Jolin Tang reflects on NSEAD's Autumn Gathering with The Fitzwilliam Museum
NSEAD's Autumn Gathering with The Fitzwilliam Museum proved to be an unexpected and empowering journey of being together — a voyage with insightful designs and reflective thinking for art educators. Activities included workshops, exhibition visits, the newest reports analysis from NSEAD, and manifesto crafting — all were part of a meticulously structured day-long artistic experience. These practices unfolded step by step in a logical progression, enabling us to be moved, transformed, and taken to a place beyond traditions.
Among all the sessions, the ARAEA workshop Reflective Paper Twists: Disrupting the Colonial Net left an indelible mark on me. Firstly, we received a key word Intra-action (Barad, 2007) and clues on thinking towards entanglement within the colonial structure. Subsequently, we started a 20-minute gallery visit. Armed with chairs, pencils, and clipboards, we walked through artworks in Black Atlantic: Power, People, Resistance.
During this gallery visit, Frans Post's Fiction in Paint intrigued me. He erases the violence of enslavement, transforming it into a reassuring visual fiction of an idyllic setting. The concept, fictioning, provides me with a fresh perspective of understanding the real world. In art education, it might not simply be a story of understanding, but an invitation of engagement in a performance that fictionalises an alternative life.
I also observed fellow participants from diverse organisations at this event. I noticed some sat, some drew, some interpreted artworks with their pencils and clipboards. During the Art, Power, and Change workshop led by Rosanna Evans and Holly Morrison, Fitzwilliam Museum Educators, each of us held a black rectangular perforated card, resembling a window, and aiding us with details that might be easily ignored. In this workshop, we delved into discussions on power structures, representational significance, and ways of seeing. When passing my depiction of a sculpture to a fellow attendee sitting next to me for additional input, we found the process challenging, “It seems like you've already captured everything.”
However, as we moved to the back of the sculpture, differences persisted, and these differences mattered. They enabled us to delve into the unknown and transcend boundaries between practice and the ontological creation of meaning.
I could not help but ponder the educators present, perhaps distanced for a long time from a chance to face an exhibition piece rather than classrooms, to use pencils, paper, erasers, cotton rather than instruct. And this time, we are not teachers but creators, learners, and, most simply, unburdened visitors. We are sitting in the middle of the gallery corridor, looking up, there is a sliver of sky visible through the ceiling. We and the arts are intimate and continuously intertwined.
In my manifesto at the end of the event, I wrote ART as Act, React — not to teach, but to touch. My fellows also documented their aspirations for art education, seeking equity, funding support, and exploring the potential for the integration of technology in the post-pandemic era. We seek our own cuts, striving to 'throw down' the substances in hand (hooks, 2000, p.3).
I wish to share my sincere appreciation to the Fitzwilliam Museum and NSEAD for affording us this valuable opportunity.
About the writer
Ms. Jolin Tang is a poet and a current student pursuing Mphil in Arts, Creativity, and Education at the University of Cambridge. Jolin situates her artistic research in creative learning and teaching, posthuman and new materialist philosophies, and post-qualitative methodologies. Specifically, she is passionate about exploring how poetic materials interact with the urban landscape, particularly within the context of Hong Kong. Previously, Jolin worked as a research assistant at the University of Hong Kong, where she was involved in establishing workshops, developing creative methodologies and data analysis. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing in English (2022, University of Hong Kong) and has been writing poetry and lyrics in both Chinese and English for more than eight years.
Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Duke University Press.
hooks, b. (2000). 'Remembered rapture: Dancing with words.' JAC, 20 (1) 1-8.
The opening image is a collage created by the author during a workshop at NSEAD's Autumn Gathering. The closing images is a collage of photos taken by The Fitzwilliam Museum at this event in Nov 2023.