TRANSDUCERS: Collective Pedagogies and Spatial Politics in Action
One of the products of western modernity was the progressive ordering of knowledge in separate disciplines, which limited the sphere of action of the educational, the artistic and social movements to independent institutions such as, respectively, the school, the museum or neighbourhood associations, to mention only a few. The crisis of modernity therefore brought into question such institutions, as well as the paradigms on which they were established. The result was that at present we can find forms of cultural production interrelated with educational practices and social movements in long-term projects, corresponding to very specific local needs and setting in motion a broad diversity of work formats.
As a result of this multiple rupture, traditional institutions have expanded to make their spheres of action and practices more permeable. It is therefore very hard to envision the framework of an institution as an isolated space. We rather consider the potential of institutions as a set of relations and practices inserted into and capillarising various disciplines and knowledges, so that they break out of their traditional limits and even reinvent new institutional forms. The school becomes another public sphere and a social agent inside the context; the museum overcomes its limitations through cultural politics of proximity affecting its educational value; finally, social centres in many cases become converted into experimental cultural centres and spaces for production of public knowledge. The breaking and reformulation of these limits allows us to understand how the institutions inheriting our most immediate modernity are rethinking themselves as interconnected spaces in which to experiment new models of citizenship.
The most interesting practices of political action, educational intervention and cultural work occur at present in these areas of interdisciplinary crossroads, in fractures or intermediate zones between disciplines and institutions - spaces that experiment and give rise to alternative ways of building new spheres of action and of learning collaboratively between institutions, organisations, individuals and knowledges that are very different one from the other. It is precisely at these junctures where we locate the collective pedagogies and spatial politics chosen and studied in TRANSDUCERS.
TRANSDUCERS Collective Pedagogies and Spatial Politics is a cultural project aiming to research and activate initiatives in which artistic practices, political intervention and education are flexibly coordinated on the basis of actions by collectives and interdisciplinary groups. These experiences can be assimilated into the model of collective pedagogies, which approach specific social problems (such as, for example, health, recycling, treatment of residues, clean energy, the concept of citizenship or urban regeneration, among others) through sustainable development, citizens’ participation and visual culture. This is achieved through the activities of interdisciplinary work groups, including both educators and students, as well as artists, architects, landscape artists, residents and town planners, thus giving rise to discourses through which a dialogic and collaborative learning process is established.
This approach through pedagogy also considers the work of politics operating on space and the various organisational models of actions in the chosen initiatives. This aspect implies the constant configuration of specific spatial politics, which involve the development of alternative practices that propose a more integrated, participative and interdisciplinary use of spaces through the collaboration of town-planning and architecture with other fields of knowledge, such as, for example, art, pedagogy, sociology, ethnography, ecology or community work. Such collaboration is only feasible in frameworks favouring the exchange of skills and knowledges. Such exchanges facilitate the meeting of various professional people with local experts and other groups involved to set up learning communities in which each contributes their particular knowledge and attitudes. At the same time, they interconnect very different disciplines, institutions and organisational habits, opening up a broad spectrum of collaborations with NGOs, schools, kindergartens, local communities, universities, youth and community centres, trade unions, etc. New forms of praxis thus emerge and, consequently, new politics, at the same time as intervention occurs in the collaborating institutions and their organisational models. Among these experimental practices we can find the creation and management of participative urban gardens, the emergence of self-built spaces for learning among university students, research and participative diagnoses with local communities, or the development by artistic cooperatives of communication campaigns for trade unions and pressure groups.
Finally, in order to understand the coordination of collective pedagogies and spatial politics, we have proposed the conceptual framework of the transducer. A transducer is a device able to transform or convert a certain type of input energy into a different type of output energy, causing complex growth. Transducers are ecological in character, as they are directly involved in the context they change. In this sense, they are devices that translate, mediate and produce new energies, but without marking out their orientation or their value, but waiting for the body affected by the transformation process to adapt and reinvest its capacities and interests in multiplying that energy. Piano keys are transducers inasmuch as they translate physical energy into sound impulses, but it is the piano and the mediation of the musician in a particular context that direct or redirect their sense. Human enzymes produce transducing effects, as do the hormones of the endocrinal glands, because by being ecologically inserted and produced by our system, they produce and mediate in our changes and thus in our reorganisation as an organic system. In nature there are always energy peaks caused by transducers that facilitate the progress of life and its continual adaptation.
