The Ethics of Care

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity” – (George Bernard Shaw – The devil’s disciple, 1897) 

We live in a controversial period of our history, being compelled to witness acts of terrorism on an everyday base and cruelty. Often behind this inexplicable scenarios there are games of power, and political choices, that no longer take into account the worth of humanity, and what it means to be human.

I, therefore, believe that a teacher can play an active role, helping to ignite the correct ethics of care in each student, by showing a correct approach that embraces both pragmatism and attention to inequity and social moral standards.

In the article “Ethics of care” by Laura D’olimpio, the debate focuses on the dichotomy between the emotional and rational approach to ethics, starting from the analysis of Immanuel Kant’s deontology and Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism theories, that ruled the 18thand 19thcentury. The ethics of care, embracing emotional aspects such as compassion, kindness, that have been considered for centuries typical qualities associated with women kind, becomes a flag from the feminist movement, defending women rights to be perceived as equal to men.

Furthermore, the article Feminist Ethics “aims to understand, criticize, and correct: the binary view of gender, the privilege historically available to men, and/or the ways that views about gender maintain oppressive social orders or practices that harm others, especially girls and women who historically have been subordinated, along gendered dimensions including sexuality and gender identity.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2019)

Moving forward, the research analyses the intersectionality of key factors related to the female role in history, a hierarchical system of oppression not only based on gender and social inequality, but also race, disability for example. “The masculinity and femininity in play here are not racially unmarked (if only for the reason that gender is never racially unmarked)” (James 2013, 752).

The Italian political philosopher, Giovan Battista Vico (1668-1744) was the first expositor of the fundamentals of social science and of semiotics and became particularly important for a few ideas he introduced into Western philosophy, for his theory that, historically, civilizations cycle through three periods, from one governed by imagination, superstition, and custom to one governed by rational understanding, after which things always cycle around again.

School of Athens, Vatican, Raffaello Sanzio, 1509.

For example, the sexual orientation was not conceived as a social identifier by the ancient Greeks as it is now used by modern Western societies. Furthermore, in 1509, celebrated Italian painter Raffaello portrays within the “School of Athens” several homosexual artists, philosophers, and scientists, without encountering censorship. 

Four centuries later, the very same sexual orientation would cost the life of well-known artists such as Oscar Wilde, scientists such as Alan Turing, and more. Nowadays, businessmen are encompassing elements of “emotional intelligence” in their practice, evolving from pragmatic thinking to one that involves characteristics such as empathy, social skills, self-awareness and others, that accordingly to the article by Ms D’Olimpio belonged to the female gender.

The “Emotional Intelligence” also named “Emotional Intelligence Quotient” first appeared in a 1964 paper by Michael Beldoch, it gained popularity in the 1995 book by that title, written by author and science journalist Daniel Goleman. It regards intelligence as “the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s)”.

The individual capability was never questioned in terms of “gender”, instead it was considered as a form of intelligence, that we all possess regardless of our sexual identity. This represents, in my opinion, a natural evolution of Kant and Bentham’s theories, and it reflects a fundamental change within our society and culture. When the two philosophers formulated their opinions, I doubt that issues such as multiculturalism, minority ethnics, gender equality, a different religion, and so on, may have played a significant role in the development of their theories. Back then, there was just one clear difference affecting genders within the society, and it was the one existing between a man and a woman.

Rather than considering the aspects of human personality and psyche as traits of one specific gender, we may refer to the big 5 personality traits, that are represented by the acronym OCEAN or CANOE:

Genetics, environment, are only two of the factors that can affect the differences between those five categories, however, none of them considers the person as a stereotyped product defined by gender, and therefore each individual can possess similar qualities, behaviours, fears, weaknesses and so on.

Nowadays would be reductive to consider the ethics of care only from the perspective of feminist care, and in my view, it should be analysed as something belonging to humankind. Furthermore, I would argue that present times are shaped by increasing research on Artificial Intelligence, and its implementation tells and will be telling, very much about our culture, and behaviours. It is therefore imperative, in my opinion, that we, at least in academic environments, do not underestimate the importance of communicating correct forms of moral values, caring, and social justice, that will inform the people of tomorrow, shaping their way of thinking but also their artworks, and delivery in the Industry.


