Task No. 3: Race // Part 1

After visiting the Shades of Noir website, I reflected on how I could apply the resources to my own teaching practice. 

First of all I’d like to mention that I am a contributor to Shades of Noir. A few months ago, I proposed, and conducted an interview to Theaster Gates, while his exhibition “The black image corporation” was hosted by the Prada Foundation in Italy. This has been the opportunity I had sought for many years, to be able to start a cultural debate around the important issue of racism, addressing the subject of racism, and marginalization, in my Country of origin, which I am afraid to admit, by looking at the data, is still far from being a truly multicultural nation. During my second lecture at the MA in culture, criticism and curation, I took the chance of showing the interview to my students (http://shadesofnoir.org.uk/theaster-gates-the-black-image-corporation), and I keep researching through Shades of Noir website anytime I need to inform my teaching practice. I find it hard to gather alternative sources of informations to the one of the white canon, and I believe it’s essential to provide the students with a truly multicultural experience into learning. Also, the website is my words reference, and there I can find a trustful meaning for cryptical words such as intersectionality, colourism, bias, non-binari gender, white fragility, and more. This is vital, for a person like me, who speaks english as second language. To learn the jargon is essential, and sources of information must be trusthworthy, and constantly updated.

How could you integrate the research/work your students do on this subject into your teaching/professional practice?

“students’ identities need to be taken into account in all educational settings” – Freire

Keeping in mind Freire’s words, in my teaching practice I try to incorporate elements that may help my students to feel included, based on a wider, and more inclusive kind of knowledge than the one of the “white canon”, in order to embrace their cultural heritage too.

(Can you cite examples?)

For example, in my latest workshop I designed a number of activities for the students, in order for them to acquire  graphic design knowledge and foster their critical analysis, with the aim to review an A5 booklet submitted by each of them, consequently to a task given by their course leader prior to my teaching.

In every activity I made sure to include a variety of books published in parts of the world, that are connected to their personal cultural heritage, so to approach the topic in the most open way, and make them feel more included. The very first activity asked the students to analyze and review an A5 booklet made by one of their peers during the previous academic year. Subject of the book was the research of black female actresses in the film industry of the 60’s.  I chose this booklet in particular, in order to address a possible number of topics to be discussed during the workshop, and I thought it was good to be able to do it through the analysis, and review of the work of one of their peers, which they could relate more. We did not talk about race, nor racism, but I am happy to say that the students coming from minority background, seemed the ones more actively involved in the conversations, and they definitely seemed empowered. The atmosphere in the room felt peacefully equal.

In my professional practice, being an expert in communication, and visual communication, race, social justice, and identity, represent not only words, but fundamental elements that have to respectfully addressed and wisely presented, in order to avoid conflicts based on false assumptions, and stereotypes. We have witnessed many sad pitfalls recently in the fashion industry, where a superficial approach to advertising, and the aesthetic of the brand have seriously misrepresented different ethnic groups, leading to severe consequences both in terms of business, and human relationships. I would therefore include the research my students do on these subjects, combining them to the ones of my own personal and constant research, to inform a model of visual aesthetic that meets the basic requirements of human respect, and equality of races.

Task No. 3: Race // Part 2

Discuss two things you learnt from the text.
And one question/provocation you have about the text.
Write a min. 100 word reflection

  1. “Authentic thinking, thinking that is concerned about reality, does not take place in ivory tower isolation, but only in communication. If it is true that thought has meaning only when generated by action upon the world, the subordination of students to teachers becomes impossible” (Freire 2006, 77).
  2. The primary reason groups have discord with one another is the negative perceptions each has of the other, something that can potentially be overcome through a formative contact. If people are able to deconstruct and even eliminate these negative stereotypes, the conflict between them can be resolved.

The two sentences written on above, are the things I’ve learnt, and moreover I would say that I had a direct experience of their authenticity, while attending the Inclusive and Learning face-to-face sessions. I always felt secure in that environment, to the point that I intentionally pushed myself out of my comfort zone exchanging my opinions with the ones of my peers, on subjects that could indeed expose me to “negative perceptions”. The point is, I was “not exposed”, I was instead collaborating in groups of people who were seeking an opportunity to overcome cross-cultural barriers, and trying to absorb data to inform a truly multicultural learning, and teaching practice. The first bullet point on above, can be as well applied to my experience in the PgCert. I chose those bullet points, because although they relate to my personal journey as a student, I could recognize the role they’d played only after reading this book, whereas before they work almost “unconsciously”.

My provocation is:

If education is the key to enacting social justice (Freire 2006), and plays a major role in perpetuating the status quo, especially in terms of power, as well as it provides venues for students to achieve freedom, both intellectual and physical—the “indispensable condition for the quest for human completion” (Freire 2006, 47). What is the correct criteria for the selection of teachers?

Task No. 3: Race // Part 3

‘The room of silence’ from Rhode Island School of Design (Documentary Film, 2016 – https://vimeo.com/161259012) 

Write a min. 100 word reflection 

The docu-film “The Room of Silence” has a fresh approach to the complex problem of RACE, and I would definitely consider using it as a tool during my teaching lessons.

While watching it, I could help it but recall a sentence that one of my peers said in the lastest face-to-face session of the Inclusive learning and teaching unit, which was: “when talking about race, people are more afraid to feel guilty and bad about it, than to address the subject”. In other words, talking about racism isn’t easy, and us – white people – feel often uncomfortable for many reasons, but in a way this is what the video testimonies. 

