Professor Daisy Pillay, an academic and senior lecturer in the School of Education, recently delivered her virtual inaugural lecture on “Intellectual Journeying to Embodiment and Enfleshment” Art, artmaking and educational research as transgressive assemblages of becoming.
Pillay stated that ‘Art and Art Making can serve as entry points to awaken creative, and practical modes for researching education using theories that recognise personal stories, feelings.’
In her arts-based research scholarship, she examined how visual art, art making and educational research can be arranged temporarily in strange/unusual relations and interconnections in the construction and circulation of different knowledges. This arrangement is what she refers to in the lecture as “assemblage”.
Said Pillay, ‘As South Africans, we can use visual modes as an ethical practice to (look) the beast of the (apartheid) past in the eye in order not to allow it to imprison us. Thirty years into our democracy, we continue to experience the residues of brutal, racist apartheid rule. The beast of the past lingers and, as higher education teachers and students in South Africa, we continue to experience the effects of decades of intellectual, social, and cultural impoverishment of education.’
Through Pillay’s intellectual journey of becoming, she offered glimpses (through expressive artworks and paintings) of the imagination places that she individually, collectively, and aesthetically took up to think, experience and reflexively meditate on personal experiences and ideas in scholarly ways. This ethical embodied connection to Pillay’s scholarly writing is to create new and alternate forms of existence and the ongoing project of becoming other, which is a work in progress.
‘My artworks are my thoughts and feelings “clothed in artful form” experienced and expressed to intervene in and construct the world. The artworks provoked me to ask, “who/what am I?”’
Pillay reflected on the year 1995 as an art teacher when she was told that the successful Art’s curriculum will be discontinued with a reconstructed school curriculum aligned to market related demands. ‘I accepted the general assumption that art did not have value in helping with the complexity of lived experience, sustaining life and survival. It was a moral failure – a denial – that I only appreciate now as I engage critically in my present liberating work in visual and arts-based research. It has potential to be a decolonising endeavour,’ she said.
In her concluding remarks, she said, ‘Collaborating with diverse others outside the university setting – using arts-based activities – invites multiple readings, prompting interconnections and crisscrossing. The vibrancy keeps us moving beyond the cerebral borders to put in practice the art of living and becoming intellectuals and not neoliberal subjects who self-metricise.’