Readings for 19th February

The classroom: a problem or a mystery? 
Dr Ian Munday
An interesting paper, which only really began to make sense from a teaching point of view in the conclusion (which Munday himself recognises). As someone interested (obviously) in the nature of creativity, creative processes and actually mystery as a concept, I found some parts resonated with my experiences and thinking. In particular this idea of transcending having into being (at one with/part of), as in the example of a gardener or someone playing the violin, or Stuart making his guitar seem ‘part of him’ when playing. This idea of having being basically negative, and being being a more positive form of relationships with ‘things’ is one felt uplifted by, and could recognise from my own experiences in playing an instrument or using creative tools to make something. I think this is a beautiful idea.
Mapping my own pidgin philosophy onto this, I find the emphasis on the transcendence/immersion of mystery vs the reductive quality of problems as obstacles chimes with my general feelings about order and detail vs a more free or messy outlook. Not that mystery is messy, but when Munday does finally come around to placing these ideas into a classroom setting, then the potential becomes very alluring. This rejection of treating students or the activities of a classroom as problems to be surmounted or overcome (like the guitar is to Michael)  and instead treating the classroom as a space in which people, things and ideas can interact organically and without a predetermined end result (as I think he means, reading into the comments on scaffolding) deserves further investigation. His reference to scaffolding is an interesting critique. It’s something that i’ve heard but not been fully aware of or trained in, but I know basically what it means – the metaphor is visually explanatory enough – but Munday is making the point that even in that idea/technique the outcome (ie the outline of the building) is already predetermined, so how organic a process is it, and how much mystery is there involved in this?

I’m excited about the potential of classrooms being “allowed to be spaces of mystery”, the result or perhaps process of which he perhaps alludes to earlier when he says “…the classroom itself could become a living breathing organism. This would involve the kind of ―spillage‖ that could be affirmed. I am not suggesting here that this involve some sort of uniform coming together of hitherto disparate elements; each organism would be radically different and things would not always be smooth.”

I am absorbing this into my teaching muscles.

Gadamer: Art and the Ethics of Play
Vilhauer

This is very dense and repetitive, although I suppose it needs to be. I found it difficult to relate these ideas initially to teaching practice, or relationships between teachers, learners etc but in bringing together my thoughts I think I have some idea of how that might be relevant.

I had a strong image about the idea of play being something that grows out of the game/the action of participants – it sort of enlarging and growing and immersing the players like a bubble being blown with one of those bubble sticks and it just getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Play being something that exists as an entity bigger and outside of human interactions, but being engendered by it (sometimes) and wrapped up in and around it. Its a complicated thing to articulate.

The back and forth thing resonated too, that there always needs to be a call and response action, or another player, whether that be a person or an object of a circumstance/property of an object like the ball example. I am always talking about restrictions/limitations because i teach on (and am a professional in) brief-based courses, where the brief sets limitations such as size, number of images, context, timescale etc. I find limitations to be useful and creatively catalytic. I also approach a lot of work as a ‘game’ with ‘moves’. So I feel like I am invested in ideas of play being important to work or ‘serious’ endeavours, and its good to read more thoroughly about that. I picked up on the idea that restrictions make the thing a game, rather than pure open-ended play, and that was what caused this link as expressed above. Also this idea that seriousness is essential, that the player needs to be totally committed to the game – well I totally agree with that even in a literal sense of playing a game, you need to be committed. It is cathartic and relaxing to play a game where there is no real peril, yet you are totally committed to it, you have to be in order for it to work or feel like a useful experience. I have often thought about how football worked for me as a player (it was a big part of my life between the ages of 8 and 18). The abandon to the game, the fluidity of interaction, the rules being understood by everybody, meaning the possibility of communication without verbal language. The getting outside of oneself etc. In my creative practice or in workshops I recognise the same elements of play and interaction of the players at work.

The later parts I feel are quite uneccessary after the first points are made – I think I get how these ideas work applied to theatre, the plastic arts, literature without it having to be spelled out. It did make me wonder how this would be applied now to contemporary art, even modern art – where a ‘picture’ is not always representational and is not always ostensibly representational of some truth. Would Gadamer say it is still presenting/showing something that is part of reality? I suppose he would make the same case, and possibly I would too.

So the game/sense of play is rooted in my experience of life and art and interacting with people. I think the back-and-forth motion needed to make this happen is identifiable in lots of areas, and now i’ve also absorbed this for use in my teaching practice. Food for thought, i need to see how i can use this thinking more actively/consciously as I continue with my practice. Really I felt I picked up more ideas and more things resonated in the first few sections rather than the latter half.