“Art + Reconciliation” – a learning and sharing platform

Adrian Stimson, residency output Adrian Stimson printed out this piece, and writes this about it on his fb page: “First work printed large scale, now to frame it then figure out if I am going to add a couple elements to make it an installation… the piece is called ‘Aggressive Assimilation'”

I unplugged last week, and when I returned to work Monday reoriented myself by reviewing the OLDaily that I had missed. Among the many goodies was a pointer to 40 Days of Dating, a creative and engaging investigation by an oddly-arranged couple in New York City. I was struck by Stephen Downes’s assessment: “I don’t think people understand yet that this is online learning. Not courses and stuff.”

I found myself relating to Stephen’s observation while watching the rapid evolution of the newly-launched “Art + Reconciliation” (AKA rMOOC) site, which is being driven by TRU professor Ashok Mathur and a wide range of collaborators:

“Art+Reconciliation,” is a MOOC that will address how artistic practices can engage in questions of reconciliation, most particularly in the Canadian context of residential schools and the associated and ongoing Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

As part of our process we will examine the history of the residential school system in Canada, discuss strategies of creating and increasing an awareness of Indigenous practices and histories from Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal perspectives, engage in a critical inquiry of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools, and all the while think through how artistic media can be a driving force in this articulation.

…This is a no-fee, non-credit course whose purpose is to create a learning and sharing platform where all participants can become better informed on the various histories, contexts, and politics that surround the topic of Truth and Reconciliation. Our particular lens will be on artistic practice, and one of our major contributing events is an ongoing arts residency, with twelve participants coming to Kamloops to work in the Thompson Rivers University visual arts studios, for a four-week program.

We hope/plan to have these artists contributing dialogue to this MOOC, through their own posts but also through various forms of video and photo examples of their ongoing processes.

Youth workshop

Collage of images from the youth workshop on graffiti

So while Ashok has chosen “MOOC” to characterize this activity, the rMOOC site itself behaves a lot less like the venture capitalized disruptions we usually read about, instead drawing on the form’s Connectivist roots, and more explicitly modeled on recent manifestations such as DS106 and #ETMOOC. That should not be so surprising, as we are immensely fortunate to have a big bad CogDog providing his unmistakable brand of wizardry. I’ve known, worked with, and avidly read Alan Levine for about a decade now, so it’s not as if I was unaware of his gifts. Nonetheless, watching how he has so fluently drawn on his bottomless bag of tricks to match tools/techniques with the special requirements of this project has taken my admiration and appreciation to a whole new level. The site is syndicating contributions from an array of sources, inviting contributions from multiple platforms, even publishing from email. The site is not designed to push pre-packaged learning at consumer/students. It’s hoped that that it will serve to facilitate, capture, share, and augment experiences.

Skookum Sound System will be in Kamloops this Friday, July 26, playing the Yacht Club! The vid above is a mashup called “Vampire Slayer-Buffy St Marie remix”.

So far contributions to the site have focused on the activities of the resident artists, while also pointing to relevant events such as the video feed for this week’s hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission from Hobbema. Soon, a series of featured guests will share perspectives and initiate discussions. And to be honest, I expect that the coming weeks will see rMOOC go in all manner of unexpected directions… I think this online space will have a different shape when the scheduled run comes to a conclusion September 30th.

In addition to all the formal and technical elements, I also anticipate being challenged in a number of respects throughout the experience. I’ve alluded in the past to the dark history surrounding Canada’s residential schools. It’s a history I’ve only begun to learn, and horrible new wrinkles continue to be unearthed. Over the past couple weeks, Canadians have been confronted by news reports drawing on research from Historian Ian Mosby demonstrating that in the 1940’s and 1950’s our leading nutritional experts (including the co-inventor of Pablum), on behalf of Canada’s government, systematically withheld food from starving aboriginal children in order to perform “controlled experiments” on the effects of malnutrition. The scientists believed they were working toward progressive ends, hoping to demonstrate that “many characteristics, such as shiftlessness, indolence, improvidence and inertia, so long regarded as inherent or hereditary traits in the Indian race may, at the root, be really the manifestations of malnutrition”. Supporters of the experiments hoped to apply these lessons in education, arguing that “Constructive teaching in the residential school will lead the Indian people away from indolent habits inherent in the race”.

If you are interested in participating or following “Art + Reconciliation”, please sign up.

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