Julia Harasimowicz is an art historian, anthropologist, curator and researcher. She has been working in the Artist Residencies Department at U-jazdowski since 2019, previously she worked at Zachęta - National Gallery of Art and the Raster Gallery. She is currently a Ph.D. student at the Institute of Art History at the University of Warsaw, working on the thesis about the figure of a child in the culture of the interwar period and on the relations between national politics and modernist discourse in the education of that period. She perceives curatorial activity as a form of creative dialogue.
During my first few months at U-jazdowski, I had the pleasure of taking part in the first edition of Empathic Pedagogies, curated by Marianna Dobkowska. My November meeting with four members of the network: Daniela Ramos Arias, Marilia Loureiro, Lola Malavasi, and Aisel Wicab was quite an experience for me. Taking a horizontal approach to learning, encouraging grassroots activity and acting more as a “mediator” than a teacher or an educator when interacting with audiences – all the components described by our residents made me reflect on the role of cultural institutions and the tasks of a curator.
With that experience in mind, I gladly and eagerly joined this year’s edition of the seminar, in collaboration with Marianna, Lola, Aisel, and Amado Cabral.
I am a scientist and I deliver classes at university. When it comes to seminars and lectures, my experience so far is much more associated with hierarchical academic structures. To be creative during a seminar co-created by all those who took part, focusing on soft skills and working with emotions: that was something entirely new for me.
Since I was in charge of organising the event, I wanted to provide the participants with the kind of space that had been on my mind so intensely since November last year: a place for collective learning and unlearning, free of hierarchy and supporting independent actions aimed at changing our environment. As a participant and a fresh practitioner of empathic pedagogies, I expected both an interesting creative workshop and an opportunity to just learn new skills.
I feel that I truly did experience intimacy during our sessions. The time of isolation and economic uncertainty sensitised us (the participants) towards the needs of others. We too crave tenderness and intimacy. Whether we like it or not, communication apps have become our familiar tools. What happened during our meetings over the previous month truly exceeded my expectations. Instead of theorising on intimacy, we focused on building actual bonds with one another.
Sure enough, not all of us experienced the same kind of intimacy. Some were reluctant when it came to sharing and expressing tenderness. This did not come as any great surprise to me: I am used to more formal ways of conducting myself and it was not easy to open myself up to emotional actions focused on our private or intimate experiences. Still, we found ourselves in a group of people who perceive the issue of education and its role within the world of art in a similar way, and see empathy and understanding as opportunities for change.
For me, it was not simply an opportunity to exchange knowledge and skills. I saw it more as a collective therapy of sorts: a form of support in these very difficult times. After our seminar had already come to an end, I read an article by Mikkel Krause Frantzen. It resonated strongly with my memories of our collective experience over the past month. The author writes, “Therapy as resistance, not as reactionary obedience to the given order. Therapy as a collective project, not an individual one. Therapy as the overcoming of alienation.” I can relate to that: during our sessions, I felt the power of tenderness and support that surpassed the spread of the pandemic and all the politically-mandated borders.