This term is also used in the theory of social networks (Villasante, 2006). In this context, transducers act as triggers or catalyzers of social change, opening up new, more integral and sustainable possibilities of transformation that are inserted into the social fabric. They are at the same time multipliers generating exchange of knowledge and new forms of working among the social networks involved. From the viewpoint of social movements, transducer styles mediate and negotiate the political goals of a movement, facilitating the emergence of different energies according to the different aims and modes of action, so that new overspills and unexpected evolutions occur. Transducers work with the synergies of each given social movement and situation, opening up new, more complex and global possibilities for change, creating particular situations or operating as triggers, as well as generating exchange of knowledge and lifestyles among the agents involved. To use the words of Villasante, transducers therefore “want to be subjects that translate and also dynamise, that are involved in reversions, not seeking to close off any particular systematisation, but to open up new, more complex paths” (2006: 42).
The series of practices making up this project act as transducers through their capacity to free energy, to produce jumps between disciplines and institutions that are normally distant from each other. These are practices and experiences that share the capacity to restructure the set of factors acting in each situation, in order to cause alternative situations of public participation, as well as to learn and exchange knowledges with various groups, institutions and disciplines, overflowing the boundaries and conventions set for educational and cultural work and for social action. They also act as transducers through their creative styles, integrating, mediating and translating the social energies of each context, inserting themselves ecologically into them, and causing new, unexpected evolutions.
As coordinators of TRANSDUCERS, we have conceived the project itself, moreover, as an operative device driving a transducer style, i.e., we have attempted to develop a project that could provoke long-term changes and exchanges between the various people and institutions involved – the José Guerrero Art centre, its staff, Aulabierta, ourselves, the university, the students, educational centres and teachers. All of this to be carried out by means of seminars, archives, devices, and programmes. In this fashion we hope that this project will not merely speak of TRANSDUCERS, but will also be able to activate transducer styles.
1. Introduction to the project
Throughout this text we wish to display and share the various elements we have used as coordinators of TRANSDUCERS: collective pedagogies and spatial politics during the stages of planning and development of the project1. Taking this description of concept and process, we can locate the complexities the proposal attempts to articulate.
TRANSDUCERS brings three strands into relation:
1. A pedagogical project based on formative seminars and workshops aimed at different audiences and carried out between March 2009 and February 2010.
2. The construction and exhibition of a correlated archive of international and national experiences with collective pedagogy and spatial politics and the display of this archive at the José Guerrero Centre from December 2009 to February 2010.
3. The multiplication or continuity of the project by means of a web page with information and follow-up; the construction of a mobile archive (a sort of portable library and mediathèque) to collect the material included in the exhibition; the publication the reader now holds; and finally the development of a number of collective pedagogy projects in collaboration with local agents and other work spaces in the province of Granada. This task of multiplication was already begun in the early stages of the project and is intended to continue after the exhibition’s closure.
In order to “cross” the complex structure of TRANSDUCERS, we must consider for a moment the five fields put into play in the project from the viewpoint of transducer styles. We hope that in this manner the diagram below will serve as both an introduction to the project and a defence of the type of politics and pedagogies we have been building up in collaboration with all the institutions, networks and individuals involved.
2. Transductions: collaborative politics between institutions
TRANSDUCERS arose out of the José Guerrero Centre’s invitation to Aulabierta  to collaborate on a pedagogical and relational project that took collective pedagogies, spatial politics and local networks as components with which to create a case archive and a programme to help expand the museum’s actions throughout the province of Granada. As coordinators of the project, our challenge was how learn and activate critacally a well-known model of relational and archive curatorship, that we were familiar with through exhibitions such as Democracy by Group Material, Collective Creativity by What, How & For Who (WHW) or Desacuerdos, coproduced by MACBA, Arteleku, UNIA and the José Guerrero Centre, with all the range of actions and social networks involved. With this idea we conceived the archive as an organic, pedagogical element; a living thing that would take root in local affairs and relate with other groups and situations. This challenge meant our moving away from a more formal model of cultural management, or at least one only focussed on compilation of material for projects located within the conceptual framework outlined by the José Guerrero Centre, to advance towards the collective construction and management of that very thing were studying and collecting in the project.
For its part, Aulabierta had already collaborated with the José Guerrero Centre on the MicroTV_ZonaChana Laboratory – a microtelevision experiment carried out in the part of Granada known as La Chana as part of the exhibition by Antoni Muntadas The construction of fear and the loss of the public (2008). In addition, it had made an archive of images of the city of Granada (archivogranada.net) in order to build up locally the concepts of public space, imagery, city and memory, all related to the exhibition Martha Rosler. The House, the Street, the Kitchen (2009). On the basis of themes of contemporary cultural production, the aim of these projects was to extend and make contemporary the themes on exhibition in the museum in diverse contexts of the city, accompanied by collaborative and innovatory educational actions using Aulabierta as a multiplier. The role of multiplication in Aulabierta lead to catalyzing the work of the art centre throughout the various collaborating networks that both the José Guerrero Centre and Aulabierta had already brought together in the city of Granada. The education activated did not attempt to justify the work of artists or their exhibitions, but to pedagogically and experimentally experiment with its contents in other contexts and active networks and, from there, to produce new mediations and cultural productions that are contextual, similar, parallel and differential to the cultural knowledge of exhibitions. This pedagogical framework was of great assistance to us in reconsidering the project in its institutional dimension.
