.

This feeling of discomfort, which penetrates me, comes from the uneasiness before the world of injustice, inequality and discrimination that stands before us, such failure.

This world in which we live in is distorted.

Recognising the fragility of what I am, of the rooting in me of this distorted, hopeless world,

I try to cancel the impulses to make from what I do, from what I say, a force, a legitimised power,

and to search in what I hear, what I see, in those which present me with the completeness to my insufficiency, always considering my belonging to the common, the proximity and complicity to my own

In that sharing, in the search for those complicities, in the singular attention to movements which have been built with other histories, differentiated, 

particularly with the proximity to long battles against colonialism, racism and discrimination,

I seek to understand myself so as to better comprehend what I do and what I say, what I will be.

In the field of research, dematerializing the fct’ian aspects,

dislocating ourselves from what naturalizes us, we’ve created a ‘movement’, we’ve created ID_CAI – IDENTIDADES_movimento de acção/investigação (movement of action/research)

We’ve developed in our ‘collective of action/research’,

a movement of dislocation from ourselves, daring that discomfort, towards Southern latitudes, where other ways of living the educational and of integrating art in the common becoming are experienced.

Already seventeen years of direct contact with a Quilombola community allow us, within the field of research/action, to recognise a new vitality and a differentiated making in their schools.

It is estimated that over 6 thousand Quilombola communities exist in Brazil, originally constituted by black people who have resisted and resist slavery and its consequences.

The Conceição das Crioulas Quilombo is inhabited by more or less 4 thousand people, located in Sertão de Pernambuco, a semi-desert area from north-eastern Brazil. 

Since its origins, it has expanded throughout 17 thousand hectares, next to the Atikum Indian reserve, today motivated by the battle for the restitution of lands which have been taken from them by wealthy ranchers from the region.

A community which has known how to make of Education the main instrument for the construction of their identity, for the strengthening of their dignity, for the battles for their land and for a better manner of living to its populations.

Conceição has been away from the History in which the naturalized practises of arts education have been built on.

By welcoming a group of teachers and art students, dislocated from Portugal, it shared the challenge of integrating arts education in their schools’ daily life, experimenting in them other possibilities of artistic practises.

The initiated movement has already generated many events and research, being the centre of four doctoral theses and six masters dissertations, three of which have been made by teachers of the community, corresponding to a particular study on the political discernment of school leaderships and about the importance of teaching, in particular of arts education, whilst integrated in the community’s development.

I present, in this Encounter, a video in which teachers of Conceição das Crioulas analyse in a round-table discussion the Quilombola School Education, and reflects upon the way in which arts education has been included in their schools.

The film is presented as the motor for a debate on the experience and the difficulty of creating similar situations in Europe, being the schools’ dislocation from the communities where they’re included, necessary.


Before the avalanche of apparatuses that seduce us into hegemonic discourses,

into the fields of imprisonment which cloud our action

we reserve the space for disobedience

thus, I face the educational action as a process which seeks for the subjects to establish themselves as disobedient, critical and mobilised 

in the search for other modes of finding an understanding of themselves,

of identifying with their own body,

of understanding their belonging to the common,

an artistic practise and an educational action that reveal the forces that restrain us in a thousand illusions,

The question I raise is if, within the field of education, 

the mission of teachers, of the school 

is one of confining the young to an illusion, 

to a discipline of a life defined as the ‘correct’, to an orderly being

to a blind inscription in what is offered to us

if in this neo-liberal society, globalized,

where financial interests determine lives,

we want the young gullible before the illusion that they’re marching in the name of the propagated supreme values of humanity, of Europe

if we want to pacify the young and to involve them in a delight of successes

or if we’d rather unleash the uneasiness, the discomfort, the discovery.

I am thankful to the Quilombola community of Conceição das Crioulas

to the comrades of research

I thank you for your attention