Faculty Alexandra Eguiluz and 'Teaching to Transgress Toolbox' at the Radical Inclusivity Symposium

Teaching to Transgress Toolbox

Faculty Alexandra Eguiluz and her Teaching to Transgress Toolbox collective discussed the subject of “Questioning the Notion of Neutrality” in art school as part of the Radical Inclusivity Symposium on May 3rd, 2021.

Alexandra Eguiluz is a Peruvian artist and educator based in Paris since 2013. She is attracted by the search for alternative ways of education that challenge the rigid systems in which we are often involved. As part of her research, she spent six months teaching in the mountains of Peru in the institute Pukllasunchis. In this institution, alternative education where experience and context are important pedagogical tools is key. To pursue this quest further, she is currently part of Teaching to Transgress Toolbox.

Teaching to Transgress Toolbox is a no-credit, collective research and study programme on critical pedagogy using artistic tools based on peer-learning and collective research. It aims to find and share ideas for teaching in progressive, decolonial/intersectional feminist/anti-discriminatory ways.

Their topic “Questioning the Notion of Neutrality”, which they presented at the Radical Inclusivity Symposium, is researched through the conducting, recording and editing of video-interviews, as well as by reading/watching other materials that revolve around the topic.

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Some of the angles they have chosen to question the neutrality of art schools include the following:

Questioning the “neutrality” of the knowledge and references that are passed on in university: acknowledging for example, that historically, academia was almost exclusively made up of wealthy straight white male people/European colonizers, and therefore the knowledge that is passed on through reference systems mostly circles around the knowledge and perspectives of this minority. Many other kinds of knowledge have been violently kept from entering the Western academic system, e.g. the knowledge of so-called “witches” (e.g. about abortion), knowledge of colonized peoples (e.g. languages, social organisation, cultural practices, farming practices, etc), or the knowledge and lived experience of other marginalized groups of people (e.g. non-binary, trans, gender-non-conforming people, queer people, working class people, disabled people, BIPoC people living in white-majority societies, etc.)

Questioning the “neutrality” of a teacher: acknowledging that our experiences inevitably shape us and that no person can be without bias (or “neutral”), even if we try. Those bias can stand on a individual/personal level (e.g. that people have sympathies and aversions towards different people) and a structural level (e.g. that everyone, especially those priviledged by systems of power, has prejudices against poor, BIPoC, non-cis-male, etc, people).

Questioning how “neutral” being “neutral” is: there is a quote saying that there is “no neutral place on a moving train.” It is often said that universities need to be open to all thoughts. We critically question what “neutrality” is (not) or maybe could be, when we take into account the inequalities and inequities of the society our universities are embedded in. For example: is a setting neutral when it is allowing anyone to say anything (including racist, sexist, ableist, homo-, transphobic, etc, things), or is a setting neutral when no one is discriminated?

Alexandra Eguiluz is also the instructor of Junior Studio 1 course for the BFA in Communication Design. In this course, design is thought of as a tool that can generate awareness, knowledge and change in our context and environment. Through her teaching, Alexandra Eguiluz aims at making students question the society we live in and shows them how to use Graphic Design to express their political and/or social voice.