In the light of these experiences, one of the first goals we set ourselves with TRANSDUCERS was to understand the project as an experience located inside a collective learning space, connected to the “tool box” that Aulabierta represented. We therefore used various participative methodologies of contextual work that Aulabierta had already put into practice (university extramural studies, professional encounters, participative seminars and workshops, etc.), which were revised for the purposes of the project. It was necessary not only to archive, but also to dynamize, creating networks and experimenting pedagogically the very thing we were going to exhibit – the national and international practices and projects which, turned into case studies, were to form part of the archive and the project’s exhibition. This aspect involved not only representing transductive and pedagogical practices in an exhibition context, but also activating and discussing them as events, actions, and programmes. This was a work model that many of the groups included in the archive, indeed, displayed in their projects. This step implied an open line of local production that would strengthen the educational facet of the José Guerrero Centre and its management mechanisms as an interface or pedagogical device within network activity, not merely to legitimize or reinforce the contents exhibited, but to problematize them and experiment with them pedagogically. This lead us to place the pedagogical work as a structural, articulating element of the entire project and not only as a complementary, or secondary part, so that the project was organised and articulated according to its capacities to build up networks, collective knowledge and means of distribution for that knowledge.
3. The projects: pedagogical routes
Working with projects developed inside the framework of collective pedagogies and spatial politics was a response to the need to understand a number of practices that we recognised in a certain way as influences references for Aulabierta. It was clear to us that the project we would include in the TRANSDUCERS archive would be understood as case studies, rather than as paradigms of good practice. It was also clear that this was to be an open archive, not restricted to the practices now exhibited, but that should grow and incorporate new case studies and even produce them. This attitude allows us to open up a learning process about the pedagogies and politics brought into play in each case.
Regarding the pedagogical elements that helped us to carry out an initial selection of endeavours, we would first of all highlight the polyvalence and complexity of the collectives, groups and projects represented. All of them consist of well established spaces and organizational structures, that also have very diverse territories of action (Paris, Chicago, London, Istambul, Dublin, Granada, New York, Vienna, Singapore and La Plata). In many cases the practices are established as long-term projects lasting ten years of more and in continual regeneration and reinvention. All these projects combine several dimensions of public intervention, which involves collaboration with a broad range of agents and institutions (designers, neighbourhoods associations, trade unions, ecologist or activist groups, engineers, technicians, artisans, artists, educators, computer technicians, crèches, educational centres, universities, agricultural cooperatives, art centres, museums, etc.). This multitude of dimensions is also present in the fact that many groups adopt different, formal and informal organizational structures: NGOs, associations, cooperatives, independent experimental centres, research or teaching innovation groups, etc. As a result of this multiplicity of action and intervention formats, as well as the diversity of agents involved, these collectives blur the traditional forms of art in cultural production by incorporating more flexible, mixed, polyfunctional profiles into their work teams. Therefore, rather than groups of artists, we are talking about collective or groups of cultural workers that collaborate with other networks or institutions, in this sense acting as transducers in certain social situations.
4. The pedagogical project: a network multiplication of knowledge
Another of the approaches opened up by TRANSDUCERS is the pedagogical project we have been developing on the basis of a number of seminars and formative actions.
Through these actions we intended to construct collaborative learning spaces with a number of local and international groups or professionals. The idea was not to establish a hierarchical order, but to allow spaces of collective knowledge through a structure responding more to an effect of production in series than to a progressive model of knowledge or skills acquisition. This array of formative projects was carried out according to the following time sequence.
1. The university seminar “Cultural Pedagogies. Collaborative practices and network learning” aimed at multidisciplinary groups of university students, where collaboration projects and cultural pedagogies were presented, debated and designed, representing the project’s first contact with other collectives. This seminar resulted in the structuring of 4 possible work projects to be carried out in the province of Granada and which may be implemented in the year 2010, acting as nodes for the continuation of the work of TRANSDUCERS.
