2014 was a great year for Shake!. We had two of the largest intensive course groups so far, and got to meet some pretty amazing people, including the talented artist, writer, and editor Orla Price.
Orla was no stranger to the idea of art as a powerful tool for social change, and in fact when we met her she was half way through her master’s course in art and politics. She decided to include Shake! as a case study for her dissertation, and has shared with us some of her insights about Shake!, art practice, and radical pedagogy.
“In observing group participation at the August 2014 SHAKE!, one girl trying to express the relationship between mental health and systemic power and […] her own reasons for being there quoted Bell Hooks saying, “I came to theory because I was hurting”. In examining Bell Hooks’ views on critical pedagogy she goes onto to state “Theory is not inherently, healing, liberatory or revolutionary, it fulfils this function, only when we ask that it do so and direct our theorising towards this end”. In many ways Hooks makes a criticism of the University as a place where the digestion of theory is encouraged but the influence of personal experience and motive not so. Taking into consideration this mix of telling personal stories, motive and theorising, we can see how [this kind of] space is essential, and especially when it comes to the matter of personal stories, art can then become the medium to represent the mix.”
“The personal experiences of the facilitators were treated on an equal level to those of the participants. Commenting on her role Paula said ‘We focus on exploring everyone's opinions on certain topics instead of feeding them with facts and content’. In observing the facilitation of ‘SHAKE’ the participants would first discuss the themes of injustice before they creatively responded to them. Talking about this process and its facilitation Grainne said “They made the space feel like somewhere you could feel safe to express yourself and your ideas without judgement.” Comparing this to her experience in University she said there it was like “There was this hierarchy that was very present and you also felt like you where being judged on everything you said, and you had to try and impress.””
“[I]t is integral that for a critical pedagogy to function, its participants must feel whatever their background that their experience can be voiced. If we take SHAKE! as an example of critical pedagogies on this relational level, we can see how well the project incorporated these ideas.”
Thanks so much to Orla for sharing her reflections with us!