In 2020, DARIAH selected two streams of funding as part of the Theme funding call, ‘Arts Exchanges’ and ‘Arts, Humanities and COVID-19’. The call attracted a high number of well articulated and competitive applications, mainly addressing, perhaps not surprisingly, the topic of ‘Arts, Humanities and COVID-19’.
With an overall budget of 87.920 €, DARIAH funded nine projects for a year (December 2020 – December 2021). This series presents their results with a special focus on each of these projects.
Transversal Evening Class
Coordinator: Annett Busch
With the Transversal Evening Classes, the project team aimed to offer a method and a multicentered framework to learn, unlearn, act locally and reach out inter-locally, to go beyond our own imagination, attentive to everyday concerns. The team envisioned an open-ended infrastructure that would initiate and connect artistic investigations and research-based activities as collaborative ways of learning, taking place in different cities, landscapes, villages, and venues around the globe.
These classes were neither enclosed in classrooms, nor did they take place online. They were actually anything but a class as we know it but raised all kinds of class-related questions, aiming to understand the world and our neighbourhoods from the thick of things and not from a survey perspective—while coming from very different starting points and places. Instead of a central building, many different locations were adopted depending on what was being explored, along with a virtual platform that linked, but didn’t mirror the modules, prep hubs, and classes taking place on site.
A new method, a different pedagogy
The Transversal Evening Classes aimed to research the conditions and historic connections of what we are doing while doing what we are researching. The notion of the evening class also opens up an entry point to engage in conversations and a discourse on new challenges on divisions of labour, re-skilling and open access to education.
Classes, Places, Themes, Connections
The Transversal Evening Classes realised on site, with the support of the DARIAH funding and within the extended time frame (January 2021-June 2022), in Trondheim, Kigali and Oberhausen were:
- Slow Education (Sept 2021- Jan 2022, in collaboration with the Trondheim public library),
- Toward a Third – Traces of a Manifesto (Oct 2021 – Jan 2022, in collaboration with KIT/NTNU),
- Dutaramane-Buhanga (Kigali, Nov-Dec 2021 with Assumpta Mugiraneza/IRIBA Center, Stacy Hardy/Chimurenga & PASS, SA and Marie-Hélène Gutberlet/WoA),
- Synchro System (May 2022, with the International Film Festival Oberhausen).
How do we learn, engage and communicate through and with music? How does it shape our views, attitudes and ways of thinking? The evening class Slow Education consisted of a very different format, and offered a series of public listening sessions led by researchers, musicians, enthusiasts, and artists who narrated with and through music. The Trondheim folkebibliotek’s truly international vinyl selection served as a starting point to invite, present and share an array of listening habits and tastes, to unravel polyphonous narratives of and through popular and unpopular culture.
Toward a Third
The Evening Class Toward a Third had a different set-up, context and purpose. It was a series of screenings, readings and debates which happened at KIT/NTNU, partly with students of the Art Academy, partly with participants/visitors across faculties, mainly from the media and film department. This evening class really opened up conversations, connections and lasting relations, something that rarely happens in the hectiness of “everyday businesses”. The class also had screenings of films that are usually not part of the curriculum and could build a different common ground of references among the students.
This Evening Class was a week of intense discussions, presentations, encounters and of comprehensive research in relation to sorghum (millet) and its agri-cultural practice and history in Rwanda, its social implications and layered connotations and meanings in Kinyarwanda. The methodology applied had perhaps the most impact to participants in this class. What was noted as most surprising for the participants, was that the project team didn’t go with a “topic” or a “curriculum”, but only with a methodology.
The notion of the “untranslatable” in a place like Rwanda where language and speech is the core of all art, was an invitation to bring an object or a word that seemed impossible to translate. And indeed, each word written on the
blackboard could open up long and vivid conversations, leading to stories and misunderstandings. It brought much laughter, but at the same time, the trauma of the Genocide remained a profound element of the difficulty or impossibility to translate. While these conversations were again constantly translated within the group, switching between French, English, Kinyarwanda and its neighbouring Burundian variations, sometimes even German or Afrikaans came into play.
This was a large scale version of the Transversal Evening Class concept that took place at the International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen in May 2022. The programme itself had a focus on networks, working relations and conditions, and highlighted the importance of festivals in relation to African filmmaking. The project team followed again the methodology of the evening class, to research what we are doing and to realise what we are researching.
The evening class framework allowed to “co-own” the commissioned programme of the film festival, to use the festival itself again as a site of production, and not only of representation. The team managed for example to realise a long group-interview with young female filmmakers coming from six different countries, Salimata Bâ (Nouakchott), Yousra El-Gazzar (Cairo), Lina Alabed (Beirut), Rim Harrabi (Tunis), Amelia Umuhire (Berlin) and others. With over 15 guests the theme programme almost became a festival in itself, and it really created a vivid networking dynamic.
In addition to the “on site” classes with their concrete locality, “mid-air” classes were taking place “in between,” along the way and had a rather flexible time frame. The project team developed collaborative, open and changing research constellations and questions, exploring an approach called “sheep methodology”. Working from what Sarah Franklin calls “following sheep around,” entering fields and new terrains out of curiosity and interest, not knowing where it will take us, we seek out new radical entanglements and interwoven narratives.
More concretely, in this “mid-air evening class” the team worked around two activist-intellectuals, Ruth First and Henri Lefebvre, whose work and way of thinking seem absolutely relevant today, but both seem under acknowledged, or the impact they could actually have too limited to certain expert circles. The project team saw artistic documentary practice as the best tool and methodology to bring the two contemporaries into conversation with each other from today’s perspectives and questions.
The realised evening classes, in all their diversity, confirmed the initial idea and presumption that the collaborative format as an artistic methodology has great potential to transverse and reshape existing frameworks (e.g. within an institution),to create new ones outside and across institutions (independent, academic, cultural etc.), to foster meaningful as well as joyful ways of learning, to value different kinds of knowledge connected equally to the everyday, politics, art, and to encourage an aesthetics that undoes or goes beyond representation.
Project team: Harun Farocki Institut (HaFI) in collaboration with the artist group Women on Aeroplanes—agency for flying ideas Annett Busch (Berlin/Trondheim) and Marie-Hélène Gutberlet (Frankfurt/Main) together with Ayodele Arigbabu (Lagos), Jean-Pierre Bekolo (Yaoundé/Quartier Mozart), Elisa Bertuzzo (Berlin), Prerna Bishnoi (Trondheim), Garnette Cadogan (Boston), Kodwo Eshun (London/Berlin), Stacy Hardy (Polokwane), Louis Henderson (Berlin/Georgetown), Sehr Jalil (Lahore), Elke Marhöfer & Mikhail Lylov (Petralia Soprana), Assumpta Mugiraneza (KigalI), Alex Murray-Leslie (Chicks on Speed), Afrah Shafiq (Goa), Michael C. Vazquez (Brooklyn), the artist collective On-Trade-Off (Lubumbashi, Paris, Brussels, Sydney) among others.
* DARIAH Theme is an annual thematic priority set by the Board of Directors of DARIAH-EU. The aim is to stimulate activities and events related to an important topic of research in the digitally enabled arts and humanities by issuing a call for funding.