RE-VISUALIZING CARE: the digital assemblage

assemblage intro

This site is an open-source, multimedia digital assemblage. Created alongside my printed dissertation, Re-visualizing care: Teachers’ invisible labor in neoliberal times, it is designed to showcase and theorize the visual, aural and multimodal components of my research. Alongside traditional methods of qualitative research analysis, I created four "bodies of (art)work" as part of making and making sense of my dissertation data and research. On this website, I present two of these projects together with chapter-length reflexive and analytical texts: rubbing every object and surface in betty's math classroom and excessive practice.

The website is intended to be both read/ looked at/ listened to alongside the dissertation and to function as an independent scholarly work. By privileging and presenting large scale images, multimedia, and audio as well as weaving image with text, the assemblage capitalizes on the affordances of the web and Scalar’s born-digital publishing platform, and works to challenge ideas about what forms and modes of research, teaching, and knowing “count.”
I made artwork in the context of my dissertation as a way to re-trace and better understand the teachers’ images and stories; to engage and evoke the sensory experiences of teaching/ carework/ school spaces; to make room for “perspectival multiplicity,” (Garoian 2006) cacophony and erasure; to play with dynamics of in/visibility in ways that may be “seeable but not sayable” (or hearable, palpable, tactile but not read-able)(Luttrell); and to challenge what we “see” as teacher practice and how we “see” it; to highlight other ways of knowing/ communicating/ representing outside of written language; I made artwork because I am an artist and I have always made images as a way of making sense, especially of the thickest, trickiest things.
In the context of the assemblage, the artworks on this site are not meant to stand alone as art (formally or conceptually), or to illustrate the text (or the print dissertation). Rather, they have a job to do—their own share of analytical (and evocative) heavy lifting. They are meant to join with the text in a back and forth relay, each waiting for the other, hand outstretched, at the limits of representation (an aim that is echoed in the to and fro design of the website between diverse representational modes). They work together with historical and political economic analysis, with descriptive writing and coded transcripts to bring forth my arguments about the visual dynamics of teacher work. And perhaps more importantly, in the open spaces and abstractions, they invite the viewer (listener) to analyze and work and lift too.
jumble methodology + collage
In each of the two art/ analytical/ scholarly projects presented here, I have taken up frames and methodologies of collage—bringing together, layering, affixing, and juxtaposing disparate elements of sound, image, and theory. Covering all the objects and surfaces in a math teacher’s classroom to rub out the forms of her space; layering recorded voices in cacophonous jumbles of thick audio; tracing bodies in motion, paper over screen; darkening the white spaces of the page with black marker, words over words over words. My approach to collage—or what I call “the jumble”—as a tool of art-making, analysis and representation is informed by Charles Garoian’s concept of collage pedagogy (2006; Garoian & Gaudelius 2008). As he explains:

Instead of a totalizing body of knowledge, the composition of collage consists of a heterogeneous field of coexisting and contesting images and ideas. Its cognitive dissociation provides the perspectival multiplicity that is necessary for critical engagement. Dialectical tension occurs within the silent, in-between spaces of collage, as its fragments, its signifying images and ideas interact and oppose one another (2006, p.48).

In this way, collage is both object and method, the practices and products of making certain kinds of art, research, and pedagogy. And, as Garoian attests, by bringing disparate forms together and resisting total resolution or “certainty,” collage works to preserve multiple perspectives while making space for dialogue between different forms, ways, and ideas. It is in this multiplicity, in the refusal of seamlessness, in the uncertain spaces where lines and voices and thoughts meet (or don’t), mingle or cross, that “critical engagement” is possible. Viewers, listeners, readers, and learners can enter through the gaps and margins in “the undecidable narrative of collage” (2006, p.55) to pick up the threads of an argument, analyze or talk back.
Collage then, refers to two core practices—the assembly of distinct component parts (voices, images, thoughts, perceptions), and the (always incomplete) joining of them, placing them in harmonious or disjointed dialogue, layering and jumbling. In the assemblages I engage collage differently across distinct spaces (classroom, the web), materials (video, glassine paper, acrylic ink), and subjects (teacher bodies, invisible work, care), but all of these works share overlapping visual and conceptual features and aims. I use collage:

-To preserve multiple meanings and diverse perspectives including those of the teacher participants, dominant educational discourses, and my own. And through these many-sided jumbles, I work to bring forward (conceptual, visual, and bodily) themes of relationality in teacher work.

-To locate my own positionality in the research (acknowledging my voice/ mark/ eye as a white woman, artist, mother, researcher, etc.) and to make the often hidden work of analysis and interpretation, visible.

-To bring viewers/ readers/ listeners into the sensory jumble of school spaces and teacher practice. 

-To challenge social, school and scholarly regimes of Cartesian rationality (Bordo 1987) that marginalize (in gendered and racialized ways) emotional and bodily forms of knowledge, learning, and communicating.

-To create both density and open spaces as a way of plotting points of uncertainty and poking holes in clean, uncomplicated representations of teacher accountability, efficiency, and development. Each of these multimedia works—the teachers’ and my own—in their visual and conceptual jumbles counter and contradict dominant visualities of teacher work.

I take up these themes and aims in the "pages" that follow, depicting my process through art and text, joining my images and analysis with the participants’ contributions and linking the works with the theoretical findings of my dissertation on the visual dynamics of teacher work and care.

This page has paths: