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Exploring the Possible 6 March 2018
– Matilda Löytty –
Writing about students who took his courses, Deleuze (1990/1995) explains, ‘nobody took in everything, but everyone took what they needed or wanted, what they could use’ (p. 139).
(St. Pierre, 2004, p 287)
As our two years MA programme in Nordic Visual Studies and Art Education is coming to its end, all of us students are faced with the question, what’s next? Often, one becomes blind to their own learnings and only afterwards do they come to realize what progress has occurred. In this article I wish to reflect on NoVA, with retrospect (and a bit of nostalgia) and ask what in this context, might be meant by end, future or the possible?
To answer, I would like to share a story about my current preparations for an upcoming art exhibition with a fellow NoVA student, Aina Bexel. But before that, I will go back in time, to the first group assignments for the courses Visual Cultures and Aesthetics in Digital Communication and Learning Designs and Gamification, during the first NoVA symposium, held in Aalborg University, Denmark in 2016. We all had just met each other and were randomly put into small groups. My group consisted of Alexandra Stroganova from Russia (who at the time identified herself as an art teacher, in reference to her previous position in St. Petersburg International School), Solip Park from Korea (who told us about her work experience in Nexon Computer Museum in Korea which left us in awe) and I (still very enthusiastic about community art back then).
The first half of our project planning was spent being lost in translation, staring at each other with confusion, while being in between getting to know our new classmates, getting used to our different disciplinary and cultural backgrounds and ways of working. Everything was done in English, which is a shared second language.
I will not go into details about what our projects were about, but they turned out successful and it is safe to say that we remained in good terms, moreover, learned to pick useful habits from each other. The reason I shared this small flashback is because I wanted to paint the picture of the NoVA students coming together from all over the world having diverse backgrounds and indicate some of the benefits gained in cross disciplinary projects.
Coming back to today, and my current involvement in a future exhibition which is a part of the 30th APECV Art Education congress in Coimbra, Portugal, I suddenly realize with nostalgia how much we are all entangled and how easy and natural working together in the NoVA community has become.
Bexell and I started planning a shared exhibition about feminist issues months before the opportunity appeared. One could say it was a continuity of shared thoughts mostly during the five months exchange period in Oslo and shared projects which included public art interventions such as “Trees of Helsinki” and “Make a Point” and the recent exhibition called Visual Conversations with Cosmic Silence at NODE Gallery along with other fellow NoVA students.
All of this resulted in a natural progression of producing yet another shared project, only this time it was not part of any university assignment. Looking back, I cannot take for granted the ability for collaborative work. Today, I can say that I have great appreciation, not just for our teachers and courses, but for the development that can only happen through living. My skills and world views are undeniably influenced by other students, such as Stroganova and Park, through shared struggles for common aims.
Should this then be considered the end? I argue that the connections we have established during the earlier mentioned processes, are almost impossible to diminish. But what then could the future hold, what is the possible? To answer this, I want to share a quote from Elizabeth Adams St. Pierre’s (2004) text Deleuzian Concepts for Education: The subject undone, which we read in a course called Critical Social Issues in Art Education, taught by Prof. Kevin Tavin. “So you will never get to the bottom of a concept like multiplicity, you will never be able to figure out what it really means.” (St. Pierre, 2004, p. 284). Discouraging isn’t it? I think not. This is one of the most beautiful concepts I have learned during my studies: Never being able to figure out. What the author means by this is we can give up worrying about what might have been intended by the author (Deleuze) and use concepts in our own work ‘‘to free life from where it’s trapped, to trace lines of flight’ (Deleuze, 1990/1995, p. 141) into a different way of being in the world.’’ (St. Pierre, 2004, p. 285). Following this though, the possible could be tracing lines of flight into different ways of being in the world, connecting things and for ever becoming. Considering our past studies, instead of trying to make sure that we have understood everything and close that chapter in our life, we can ask ‘Does it work? what new thoughts does it make possible to think? what new emotions does it make possible to feel? what new sensations and perceptions does it open in the body?’ (Massumi, 1992, p. 8).
To elaborate even more what the possible could consist of, I would like to describe Bexell’s and my upcoming exhibition about artistic-pedagogical practices.
