OUTBREAK – Key Note

This key note was presented by Johanna Gustavsson and Lisa Nyberg at the seminar OUTBREAK at the Danish National School of Performing Arts, Copenhagen August 31st, 2012.

We will speak for 20 minutes and thereby leave time for dialogue.
We will not name any white men’s names, and we will not show any naked women’s bodies.
We will not romanticize about alcohol, drugs and abuse, nor the artist as genius.
We will not talk about what we do as business.
Irony will not be used in this presentation.
From now on we will try to avoid talking about what we will not do.
In our work we try to provide alternatives.

You are beautiful. Copenhagen is beautiful today!
Today, Denmark is at a crossroad. Today, Denmark has a choice to make.
A choice between a Denmark for sale. A Denmark where culture would be for sale, sold at a great price to the highest bidder, sold to the highest bidder among the rich minority. We can choose this Denmark, but there is another choice. We can also choose another Denmark, a Denmark that is ours. A Denmark to re-appropriate, where education will not serve the economy, will not serve the bosses, but where it will serve autonomy, free thinking, critical thinking, passing on culture, for everyone, irrespective of how thick their wallet is!

Education minister Christine Antorini asks us to return to school, to learn. Well, I have some news for Minister Antorini. By striking, we learn, we learn a lot. During this strike, we learn about the disdain of the government, we learn who the government serves. During this strike we learn what the function of the police is and what role it serves through its violence. During this strike, we learn what social injustice is, what neo-liberalism is and how it disadvantages the people of Copenhagen.

And we resist because we are not a commodity, and because we do not want to become a commodity! All over the planet, all over the planet, in England, in Greece, in the Czech Republic, in Colombia, students are fighting against tuition hikes, always in solidarity with the workers, who are also fighting against austerity measures.

We assert once again our solidarity with the students of Chile, who were on strike for eight months. Solidarity with workers, from here or abroad, who are the victims of lookouts at Alma at the Rio-Tinto-Alcan factories and, notably, at Avéos more recently. We are in solidarity with these people. Solidarity with all women in the world who are the first victims of these non-egalitarian and unjust policies. Solidarity with all those who bear the burden of oppression.

The students, the people of Denmark, will not accept, will never accept, the destruction and the privatization of its public services. Sunday, we were 30,000 people in the streets. The majority of the people were not students. It was the families of Denmark that took over the streets of Copenhagen with us to say “no”.

This evening, it is the artists who are in the streets, who were in the streets, who are here on-stage with us, to say “no” to the hike, to say “no” to privatization, to say “no” to a Denmark of commodification and capital.
Everyone – the youth, the workers, the artists, everyone – is in the streets with one and the same message. This tuition hike is an injustice. It’s an injustice. And, this injustice… it will not pass!

After today, the fight against tuition hikes should never again be depicted as a student struggle. As of today, the fight against tuition hikes should be called by its name: it’s a people’s movement, it’s a class struggle!

They have tried to reduce us to silence. But, I have some bad news for the Liberal government over there in Copenhagen City Hall. We will not stop fighting. We will not stop fighting during our strike and after our strike for public education, for free education, and even more, for a Denmark that’s more just, a Denmark that’s more egalitarian, a Denmark that’s more human. Thank you!

This speech, against the increase of tuition fees in Canada, was given in Montreal, in March this year. It was given by the co-spokespeople (Jeanne Reynolds and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois) of the student organization Coalition Large de l’Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante, in short: CLASSE. The speech followed the historic demonstration on March 22nd, 2012 when over 200,000 people took to the streets of Montreal. The speech was heard live by a crowd of hundreds at a free show at the Metropolis featuring artists supporting the students’ strike.

CLASSE claims that this massive demonstration was just a beginning, rather than a culmination, of the students’ organizing efforts to ensure that the tuition hikes proposed by the government don’t go through. CLASSE also demands a free and accessible post-secondary education for all. Since this historic demonstration, there have been a multitude of actions by students throughout the province of Quebec, including an escalation of tactics that have included economic disruptions, civil disobedience and various forms of direct action through a diversity of tactics.

