STUDENTS’ BIENNALE 2018 | THE EXPANDED EDUCATION PROGRAMME
THE SCHOOL OF EVERYDAY: PRACTICE AS PEDAGOGY
BY MRIGANKA MADHUKAILLYA
GUWAHATI | 1 - 7 November 2018
Participating Colleges: Government College of art and crafts, Guwahati; Kokrajhar Music and Fine Arts college, Kokrajhar, Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan; and Department of Fine Arts, Assam University, Silchar
A temporary laboratory of thinking and practice was set up in Guwahati for the workshop titled The School of Everyday: Practice as Pedagogy. The idea of the workshop was to create both in thought and practice a critical pedagogy in the future for the North-East region. Through an intense week of living and working together, the participants were given space to reflect on two key words – ‘Experience’ and ‘Experimentation’. Taking cues from the seminal essay by humanist geographer Yi-Fu Tuan titled Life as a Field trip, participants deepened their understanding of how these words played out in their practice. The week included a range of activities from reading and discussing, to presentations by practitioners from various fields, daily sessions on self-awareness with mental health experts, film screenings and walks through different parts of Guwahati doing various ‘field’ exercises and using the experiences and observations gathered to provide a context for work.
What was interesting about the workshop was the composition of its mentors and the participants. The participants came from different art institutions in Assam - Guwahati, Silchar and Kokrajhar, and also Mizoram and Santiniketan. In terms of mentors, the core educator Mriganka invited other resource persons to intervene and shape the workshop– this included artists like Maneshwar Brahma, Nikhileshwar Barua, Raj Kumar Mazinder and Debananda Ulup and the archaeologist Manzil Hazarika. The daily sessions on self-awareness and mindfulness were carried out Dr Sangeeta Goswami and Abhijit Goswami from MIND India. Both of them have been working extensively across Assam to provide tools to young people to improve their critical and creative faculties as well as strengthen their coping and negotiating skills. And finally the logistical support and participation of the members of the Guwahati based artist collective ANGA Northeast – which included Dharmendra Prasad, Sanjib Kalita and Ankan Dutta – added an important dimension to the workshop where the questions of pedagogy, conditions of working and infrastructure were also reflected upon by young artists practicing in the city. The focus of the workshop was not so much to provide participants with insight into a new medium or thematics but to reorient their idea of practice itself and to prepare the ground for an interdisciplinary approach which relied on different knowledge systems - art, ecology, archaeology, technology etc. It encouraged them to expand their sites of production and engagements with the city at large, and explore new constellations of artistic collaborations and relationships, and ways of engaging with the public domain.
The workshop was developed by Mriganka Madhukaillya, Assistant Professor, in the Design Department at the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati. He co-founded Desire Machine Collective in 2004 with Sonal Jain. In 2007 he co-initiated Periferry, an alternative artist-led space situated on the M. V. Chandardinga, a ferry docked on the Brahmaputra River in Guwahati. He also founded the Media Lab as an interdisciplinary centre within Department of Design for experiments with digital forms of design and learning. The main focus is on film, video, audio, new media, digital culture and technology. The purpose is to promote the creative use of new technologies by providing a collaborative environment for research and experimentation at the intersection of art, technology and culture.
The workshop took place in a newly instituted space Agora, which has been newly founded by the artist collective Periferry and MIND India, Institute of Positive Mental Health & Research.