Conversations presents a mixed media exhibition based around the idea of communication through informal learning processes. It is inspired by our perceived need for there to be positive discussions between people, and our wish to bring to the foreground this possibility.
Through joint discussion and individual visual creations that come out of informal learning strategies, the results are two subject positions within one conversation that leads to two outcomes. These two outcomes are art objects that find themselves in constant entanglement with each other and the viewer. The work also investigates the crossroads of Self and the Other in the learning event.
For me this comes as close to the experience of NoVA studies and our future as possible. Being in an entangled, close community and through mutual appreciation, ending up in multiple subject positions and outcomes resulting in exponential possibilities.
Reflecting on this, Bexell and I both use artistic methodology processes and own techniques to discuss and create knowledge about the same conversation, including feminist, emancipatory, pedagogical and participatory issues. However, around the shared conversation, separate works will be created. This presents a possibility of comparative approach and reflection on individual learning processes, which then again, can be shared in mutual respect.
The outcome of Conversations, just as the of out NoVA students remains unexpected and unpredictable. Working with the unpredictable presents the possibility to reflect and critique on cultural contexts (or question their existence), different opinions and views, artistic knowledge, motives, attempts, failures, misunderstandings, achievements, subjective, cultural, historical or societal influences, self-expression, communication and conscious or subconscious meaning making. I consider our exhibition, a summing up of our passed years a readthrough of the entangled, multisensory experience, but not a closing of a chapter but a view into the future, into the possible.
St. Pierre, E. A. (2004) Deleuzian concepts for education
Massumi, B. (1992) A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and
Guattari (Cambridge, MIT Press).
An Exhibition about Artistic-pedagogical practices
Keywords: Feminist issues; Emancipatory pedagogy; Participation
Artists: Aina Bexell and Matilda Löytty
Aina Bexell is a Lusoswede human currently residing in Finland. Her academic and professional focus has always had a strong link to intercultural communication and advocates for interdisciplinarity in the curriculum. She has a particular interest for material-discursive entanglements.
The NoVA article contributor Matilda Löytty is an experimental, mixed media visual artist from Finland. Her contribution to “Conversations” include painting, drawing and photographic collages, also intertwining with Bexell’s work. Löytty has been exhibiting and working on artistic projects across borders in Finland, other Nordic countries and Namibia. She is interested in inter- and cross-cultural discourses and the intersection of art, cultural history and society.
To see more of Löytty’s work, visit:
Masters in Nordic Visual Studies and Art Education Introduction 19 December 2017
Nordic Visual Studies and Art Education (NoVA) accepts new students every second year.
Next admission time for studies to start in the FALL 2018 is December 15, 2017 – January 24, 2018.
As a part of my NoVA studies I spent the spring semester 2017 in exchange at Aalborg University – Copenhagen in Denmark. In a course project we studied CAMP – Center for Art on Migration Politics. I am sharing some insights from my experiences during the exchange.
Walking in Copenhagen & the location of CAMP
De Certau writes about walking in a city in the following way: “In the framework of enunciation, the walker constitutes, in relation to his position, both a near and a far, a here and a there” (de Certeau, 2011, 99). I walked the streets of Amager East, where I lived during my stay in Copenhagen, and mapping the streets in the local neighbourhood made me feel a bit more like home in a town where I was a stranger.
During our project work we walked a lot in the local neighbourhood where CAMP was situated. Through our walks we got an insight of how important the location of CAMP is. Passing over the bridge from Nørrebro towards Nørreport made us realise how the physical location of CAMP matters. This realisation made us see more clearly the multi-facetted aims of CAMP and the Trampoline House. They are both interventions, disrupting the conventional, giving practical examples of what to do for real.
The exhibition visitor have to literally walk through the “symbolical conflict zone” when entering CAMP, an exhibition venue for contemporary art, because first you enter Trampoline House. Trampoline House is the community centre for refugees and asylum seekers in Nørrebro. The place where refugees and asylum seekers, real people in a harsh situation, spend their time in midst of different activities, and who gather every day around a community dinner. Real people with experiences of conflicts, crisis and wars, of forced migration.
