Better Than Sex
Sweet Spots, Systems and Openings at the Online Conference on the Art of Engagement
In October 2007, the online Engaged Art conference gathered over two hundred people from around the globe to consider what makes art a vital part of cultural and social movement towards sustainability, and what militates against an art that matters.
We never planned to have an online conference. The Islands Institute offered its web cafe as space to hold an online tea party during the summer of 2007, so that participants in the Vancouver conference could meet one another virtually and share ideas before arriving at the real-world event. The tea party was a pleasant, occasionally interesting online gathering of 15-20 people. But then conference coordinator Tania Willard and I had real-world tea together, and suddenly we had a vision going: a free and freewheeling online space, where we could begin conversations before the conference and continue them afterwards, and where anyone who could not attend could meet and foment a creative stew about how and why we do art, and how we can make art matter. We had no idea who might show up for this online conference, but we imagined a web connecting artists whose practice turned on a desire to change the world.
The conventional critical discourse surrounding contemporary art exercises knowledge as power, deciding within a proliferation of images and processes what has value as art, and what does not. In contrast, we aimed to create a radically democratic space - allowing singularity/difference, and inviting collective wisdom. The online conference connected geographically diverse engaged art practitioners who gave voice to their questions, shared issues and argued ideas. It brought together richly experienced artists with those just beginning their practice, and gave all a voice. It provided a wealth of links, images and documents for further research.
As I worked to design the online environment, I employed a social network platform that allows for easy sharing of images and videos, and multiple levels of public and private interactions between viewers and participants. I added more entry points to the platform, including text chat and voice-chat capability. But far more important than the design of the space was communicating the reality that this space was not curated, funded, or coordinated. The conference was experimental, co-created and free. Space was held open so that participants could create what they needed and wanted within it. Facilitators emerged from this open space; the conference program developed as people registered, bringing their passions and their willingness to host conversations on particular topics to the site.
Catriona Sandilands suggests that ossified democratic forms can be reconfigured as collaborative practices that are juicy and joyful, and that social computing is a medium that invites this reconfiguration. She writes, "We must create an 'erotic democracy' that decentralizes power and allows for direct participation in the decisions that determine our lives...We must rethink technology as a creative art form that can add to the splendor of both social and natural worlds."
The online conference was rooted in this vision, informed by a dialogic practice and collaborative aesthetic. We aimed to create space for open-ended conversations that might generate more options and more insights without leading to any predictable outcome or result.
Grant Kester (2005a) notes that for engaged artists, a collaborative aesthetic is one important trajectory through which we might unlink the work of art from the "possessive individualism" of modernist subjectivity and post-modern cynicism. With a collaborative aesthetic, "artistic creativity is no longer seen as a formal act but as an intervention into society" (Wochen Klausur, cited in Smith, 2007). Differences between collaborative and conventional art explored by Kester and others are explored in the table below.
Tim Collins, a well-known environmental artist and Director of the Centre for Art, Design, Research and Experimentation at the University of Wolverhampton, UK, joined the online conference. There he posits a "focal point of critical engagement with transformative (social and environmental) practices" in "the dialogue that has the potential to change us, and at the same time forge new bonds of social connectivity and emancipatory desire which can lead to action." He suggests questions that invite critical engagement with artwork that is not contained in a material product: "Is there evidence of original thinking and unique language (visual, verbal, written text, symbol, narrative or metaphor) in the dialogic exchange that attends the work? Does the work subvert the dominant consciousness and elicit a sense of creative social connectivity amongst its collaborators, participants or viewers?"
Jan Cornall, an Australian performance artist who facilitated a session on "Storytelling and Cross-Cultural Dialogue," described the online network as it emerged: "Here, there is the possibility to make deep meaningful connection with like-minded artists, thinkers, writers, performers; to collaborate, share ideas, knowledge, develop projects, and to work together to actively make a difference in our street, neighbourhood, world. Here you can be recognized, appreciated and supported as an artist, an arts worker, an activist, a teacher, a thinker, by your fellow artists and arts workers...Here we can cut through the borders and boundaries that separate us, we can leapfrog the hierarchies and closed shops, the habitual patterns of our own limited thinking and limitations of our own arts communities and burst freely into a new awakened space of possibility. I tell you...it's better than sex, [and] almost better than art."
We gather around a series of questions, beginning with "Can art matter?" How do we image and imagine the work of art at this moment in history, when the survival of the planet is threatened? What role can art play in transforming the current cascade of social and environmental crises? Can we develop a way to create culture, to research, learn and teach with/in ecological systems? Where does art intersect with social struggle? We debate how to break the cultural frame in which art is segregated from everyday life - at once overvalued and irrelevant. Some are impatient with this debate. Linda Frye Burnham, arts writer and founder of High Performance Magazine and the Community Arts Network, comments, "I don't have to speculate about how art can matter. It does. I have been watching it save lives for 30 years." She refers to several examples including the Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD), a performance art troupe of homeless and formerly homeless people. Burnham states, "The LAPD has literally saved the lives of a number of its members who, through LAPD activities, have found their pride again, got jobs, partners and homes and shaken off addictions. Now they are trying to extricate their neighborhood from the trash heap of history."
