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A Pedagogy of Machines: Making Tools for Education

Letters from the students-teachers.

  • Nov 02 2023
  • UMBAU - HfG Karlsruhe

The Summer Semester of 2022 marked my first time teaching a seminar at HfG Karlsruhe. I had previously taught classes for some years in Milan, but this was a new experience, and not only because I was informed that only a few students might show up. I admit that this possibility wasn’t entirely stress-free for me. It also marked a return to in-person teaching. In some ways, the seminar I proposed, “A Pedagogy of Machines: Making Tools for Education,” was an attempt to address some of the challenges that emerged during the previous two years of distance learning. None of the reading assignments were carried out individually. Instead, we practiced reading texts together in class and appreciated the generosity of the voice, relying on our own body and its timbre to interpret the text. As reading aloud in public might feel intimidating at first, especially when done in a “foreign” tongue, we aimed to consider each hesitation and pronunciation as a unique performance. Together, at a slow tempo, we read works by bell hooks, Paulo Freire, Sara Ahmed, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. At the end of the semester, instead of writing a Hausarbeit, which only I would read, students-teachers (this definition is borrowed from Freire) wrote letters addressed to the entire class. The letter form is neither incomplete nor comprehensive; it appropriates the distance, both physical and cultural, that we experienced during the pandemic, rendering something intimate between the addresser and the addressee, like a distant relative. These letters are fragments of a whole machine that constituted our classroom for a semester.


Dear students-teachers, 

I’ve been re-reading your list of proposals for the final work and asking myself, what is the best idea? If I’m honest, I could not find an answer. My initial thought was that this class could be an experiment; it should be fun, and I didn’t know what the output would be – the output wasn’t already determined from the beginning. But what if an experiment fails in the end? There is a risk. And this week, looking at the list, I couldn’t make up my mind. I thought the risk became a reality. Following wise advice, should I have proposed that each of you write a Hausarbeit?

I must listen to what we have read and discussed in class. I must unlearn the expectation of finding the best idea. Reading a critical text out loud in a foreign language or making pronunciation mistakes takes some courage. Yes, I love that we achieved that. Practicing to listen, trusting one’s own pace, and removing expectations from a syllabus – was quite liberating for me. Understand, with Ahmed’s book, how hard it can be to push forward with a formal complaint; to open a door within the institution, and also realize how easily we can feel overwhelmed by the free flow of complaints. I love the proposal for the complaint shredding machine and the paper-cut slips. Breaking the rhythm. Connecting students and teachers with a hyphen, discussing each other’s positions and responsibilities. Excitement and failure, some tiredness. We never read the “Crying Time” text by bell hooks, but at least we mentioned it. Formulating new questions and taking questions seriously. Reading a quote, drafting a sketch. Tools for education. Embodying a machine, collectively. In a machine, I believe, there is no best component or element. If you take a piece out, the machine stops working. Simultaneously, something always seems to be missing; we never had the time to… 

Perhaps it’s about accepting the idea that even imperfect machines can work.

I would appreciate it if each of you could send fragments of the imperfect machine by writing a letter addressed to the class. This could include a quote from our readings or a note you took during or after class – you can send as many as you'd like. It could be a sketch for a tool to be built, an image, a question, or even multiple questions. You could share a link, suggest a book for the syllabus, or offer comments and reflections. I’d like for you to send these letters by Wednesday, the 13th so that we can read them together.

Looking forward!



Dear teachers and students,

First, I would like to share a passage I read in Doris Lessing's novel The Golden Notebook ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life, or something like it: 

"You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself -- educating your judgments. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being molded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society."

Perhaps when we realize that we are and can only be in a passive situation, a sense of pessimism and powerlessness unconsciously arises. But when I look at the matter again after stepping out of these emotions, I think schools are supposed to be such a place. We can't build on it if we don't know what the experiences and conclusions of those who came before us were like. So actually, such education is necessary as a child. And at a certain age, it is necessary to start having a critical meaning. Just try to make the best use of the advantages and bypass the disadvantages.

This in turn makes me think of Michel Foucault's theory of Discipline (in a non-pejorative sense) – that knowledge is about control.

Prison, as a product of reason, requires a set of scientific and technical designs behind it to achieve control over people. Modern society doesn’t enforce its authority based on the physical and physiological aspects of people, as ancient societies did. Instead, authority is enforced on the psychological level of people. How is this done?