In my reading, CAMP can be seen to exist in many places/spaces, both online and in the realm of contemporary art, and beyond, but it also has this physical location. CAMP does not merely speak through the artworks on the walls in the exhibition space, or through giving the artists a voice to talk about their experiences of forced migration in their artworks or at the discussion event. CAMP speaks also through the voice of the exhibition tour guide, who has personal experiences of being an asylum seeker in Denmark. And CAMP speaks through the people spending time at the Trampoline House community center.
For me this setting is thought provoking and emotional. Through (art in) this real-life place, you can be, or rather, will be, encountered eye-to-eye with a real person, who looks back at you – a real person, who has been forced to flee from the home country – maybe to a state of exile without a possibility to return. And the here and there suddenly looses its meaning, as we are both here. The question is, what can I DO-FOR-REAL in my (we in our) everyday life, so we all can live side-by-side, and also, talk with each other, and share a look into each others eyes (as a start).
The exhibition venue, and the artworks, are to my reading, used as platforms, through which people from different backgrounds can meet, through talk and discussion (or just occupying the same space together). For me the physical location, the meetings with people at CAMP and Trampoline House, became extremely important, touching and emotional – life changing. The right to look, the right to be seen equals according to Nicholas Mirzoeff the right to exist. Mirzoeff writes about the transaction of looking, and about the importance of acknowledging the other person you might be looking: “the right to look is not about merely seeing. It begins at a personal level with the look into someone else’s eyes to express friendship, solidarity, or love. That look must be mutual, each inventing the other, or it fails. As such, it is unrepresentable” (Mirzoeff, 2011, 473).
Aftermath: Attending a talk at CAMP and meeting Mirzoeff
Visual culture studies research how seeing and looking are constituted, and these studies make us aware of how the visual culture created all around us in the world, impact us in our everyday lives. According to Nicholas Mirzoeff how we learned to see shape our view of the world (Mirzoeff, 1998).
One Friday evening in June Mr. Mirzoeff came to CAMP to have a talk about “seeing the world and changing the world”. At the talk Mr. Mirzoeff positioned himself as a person with migrant experience, with similar experiences as the people at the community center Trampoline House, where the talk took place.
In my reading the message Mr. Mirzoeff’s talk was, that the future is a collective future, where people gather to counter the oppressing regimes and systems, together. It is collective assemblies gathered by hashtags and virtual calls through social media, as collectives and agendas are animated into action through the mobile phone and the internet, through the visual accounts on Instagram and Twitter.
Mr. Mirzoeff argues in his book “How to See the World” (and which his talk was based on) that: “Visual culture involves the things that we see, the mental model we all have of how to see, and what we can do as a result. That is why we call it visual culture: a culture of the visual. A visual culture is not simply the total amount of what has been made to be seen, such as paintings or films. A visual culture is the relation between what is visible and the names that we give to what is seen. It also involves what is invisible or kept out of sight. In short, we don’t simply see what there is to see and call it a visual culture. Rather, we assemble a world-view that is consistent with what we know and have already experienced” (Mirzoeff, 2015, 11).
We got to hug Mr. Mirzoeff in the end of the event. We also got hugs from the CAMP curators, Tone Olaf Nielsen and Fredrikke Hansen (Kuratorisk Aktion). Mr. Mirzoeff said: “Take care”, and I returned the wish.
In my field notes I had written: “CAMP is also present on my mobile flow on Instagram almost everyday, in a frequent schedule. CAMP is on my mobile phone, I carry CAMP with me”.
de Certeau, Michel. (2011). The Practice of Everyday Life. 3rd Edition. University of California Press.
Mirzoeff, N. (1998). What is visual culture? (ed.) The Visual Culture Reader. 3-13. New York: Routledge.
Mirzoeff, N. (2011). The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality. Critical Inquiry, 37(3), 473-496.
Mirzoeff, N. (2015). How to See the Wold. Penguin Books.
More on CAMP at http://campcph.org/
More on Trampoline House at https://www.trampolinehouse.dk/
Eija Mäkivuoti is a Helsinki-based photographic artist and work with non-commercial long-term photo documentary projects. She also photographs performing arts such as music and performance art. She is a poet as a documentarian. She holds a BA level degree in Photography from the Lahti Design Institute (Lahti University of Applied Sciences) and was trained as a visual artist before that. She is a member of the Photographic Artists’ Association in Finland and part of the artArctica network. She is the chair of Tjaldur – the friendship association Finland-Faroe Islands. At the moment she is studying in the Master’s degree programme – Nordic Visual Studies and Art Education (NoVA) at Aalto University in Helsinki.
