Collaborative books – short reflections Maja Maksimovic

1. The process of creating a collaborative book was set in the context of the subject Methodology of citizenship and intercultural education. The aim of the subject is not to learn teaching strategies that support development of an active citizen, rather to focus on the development of students’ agency to map, question and address issues in the communities. We tried to break the division between formal education that exists within academia and those of creative practices, performance and activism. The hypothesis that I started with was that adult education students would develop confidence and self-initiative if they participated in the creation of the curriculum and that, if we negotiate an exam (students had to decide themselves what kind of exam activity would support their learning), and consider it as a project, it would empower students to take responsibility and act as community organisers. One of the topic we tackled was education for gender equality and feminism. One of the aim was to explore what has been expelled from mainstream androcentric vision of education – imagination, body, emotionality, which has been considered as feminine, and as such do not belong to the circle of hegemonic educational outcomes. The activity of the creation of collaborative book was used to help students to investigate the idea of “monstrous femininity” and relate it to education process. Each of students had two weeks to collect images, writings, photos that remind them on the topic. My colleague who is a visual artist and me organized a workshop together. Students of educational sciences in Belgrade are not used to express visually. We used Sesame methodology1 to drama therapy to facilitate spontaneity and creative expression. However, each student created one page of the book.  We walked around the room and look at what they made. Each student has chosen one page stand there and said a word that associate with the collage they made. This was done in order to support students’ expression and to acknowledge each of the work. After we made video with students who told associations that emerged from their making. Overall, I think it was very meaningful experience for them – the process of collecting materials, making, sharing, being acknowledged for what they did, and learning about education process. Nevertheless, I have doubts that it was creation of collaborative book. Although there was awareness about it I think if each of them create one page separately it is not collaborative work. They are not influenced by each other during the process of making, result is more a collection of work, then one collaborative book. No matter that they worked in the same room, at the same time, I think that the making was not done collaboratively. However, the process of learning was powerful and trough making they challenged phallocentric structure of education, but it takes something else to make the work collaborative. Also, since they are not artists, how to facilitate artistic process and support multiple ways of expression? Should we make a product that has to be aesthetically attractive? Does (visual) art education has to be beautiful?

2. After first experience I decided to try to support making of another book, but in another way. To be done successively. The idea for the book was more personal. I was puzzled with a letter that I received: It makes me sad to remember…. I wanted to explore happy memories that makes us said because they are lost. Therefore, I made first page coloured in blue and then on the next page I wrote samskara1. It was just before I left to Portugal, so I asked my friend, visual artist to facilitate the process. To think about people that she would give the book. Until know one person continued the process of making. She reported that she felt that all of us (my friends and me) are with her in the room while she was making a book. It can be that there is collaboration through imagination – imaginative collaboration by relying on the work of somebody else and continue it. It is much different that when they are physically together. I still do not know in what way and how, but I think it would be worth exploring how creation of collaborative books facilitate “collaboration through imagination”.

I felt wonderful while I was “writing” a book. I still feel that I finished it few days ago. Samskara – what is printed inside of me, and my attempt to “reprint” that…

1 According to various schools of Indian philosophy, every action, intent or preparation by an individual leaves a samskara (impression, impact, imprint) in the deeper structure of his or her mind.[2] These impressions then await volitional fruition in that individual’s future, in the form of hidden expectations, circumstances or unconscious sense of self-worth. These Samskaras manifest as tendency, karmic impulse, subliminal impression, habitual potency or innate dispositions.[2][3] The theory of Samskara has also been used, in ancient Indian texts, to develop explanations for how and why human beings remember anything, and the impact these memories have on his sense of suffering, happiness and contentness

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