Norlock, K. Feminist Ethics, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2019

D’Olimpio L. Ethics of Care, 2019 –

Goleman D. Emotional Intelligence, 1995

Shaw G.B. The Devil’s Disciple, 1897

Allen-Hardisty L. Emotional Intelligence: How Leaders Can Use it to Their Advantage. Queen’s IRC, 2018

Bakhurst on Vygotsky’s perezhivane

After the interesting analysis of Gadamer’s theories applied to teach, we have been asked to continue our learning process through the reading of Bakhurst’s reflections on Vygotsky’s perezhivanie. 

At first I had the feeling to be in front of one of the top definition of “Ethos”, while Bakhurst unpacks the significance of the Russian notion perezhivanie by psychologist Lev Vygotsky, especially for educational theory.

The term, meaning “thick experience”, has not found a precise translation into English, and therefore has been imported as it is.

If Gadamer was somehow describing the ideal scenario of “when” education takes place, being an active exchange of knowledge between two (or more) actors, I’d say that Vygotsky rather focuses on “how” the learning curve is structured, by listing a number of 6 virtues that indicate the successful completion of the academic journey. 

Those virtues are:







To begin with, I’d argue if we may consider nowadays “Inclusivity” as the 7th Virtue of educational experience, which in my view by definition it’s the one the embraces all qualities and characteristics of a “thick experience”, reflecting on the complexity of the human being as opposed to the “thin” concept of sensory experience. Furthermore, I would also question that challenges, confusion and failure, might turn out to be positive encounters through the learning process, that perhaps help the student either to reinforce her choice or clarify/modify her chosen path.

Having to reflect on how these six qualities have arisen in my own educational experience, I think it’s worth mentioning that I had already gained some experience in the industry, when I first approached the University as a student, and even now that I play the double role of Associate Lecturer at UAL, and student of the PgCert, I still keep a solid foot as a creative practitioner in the business world.

What’s the difference between students who have no working experience?

I would consider myself a “difficult customer to please”, and consequently a lecturer who is aware of, and has concretely tested, the key elements required by the business world outside academic environments. 

This means that if a learning experience is evaluated by the presence of a feeling of “fulfilment”, the students might encounter a sudden discouragement when facing a similar situation in the workplace, that perhaps turns out to be rather depressing instead.

For example, if a student is given a graphic project to develop, the experience may result as:

Fulfilling and personal when developing the project, and presenting it in front of the group of peers, and tutors. Consequently, by answering questions by the audience and receiving feedback from the same can be inspiring, challenging and affirming, becoming a solid authentic experience.

But what if we take the very same assignment into the industry, and have to confront with various limits, such as budget, unfair critical evaluations, competitiveness, brand heritage, etc. 

Therefore, my conclusion is that the six virtues become a true vehicle of experience when opposed to their negative counterparts, building awareness both in the students and their teachers. What would happen, I wonder, if a learning journey faced only several challenges, and very little success, resulting if not in a complete failure, halfway it? Shall we assume that the learning process stops? I’d dare say, that even negativity could turn out in a great success, if the teachers are enough equipped to help the student navigates through difficulties, challenging qualities like resilience, determination, a strong will, and ultimately an analysis of those “accidents” that instead of discouraging, may be taken as “lesson learned” and help the person to clarify the desired outcome.

As an Associate Lecturer, during my teaching, I often reflected on what can make a significant difference between myself and a colleague, as well as what concretely distinguish the UAL from any other University of the same kind. This reflection has brought me to consider the Vygotsky’s 6 virtues in form of University Ethos, to which I add the 7th, being inclusivity, as well as equality, one of the first and most important subjects at the core of our delivery. If an educational experience takes place in a situation in which everyone feels included, and equal, I believe that is the perfect ground where cultural exchange can take place, and take shape of a successful learning journey having all 6, and perhaps more virtues included. 

I have visually referred to a photograph of an artwork by Chelsea College fellow student and artist Anish Kapoor, that seems to be based on the Fibonacci mathematics sequence. In the Fibonacci sequence, each number is the sum of the previous two numbers. Fibonacci omitted the “0” included today and began the sequence with 1, 1, 2,

My consideration is that the Fibonacci sequence, as well as Anish Kapoor’s artwork, express both harmony and equilibrium within the art form. The numbers don’t follow the traditional sequence but create a new one, a meaningful code on which the analysis of music, astronomy, and other subjects is often based. So, I dare to say that “perfection lays in the imperfection”.