2. The formative seminar for teachers and professionals in the field of education, entitled “Work Projects on Visual Culture and Cultural Pedagogy” whose aim was to introduce teachers in primary and secondary education to the teaching methodology of work projects in educational centres. This seminar also involved the development of educational actions and work projects in the participating classrooms and educational centres for them to grow and continue the projects designed in the university seminar when adapted to their own frameworks of activity.
3. The International dialogic seminar “Cultural Negotiations. Articulations of Collective Pedagogies and Spatial Politics,” organised by UNIAarteypensamiento which, through lectures and debates, brought together part of the international practices invited to the archive. The seminar also included a workshop of collective pedagogies in which over twenty Spanish collectives took part and with which there was discussion of experiences, challenges and opportunities for this type of practice in the Spanish context.
In all these actions, the participants were able to follow the various formative models that took place, and to progressively take part in all the events organized. This involvement occurred as a sort of domino effect, with the idea of extending the work into a second phase of the project planned for 2010. In this sense, we wanted to offer a formative itinerary understanding the project as a continuous pedagogical whole, which on the one hand used material and work from the case studies, and on the other invited dialogue with teachers and professionals close to the networks of Aulabierta. The result has a very clear educational policy in collaborative modes of learning, with flexible, participative designs that shun the master-class format. We thus attempt to provide an opportunity to structure lines of in-house training in the project to achieve progressive insertion and collaboration on various educational aspects (university learning, primary and secondary schools, but also national and international encounters among professionals), which implies the possibility of activating several very different participants, such as teachers, primary school teachers, educationalists, artists, students of Fine Art, Sociology, Social Education, Geography and History, etc.
Finally, the exhibition of the relational archive of practices also contains a space known as the “Pedagogical Laboratory” in one of the rooms of the José Guerrero Centre. This laboratory is seen as a place for exchange and dialogue with the participating groups where the results of the various formative actions carried out in the pedagogical project are exhibited. Also on show are the materials produced in the state workshop of collective pedagogies, part of the seminar “Cultural Negotiations. Articulations of Collective Pedagogies and Spatial Politics,” and the various exercises set in motion by the project both in primary and secondary schools and in the school children’s visits to the museum. The laboratory presents all this pedagogical work as exhibition material showing the collective knowledge activated by the various pedagogical devices the project has been producing in its local networks.
5. Multipliers: long-term network activity
Having explained the complexity of the pedagogical project, we shall now describe the continuity of TRANSDUCERS. When building up the relational archive, we took on the challenge of conceiving it as a living, dynamic organism that did not encapsulate the practices it included, but served to activate them and generate new practices in other contexts, especially in the province of Granada. Our interest lay in improving the distribution of the collective knowledge we were constructing and spreading it on other networks, i.e., other cultural and educational centres or work spaces.
The instruments we designed for this task are the web page, the mobile archive, the decentralised projects and the publication of the project. We explain each one of these below in relation to its function within the project.
The TRANSDUCERS web page (www.centroguerrero.org/transductores) was conceived as a useful instrument for presenting and communicating the project and, above all, to be able to record and monitor the various process set in motion. In this sense, we conceived the web space as a permanent tool with which to be able to present the practices and materials forming part of the international projects included in the TRANSDUCERS archive. With the help of the people involve in the different phases of the pedagogical project, this instrument has served to document and represent the practices carried out during the activities and actions and those that can occur in the future, i.e., as a documentary space in the pedagogical project.
The web page likewise represents a conceptual extension of the project, where a resource centre can be consulted with related materials and links, a news blog, essays on the project or its practices, as well as other texts or entries on the interests that have allowed us to build up and locate the diversity of networks and constellations occurring around TRANSDUCERS.
The mobile archive, for its part, is a portable device containing a multitude of materials from the set of practices documented in TRANSDUCERS, both from the projects on exhibition and from the results of the pedagogical project, as well as other complementary material from the collectives and networks involved. It goal is to move the presentation or use of the materials to different contexts, as well as being a pedagogical device for their display in order to generate new practices and mediate with interested local agents in activating the device. Our intention is for the archive to always be accompanied by actions and pedagogical activity, so that it operates as a transductive device in the networks or spaces where it is presented, which is why we define it as a relational archive. Moreover, this leads us to envision it as an archive in progress. Our vision is that of a living, open organism, into which other practices can enter as well as those now on show, thus feeding off the diverse contexts of action.
Finally, in the network of multipliers we present in this part of the text, emphasis should be given to the decentralised projects designed for 2010. These are a number of projects of collective pedagogy and spatial politics that multiply the work of TRANSDUCERS in educational and social centres in the province of Granada. These projects are based on the actions and projects structured throughout the pedagogical project with the aim of generating this type of practices at a local level. The projects are carried out by a collaborative design incorporating the proposals and designs of the first two seminars of the pedagogical project and reactivating them the following year.
