Shared Knowledge

Sylvette Babin
I do not hark back nostalgically to the 17th century;  to privileged amateur men sustained by colonial adventures, indentured laborers, vast estates, and arrogant entitlement — but I do want to keep a hold of two of their formulations; the value of “experimen­tal philosophy” and the edict to “take nothing on authority.” And I think that “creative practices of ­knowledge” are some of the ways in which we might grasp these and ensure that they do not cede to the endless pragmatic demands of knowledge protocols: outcomes, outputs, impact, constant monitoring of the exact usefulness of a particular knowledge or of its ability to follow the demands and the imper­atives of cognitive capitalism — demands to be portable, to be transferable, to be useful, to be flexible, to be applied, to be entrepreneurial and generally integrated within market economies at every level.

— Irit Rogoff,Practicing Research: Singularising Knowledge

Having access to knowledge is a fundamental principle of democracy. Thinking about this notion means considering the different modes of learning (theoretical, scholarly, practical) as well as the forms and places of knowledge production and transmission (schools, museums, sharing of experiences, writing, orality, etc.). While the dramatic growth of information technologies and massive data sharing have made all types of knowledge more accessible, they have also increased the development of a real economy of knowledge — the cognitive capitalism that irrefutably affects educational institutions and the art world. Furthermore, knowledge transmission is not only about questions of access — to information, resources, or educational institutions — but also about people’s ability to see themselves reflected in the spectrum of knowledge offered, which is still very much “guided” by the dominant Western thought. In this context, philosopher Seloua Luste Boulbina opens the feature section by proposing “disorientation” as a means of shifting us from the hegemonic references imposed by European colonialism. The interview lays the groundwork for a series of reflections that emphasize the power relationships inherent to the social field of knowledge. We thus propose to observe a little more closely the strategies that artists and curators adopt in order to introduce new pedagogies or ways of thinking. Without all being entirely new — some of the references cited go back to the early institutional critique of the 1970s — the research involved in an educational turn in art or in a participatory museology reflects social concerns that are undeniably current.

The interest in developing alternative forms of knowledge acquisition is not limited to sharing theories or practices; it also seeks to transform individuals’ view of art and society by providing them with the tools they need to think critically. In the wake of identity or feminist theories, which have been increasingly critical of how gender, race, and class are represented, artists strive to make the public aware, through their work, of the androcentric or colonialist focus of many museum collections. Others challenge the curriculums established by educational institutions by offering different didactic approaches.

Ultimately, the essays in this issue recognize and put forward knowledge and know-how derived from daily life or from the traditions of diverse communities, as well as valourize the role that not knowing can play in methods of learning by transforming it into know-how conducive to emancipatory social action. Overall, the approaches proposed here by artists and curators are chiefly supported by notions of sharing, collaboration, and the pooling of all knowledge.

Translated from the French by Oana Avasilichioaei

This article also appears in the issue 98 - Knowledge

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