Concordia University announced its closure in lieu of Covid-19 on the 13th of March, and what were initially precautionary steps, became a continued reality with the university officially closing its educational activities soon after this announcement. As the first month of living with Covid-19 passed us with devastating news coming in from all corners of the world, and with no end in sight in the foreseeable future, most of us started feeling overwhelmed, scared, anxious, nervous, depressed, angry (insert other scary adjectives). And this is why it became equally important to find new ways of working. The idea of adapting, and finding some sense of normalcy, wasn’t and shouldn’t be read as (only) a need to survive in the capitalist modes of operating and producing we find ourselves in. But as our discussion showed, it was because there continues to be a source of joy in the work that we do. And so the foundations for the weekly Graduate Teach-ins were laid.
Wikipedia: "A teach-in is similar to a general educational forum on any complicated issue, usually an issue involving current political affairs. The main difference between a teach-in and a seminar is the refusal to limit the discussion to a specific frame of time or a strict academic scope."
After an initial meeting, several thoughts were identified (among many, many others): affect (lived realities depending on affordances and proximity), humility (we cannot know what we do not know, although we can build on what we do know), and anticipatory practice/actions (in preparation for a future that will inevitably be a new norm). This translated into three possible areas to touch upon every week, because of their overlapping and inseparable modalities for the group and for this difficult time.
(1) check-in, from rage to joy (relationship of affect to work we do); how are you “mastering alone time”?
“That is a great gift: the gift of selfhood. For we have only what we know we must lose, what we are willing to lose… That selfhood which is our torment, and our treasure, and our humanity, does not endure. It changes it is gone, a wave on the sea. Would you have the sea grow still and the tides cease, to save one wave, to save yourself?” — Ursula Le Guin, The Farthest Shore, 1972 (Earthsea Cycle #3), 122.
(2) sharing of current research/knowledge exchange on knowledge production (share your research – tell us what you are working on – anything will do, and you don't need to each week) - a way to stay on track with your plans.
It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” — Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969. Often misattributed to Hemingway.
(3) those moments that point to how art practice, history will be different in the future because all of the above will never be the same (what fierce joy drives your efforts towards readiness when we overcome this crisis, to move from emergency to emergence (Demos)? How are you going to prepare/would you teach/disseminate/practice what you know now? What foreseeable tools do you need to know how to teach/do something – assuming that it will not be the same – in the future?).
And though we remain consciously aware week after week of how tough this is, it also remains critical to continue to take these steps in our own healing, and growth in the face of this collective trauma.
The Graduate Teach-ins continue to take place every week on Thursdays, at the time of this post.