Call for Application: Masters in NoVA 27 November 2017
Master’s in Nordic Visual Studies and Art Education (MA NoVA) at AALTO University opens for application on December 15, 2017. The application should satisfy both the AALTO University requirements and guidelines found here and the program specific requirements stated here.
Good luck and get started!
Visual Conversations with Cosmic Silence 22 October 2017
“The First NoVA Art Exhibition”
Visual Conversations with Cosmic Silence is an ongoing exhibition by MA NoVA students at NODE Gallery. The show runs till the 27th of October, 2017. All the works presented in the exhibition have varied media and techniques. What they have in common is an investigative approach to visual conversations. Some are breaking away from traditions of visual representations and others try to visualize the invisible. Having contributors from different professional, educational and cultural backgrounds; Interculturalism is a recurring theme.
Photos by Myrto Theocharidou
A Land versus The Land artwork consists of two analogue photographs taken in Bergen, Norway in Spring 2017. This artwork explores the concepts of land and identity in terms of visual culture. How is the concept of land perceived by the spectator with or without signifiers that alter our inherent reading of the landscape? Signifiers of national identity such as the flag carries certain markers of both cultural content as well as identity or ownership. The flag as an element introduced into unharnessed nature reshapes the raw matter of rocks and vegetation into a new relationship where culturally constructed concepts of representation like customs and traditions, shared history and the imagined community of the nation state are embedded into the otherwise culturally indifferent nature.
Alexandra Stroganova (born 1990 in Moscow, Russia) is a second year Nordic Visual Studies and Art Education Master student at Aalto University. Her main interest is currently focused on such phenomena as place and space along with contemporary art, street art, creative placemaking phenomenon and art in public spaces. Photography has been her main hobby since 2007. She is a self-taught photographer, who is using different analogue cameras and films in her artistic practice.
Myrto Theocharidou has a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual and Performing Art, with directions on painting, however, painting is not her main practice she works on other expressive tools as photography, engraving, and paper-cutting installations.
Yonic conversations is an attempt at presenting female genitals in a positive perspective according to the artist’s own path of self-discovery. Each vulva is able to have a conversation with the spectator and reflect back upon her what she feels towards her own body.
Aina Bexell is a Luso-Swede human currently exploring herself through embroidery while considering the implications of how non-human objects’ agencies affect her (self).
The portraits have been created based on discussions around participant’s personal memories and stories about their Grandmothers. No visual material was presented for the artist before the pictures were finished. Included are favourite recipes from the Matriarchs, another way of breaking away from the more traditional, photographic representation of humans.
Matilda Löytty is a visual artist from Finland. Löytty started her career as an experimental mixed media painter, but she has since been involved with illustrations, environmental art and installations. Lately, in addition to her more traditional art practices, she has been involved with participatory public art and urban interventions. She is interested in cross-cultural discourses and the intersection of art and society Löytty has been exhibiting and working on artistic projects across borders in Finland, other Nordic countries and Namibia. Currently she lives and works in Helsinki, Finland.
This illustration book is a dialogue about Nature / Forest between kids from Shanghai Shixi Primary School in China, and Tehtaankadun ala-aste in Finland. Forest is a very important resource both to Finland and China, which is also a pedagogy for health and sustainable education and cooperation. Maybe you will find some interesting answers from kids’ questions and discussions, like “who is the king in the forest”, and “who is taking care of the forest”. The book was publish in 2016 August.
Zhao Jie is an MA student in Aalto University, Nordic Visual Study and Art Education program, (NOVA). Before she came to Finland, Jie worked as a lecturer in Shanghai Institution of Visual Art in graphic department. Engaging classroom to society practice is her goal as a teacher. After 2012, she worked in SHTYPE design studio (www.shtype.org). Cooperations between the Nordic and China opened her way to Finland.
Transforming between texts and images, becoming in the exile, Jie’s current research is about how to embed her culture heritage, Chinese characters into art education practice in cross cultural context.