The students have also referred to the demonstration on March 22nd as being the point when the student movement evolved into a broader people’s movement.

When inviting us to come speak here today, Sara asked the question: How can we re-think, re-evaluate and re-envision an education of an art school for performing arts and theater today? We are really happy to be here to address this important and urgent issue. We are visual artists and we also teach, often as part of our artistic practise. For five years we ran a feminist free university in Malmö, called Malmö Free University for Women. Based on our experiences we wrote a manual on how to self-organize, called Do The Right Thing.

Today we are here as Radikal pedagogik, a collaboration were we define and explore different aspects and possibilities of radical pedagogy. We want to introduce you to that topic here today, as a way to link the here and now with the speech that we just repeated to you. We are very encourage by Sara’s initiative, to take this opportunity to ask a difficult and important question, and take time for a re-start of the school, and we believe that defining a pedagogical strategy is a crucial part of this.

So, with hopes that this could be a helpful tool for you:

We define radical pedagogy as a perspective on power that challenges the prevailing social order through a critical language and an active construction of alternatives. The aim is to point out and make visible structures of power so that they can be questioned. It is a pedagogy that strives to connect knowledge with social responsibility and collective struggle. The basis is that no knowledge, or we who communicate it, are neutral or free from values.Knowledge is always produced with a purpose and as part of a social order and it is one of the most important tools in the construction of a society.

The focus of a radical pedagogy is not to confirm the prevailing power structure, but to activate critical thinking. It is not principally what we learn, but how we learn, how we understand, how we use knowledge and who defines what is worth knowing. It is not only about providing facts but also tools and methods on how to use those facts. And so, education is not only generating knowledge, but also political subjects.

It is a pedagogy that helps distribute power between teacher and student more equally by assuming that all humans possess knowledge. That students too are bearers of knowledge. In this way we see knowledge as part of an exchange system rather then a market system. Instead of thinking that some people have knowledge that they give (or sell) to other people, we claim that everybody has knowledge, it’s just a question of creating situations where this knowledge exchange can take place.

So, how could we think about using, applying radical pedagogy on an education in performative arts today? We believe that it is important to put the students practices in focus, and to get the students involved in the development of their education. The institutions has to put trust in both the teachers and students as carriers of knowledge. We carry it in our minds and in our bodies.

Since the Bologna processes, when all higher education in Europe was streamlined after the same model, art school have been put under pressure to define what they do. The positive aspects of this is the discussion on how one can teach art. The arts educations has become much more transparent and the school must now define and agree on the content together with the students.

The negative side of this is that the education becomes very static, in a mold that in the end might not be the best for the students, as knowledge is a creative process that changes over time. Society changes, political,,,,It also gives the impression that knowledge is a commodity you can ”get” and ”own”, and not something you have to process and practice.

The most important aim for higher education must be to implement critical thinking. Critical thinking is what makes students independent thinkers, creative doers and active members of society. We have a lot to learn from the impact the feminist movement has had on knowledge production, questioning who has knowledge, and bringing in the importance of experience, as the personal is political. The change in educational policies today, all over the world, implementing higher students fees, separating students from each other and keeping a lot of young people out of education, leaves out experiences from big groups of people and drains both schools and the cultural production as a hole from important perspectives.

When we received Sara’s invitation to come here and speak today, we came to think about the ongoing global Student uprisings. A broad and important movement that we have only seen the beginning of. We wanted to share this speech with you, as a reminder that you, the students, can and should be involved in the bigger questions of education. We do not have much insight in the development of education policies in Denmark, but you should, because it has everything to do with you. It is your future. We think it’s important that you help each other understand how the educational systems are intertwined with politics. The changes in your education is not, or should not be, only a demand from above. You can also make demands! You are involved, to say yes and to say no, to make your voices, experiences and opinions heard. Most of all, if we could do anything here today, we hope to inspire you to start defining and sharing views on creative futures, and how to envision yourselves as part of society. We think of the uprisings as self education and it inspires us to think about art, theater, dance and performance, ourselves and our work, not as details, but as part of a bigger picture, that make change happen.