Concordia Arts Education graduate students bring slow movement to college
A growing body of evidence reveals the negative effects of competitive pressures on academics’ quality of life, teaching and research. This is a reality that leaves many academics wondering about their role in higher education.
Stacey Cann (MA 12) and Victoria Stanton (BFA 95, Cert 96), doctoral students in Concordia’s Department of Arts Education, give scholars an opportunity to pause and think about alternatives to rhythm and current practices of university life.
Cann recalls another graduate student who said, “I’d like to slow down, but I don’t know how I could do it in a PhD program.”
This made Cann wonder – when is it possible to slow down? “It’s important to take steps to think about it as a group, not just on your own,” she says.
Spurred by exchanges like this, Cann and Stanton launched the Bureau of Noncompetitive Research last fall, which aims to create a healthier professional structure in which to do research.
“It’s about turning our critical eye to the research culture: in a meaningful, sensitive way, from a human perspective, not from an industry perspective,” Stanton says.
“Creating new spaces for learning”
In fall 2021, the office hosted the virtual series Slowness and the Institution: Doing Research Differently, with support from Concordia’s Center for the Study of Learning and Performance (CSLP).
The public conversations featured international artists, educators and scholars who explored the connections between the slow movement – which advocates decreasing the pace of life – and artistic production, interdisciplinary practices and academic and world institutions. art. The conversations presented divergent views on many types of “slow” methodologies.
The recordings of these conferences are available on the CLSP’s YouTube channel.
“It was so interesting for us to hear these themes around slowness articulated through a range of lenses. They had similar themes but with singular orientations; it created a wide range of perspectives,” Stanton reports.
Cann and Stanton believe the series has deeply impacted its audience, attracting scholars from a variety of disciplines, all of whom have expressed gratitude for a space to challenge their current work climate.
“I am very pleased that the center has had the opportunity to host the office’s innovative conversation series,” said Vivek Venkatesh, Director of CSLP and Professor of Inclusive Visual Arts Practices in Arts Education.
“This is especially true as we seek to create new spaces for learning with and from our highly valued graduate artists, thinkers, philosophers and scholars.”
“When people work cooperatively, they come up with better ideas”
Cann and Stanton article “Talking Cure: Dialogue as Collaborative Resistance” in the latest issue of the magazine esse arts + reviews responds to the issue’s theme of collectives.
“I think when people work cooperatively, they come up with better ideas,” Cann says.
“When we place too much importance on competitiveness and speed of execution, there is no more room for it. In reality, Victoria and I are competing for limited funding. The office is about creating a place where we can think together rather than compete with each other.
The plan is not to withdraw or reject the university as an institution, Stanton adds; it’s about returning to the original principles of the university as a place to probe ideas, examine each other’s results, get feedback, have differing opinions and reflect on the nature of university work – without the pressure of the model current neoliberal.
“When is it urgent to act and when should we stop and listen?”
Cann and Stanton believe that a slow approach can also address the polarized culture seen both on and off campus.
“It allows us to stop and consider opposing viewpoints rather than immediately engaging in attack and defense on our own,” Cann explains.
Part of the exercise is cultivating a discernment of time, Stanton adds. Slowness can also be problematic – for example, if an institution were to intentionally slow down much-needed changes.
“When do we need to act urgently and when do we need to stop and listen? It’s not one to the detriment of the other; it’s about when does either really make sense,” she says.
This kind of applied intellectual work is very much in line with the work of the PRSP, says Venkatesh.
“Stacey and Victoria’s work shows how we can remain inclusive of multiplicity of voices in an age that values hollow resonance in silos at the expense of the pursuit of knowledge.”
For next steps from Concordia’s Office of Noncompetitive Research, email [email protected]
Learn more about Concordia Arts Education Department and the Center for the Study of Learning and Performance.