This is obviously a metaphor of my conclusions on the analysis of Bakhurst’s reflections, since I believe that by trying to keep a constant level of student’s engagement, through the delivery of multiple educational experiences (lecture, workshop, seminar, lesson), providing opportunities for working in group of peers, alone, and for networking, as well as a one-to-one moment for feedback, and evaluation through verification of the achievements, the institution in the figure of the teacher can offer a proficient learning experience in which perhaps the 6 virtues won’t always be present altogether, but the sum of each tuition through the academic year, might finally add a positive element to the process of learning, resulting in an “authentic” thick experience.


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 (, 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 – 

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.

Reflections on Religion, Faith and Belief

“As above so below” – Ph Elena Arzani © 2002

Course unit: Inclusive Teaching & Learning in Higher Education 

Task No. 2: Religion // Part 1

After visiting the Religion, Belief and Faith identities UAL website, I reflected on how I could apply the resources to my own teaching practice. 

Religion, Faith, Belief are all words that refer to the crucial nature of identity, its transformation, communication and movement between levels of consciousness.

The human existence, and its experience, is characterized by universal themes, that are crucial in shaping the identity of a person. Those elements are, among others, religion, faith, spiritual belief, and sexuality (especially when considered in relation to the previous one). Treating the mentioned subjects in multicultural Universities, means to encourage a dialogue based on respect for difference, listening to the students, supporting their needs actively, creating a common ground of inclusion of marginalized identities, equality of race, gender and ethnic minorities. I would therefore apply the resources found on the Religion, Belief and Faith identities UAL website, to foster a multiculturalist approach, that eliminates discriminations on grounds, suggesting the students an abandonment of “difference-blindness”, beyond toleration and state neutrality, particularly at a time in History, ours, in which the concern with Islamic terrorism, and political choices, such as Brexit, affects immigration, and post-immigration integration, as well as the sense of belonging, and religion based identities.

Answering the question of how I could integrate the research/work my students do on this subject into my teaching/professional practice, I’d say that as a photographer, my work often reflects my vision on spirituality. As a Lecturer, there are a number of scenarios in which I could implement the resources. For example, keeping in view the interesting opinions of Dr Erika Doss, whose interview was listed among the UAL resources, I could deliver a seminar, which focuses on the comparative analysis of international artists, whose production is based on Religion. This would facilitate a debate on the related aspects of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity. Writing task activity would provide students an opportunity to address religious literacy in their learning journey, and curriculum.  Artists that I would include in my seminar, concerning art and religion, could be: The painter Ibrahim El-Salahi (b.1930, Sudan) a major figure of African and Arab Modernism, renowned for his pioneering integration of Islamic, African, Arab and Western artistic traditions. The artist Frida Kahlo (1907, Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico) whose work was often inspired by Indigenity, Aztec symbols/spirituality, her own faith in the Virgin de Guadalupe, and Political Commitment. Bill Viola (1951 Queens, New York City, New York, United States) that often explores in his work the universal themes of human existence and experience. Shirin Neshat (1957, Qazvin, Iran), an Iranian artist best known for films such as Rapture (1999), which explore the relationship between women and the religious and cultural value systems of Islam. Hiroshi Mori (1977, Tokyo, Japan), whose work combines Japanese anime and pop art with some of the most iconic religious portraits of the Renaissance era to create a fresh new take on classical Western and Japanese “rimpa”.

Citing another example, I might discuss the contemporary issues related to the work of Marilyn Manson, or Marina Abramovic, that have caused a panic over a misplaced belief that the performance artists worships the devil, and therefore Catholics are not happy about them. In so doing, I could listen with the student the Interview with Mohammed Ali on BBC, reflecting on how modern artists explore religion in their work.

A third, and final example, could be a workshop on Fashion, and Fashion Advertising Images, that communicate the brand identity, with respect for different religions, genders, and ethnicity. A critical debate, based on the constructive analysis of a comparative number of campaigns, from Nike to Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Galliano, and others, may give the students the opportunity to reflect on the social role of Fashion Industry. For example, the brand’s aesthetic of the Italian fashion duo, Stefano Gabbana (1962, Milan, Italy), and Domenico Dolce (1958, Polizzi Generosa, Italy), mostly known as D&G, is plenty with references to Religion, particularly with Madonna.  In 2016, Stefano Gabbana published on his private social networks the procession of the Holy Virgin, taking place by tradition in Gela, Italy. He was then inspired to produce a fashion line, that featured the Madonna painted on cloths. The criticism could be supported by the UAL resources on Faith, and Fashion by Professor Reina Lewis. 