Chinese scholar Gaoxuan Yang explains this: "This is because modern society has invented the latest science and technology, especially life science, and a whole set of modern science and technology associated with life science, including physiology, anatomy, and so on. The establishment of modern prisons is to concretize some scientific achievements and turn them into a model of a building to be built in a rationalized way.”

In the face of the population explosion and the many social problems it brings, the powers that be have created a prison system based on science and the latest technology for efficient management. Essentially, schools or institutions that serve "rational people" are another form of prisons that use the same processes and techniques of discipline for the mind, which are designed to produce submissive and docile people. Thus, people in modern society cannot escape the various disciplines and surveillance of society.

Perhaps it can be said that all rational behavior that people perform is the result of a kind of discipline. This discipline is the product of humanism and science and technology.

It's interesting when I look back at the negative emotions I mentioned above after reading, and later when I calmed down to look at it and associate it with Michel Foucault's theory of discipline, etc. It's a process of being disciplined, isn't it?




Dear students-teachers, 

What do I want to know? 

I don't know! 

What do you want to teach me? 

I don't want to know! 

I can’t choose the language. I can’t choose what to learn. I couldn’t choose… I didn't communicate with the people around me, I just looked at the words on the paper, but they never responded to me. I didn't always want to read them; I longed to hear the possibly immature, but true, views of others. I expect us to deviate from the correct language system to produce new images, words, and meanings. 

I wanted to become silent as if it were our common language. 

From silence, it slowly became sound, and the sound grew louder and more complex, eventually evolving into an ear-piercing roar.  

Each sound is a separate and equal being. 

How violent the silence is! 

I want to find the names of nameless things, rather than learn the names of known things. 

What am I? I am a tree. I am a pool of water. I am air. I am a collapsing building. I am a  neuron. I am another body. 

What are you? What can you be? What do you want to be? 

We must teach ourselves how to destroy. How to reconstruct. How one body becomes another. How to let a new self into me. No matter who we are or where we come from. 

With the silence of violence, 








我没有跟⾝边的⼈交流,只是看着纸张上的⽂字,但它从未回应我。我不想总是阅读它 们,我渴望听到其他⼈可能不成熟但真实的想法。我期待我们利⽤偏离正确的语⾔系统来 产⽣新的图像、词语和意义。 


从无声慢慢变成有声,⽽且声⾳越来越⼤,越来越复杂,最终演变为刺耳的轰鸣。 每⼀种声⾳都是⼀个独立且平等的存在。 



我是什么?我是⼀棵树。我是⼀滩⽔。我是空⽓。我是倒塌的建筑。我是神经元。 我是另⼀个⾝体。 


我们必须教会我们⾃⼰如何摧毁。如何重建。⼀个⾝体如何变成另⼀个⾝体。如何让新的 ⾃我进入我。不管我们是谁,来⾃哪⾥。 






千載年下來 已經衍生出一套完整但不完美的教育體系


大家敘說各自的不滿 將負面能量轉化為有趣與幽默

種族 無從選擇
階級 無從選擇
性別 無從選擇



學習是 挑戰? 突破?

The purpose of education is to shape and build our knowledge
Learning as a pathway to adventure
Learning strengthens our subsistence
Knowledge is thus passed on
In order to sustain life
We learn

Over the millennia a complete but imperfect system of education has emerged
Controversies in education
Complaints of education
Life is full of complaints


Turning complaints into a show
People talk about their grievances and turn negative energy into fun and humor

I can't complain
I can't complain about my race
I can't complain about my class
I can't complain about my nationality
I can't complain about my gender

Race has no choice
The class has no choice
Gender has no choice
Nationality .....

National political issues are a difficult problem to solve in my country
So be it
Let's maintain the situation
That's what we've been learning.

Is learning a challenge? Breakthroughs?
Learning can also be stagnant

by Ting Wang


Dear students-teachers, 

Today is a beautiful day, and this divine summer weather makes me feel I can share anything with you. It has been a rich semester, and I have enjoyed discussing pedagogy and education with you. When we talk about this topic and how to deconstruct it to have a critical reading, I can't help but think of that delightful story written by Marguerite Duras in 1971: "Ah! Ernesto."  

