Making the Digital Spiritual: A Research Experiment in Art Education

The point of departure of our research is that the digital screen, just like Deleuze’s concept of cinema, can be perceived as an automaton. This means that it automatically creates a particular kind of attention, “producing a shock to thought, communicating vibrations to the cortex, touching the nervous and cerebral system directly” (Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2. The Time-Image. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989, 156).

In the everydayness of life, it could be argued that the digital screen produces not only scripts and algorithms but also culturally coded events that are not necessarily unproblematic. A particular kind of loss of identity can characterise the screen experience. An example of this is that the individual, by means of the screen, imitates patterns like that of the selfie, producing and consuming this or that particular “I.” Simultaneously, however, the individual does not know anymore who or what this “I” is or could be, nor how this “I” has to relate to the world, which also increasingly receives its meaning from within tethered digital time and space.

At the same time, the digital screen offers new possibilities to study the world and oneself. The intention of this research is to look for the conditions that make this possible. This poses the question of how the screen can function as a spiritual automaton. According to Deleuze, the power of cinema does not simply lie in the logic of a medium that supposedly yields its potentiality automatically. Rather, because of and from within cinema, the spectator instead of imitating life can and has to reset it in a way. Deleuze’s research into cinema can be interpreted as a quest to find the conditions that allow the automaton to become spiritual, a question we revisit in connection with the digital screen. Looking artistically at the screen can be interpreted as a pedagogy in relation to this object; that is, research concerning conditions and particular kinds of limitations that produce new ways of thinking that cannot be compared with mere communication and information. In that sense, the question arises of how experiences with the digital screen can disclose particular forms of thinking and open up new ways of being in the world that otherwise might fall into oblivion.

In this presentation/paper therefore we want to present a particular research project we have set up, in which we want to experiment with the potentiality of the digital screen. In the project we explore how it is possible to think about an online course in which the internet is understood not as an efficient tool to enhance one’s individual development but as a technology that has a particular materiality, and in its materiality is operative in itself. We want to do experiments in which the virtuality of the internet becomes real/material.

Instead of just catching attention, we do experiments in which we try to generate attention, which implies a slowing down of digital time. This is part of a way of thinking of art education as a collective practice that allows inhabiting the matter at hand.

Repeat, Please: An Experience of Creation

In this presentation, we outline a creative experiment organised by the Ornata group and carried out during the course “The Body, Memory and Becoming: Encounters and Vestiges of Art Jewellery” by art students of the Institute of Arts, State University of Campinas. Ornata is a group of teachers and researchers that runs courses and workshops for art students and employs a teaching methodology that seeks to deconstruct preconceived meanings of jewellery. By drawing attention to its symbolic potentiality, as a sign of power associated with the body, it posits jewellery as a potent medium for artistic creation, an individual and social object able to mediate or interrogate relationships of desire, power, and memory.

The methodology developed by Ornata is informed by Deleuze and Guattari; in the course, the guiding principles were the theorists’ concepts of “becoming” and “difference and repetition” and the relationship of these concepts to memory. The goal was to create an object in which the concept of “Becoming” is manifested, materialised, and produced through the body and for the body. We started from the notion of duration, in which being is conceived as an overlap, as a continuous construction in which past and present contract. As a strategy, we suggested to the students a procedure to produce something so that the body could evoke and/or invoke the concepts of becoming, and difference and repetition. We decided to highlight how time could be made tangible through the body by using the voice. We asked the students to repeat poems or extracts for ten consecutive days and record them. Through this procedure, the transformed speech gives rise to a word that would in turn be translated into an object.

The stages of the exercise were to select poems or extracts from Ana Cristina Cesar (a Brazilian poet) on the basis of a possible relationship found by the teacher between the poem and the student who recites it. Students were instructed to repeat these poems for ten consecutive days, recited at least twice a day. The reading should be governed by the way the text resonates with the student and not by its interpretation. Only the recording of the voice interests us, and the recordings must be posted on the group’s Facebook page every day.

After ten days, we collectively listened to the recordings—only the first and last—to compare the transformations over time and we compiled keywords that expressed the difference in utterance between each student’s first and last recording. The results were discussed among the group and two verbs that reflected the change in utterance (conjugated in the present continuous) were suggested, for example, “swallowing.” The students were asked to use the concept of translation (explored in previous exercises) to make an object for the body related to the verbs identified in the process, but not by making a representation. The guidelines for developing the piece were to think where in the body the object would be placed and what materials would better translate this action.

The objects presented showed unusual connections afforded by the choice of materials and the way they were worked. The relationship between the objects and the body was also unexpected. Thus, the unusual combination of different artistic and material languages, together with the methodological approach described above, set in motion a creative situation that contributed to foster imagination and to stimulate creation.

Filmmaking and an Arts-Based Methodology of Intuition: Affect and the Virtual in Research and Pedagogy

Drawing on my arts-based educational doctoral research in 2015 with two secondary visual art teacher candidate participants, Christen and Kelsie, this session explores an emergent arts-based methodology of intuition to provoke the conditions for new and creative thought in both research and pedagogy. This presentation will examine participants’ filmmaking and Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the nomad to consider how art practice enables unique forms of ontological inquiry described through Deleuze’s work on Henri Bergson’s concept of intuition. Intuition is understood as a process through which memory and perception become amenable to change through affective jolts to thought. As such, intuition emerges as a disposition that enables certain experiences to destabilise rather than affirm tacit and recognisable thought. Christen’s and Kelsie’s films made during their return to their high schools will be examined for the ways in which filmmaking provoked a sensorial and affective form of inquiry of school space, creating the potential for participants’ alternate memories and perceptions of their experience of schooling to emerge. In doing so, Christen’s and Kelsie’s art practice allowed for what Charles Garoian in The Prosthetic Pedagogy of Art (New York: SUNY Press, 2013) referred to as slippages of perception so that alternate understandings of their memories of schooling were made available.

Christen’s and Kelsie’s filmmaking shifted their performance and movement within the school space away from prescribed identities as teacher, student, and student teacher. Rather than performing these particular identities, their movement responded to the embodiment of memories produced by sensory and affective engagement with the space. In doing so, time rather than a linear progression became a virtual confluence of past, present, and future desire, enabling memories to be lived rather than recalled and thus made amenable to change. This artistic and nomadic form of inquiry destabilised the homogeneity and dominant discursive productions of the territory of schooling, allowing for alternate understandings to emerge.

Elaborating on these understandings, the session will present and discuss what has emerged as an arts-based methodology of intuition to create the conditions for participants to encounter tacit and sedimented knowledge and ways of knowing related to teacher practice. This methodology draws on the concept of intuition as a disposition that seeks to explore modes of embodied inquiry to disrupt tacit perceptions of practice. Intuition, as a disposition that problematises, differentiates, and temporalises experience inheres in the capacity of researchers and teacher candidates to ask different types of questions and disrupt normative expectations of practice, “to learn to what extent the effort to think one’s own history can free thought from what it silently thinks, and so enable it to think differently” (Elisabeth A. St. Pierre. “Nomadic inquiry in the smooth spaces of the field: A preface.” In Working the ruins: Feminist poststructural theory and methods in education. Edited by E.A. St. Pierre and W. Pillow, 365-383, London and New York: Routledge, 2000, 260).