The pictures display some of my photographic projects, that were based on Faith, Spirituality and Religion: “Loss” hosted by Google Culture; “The Beauty of humanity” presented at Scope Art Fair, Miami; “Forgotten Monuments#2” hosted by Archinti Museum, Italy.

Ph Elena Arzani © 

Task No. 2: Religion // Part 2

  • ‘Religion in Britain: Challenges for Higher Education.’ Stimulus paper (Modood & Calhoun, 2015) 

The stimulus Paper was very interesting, and I found myself intrigued by the reading on the essay in whole, however I chose to focus my reflections on: Western European moderate secularism; Multiculturalism; Minority Identities and Religion and dissent in Universities. Even though I had a sense of it, I learnt how today the fears for the attacks of terrorism have led to disproportional targeting of Muslims, with major consequences for students, and more in general for people, of that religion. Moreover, by going through the reading, and touching upon the Gender segregation in Muslim practice (which is unfortunately a shared by other religions too), I was introduced to the matter of sexuality, and more specifically the “non-binary” sexual and gender identities, and the growing discussions around them in University Campuses. I can see how “intersectionality”, it’s an issue that applies to the case of many people. Tackling the debate around those areas, one must be extremely sensitive, and respectful, while considering a number of elements, that may affect the scenario.  In the Foreword by Professor Sir Robert Burgess, it is stated that: “in terms of academic disciplines, there is an opportunity to address religious illiteracy among students and staff as opportunities arise where insight from different faiths can inform academic debate and understanding.” The dualism between religion as contributor to social wellbeing, cultural heritage, ethical voice, and national identity, finds at its opposite a social division that can lead to war.  Are we, as Lecturers, enough equipped to face the changing realities of our present time?! I wonder.

Task No. 2: Religion // Part 3

Reflections on Kwame Anthony Appiah Reith lecture on Creed

“Most people in the world believes, the most people in the world have incorrect religion believes”  –  Dr Kwane A. Appiah
I particularly appreciated listening to Dr Kwane A. Appiah lecture on “Mistaken Identities”. I felt he succeeded in showing the audience how little we know about religions, and how much we don’t. By deconstructing common stereotypes addressed to the majority of monotheist religions, Dr Appiah has managed to draw a fine line, that like a circle creates more unity, than distance. Interpretation is a key issue in order to understand a religion. And this applied also to gender equality, when he mentioned the Buddhist belief that all phenomena are neither female, nor male. The condemnation of Homosexuality, he suggested, reflects the power of everyday traditions of sentiment. This is indeed a great lecture, that has tackled at least 3 main areas, that I can include in my practice: Religion and the sense of self, that is shaped by your family, and by affiliations that spread out from there, such as nationality, gender, class, race, faith and religion; but also the two aspects that inform religion: the practice, and the action; and last but not least the temporariness, and the need of interpretation, rather than determinism.

Task No. 2: Religion // Part 4

Extension activity: Read the terms of reference from SoN around Faith 

I read the publication “Higher Power: Higher Power: Religion, Faith, Spirituality & Belief “, the content and imagery were both really strong and thought provoking. The words that I, in certain ways, take with me from this research on Terminology on Religion, are: Atheism, and Ally. By practicing tolerance, respect, common sense and understanding, all valuable elements, people can found a common ground that is the base of unbreakable legacies.

Gadamer // Understanding Art: The play of work and spectator

“The diamond dress” by CSM Fellow designer, Mr Teerabul Songvich. Photo by Nick Night. The dress, that launched the career of Mr Teerabul, is part of the UAL archive (CMS). The designer’s approach to the process of making, is informed by the act of play, and in my view it seems to embody at many level Gadamer’s theories.

“All hermeneutic experience is a play-process” – Gadamer

Sometimes meaningful concepts at the base of human’s communication, and life, are told in formal ways, that tend to create distance, rather than comprehension. While reading the chapter about the German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer, in Monica Vilhauer’s book, ‘Ethics of Play’, I must confess I had to convey all my strengths to the noble cause of not loosing my attention. The content was extraordinary, however badly delivered in my humble opinion. I often wished the writer had written “This is what I think”, rather than “this is what Gadamer said, and it means… bla, bla.”

Although my comment may sound inappropriate in this context, it is indeed a provocation, for I believe that reflecting on Gadamer’s “Ethics of Play”, required a demonstration in terms of writing style, of his fundamental core points. The act of “play” was missing.