I admit that I was a little afraid to present a "children's text" when others will present more academic references, but it is precisely because I have this fear that I tell myself that sharing this story with you makes sense. Education is one of the unshakeable pillars of our society, and to touch it or dare to criticize it is a rather bold move. We have always been told that education is a privilege but above all a necessity to ensure a bright future and that education is what makes humanity strong. I agree with some of these points, and school has always been a territory of exploration for me in which I have had the chance to learn so many things but also to learn more about myself and the society I am part of. However, because receiving an education was beneficial for me, why should it prevent me from criticizing it and some of its dogmas? This is exactly what I find in the words of Marguerite Duras in "Ah! Ernesto!" – hence the desire to talk a little more with you about it.  

"Ah! Ernesto!" is the story of a young boy called, you will have understood, Ernesto, who refuses to go to school because he is taught things he doesn't already know. What better way to unlearn can there be? People have a very specific idea of what education and teaching should bring to life. How to read, how to write, how to count – but what about critical thinking or just awareness? Why focus education on academic principles, when so many other things can be taught at a time when our world is drifting? Here is a passage from the text that perfectly illustrates this thought:

“The teacher gets up and goes towards Ernesto again. ‘But how will little Ernesto know how to read? And write? And add?  Hunh? How will little Ernesto know how to get along in the world unless he knows how to read write and add? Hunh?’ ‘I'll know how when I need to.’ says Ernesto.”

Temporality, and being in the moment – are concepts that are missing in education. By focusing on the transmission of basic knowledge, we just forget to live in the present and teach what is necessary during these situations.  So let's learn to live in the present time again. It will be a good start in this process of unlearning.  

But if I had to remember one passage from "Ah! Ernesto!", it would be this one: 

“‘What, exactly, do you  know, little boy?’ Without a moment's hesitation, Ernesto responds: ‘No! That's what I know! I know how to say no! - and that's enough!’” 

In this passage, the teacher gets angry at Ernesto because he doesn't understand what motivates the young boy to refuse the education that is being offered to him. We are always taught to say yes, but rarely to say no. The action of saying "NO” is a big step in the quest for a critical mind that is made. While refusal may seem like a lack of respect or a simple selfish act, is it not a way to free ourselves from our society and its codes that have always been imposed on us? Whatever the answer, if there is one, the "NO" imposes a rupture and a bias. It is a phase that every human goes through as a child, and it is also the purest of reactions to a situation.  

I will let you explore the rest of this text by yourself because even if it is short and may seem light, it is in reality very rich. And if for you our planet is "[...] a soccer, it's a balloon,  and it's the earth," then you are perfectly launched in a process of learning to unlearn. 

 Take care of yourself and unlearn as much as you can.  



In the last few years, I started to recognize how I was trained through a normative lens. I was taught and therefore reproduced myself the images of normative relationships, friendships, looks, bodies, styles, words, and love. I never disliked anything not considered normative or "normal," but had a strong desire to turn towards everything called pretty and cool (interpreted out of a very white, financially privileged, mostly heterosexual bubble). My biggest wish: is to adapt – no one should notice I'm an intruder to the upper-middle class and academic field.  


I don't remember the exact moment when the world as I thought I wanted it to be started to crumble, but there's a  special aura around the year 2019, which I would define as a big time of realizing a lot of things.  

To turn away. 

The norms I've been taught – I've learned since I was a baby – suddenly felt off. They didn't adapt to the things I  read about gender, sexuality, race, about class. Was I the blind one all along? I got angry – towards my teachers, my former friends, my parent's friends, my ex-boyfriend – even towards my mother. Why did they make me learn oppressive manners? Why did they make me learn to not see certain power structures? I was furious and curious at the same time.  

To turn towards. 

As a way to unlearn the ideas of normative love, bodies, and stories, I turned around, in circles, away from and towards people, objects, and places. I unlearned and learned, constantly reminding myself of the fact that the voice in my head is not always right, because it, too, had to unlearn certain structures, perceived as something close to "truth" before. 

To turn the world upside down.  

I started to complain, to be loud, to finally release the anger of all the shitty and humiliating situations I carried along with me. I started to feel something like solidarity – coming towards me, but also from me. I experienced how strong the bonds of shared discrimination can be, but also how much strength others could gather through an allyship that did not constantly question discriminatory experiences.  

To understand and learn. 

I started to realize that a lot of people – like the ones I mentioned before – suffered from normative structures, which did not allow them to be happy or to live the life they would make them feel comfortable. I listened a lot. We exchanged knowledge. We had bonding moments. We learned from each other. We opened more cracks in the normative matrix and learned to look after them – not allowing these wonderful cracks to close again.  

