School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Experiences in 'unlearning'

March 2016

By Wanda Praamsma
 

Series of events invites participants to critically explore self and world through experimental and experiential means.

Shalon Webber-Heffernan hopes that a series of performances and campus-wide events that she’s curated for her master’s thesis in cultural studies will help people think about pedagogy through a different lens – as an embodied experience.

Toronto-based artist Golboo Amani

Toronto-based artist Golboo Amani is part of the Performing Pedagogies events and will bring her School of Bartered Knowledge, a participatory practice in which she asks people to share with her any knowledge they have. Ms. Amani keeps a record of all the "bartered knowledge" she receives. [Photo courtesy of Golboo Amani].

“It’s possible to argue that any experience is an embodied experience – because our bodies are present for every experience we have,” says Ms. Webber-Heffernan. “But ‘embodiment’ and emotional knowledge are not really subjects that are truly integrated into the academic context of learning. In a way, my thesis really questions the processes of knowledge exchange that happen within institutional and neoliberal conditions, and then uses those conditions as a setting for exploring ideas of unlearning.”

Much of Ms. Webber-Heffernan’s research creation project centres around the notion of a “hidden” or “secret” curriculum – theories investigated by scholar and cultural critic Henry Giroux.

“He asks the question, what do we learn that we don’t realize we’re learning?” says Ms. Webber-Heffernan, who is studying under the supervision of Professor Clive Robertson, and working collaboratively with Professor Keren Zaiontz’s undergraduate class, Film 338: Contemporary Issues in Cultural Studies, and The School for Eventual Vacancy in Vancouver.

“My thesis creation project is about unlearning the dominant ideologies that we unquestioningly believe to be true, and using the experiential processes of performance art to corporeally examine ideas of critical race theory, post-colonial theory, gender, sexuality, aging, etc.”

For the series of events – called Performing Pedagogies – Ms. Webber-Heffernan has invited numerous local, national and international artists to take part in several performances, a “Distance Education” exhibition, a panel discussion, and an all-day workshop led by Saul Garcia-Lopez of La Pocha Nostra, an international performance art troupe based in the U.S. and Mexico.

“I am ecstatic about all the artists participating and their willingness to work with me on this project. And it is really exciting to have Saul of La Pocha Nostra here teaching their radical performance pedagogy through the workshop,” says Ms. Webber-Heffernan, who went to Tijuana last summer to take a workshop with the group.

“Their work blends hands-on exercises from various traditions such as shamanism, experimental theatre and dance, the Suzuki method. It is transformative work that challenges people to encounter ‘the other,’ embrace the differences we find amongst ourselves, and face fears. You leave with a deeper sense of understanding, of your self and each other.”

Shalon Webber-Heffeman

Cultural studies master's student Shalon Webber-Heffernan curated Performing Pedagogies as part of her thesis creation project

With a background in dance and performance art, Ms. Webber-Heffernan says she’s always had a deep connection with the body and “embodied” experiences, and believes that being a socially engaged and ethical being stems from the awareness and knowledge that comes from those experiences.

“It’s all very pedagogical and capable of changing your perspective,” she says. “And that’s what I hope for these events – that they encourage people of all backgrounds and disciplines to think critically and perhaps examine hidden parts of themselves and society.”

Performing Pedagogies takes place March 14-21. It brings together many artists, including Kingston artist Andrew Rabyniuk, Toronto’s Golboo Amani, Basil AlZeri and Francisco-Fernando Granados, Saul Garcia-Lopez, and The School for Eventual Vacancy. The events take place at the Union Gallery, Stauffer Library Loggia, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and the Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts.

For more information, visit the Performing Pedagogies page on Facebook, or contact Ms. Webber-Heffernan.

This article originally appeared in the Queen's Gazette. It is reposted with permission.

 

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