The students reported a number of significant and rather scary episodes, in which their voice was unheard, the lessons were delivered accordingly to a standard white canon, without an in-depth consideration of culture at wide, moreover their ethnic background was stigmatized becoming the playground for assumptions, and stereotypes. 

The story told by the students are very powerful in my view, because the dialogue is informal, but pint-pointing, honest, and tackles the issues of racism, discrimination, marginalization, looking for an opportunity of actively solve the matters.

Task No. 3: Race // Part 4 – Extension activity : Read the terms of reference from SoN around Race 

  1. Color blind
  2. Intersectionality
  3. White anxiety
  4. White prejudice
  5. Gender Queer
  6. White Privilege
  7. White denial
  8. White fragility

These are the words that I take with me in this specific task, because are the ones that I had to reflect more on, while trying to change my frame of mind, to avoid being influenced by false assumptions, and stereotypes, when considering my “whiteness” in regards to the issues related to racism.


Micro Teaching // Angel

For the “Micro-Teaching” task, that we’ve been asked to deliver during the group session of the Teaching & Learning  Unit, I decided to test on my peers an activity, that I would like to further develop and implement in my teaching practice, perhaps in form of a lecture or workshop with my students.

The steps I have taken to design the session were:

  1. Personal preparation:
    • Analysis of the academic course in which I’m presently teaching (MA Culture, Criticism, and Curation // Central St. Martin’s)
    • Identification of a subject, that may fit in the course structure and enhance my curriculum
    • Narrowing down the research of the topic, and choice of the object.
    • Planning an activity that is informed both my experience as creative practitioner, and my teaching practice
    • Final selection
    • Planning the activity and the learning outcomes
  • Personal preparation: Analysis of the academic course in which I’m presently teaching (MA Culture, Criticism, and Curation // Central St. Martin’s)

In order to fit the structure of the course, I decided to focus my attention on the role that objects play within a culture. My selection has been therefore based on an ethnographic approach that has taken the object into account just as much as the human being.

  • Identification of a subject that may fit in the course structure and enhance my curriculum. 

Challenging the multicultural background of my peers (This also applies in the context of the MA CCC), I decided to target a debate on the subject of religion, and belief.

My curriculum is enhanced by demonstrating, that I can research and identify elements of multicultural religions, and belief, through the analysis of the aesthetic of visual and artistic languages, in order to promote culture, challenging a better understanding of the medium.

  • Narrowing down the research of the topic and choice of the object.

The chosen object was a little sculpture reproducing an angel, that I positioned on top of the table in the center of the classroom, outside its traditional context and reference to monotheistic religions. The plan was to recreate a “white cube” scenario (a method often used in Museums and Art Galleries), where possibly start a more “neutral” conversation, that allows students to “play” with the object, and see it through the eyes of their emotions, as well as in reference to their personal experience/academic studies/creative practice.

  • Planning an activity that is informed both my experience as creative practitioner and my teaching practice

During my career as creative practitioner, I’ve often incorporated elements of faith and religion in my artistic production, mainly in form of photo exhibitions and painting of Christian icons. Through my experience I learnt that:

“An angel is generally a supernatural being found in various religions and mythologies. Each of the three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – all acknowledge the existence of angels, however, these are not the only faiths to believe in these spiritual beings. Angels also occur within the Eastern religions of Hinduism, Shintoism and Taoism. Angels are acknowledged by every monotheistic religion and occurs both in mythology and art around the world”.

  • Final selection 

I chose to present a small sculpture of a little golden angel.

Given the premises, that an angel is an iconic figure commonly embedded in our culture, that carries within its design references to religions and ancient mythology. Yet, the representation of an angel can be seen as a mere object of design spoiled of any “pre-concept”? The challenge was then for the object to be observed by different perspectives, with the hope to encounter the observation of someone who perhaps had no specific religious orientation.

  • Planning the activity and the learning outcomes

I planned to place the sculpture in the middle of the table,  where my peers seated around it could engage and play with it. I positioned myself outside the group of my peers, where I could watch the dynamics of their interactions without interfering.

Subsequently, I started to give some info and hints in regards to the object, while making questions fostering an active debate, that I moderated without driving my peers to any preconceived conclusion. The discussion was open to confrontation and the enjoyment of surprise.

The learning outcomes

By taking part in the learning activity, the students can:

  1. Know that angels occur in every monotheistic religion, as well as in mythology around the world.
  2. Distinguish between figurative representations of angels in a religious context and fine arts.
  3. Identify the places where Angelic figures can be found in our culture
  4. Understand that Angels are multicultural aesthetic elements

Micro-Teaching with my peers

When placing my object on the table, during the 10 minutes activity, I could immediately see the interest arising in my peers. I started with a brief explanation of my intention to test their reactions, to inform a similar activity for my students of the MA CCC. Everyone was happy to take part in this process and eager to help me gaining as many feedback as possible.
I asked my peers two main questions: “where can this object be found. And what is its function?”
I was pleased to notice that everything went accordingly to my plans, the object was not perceived as religious, and people actively engaged with it, touching it, and asking questions. A fruitful debate started almost immediately, and conversations in the beginning focus on the quality of the design, and its functionality. I moderated the interventions, adding the info that “Angels occurs in every monotheistic religion”, asking my peers to comment on it. Someone (luckily for my research on the task) had no affiliation to any creed and didn’t spot any religious connotation in the object.