To unlearn together.  

I want to share these few words in full solidarity with those who suffered from all we learned in the first place.  May we be the unlearning machines of the future.  




As the semester came to an end, the information in my head went through a spontaneous "integration" revolution.

As someone who has studied abroad alone as an adult, I've been thinking about what motivates me, as well as my desire for freedom and self-challenge, and I think I now have the answer: Education.

Education is a paradoxical concept, spontaneous and passive. We are sent to the educational institution - the School - before we have formed a sense of self. Passively, we start receiving information. But at the same time, I couldn't help but think, as if before I could even speak, I started to wonder about the world, for example, I wondered why the apple was in this shape, why it was red, and why it could be green. So I started to ask questions. Wasn't this a spontaneous exploration of my education? It seems that, even before I was sent to school, I spontaneously began to ask the world myself, to seek my answers, to demand the answers that education would bring me. 

Slowly I realized that education was something I had to do on my own, a way to move from one stage to another. Slowly I went from passively receiving information that I hadn't asked for to – I wanted more and more information. Education is like a perpetual motion machine. Constantly accepting my requests, transmitting the answers I want, and being available 24/7 to meet my needs at all times. 

I think it is because of its perpetual energy output that I am also assured and determined to go to the stage I aspire to, and not stop to meet their desire for the unknown. If there is one thing that gives a kid who has just graduated from high school strength and motivation, I think it is – Education. 

Tara, she said: 

“…The decisions I made after that moment were not the ones she would have made. They were the choices of a changed person, a new self. You could call this selfhood many things. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal. I call it an education.”

I feel the same way. Because at any stage of my life, I can look back and see that, at my feet now, there is nothing like education, which is with me all the time, wherever I am, no matter what the cost or the time. If education, in some form, gives us the feeling of being bound and framed, then it is better to say that we add the "role" of oppressors to education. Education itself is free for me, and it is what taught me how to be free. I am free to be educated in any country, in any city, and this spontaneous force, I would call it – Freedom. 

So, if there is anyone who can give me the courage and motivation to pursue all the answers I want, I think it is the perpetual motion machine that runs 24/7 – Education.

Jingruo Wang


Dear fellow student-teachers, 

there is a song stuck in my head. I hear it on repeat all the time, and I think it fits the issue of privilege as one’s loss by Spivak that we discussed in class. One line in Bo Burnham’s song “1985” sticks with me in particular: “Some people got to fight to survive – some people are white guys in 1985.” Bo Burnham is a white guy himself, and he sings about his dad in this song. A white man in 1985. 

White people normally don’t recognize racism because it doesn’t concern them. Men normally don’t recognize sexism because it doesn’t concern them. They need to educate themselves. We need to educate ourselves. We need to unlearn our privileges as our loss, as Spivak would say it. I guess Bo Burnham has already started doing this. 

I also had to think about the doors Sara Ahmed talks about in “Complaint,” and how you often don’t notice them until they’re closed to you. 

I did a volunteer year after graduating from school. In one of the seminars, we did a privilege check. A couple of statements were laid out on the floor, and we had to read them. If they applied to us, we had to turn them around and read the perspective of someone who doesn’t have the same privileges as ourselves. “I have light skin,” or “I was born in this country,” for example. 

That opened my eyes. In all of the 18 years I had lived up until this moment, I had never been this aware of just how privileged I was and still am. I may have a migration background, but German is my first language (my mother is Turkish, so how could I say German is my mother tongue? It just feels wrong). I may be a woman, I may be queer, I may be mentally ill. But my parents both went to university, they earn good money, and have the mental capacities and free time to support me whenever I need it. My environment is rather feminist, I live in a heterosexual relationship, my mental illness is rather minor, and I have the resources to get therapy fast. 

Sometimes I have the feeling that I am not allowed to complain, because of all of these privileges. Because there are Black lesbian women in wheelchairs and Asian trans guys with bipolar disorder out there. Because there are so many open doors in front of me. 

However, I learned in this seminar that recognizing these doors is the first step in the direction of unlearning one’s privileges as one’s loss. 

Because my father earns enough money to support our family alone and I am an only child, my mother takes care of most of the care work at home, I had to learn how to cook, clean, and other basic skills by myself after I moved out. I had to Google how to use a washing machine when I was 18 years old.  

Learning is a process that never stops, because if it does if you stop learning new stuff, if you stop developing, you are simply dead.  

To a lifetime of learning, 



Good afternoon, dears. It's a sunny Sunday. It would be 
nice if it were less sunny, but I don’t like to force the sun  
to be less expressive. The story that I shared last  
time was about unlearning in my private life and how to  
unlearn by the machine. I read the mail I sent you 9 days  
ago, I chewed the cud again, and now I am trying to obtain  
thread from the ricks. It was about learning. My life has  
been full of learning while moving around. Moving  
cities, even countries, is a big thing. Your environment  
changes completely, you will face different cultures,  
and you need to adapt to new places and new surroundings.  
I believe in myself; all of the hardships from these  
changes can only be achieved by learning. Looking  
around, observing. How they make their gestures, show  
emotion, and dress up. How they talk, what they say, how  
fast they talk. My decision, to migrate and settle down  
in a new place, I made it as a subject. But the way I  
adapted was more or less passive. 

  • What is the benefit of being passive during the 
    adaptation period? Different subjects always have 
    conflict. Depending on the amount of passivity, you 
    can be a more solid being to endure a conflict. 
    What’s the standard of ‘proper passiveness’? 
    At which point should I stop being passive? 

  • Still Feel Energy Theory  

-After the level of passive adaptation, you talked for more  
than 30 min, and still, you enjoyed the conversation. >  
It's an okay level.  

-After the level of passive adaptation, you talk for more  
than 30 min, you feel a little bit tired, but still, you  
talk for 10 min more to finish a “good” conversation. >  

It’s still okay.  

-After the level of passive adaptation, you talk for more  
than 30 min, and you occasionally say something, but it’s  
mostly like “Good,” “Nice,” or “That’s cool.” > It could be  

-After the level of passive adaptation, you talk for more  

than 30 min, you rarely say something, and you feel  
you are wasting time with this conversation. > Could be  
fine, but you can try to be honest about your feelings.  

I always had a feeling that I needed to put myself in the right shape in a new environment. I liked that I kept changing. Changing meant to me that I was learning.  But one night, I woke up from my sleep and realized  I wasn’t dreaming in the way that I was dreaming in my home country. I felt something was lost, something had changed. I started to be more conscious of myself. I  felt very foggy. It was a nice chill and filling sense, but it was also very blunt. I can see myself: I’m in the phase of unlearning. I’m digging the fog, and trying to disinter the forms that I remember. And in every corner, I see the moments where I could stop and rewind the thing to compose a better figure. 

-After the level of passive adaptation, you talk for more than 30 min, you are quite talkative, quite in high tension, but you feel like shit. >Could be sociable, but could be unhealthy to yourself. You are overdoing something, and if you are overdoing something, it’s easy to hide your true feelings from yourself. 

  • Desperation. Desperation is too desperate. Reflecting 
    on myself, I feel learning unnecessary things – even like 
    learning stereotypes or mean behavior – could happen 
    more frequently to desperate people. But it doesn’t 
    mean we need to define a desperate person as a 
    “mean person.” It’s about their deep desperation, why 
    they should be so desperate, and what makes them so 
    desperate. We can learn how to read each other with 
    the right voice and learn the cracks that the world has. 



Among the letters received from each one of you, there is a common pattern, and it seems like the past few years have opened for everyone a possibility for significant discoveries,  healing, and rejection of fixed lines. Difficult times have allowed us to reassemble and build our map, preferring rhizomatic over arborescent narratives. Breaking vertical patterns and practicing a new kind of freedom, as we have realized how ingrained in us is the “banking” education system Freire speaks of and how our perception has been formed in a fragmented manner. We have understood that education is deeply suffering from narrative sickness since it became an act of depositing where we are often transformed into mere empty pots to be filled. As mentioned in Paulo Freire’s book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, we are often immersed in disrupted systems of education with banking characteristics, where the educator's role is to regulate how the world “enters into” the students in a hierarchical, authoritarian way. However, we want to expand it, improve it, and create new stories. If we cannot completely get rid of the flawed systems of oppression, we can try to make them dance. 

I will tell you two personal stories: the first one is regarding my position as an  “oppressed” subject, the seriousness of which I discovered years later. The second one refers to an important encounter in my life, where my position as a teacher was reversed.  

As a child in kindergarten, I was not able to speak with anyone besides my family. I  remember being constantly excluded by teachers, who would isolate me in a corner with my toys, affixing the epithet “weird” to me. I used to play on my own, creating long rows of tiny animals or stones, telling stories in my head, and refusing to speak a single word with anyone. The teachers’ behavior was unknown to my parents since they were absent, and I thought it was an obvious conclusion to be excluded if I refused to even say “I’m here” during the roll call.  This did not constitute a huge issue to me – plus, it was enjoyable to play alone. Sometimes, I  used to wonder why everyone was keeping their distance, but I found refuge in singing when I was back in my safe space. I had what I later found out to be “selective mutism,” described as an anxiety disorder where a person is unable to speak in social situations. Years later, while healing, the pattern became more clear. In 2020, I started working in a kindergarten where I had the precious opportunity to meet a very sensitive child who was also affected by selective mutism. Once he collected a plethora of dice, on the surface of which various characters or images were represented. He asked me to tell a story beginning from where I wanted to and, as I started, he rearranged the dice in the sequence. By modeling itself, the visual list opened itself up to numerous possibilities, presenting bizarre elements and contradictions. Breaks in the flow, and interludes in the bigger expansion of things. Disturbing moments and variations occurred: an act of expansion, a sumptuous disarrangement of properties through repetition, dissonance, and combinations. A continuous dance of fullness and emptiness, to create an oracle space filled with unique stories. A floor forged with objects which continuously changed position, and which were allowed to give up synthesis, opening up to tell a single narrative in disparate ways. 




Dear Student-Teachers,

While reading bell hooks’’ book Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (1994), the reference to “spirituals reminded me of the young adult book To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) by Harper Lee, which deals with rape and racial inequality. The “spirituals” mentioned by bell hooks resonated with the scene in Lee’s book where the black nanny, Calpurnia, took the Finch family’s two children, Jem and Scout, to a Black church for worship. Because of slavery, they were not able to use hymn books, but instead, the music director led spirituals to teach and memorize Bible stories. To Kill a Mockingbird also inspired me more through the character of Atticus teaching his children. As a father, he never suppresses his children's instincts, but he also never allows them to behave inappropriately. He showed them how to get along with their own families and others; how to resolve conflicts; how to deal with curiosity and weirdness; how to put themselves in other people's shoes; how to be sensible and educated; and how to answer questions reasonably and patiently. And, ultimately, how to be spiritually and intellectually independent.

After having more encounters with the West, I realized that there was a mismatch in how I believe information should be digested and how information is delivered. Some of this information is received passively daily through media. However, it is the individual’s tools to process information, accepting it in its entirety, or through discernment, that provoke discussion or debate. The individual who doesn’t have the tools to think independently is reminiscent of what Gustave Le Bon calls “a crowd” in his book The Crowd (1896). Crowd behavior is unanimous, emotional, and intellectually weak.

So whenever I receive pieces of information that differ from my previous perceptions of the world I remind myself of the phrase: Thoughts of freedom, spirits of independence, by Chen Yinke, a Chinese historian, linguist, orientalist, politician, and writer. This was his mantra for pursuing truth. I hope that by keeping these teachings in mind I can learn how to look at the world and society more ‘objectively.”






些限制,这种改变也会影响我们对自己的认知。这就像是禅宗的禅观所说的 —- “无住 无念 无

“This is the op pressor’s language yet I need it to talk to you” I like this word from Adrienne Rich, it made me feel a conflict, as if all of a sudden it was like a story came to my mind. I also like Bell Hooks' interpretation of language, and I was impressed by her analysis of language with domination and oppression.

I've never seen ‘language‘’ from that perspective before, I grew up in an environment where learning English was encouraged, not only in the language but in the education I received, while you may be able to choose what you like, the best and most beneficial one is always the one that is most popular and has the largest audience; the majority one. Bell Hooks gave me another perspective to look at it.

It also reminds me of Spivak's proposal to unlearn the privilege. Privilege is a kind of insularity that cuts off the privileged from certain kinds of "other" knowledge.If we can unlearn about gender, nationality, class, and language, or any of the labels and limitations that already exist, and work to overcome them, this change will also affect our perception of ourselves. This is like the Doctrinal Basis of Zen Practice —- “ 无念 无相 无住 ”: To live in the present moment without attachment to any experience; to understand that the existence of the
universe has nothing to do with our perceptions and experiences. If you become a concept based on the external appearance you take in and accumulate experience, thinking that this is the reality, you end up misunderstanding the reality. It's hard, but worth it, unlearning is learning.



