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October 21, 2021

School Watch: after the turn: Decolonial and Noncanonical Learning in Gaza

Art & Education

Mahmoud M. Alshaer, reflections from an after the turn – art education beyond the canon journal, 2021. Al Ghussein House, Gaza.

Salman Nawati, excerpted reflections from an after the turn – art education beyond the canon journal, 2021. Collage and photography.

Mahmoud Abu Warda, sketches for a composition from an after the turn – art education beyond the canon journal, 2021. Notes on paper.

Rehaf Batnaji, reflections made during after the turn – art education beyond the canon, 2021. Photographs.

Majdal Nateel, excerpted reflections from an after the turn – art education beyond the canon journal, 2021. Collage and photography.

after the turn: Decolonial and Noncanonical Learning in Gaza
by Mona Kriegler and Alia Rayyan

The idea was to establish a reflective educational online program on contemporary art practice and theory with international, regional, and local practitioners and scholars. Guided by the principle of building connections, reading, and discussing in Arabic, the program assembled select participants living and working in Gaza over the course of six to eight months in a process-oriented and result-open digital knowledge platform and virtual free space. after the turn – art education beyond the canon tasked the participants with developing a new project or body of work based on the knowledge gained and reflections documented during the program. Work was presented in open-studio critique sessions and will be shown in a group exhibition in the Gaza Strip and abroad.

after the turn was founded in critical practice and endeavored to provide young art practitioners in Gaza with processes for learning and reflecting, agency, and insight on mainstream contemporary art fields. Through practice-led learning, scholars, acting as mentors, supported the program by bringing in their unique and relevant perspectives and inviting guest speakers from around the world to discuss their own experiences and expertise. This approach built a network, stimulated debate among the participants, and engaged in discussions outside Gaza. Informed by decolonial thinking and discourses connected to the Global South, questions around the origins of theories and practices, production mechanisms, utilization, and presentation generated new knowledge specific to the context in which after the turn developed.

The program consisted of three main learning blocks tackling issues of seeing, perceiving, and translating—senses that are compromised or inhibited when under siege. Concerned with representation and knowledge distribution beyond the canon of academic art practice and discourse, each block was realized over the course of eight weeks by one lead mentor in close contact with the participants. The blocks were divided into theoretical and practical parts yet merged them simultaneously, a process led by the participants and initiated through different exercises from the mentors.

Participants were asked to work on reflective journals. The method of reflective learning corresponded with the theoretical position of the participants’ situatedness and the knowledge presented and discussed. Crucial to the program’s pedagogy, reflective journaling summarized what was learned and exchanged by using symbols and semiotic systems as different research tools in art education. In addition, besides using language as a form of expression, it directed focus to other modes of reflection: material forms of practice, still and moving images, music, sound, live action, and sketching, among others. This method of documentation and learning originated outside the canon and provided the foundation for the participants’ group exhibition. Reflective journaling was a crucial tool for drawing connections and disparities and archiving art history in the making.

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School Watch presents critical perspectives on art and academia. Featured profiles, surveys, and dialogues consider education in fine art, curating, and critical theory, as well as the ideas and conditions that influence practice.

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