6. The publication: notes on a pedagogical device
The last multiplier we shall describe is the publication. This book represents an open document or guide whose aim, in the first part, is to show the theoretical framework of the project’s work, while the second part contains in a summarised form the various projects compiled in the archive.
Regarding the first part of the book, we should first of all like to underline the interrelation of the theoretical texts offered here, due to the complexity of the projects and their multiple dimensions, so that several approaches are possible, whether from artistic and collaborative practice, from political practice or from pedagogy. Grant Kester gives us a general view of collaborative artistic practices, understood outside a mere contrast between reformists or radicals in their manners of political organisation. To this end, his text introduces the distinction between theological and dialogic action, demonstrating how the latter emerges and contributes to contextual collaborations promoting a participative agency. For her part, Aida Sánchez de Serdio presents us with the problematics of specific politics in collaboration projects, based on a redefinition of the political and institutional dimension of culture and art as a specific, complex mode of action, riddle with power relations and operating under several specific forms of organisation and political structures. Finally, Javier Rodrigo’s text attempts to pinpoint the elements making up a possible collective network pedagogy, providing keys and lines of work that can be located in several examples of the projects analysed, that may serve for reconsideration and learning from the practices and the politics of the projects in TRANSDUCERS.
The second part of this publication consists of a number of analytical summaries of the first projects contained in the TRANSDUCERS archive. These summaries were done using each group’s answers to commonly asked questions, to which we later gave structure, unifying the descriptors of each of the projects included. The summaries this show the elements making up the practices and most relevant aspects of the processes carried our (introduction to the group; origin and development of the project; relation with the context and collaborators; methodologies and results; links, networks and dissemination; references and learning; challenges and difficulties). Each summary is also illustrated with a number of photographs showing both the processes, and the contexts and results. At the beginning of each summary, we provide a sociogram, i.e., a map of the social agents brought into play. This diagram also shows the resulting products, the impacts and expansions in each context, attempting to reveal the structural complexity of each practice and, therefore, their collective pedagogies and spatial politics in action.
The series of descriptions of the summaries and diagrams allowed us to distance ourselves from narratives either heroic or too centred on an idea of positive progress of the practices, and to understand the complexities and work methods of the projects. Here we have tried to show the complexity of their institutional frames of action, the networks of collaboration and links they structure, as well as the processes and methodologies developed. We have also attempted to understand their networks of exchange and learning, as well as the viewpoints and difficulties groups discover when starting to work on this type of projects.
Furthermore, concerning the style of the text, we have tried to maintain an accessible descriptive level that did not restrict understanding of the work. In this sense, the challenge of drawing up the summaries for each group was double: first, because we have attempted to keep their singularity as a microuniverse, trying not to lose a degree of description and clarification of the practices that was familiar and easy to communicable. Second, because the summaries themselves are presented as routes or activities in context, never as recipes to be repeated or universal guides for collaborative work. We have rather preferred to emphasize how we can learn from them as a localised pedagogical resources. It was therefore important to locate them in each work context, understanding what might be transferable to others contexts and what we could learn from them. From this viewpoint, more than a textbook or curricular guide, our intention is for this publication to be a working instrument that maintains the complexities of each context and serves to outline possible routes for work inserted in a specific networks.
Finally, we would like to think that this book is a potential pedagogical device that has a significance inasmuch as it promotes a transductive style in its readers or users, proposing reflexions, changes of attitude, leaps from some practices to others, new networks, i.e., that it can be activated as a multiplier. Our aspiration is that other collective and individuals appropriate this book and use it to reflect on pedagogical and political work, as well as finding a common space of interest and practices in their diverse contexts of action. That is where we believe this publication can begin to produce this type of transduction.
Villasante, Tomás (2006): Desbordes creativos. Estilos y estrategias para la transformación social. Madrid: Los libros de la catarata.
1.The TRANSDUCERS project is coordinated by Javier Rodrigo and FAAQ. FAAQ is a workgroup from Aulabierta that undertakes projects and research in the field of cultural management and production. It is made up of José Daniel Campos, Antonio Collados, María García, Carlos Gor and Pablo Pérez.
2.AULABIERTA is a learning platform located in the University of Granada and managed by the students themselves. AULABIERTA does not consist of a specific collective of people, but of several coordinating groups and associated individuals (as is the case of FAAQ and Javier Rodrigo, the coordinators of TRANSDUCERS), who use the methodology and various instruments of the project to create activities and projects meant to expand their collective cultural knowledge. See the Aulabierta description included in this publication
Javier Rodrigo and Antonio Collados