The fictional character of Professor Keating, alias Mr Robin Williams in the American film “The Dead Poet Society”, during a lecture told his students:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering – these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love – these are what we stay alive for”.

If Hermeneutics is the theory and methodology of interpretation, including both verbal and non-verbal communication, the understanding does not consist in the reconstruction of the mere objective meanings of absolute and meta-historical truth, but in a continuous fusion of horizons where, the Heideggerian motif of the relationship between art and truth with Gadamer leads to a unfinished and infinite process of play between the interpreter and the work itself, which becomes a form of “Koinè”, a language, the so-called hermeneutic circle for which interpretation is a process that continually goes from the whole to the parts and vice versa.

Therefore scientific theories are no longer considered as the only ones in reference to the structure of existence as “being there-in-the-world” is revealed the sense of what the existence is, opposed to the Cartesian model of “being separate from the world of objects that I observe” .

A drama, a piece of music, come alive when it’s played in front of the audience in Gadamer’s theories. Likewise, I would assume a Lecture becomes a true experience of teaching, and learning, only when it takes place between a tutor and the students. Pondering on this reflection, I would therefore conclude that within the “hermeneutical dimension” of play, the three elements of equality, inclusivity and diversity are illuminated, and become source of quality and abundant richness. The participation of every individual to the game is therefore crucial to the success of the play itself, regardlessly the outcome. And by that I mean, that the outcome is informed by the active dialogue between the two actors, and therefore cannot be framed, but affected in its mutation from the starting point of analysis.

Seriousness has a fundamental role in the game, and the act of playing depends on it in whole. Hermeneutic philosophy had an increasingly relevant role in the debate of contemporary aesthetics and criticism.  By exploiting the resources in an “hermeneutical dimension”, the techno-scientific reductionism of the “Practical knowledge”, comes to “experience” a compenetration with the genuine participation of the spectator.

Gadamer’s reflection of the effects of “non-genuine” participation, leads to theories that are extraordinary particularly when applied to contemporary art criticism, and the debate around originals, replicas, multiples and so on.

“All encounter with the language of art, is an encounter with an unfinished event and is itself part of this event” – Gadamer


Bebe Vio, an Italian wheelchair fencer and Paralympic champion



After going through the list of suggested resources, I pondered on the meaning of disability, beyond its terminology.  

It’s hard for me to talk about disability without thinking about myself, since a couple of years ago I reported a number of serious injuries in a car crash, and what was a “normal life”, suddenly switched into a quality of life that constantly needs to be “negotiated”. The world was still the same, and once recovered I felt as if I was the same too, but ultimately this was a lie, and when my “new body” begun to inform me about its limits, I was forced to take action using all of my strength, and creativity to adapt to the environment, while avoiding to isolate from the group of my friends, and peers. I never wanted to be seen as different, yet I needed people to acknowledge that I was. I guess, what I feared at that time, it was the loss of my identity.

The dichotomy that refers to disability both in terms of mental/biological impairment, and social constructionism, must be taken under consideration, whereas inclusivity in education, in my opinion, needs to restore the principle of a community, in which differences have to be seen as part of a range of talents and abilities, rather than limits. This is indeed what Christine Sun Kim’s video showed me, she questioned the social constructionism based on the simple assumption that hearing people “own” the sound. Her theory is groundbreaking in my view, and while I was trying to research more about Sun Kim’s work, I’ve come across an interview featured by The Quietus Magazine ( in which she states: Deaf people know sound very well. Often people think we don’t – and even the deaf community thinks we don’t know sound very well. It’s strange to be in our position where we almost impose the barrier on ourselves to some degree”.

At High School in Italy I was trained in teaching, back then I dealt with disable children, and there was one boy in particular, that was born blind. During our sessions, I familiarized with his ability of perceiving the light, understanding that a blind person, sometimes can still “see” to some extents. I have never known on the contrary, that a deaf person could actually discriminate between different sounds, and/or visualize them. In my practice as Art Director, Photographer and Editor, I have always been fascinated by Kandinsky’s phono-cromatic theories and Klee‘s writings, and during my Masters course in Applied Imagination at Central St. Martin’s, I design an artifact that merged art therapy, digital art and new technologies. A couple of years ago, while researching on a personal project for the development of a mobile application, I made contacts with the Italian artist and musician, Marco De Biase (, who was affected by dystonia, but had managed to successfully recover after completing a motor rehabilitation program at the “Institute of Physiology and Medicine of Art” in Barcelona. During his rehabilitation Marco investigated the strict relationship between color, movement and ultimately the sound. In 2012 he created a phono-chromatic system, that is currently used by the “National Deaf Institute” in therapy.

