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Texting, dancing, interacting, expanding the image

02 July 2009

Live blogging from the Teachers' Academy, Sofia, 1-4 July

There's nothing like Loyke Lomine's body language. When I came to his presentation on sms learning I was just out of a workshop on Qiang dance. The Qiang are an ethnical minority in China whose dances, Zhang Ping tells us, bear the character of a mountain people's body language. The Qiang cultural heritage suffered badly from last year's earthquake, and Zhang and his wife are very active preserving it. Here, while we see it on video, his wife reproduces Qiang dance on stage. We should get a professional dancer to reproduce Loykie's presentation too I guess. Still, Loyke believes in texting as a tool for teaching – and sets us to the assignment of thinking what we could with it ourselves. While talking with the persons next to them, the audience reveals itself as a blackberry crowd, taking the opportunity to text a few notes around. If it doesn't work out, it's not because the teachers don't know their way with modern technology.

"I don't believe in a separation of brain and heart", says Axel Vogelsang, who's presenting the course he gave on Expanded Image. It's just a matter of giving the students the right tools. And if they know their way with plugin devices and interactive software, they can create new means to tell stories with images: not with classical static or moving images, but with environments that interact. Cellars where you can shine a light, attics where the furniture becomes alive. And even with low-tech means, you can create art that quite literally assaults the viewer. Das Schöne ist nur des Schrecklichen Anfang?

Kevin James Henry claims that designers could learn from developments in visual culture. There's no reason to deplore that images are now overflooding us from community sites and mobile phones - it should teach us, rather, to think of the image as a way of interacting. And likewise, designers should get rid of the idea of a 'god-designer' and find a more open and interactive attitude to their environment. Images may be going the way of chatter – like most verbal communication, just checking whether we're still talking to each other – but it also leads us to perceive beauty in the commonplace, and to find new ways of sharing it. And this, Henry tells us, you could compare to storytelling in that it explores alternative scenarios, new languages of form.

We've been presenting ...I see you: The Language of the Arts and Intercultural Dialogue. This is the name of a film we made in 2007 with students from film and art schools around Europe, exploring the dialogue between cultures in a compilation of art film, documentary, animation, and even music video and mock commercial. Last year we've been making a book to document the project. I shouldn't tell to much about it here – you can read it all at http://www.eliaartschools.org/activities/film, and see a 20-minute version at http://www.jotta.com/jotta/view/content?contentId=807842 - but we were very pleased to hear Dick Ross comment that “I've seen at least ten of such collective projects, and you've done something incredible in that you've actually brought it to a close.”

And then, there was the artesnet plenary. This can be very dry and bureaucratic if you talk about it as 'a thematic network for Higher Arts Education that concerns itself with creative partnerships, quality assurance and enhancement, and new educational strategies and programmes'. It's less dry and bureaucratic if you hear four people talk about the Springdance festival from four different perspectives, relating how working with design students changed the festival and their education. Quality assurance, John Butler says, is bureaucratic only if it's imposed from above and outside; but taking care of good education is not. And exploring the future of Higher Arts Education may be an impossible task, but the thing is to find the good examples.

The rain has stopped. Most missing luggage has been retrieved. And we're halfway artesnet. I'm just sorry I don't have any pictures yet.


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