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.

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 (https://thequietus.com/articles/21723-christine-sun-kim-interview) 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 (http://www.marcodebiasi.info/en/bio-2/), 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 (https://www.vice.com/it/article/bnw5nw/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 https://issuu.com/shadesofnoir/docs/mhchtor

UAL Disability Service Webpages  https://www.arts.ac.uk/students/student-services/disability-and-dyslexia

Activist and blogger Vilissa Thompson’s articlehttp://rampyourvoice.com/2016/05/26/disabilitytoowhite-making-good-trouble-advocacy/

Video by Christine Sun Kim:https://vimeo.com/31083172

(Additional Personal research) Interview to Christine Sun Kim: https://thequietus.com/articles/21723-christine-sun-kim-interview

My personal contribution:

Neil Harbisson https://www.vice.com/it/article/bnw5nw/neil-harbisson

Marco De Biasi http://www.marcodebiasi.info/en/bio-2/