Sun Kim’s installation and words have therefore showed me, that the relationship between sounds and colours work both ways, and although this might seem obvious, conceptually speaking, I had no validate proof up to now. This discovery has a phenomenal potential in my view, if applied both to my artistic practice of photographer/art director, and in my present role of teacher. 

This last one in particular, must imply the analysis of the group of students, while considering their abilities/disabilities. Providing equal opportunities for all participants of accessing the educational environment, that has to be equipped under consideration of those people with special needs, so to contribute to the creation of the group’s welfare.

My role of educative facilitator has to be open minded, as well as acknowledged with all special facilities available, in order to engage students, and their attention. Harper and Quay’s state that strategizing ways to increase engagement of various students populations, especially those for whom engagement known to be problematic, is a worthwhile endeavour” (2009). In order to do so, I plan to provide my students a with multi-sensory experience, with the help of technologies, and with extra-scholastic activities such as visiting museums, and so on. I believe it might be interesting to “test” the outer environment to start the debate around disability, asking the students to observe how the urban design has facilitated disable people in their access to buildings, and/or other structures, or on the contrary how it lacks of those attentions, as well as any consideration to creating accessible and enjoyable experiences, when visiting an exhibition for instance. In so doing, I’d like to engage the disable person in the group activities, challenging any forms of creative contribution to the debate. Students might be inspired by the outcome, and feel encouraged to be actively responsible, while considering to include the observation in their assessment projects, and perhaps further develop it within their practice in industry once graduated. Bringing attention to the world of disability, it is important, and that’s what the activist Vilissa Thompson did with the hashtag #DisabilityTooWhite. Her provocative, but absolutely pinpointing idea, hit the core of the matter, and as a result of it, the feedback was a mixture of agreements, and (unfortunately) insulting disagreements. If we could eliminate the rather practical need for provocation, that seems at times the only solution for capturing people’s attention, giving voice to the person who carries a disability, we may as well succeed in breaking the chains of the social constructivism. If the whole group of students/people feel involved in the debate around disability, if the experience of observation becomes a group activity, rather than a marginalized task, perhaps every participant can feel united and equal, shifting the focus from the person to the problem, avoiding any ill consideration that may result racist, or discriminating. The person is still central to the debate, but the disability is seen as a universal problem, that all human being can experience.

On the other hand, in my practice as teacher, I would foster an academic based research, that might involve not only the study of artistic projects done by disable individuals, but an exploration of artworks, in which science is applied to technology too. This might help students to understand what has been already created, and what can be done in the future. But it could also inspire my personal artistic practice, and result in a photographic exhibition or an in-depth article as editor, for instance.

Starting with consideration in regards to the Paralympics, and leading to more experimental ideas, that are shaping the contemporary digital era. For example, the Cyborg Foundation founded by Moon Ribas, and Neil Harbisson (, that aims to help humans become cyborgs, defend cyborg rights and promote cyborg art. Although moral implications of this project may arise, I believe it’s worth showing how a disability can actually be perceived by the person who is affected by, to the point in which it can be seen as a powerful source of opportunities in shaping one’s own identity. 

Neil Harbisson is an artist affected by a disability named Achromatopsia, and concerns a form of colour blindness, that results in seeing in greyscale. By having an antenna implanted in his skull, he is now able to perceive colours through their audible vibration. Mr Harbisson has been officially recognised as a cyborg by a government, and on his website he describes himself as:

“Harbisson identifies himself both as a cyborg; he feels he is technology, and as a transpecies; he no longer feels 100% human. His artwork explores identity, human perception, the connection between sight and sound and the use of artistic expression via new sensory inputs”.

The words written by disability activist and blogger Vilissa Thompson on her final comments to the article about the #DisabilityTooWhite hashtag: “Being open-minded to the realities of others that live and look differently from you as a disabled person is the key takeaway”, come in help offering me the perfect comment to Harbisson’s description, as well as to Christine Sun Kim’s project, defining what inclusivity means to me, and what I feel I can take from the sources provided during this first blog activity, and how I intend to channel them through my teaching/practice in the Industry. The society tents to isolate groups of people, that ideally do not conform to common standards. The implications can be devastating for the person who feels isolated, neglected, set apart and unable to participate. I want to remember and  acknowledge that “normality” is almost impossible to define, and we, as humans, have all special needs, but none of us is compelled to adhere to a given standard, therefore by embracing disability, and include it in the journey through learning, one can begin a reconceptualization of education, maximizing the experience itself, and breaking the boundaries that measure disability only in material terms.