“Art, Together”, uses digitized art from the museum with the context of democracy and art. It is taken with the format of a participatory art project in Design-Based Research approach, in collaboration with The National Gallery of Denmark (SMK). Our initial design of “Art, Together – Origami ver.” alters the museum’s digitized art provided by SMK Open, with a paper handcraft activity. The design has gained positive responses from the participants throughout the focus group and playtest process, experiencing the enhancement of ownership towards art. This proved that the participatory art can enhance the belonging and togetherness that produces new cultural and social activism.
Solip Park / www.parksolip.com. Solip is a former Researcher and International Relations Coordinator of Nexon Computer Museum (South Korea). She is currently furthering her studies with the concentration on game, education and lifelong learning in the digital era.
Sara Emilie Nygaard –https://saranygaardportfolio.wixsite.com/saraemilienygaard– has a Bachelor’s Degree in Art and Design with a specialization in art dissemination. She paints and works with analogue photography as well as dabble in projects related to participatory art and performance art.
This series comments a phenomena within travel photography and mass tourism. The travellers all come to the same spot, take almost the same photo. In this case the focal point is the waterfall in Gásadalur, which is the most photographed place in the Faroe Islands. There has been a change within the past few years in how Faroe Islands are branded and marketed through visual imagery. The aim is to attract the adventure explorer traveller, the heroic travel photographer and the hipster, to “discover the undiscovered lands”, and the travellers do exactly that – portray the remote wilderness and the cute little villages with roof tops. The travellers portray majestic and sublime landscape sceneries that can be further used in marketing the lands to an ever growing mass of contemporary explorers arriving to these lands to claim the same sceneries. The heroic explorer traveller places one person in the picturesque landscape. It is the archetype of this contemporary explorer (the tourist, the brief visitor), who had this specific destination on their bucket list. The evidence can be published on Instagram so it can be used for further marketing. The aesthetics for this kind of (commercial) landscape and travel photography derive from the romantic era landscape painting, in the spirit of David Kaspar Friedrich and his painting “The Wanderer above the Fog” (1818). The gaze of the tourist, as far his eyes can see, claims these unmarked territories (or so they are let to believe).
Eija Mäkivuoti is a Helsinki-based photographic artist and work with non-commercial long-term photo documentary projects. She also photographs performing arts such as music and performance art. She is a poet as a documentarian. She holds a BA level degree in photography from the Lahti Design Institute (Lahti University of Applied Sciences) and are previously also trained as a visual artist. She is a member of the Photographic Artists’ Association in Finland and part of the artArctica network. She is the chair of Tjaldur – the friendship association Finland-Faroe Islands. At the moment she is studying in the Master’s degree programme Nordic Visual Studies and Art Education (NoVA) at Aalto University in Helsinki.
This Video Art/Documentation is a result of a micro ethnography exercise conducted at Telefonplan, an area in Stockholm. The task was to see Telefonplan from the perspective of a child and that of an adult. We were exposed to the challenges, improvisations, realizations and new insights through bodily experiences, unconventional interviews and other interactions both with individuals and technology. By attempting to view Telefonplan from a child’s perspective, the researcher used her body as a medium.
Using a/r/tography as our methodology, this camera eye has enabled us to shift our positions in the process of perceiving.
In this exhibition, a parallel view of the different perspectives about observing the same process is a communicative visual event. With this medium, our material has taken a new form and a variety of translations through the viewer’s lenses. We are disrupting the idea of conservative ways of research that define rigid objective and subjective oppositions.
Marie Blachmann is a second year MA Communication student with a specialization in NoVA at Aalborg University, Copenhagen. Her interest lies within the sensory field and exploring how to communicate aesthetic experiences.
Allen Damzel Centina is a NoVA student at AALTO University. A graduate of Fine Arts from the University of the Philippines, she is currently exploring concepts of Critical and Democratic Pedagogy within informal learning situations. Her interest stems from years of experience in the field of art education both in the Philippines and Singapore.
Yu Ziyu is a current MA NoVA student. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History in Central Academy of Fine Arts (Beijing, China). She is now in the process of becoming and ongoing as a NoVA student and future a/r/tographer, with her developing interests in moving images and cultural ethnography.