De school is The School.

Title, written by Wasted Rita
Title, written by Wasted Rita
the new building
the new building

A tiny self-interview, initiated in group-session by Serena Chalker, executed by Pablo Hannon. Idea is to reflect on the process of projects, here it is used to introduce a project and challenge.

Q: You are working on a project with two schools in Hasselt, KTA1 and HAST. What is the project about?

A: The project is called De school is The School. It focusses on Didactic Richness, and is a researching and reactive approach to find out what these two schools lack or have or could have in order to give extra strength to their pupils and perhaps also parents to make them go (more) to school. Both schools have BSO and TSO education, in various disciplines, and former research has shown that specially BSO in 3° grade (year 5, 6 and 7) pupils stay home for a day, more or even stop school. A variety of reasons has been raised (problems at home, lack of enthusiasm,….) why the kids stay home. This new research by The School focusses on the other side, on all elements that could help establish new strength and goals to make better (even if they are difficult) decisions towards going instead of not going to school.

Pride, strength, craftsmanship, ownership, creativity, the intercultural, culture, entrepreneurship, love for material, … these are our focus points.


Q: How does this work? What do you actually do?

A: We have two schools, two approaches. At HAST we organise one week of research and reacting. Between 5-9 March a variety of designers and artists will enter the school and start various dialogues, interviews and conversations, they will be recorded or visualised. They form a basis to form a new and personal understanding of the school. Personal means, we all have prejudgements towards the reasons why kids don’t go to school and how it could be fixed. These dialogues form a personal understanding on the people working and studying at this school. The team is divers, and also is presented the invitation to react (beyond visualise), meaning it can also see opportunities to create, collaborate to form installations, interventions and artistic products. During one week a volume of work is produced, in constant relation with the kids and all the layers of this school, administration, staff, board, teachers… The approach of HAST is of observation, dialogue and visualisation and reaction. The end result is an exhibition of the process and creative outcomes.

At KTA1, the research has a different goal. A questionnaire is given to all pupils, and teachers, and board… to find out two visions: what is and what could be a school. Via Q&A a written response is formed as well a drawn reaction. The simplicity of these questions and answers will form the basis to create two installations: two schools, compact and mobile, light and conceptual. These two schools will be installed in the station area during the end festival of The School. The installations will be created by the pupils, and guided, helped by the team of this project. The conversation is constant, from beginning to end, and the beat is up, finding out what drives them, what forms their future, what binds them to school as location and what attracts them to school as movement. The installations are formed and built by various departments, mechanic, build, electronic, all possibilities are there to ‘publish’ their visions and needs.


Q: Why are you doing this?

A: We see opportunities in crossover connections between all disciplines, some schools do this already, but not enough, and not published enough. Most research focuses on the bad, the reasons why things happen, what the origin of absence is. This forms a basis for more extravert interdisciplinary reinforcement, reasons to be proud, sure about dared choices of future.


Q: When and where is this happening?

A: HAST week is happening between 5 and 9 March at HAST, and the result is exhibited during that same week at HAST but also on Friday 9 March at 19h at The School.

KTA1 is happening between 5 March and 2 May, starting with the Q&A, the processing and meetings, talks with teachers and pupils to form basis to build upon and then to build, all in the buildings of KTA1. On the 3rd May the installations are mobilised and moved to the station area where they will be exhibited and used during the end festival of The School. They will be parked on public / street car parking spots.


Q: Who is participating?

A: Rachel Hansoul is word artist and improvisation skilled graphic designer
Ilse Jooken is a photographer and graphic designer
Lars Kusters is a graphic designer, and most of all a diy inventor and crafter
Rita Gomes is Wasted Rita and poet and illustrator
Willem Vrancken is graphic designer and teacher, organiser of didactic events, coordinating this project
Pablo Hannon is designer and illustrator, coordinating this project
Other artists and designers will be invited to join for specific interventions
a group of 6 photographers from Maastricht: Dean Kisters, Zergei Samson, Lok-Yin Lau, Mitch van Schijndel, Martyna Witbrodt, Anne de Graaf


Extra questions were written down by fellow-self-interviewers after reading the self-interview out loud. Questions for Pablo:

What is “didactic richness” for you?

Finding a harmony in the educating part, where 3 elements are passed through and come together in good balance in a the teaching staff: the didactic, practice and knowledge. But also in the students themselves, elements activated and nurtured that create a stronger relation to growth and joy: pride, ownership, creativity, …


How do you extract the situation at the school from the socio-economic situation at home? Is it possible to make meaningful change at school if the child is from an unstable family situation?
Both situations are often two different worlds, one could be even an escape for the other. Focusing on what you can change, improve, the school environment and movement, is crucial to create more energy and peace when arriving in the other situation, home. At school a battery is being charged. If the ‘school battery’ can last longer, even while home, it can start influencing the home situation. Or it can make that tiny difference in the crucial decisive moments. We are not able to change the home situation, or influence it directly. We can give more inner strength or peace to the students, so when in a situation at home they have tiny bits and elements to help them make good choices.


What kind of work do you envisage being created within the limited time frame of one week (first school)?
A map of the school is planned, where interviews or quotes can be connected, interviews visualised, filmed, quotes collected, scribbles or handwriting examined and collected, portraits made, music made, moments created… anything is possible, when a moment is created, we will be able to react on it. In a week time, the result may be diverse.


How do you plan to engage the families in a productive way during this project?

In the week itself it is not possible, we aim to invite them to the end exhibition. Because the work exhibited will be about the students, and maybe also by them, possibly a feeling of pride can be transmitted to some parents. Not all and probably not those parents in difficult situations, but that is a challenge to find a way to reach them afterwards.


What kind of creative agency do you give to the students during this project? Or is it just the designers coming in?

This will be a research on its own, as these schools can be quite strict, and agency is given in strict structures, which often seem to work very well with the boys. But apparently 7 life rules have been introduced, instead of a long book of rules, to give more decision power to the students. This said, we will be there indeed, present, active, interactive, and see how we can attract participation, with and without structuring it.


How much influence (or long term impact) do you think this project can actually create?

For those students or teachers, if good and fun, it can carry an extra strength for max a year or two. So, repetition is needed for sure.


What are the factors for why kids skip school?

They want to work and earn money, the situation at home is dramatic with family problems like taking care of a parent … , and also not being stimulated enough to stay focused in class. Also those that are ‘at bottom rank’, they have demotivated issues. In KTA1 there is apparently also a class of everything, meaning a class that collects all ages and stages of skills and problems, this is a challenge to keep them motivated.


What is the impact of the installations ? How do you measure that impact?
Daily, if something works or not, kids, teens are the most critical jury ever, if it doesn’t work, you will be ignored. So the language must be found to interact, visual and spoken. If it draws attention, and curiosity, soon the dialogue can start, over and with work created. Content wise, we will register their vision, their words, their portraits, we will not focus on making conclusions our own, we will observe and react, but with extracts from their language and culture.


How does the language of art/installations communicate to broader audiences who are not accustomed this this “language” ?
Indeed, that is the experience needed of some designers/artists in the choices to make, to see that it translates the kids to a broader audience. The search is for a purity, of emotion of culture, that may not have a ‘style’ that connects with let’s say elder generation that isn’t used to it, but it visualises a culture, often hidden. This on its own makes it interesting to see.

De school is The School. is a project initiated after a conversation between The School and the department of education of the city of Hasselt. Friday 9 March at 19h, the first results from the HAST part of the challenge, form the exhibition at The School.