A retrospective on: Unlearning the Human

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It’s the Saturday after the storm on Friday. Some thirty people who needed train nor tram gathered in the Tolhuistuin accross the IJ. They were students from all AHK academies, teachers and staff, coming together for a Saturday about Unlearning the Human.

Unlearning the Human was the second event of the 6 Saturdays of the so-called School of Unlearning, all dealing with the need to unlearn. As the website of this Artist in Residence programme says: "If we want to seriously address the issues of climate change and social justice, we need to have the courage to question certain given ways of thinking, doing and being."

Unlearning the Human asked the question "how can the arts contribute to addressing anthropocentrism and the violence towards non-human life that this value system enables?" And: "what can we learn from an encounter with an alternative mode of relating to the non-human world?" The Artist in Residence who took these questions as a starting point, together with Laura Cull, lector at the ATD, was Amanda Piña, a Chilean-Mexican choreographer and researcher, participating in the THIRD programme of DAS Research at the ATD. She invited a first nations elder and shaman from the Wixarika nation in the west of Mexico, with whom she’s been working for many years, to come and share his knowledge and practice with the group. And she also invited the Austrian-Afghan philosopher Fahim Amir whose research deals with animal and human relations, and ecology. The result was an intense experience that mixed rituals, physical exercises, lectures and discussion. One of the exercises invited participants to become bodies of earth through poetical visualisation, embodiment and dance and then share their experience of being a grain of sand, a cloud, a mountain, a little stream, the desert or the sea…

One of the threads during the day was the acknowledgment, not just of the existence of different worldviews or knowledge systems that have been endangered by European coloniality but have manage to persist, but also of the need to leave space between them, that is: not to assume that one can fully understand, in this case, an indigenous ontology. And that, as was discussed at different moments, could be the role of art: to enable an ecology of forms of knowing; working in the space between western and non-western knowledge systems; being inspired by these others forms of knowledge, trying to translate their values, but never denying their differences...

For more information about the School of Unlearning, see: https://www.ahk.nl/en/research/artist-in-residence/school-of-unlearning-2022/