Cari tutti,

I have been reading your emails, longing and thinking about what to write back. So I will start with one of the passages we never made to read in class. The one of Bell Hooks that most touched me. And exactly so, she says, that “we touch one another in language”. How true but somewhat futuristic, thinking that we can touch each other with words. I am now
touching you.

How physically tangible becomes the act of teaching. All of this, although our physical presence is never acknowledged in the classroom. When we think that the people we learn from every day have no physicality to us. Plato, Michel Foucault, and Hanna Arendt are black ink on white pages. How did they look like, how did they move, what did their voices sound like? What a different way of touching. Can they truly touch us? Is it easier to learn from someone with no apparent physical features?

Instead, how physical are we? Sitting on top of our uncomfortable chairs for hours, in between desks staring at a whiteboard. We spend the best part of our childhood and teenage years, channeling our energy to sit in a classroom.

So my question is, why do we negate our bodies so much in education? I once read a book by Daniel Pennac. It was a diary, not a diary of thoughts, love, and emotions. But a diary of his body. It has been one of my favorite books ever since.

So, Cari Tutti, how nice the idea that we can read to one another in different languages - canceling every sense of meaning and just appreciating our physical presence, our voices, our movements.

Looking forward to seeing you on Wednesday.


The publication of these letters is part of an ongoing collaboration between UMBAU and Arts of the Working Class. UMBAU is an online journal for the promotion of art, research, and design emerging from Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design (HfG).

  • Image Credits

    Public reading of the letters during the Rundgang.



    Paolo Caffoni is a research assistant and PhD candidate at the KIM research group at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG) Karlsruhe. He was part of the curatorial team for the 2018 Yinchuan Biennale. Between 2009 and 2021, he was publishing editor at Archive Books.

    Laura Vogelhöfer is currently pursuing a MA in Media Philosophy and Art Research at HfG Karlsruhe, including an exchange year at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Before this, she obtained a BA in Media and Cultural Studies, as well as in Political Science, at university in Freiburg.

    Rui Zhang is currently studying Media Arts at HfG Karlsruhe. Before that, she studied at Central Academy of Fine Arts, or CAFA (Beijing, China) and received a bachelor's degree in Communication Design.

    Wei Wang is currently pursuing Exhibition design and Scenography at HfG Karlsruhe. Before this, she studied in China Central Academy of Fine Art a BA in Environmental Design.

    Ilayda Kohl is currently pursuing a MA in Media Philosophy and Art Research at HfG. She was recently nominated for the Förderpreis of the Fördergesellchaft from HfG. 

    Siting Chen is a Mixed-media and interdisciplinary researcher, currently studying Media Art at HfG Karlsruhe. In her work, she utilizes a variety of media, including sound, CGI, video games, and installation.

    Livia Emma Lazzarini is a curator, designer, and art researcher. Currently, she is part of the editorial team of the journal UMBAU in Karlsruhe, where she is pursuing an MA in Art Research at HfG-ZKM.

    Jingruo Wang studies Exhibition, and plans to pursue art management & curation. She has an extensive background in art education in China, and has a BA in Fashion Management from her studies in Berlin. 

    Nicolas Poirot is a french graphic designer currently studying in the Communication Design department at the HfG Karlsruhe. With two bachelor’s degrees in design theory and visual communication, his practice centers around pop culture, gender studies, and speculation.

    Huiyeon Yun is a graphic designer and visual crafter currently in the process of receiving an MA in Communication Design at HfG Karlsruhe. She has a BA in Communication Design from Konkuk University (Seoul, South Korea).

    Shih-Ting Wang is currently an MA in Exhibition design and Scenography at HfG Karlsruhe. Before this, she studied at Tainan National University of the Arts (Taiwan), Department of Material Arts and Design.

    Xingchen Liu is a media artist and recent Media Arts graduate of HfG. He has a BA in Media Art from his university studies in Shanghai.

    Chiara Duchi is pursuing her MA in Art Research and Media Philosophy at HfG Karlsruhe remotely, while also pursuing a permaculture project in Cataluña, Spain. She also has a BA in Contemporary Art and Curatorial Studies from the Free University of Bolzano, Italy.




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