Elena Arzani




Shades of noir  Terms of reference from SoN around Mental Health

UAL Disability Service Webpages

Activist and blogger Vilissa Thompson’s article

Video by Christine Sun Kim:

(Additional Personal research) Interview to Christine Sun Kim:

My personal contribution:

Neil Harbisson

Marco De Biasi

Group Session + Personal Presentation

Being a photographer, my presentation, during the Group session, has included a number of shots that I took either on assignment or while producing my own fine arts. The display was aimed to show the different fields I touch upon in my everyday professional practice as Photographer, Art Director, and Editor. I focused the narration on my academic background, in order to highlight the peculiar characteristics that contributed to shape my identity, and personality. Then I shifted to the professional experiences gained through my  25 years career, and the description of my curriculum in the fashion and advertising industry, Publishing Houses, music, contemporary arts and photography.

The group presentation was structured to allow each of the ten participants with a 5 minutes talk, in which discuss either the curriculum or personal experience in academia. The students could contribute with a  few visual slides, up to a number of 5. I chose to project an animated page, displaying my website, and the images that feature in this article. Most of my peers preferred instead to focus on the speech, and this seemed to me a successful choice for them, in particular for those who clearly showed some skills for public talk.  Observing the different styles of presentations was very interesting, as well as receiving feedback on my personal one. The group activity involved discussion with all students in regards to the way the speech was delivered, as well as the content. I found myself making often comments about the body language, self-confidence, while observing the variety of narratives. It’s fair to mention that every individual managed to distinguish in a very unique way, the variety of backgrounds, as well as experiences was rather exciting, and showed me the potential of enriching ourselves through open confrontations and debates. The session went on smoothly, and it was mainly conducted by us students. What I gained, it was to understand how sharing info on my personal background, could actually contribute to make people understand who I am. Coming from the industry, I must admit this behavior being rarely approved, whereas privacy is often considered a must. Professionals in my field tend to exclude any personal details from their practice, in order to be perceived “less human”, I guess, and therefore less at risk of failure. The life outside the working environment is the one that mostly engage your emotions, and this is often seen as a potential source of weaknesses. Finally we briefly discuss the chapter that was given us to read prior to the group session, at the introductory lesson of the 16th Jan.: “Reading, engagement and higher education’, Higher Education Research & Development, 38 by Aldridge, D.”. Some of the key concepts in regards to engagement, and engaging students in the learning activities started a fruitful debate around methodologies, and the different approaches in teaching. I personally found Aldridge’s reflections very intriguing, in a way the reminded me of some theories by Albert Einstein, particularly when the “alienation” is considered as an opportunity, or perhaps a challenge, to foster people’s engagement. The famous scientist said: “Humiliation and mental oppression by ignorant and selfish teachers wreak havoc in the youthful mind that can never be undone and often exert a baleful influence in later life.” And then added: “The real difficulty, the difficulty that has frustrated the sages of all times, is this: how can we make our teaching effective to the point that its influence on the emotional life of man can resist the pressure of the elementary psychic forces of the individual? We do not know, of course, if the sages of the past have really posed this question with the same awareness and in the same form; but we know how much they have tried to solve the problem.”

Creativity comes from anguish as the day comes from the dark night. It is in the crisis that inventiveness arises, discoveries and great strategies. Those who overcome the crisis surpass themselves without being ‘overcome’.

Who attributes his failures and difficulties to the crisis, violates his own talent and gives more value to problems than to solutions. The real crisis is the crisis of incompetence. The inconvenience of people and nations is laziness in seeking solutions and ways out. Without crisis there are no challenges, without challenges life is a routine, a slow agony. Without crisis there is no merit. It is in the crisis that emerges the best of everyone, because without crisis all the winds are only slight breezes. To speak of crisis means to increase it, and to be silent in the crisis is to exalt conformism. Instead, we work hard. Let’s finish it once and for all with the only dangerous crisis, which is the tragedy of not wanting to fight to overcome it. ”


Elena Arzani