Breaking the Wall of Art Education @ Falling Walls

Testing, one model fits all and fixed pre-scribed outcomes. Such is the dominant educational and organisational landscape often due to accountability measures causing isolated people and static, defunct systems. As a result, the world is facing huge challenges that are growing in scale and complexity, they are going to get worse, unless we can find solutions and find them soon.  How can we be smarter, more adaptable and better prepared to face these challenges?

     Take 7 seconds to look at this cloud, what does it represent to you? What do you see?  It is not a test.  There is no right answer.  It can be anything you decide.  Now ask someone else the same questions.  Did they see the same?  Or something different?  Sometimes we see the same, more often we see something different.   Often, not only what we see but also how we approach tasks and problems, can be different.  For instance, some of us will have looked around at the cloud`s frame and other people will have looked inside the cloud.  Equal and like are not the same thing (Madeline L'Engel)
By unlocking creativity through the collective engagement with art we are able to reveal our core values. Why? Because art and creativity give us an emotive access point to bring out expressions of our values.  How?  Through creative engagement with diverse disciplines that work on consciousness and are emotive.  Put this in combination with participants contextualisation and un-prescribed outcomes.  It is then, that the didactic engagement not only becomes personal and internalised, but also it multiplies outwards as co-investigators are able to simultaneously internalise questions raised that stimulate critical thinking about their environments. This activates participants to become their own agents for change.  Participants involved in this kind of creative education are able to collectively accept and understand each others diversity.  How? By seeing this combined diversity of the paritcipants learning styles and creative process as essential in the collective transformation process.

When this happens we can break the walls in our heads and transform static mindsets – our sets of assumption and expectation – to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open, reflective, and emotionally able to change. 

 "The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed". Carl Jung  

    By exploring our diverse realities through creativity we are able to see that our beliefs and values can be a dynamic interchange between: contexts/ intentions or curriculum aims in combination with interaction or interpretation and creative processes / production. This has conceptual affinity with Jack Mezirow`s Mindfulness (also taken from the Buddhist concept) "mindfulness may be applied by individuals to understand their patterns of emotional reactivity in workshops". Walter Benjamin`s 'prescence of mind' takes it further and refers to use of wit-wit being the kind of cunning quick thinking that enables folk tale heroines (such as clever young women like Red Riding Hood) to recognize the true nature of their situation and use this insight to outwit the villain and escape danger. (Note that in the medieval folk tale RRH saves herself; it was the Grimm Brothers that who introduced the patriarchal woodcutter as RRH`s saviour) and Paolo Friere`s conscientizacao that emphasises the fusion in praxis of reflection and critical action.
 Once our mind opens by Thincing in this dynamic way it begins to work just like this parachute the children hold here, but it cannot be fully opened to see all the colours unless everyone is holding it open.  Furthermore, we cannot exchange places (or ideas) unless the whole group is helping each other to cross over to the other side by keeping the parachute (or mind) open. When our mind is open, it only stays open when there is dynamic and fluid exploration of our diverse expressions whilst being connected to each other.

Jack Mezirow developed transformative learning, but with one key difference, his focus is primarily on individual`s development although he does acknowledge group learning within his writing, but tends to downplay it.

"When groups engage in transformative learning, they undergo a dramatic fundamental change in the way they see themselves and the world in which they live" Sessa. V.I & London, M. (2006) Continuous Learning in Organisations. Lawrence Erlbaum, New Jersey. pg. 123 

Dynamic Thincing has a stronger conceptual affinity with Paolo Friere who has developed Transformative Learning to group learning and organisational learning as well as critical action.

Andy Grove co-founder of Intel talks about about the organisational level of group learning and how it can be related to companies, governments, NGO`s other groups.  It is more nebulous, however, there is a 'Strategic Inflection Point' (SIP) that he refers to, that is the moment in the organisation when it can either transform itself and grow anew or resist that transformation and enter a slow decline.  The important thing here is that learning from the SIP requires those running organisations to encourage and create environments for ‘creative chaos’, conflict and tension so that we can activate this Dynamic Thincing and avoid moving too quickly to stomp on this and enforce compliance.  Dialogue-done in different ways through different forms, such as dialogue with diverse creative expressions, not necessarily one form of art, a variety can be explored-this is crucial at this point so that the new organisational direction can be articulated by everybody.  It is then that there can then be ‘dramatic’ and fundamental change literally, involving drama, in the sense of ‘playing out’ scenarios and ideas that Mezirow was talking about.
  Through the common language of art we can find a unity of our diverse values and realities as they manifest themselves as creative expressions. 
  By this Dynamic Thincing we can find new ways, structures and solutions in times when all that is solid melts into air.  The result will be like a cloud being burned off by the enlightenment of our collective bright sun to the solutions that we so desperately need in every aspect of society.
A shorter version of this was read as a 3 min presentation at Falling Walls Lab in Munich on 6.7.'12