For others, the debate feels crucial. Sacha Kagan, research associate at the Leuphana University in Lueneburg (Germany) and coordinator of Cultura21, writes, "the a priori belief that...art does matter, 'of course', is a rampant disease of self-satisfaction in most of the art worlds, that can ultimately prevent them from conducting a sane self-reflective process, in which they could discover the limits and the possible perverse effects of their actions."
Engaged art is art that wants to change the world. But how is this different from art that is disengaged? Much dialogue and criticism surrounding contemporary art generates a closed system of meaning and value. Art speaks of art history rather than world history. The art audience debates the value of a work of art without reference to its value to the larger world. Socially conscious art remains circumscribed by the art-world economies in which it assumes its import, and where avant-garde shock tactics (with strategies such as exposing society's contradictions and revealing its secret subtexts) have long been employed without discernable effect. As Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick asks, "What is the basis for assuming that it will surprise or disturb, never mind motivate, anyone to learn that a given social manifestation is artificial, self-contradictory, imitative, phantasmatic or even violent?" (2003). Moreover, is the aim of social transformation itself peculiarly modern and even imperialist? Does it work to reinforce cultural beliefs that underlie ecological problems, as Bowers (2005) believes? Transformation can mean eschewing local knowledges and traditional ecological knowledges and adopting a Western knowledge paradigm, mired in individualism, the progressive nature of change, and anthropocentrism. Transformative aims can contribute to anti-ecological thinking.
Kagan claims that art can be a force in disturbing conventions because: "Society vests a number of 'qualities' into the social role of 'artists'.... Some of them are: The artist as high-quality attention catcher; the artist as sacralizer, eye-opener and rule-cracker. The artist is both a relative outsider and a relative insider in a community, and this position bears very interesting potentials for... 'inter-conventional exchanges': looking into and beyond the frames of existing social conventions and crossing the boundaries..."
On the other hand, Kagan describes many factors that militate against an art that matters, linked to the difficulties artists can face when dealing with the conventions of their art worlds. These conventions include "the belief in art for art's sake and in the high value of self-referentiality in art... [and] the belief in authenticity, that can restrain the artist's flexibility in his/her interactions with non-art-world others..."
Kagan concludes, "I believe that these weaknesses can be overcome - especially if the artists remain self-critical, aware of their own socializations, aware of the complex webs of social relationships with which they are engaged, and aware of the institutions in which they are inescapably participating."
Other conference participants argue that art has a special role to play in world events because of its ability to mobilize unconscious, unintentional contents of mind and culture, to generate embodied knowledge, and to model and practice "systems thinking" through integrative projects. Luciana Grosu, a nineteen year-old student from Romania, offers this schema: "ART= a special language (that) -> transmits a MESSAGE (that) can't be transmitted otherwise => people COMMUNICATE better (and) UNDERSTAND better their EMOTIONS (and) PERCEPTIONS=> they want to CHANGE reality => (eventually) they TAKE ACTION."
But British performance artist Tim Jeeves cautions, "Art could be a mundane language that fails to transmit a message, and even if that message is transmitted it doesn't necessarily encourage people to communicate better (they might be intimidated into silence) in which case understanding may not necessarily ensure, they may not want to change reality and they definitely may not take action. Even if they do...the action taken need not be positive. Propaganda is the most obvious (and extreme) example of 'art gone bad', but there is also a danger, within explicitly engaged work, that when funding runs out, when the project is 'completed', that communities and society as a whole are left abandoned."
Others speak for art's connection with knowledge paradigms that integrate mystery, wonder, beauty, and the unknown. Amy Lenzo, California-based environmental artist and web designer, argues, "There is an element in this sphere of 'influence' and 'social transformation' that is very mysterious, and with all we are learning about it, there is still more that we cannot possibly know." Beth Carruthers, a B.C.-based philosopher, artist, and curator concurs. "I think art exists and yes, acts, in the world in various ways – some intended by the artist and some wild and uncontrollable…There is a great deal of conversation about the intended, about the cognitive, rational, and perhaps more readily perceived aspects of artworks and practices...but there is more going on here."
Chris Corrigan, facilitator of the Open Space program held throughout day two of the Vancouver conference, writes:
"Getting out of the way allows people to fill space with their passion. Letting go of expectations leaves room for responsibility to come forth. All of this is integrity. Every piece of doing requires the strong presence of non-doing to anchor it.
Stifling every impulse to intervene, to give directions and orders leaves space for others to design their lives. You can create a container and then stand by and watch it fill and teem with life." (2006, p. 7)
Corrigan works with Open Space Technology, a model for group process developed by Harrison Owen some twenty years ago. The model has been used around the world to enable a wide variety of people and organizations to create inspired meetings and events. It can be employed whenever a self-selected group convenes to consider a question of passionate concern. Open Space participants sit in a circle, then come forward to share every issue that matters to them, and to take responsibility for convening small groups in which these issues can be addressed. Participants are asked to document their discussions and invite responses from others.
Creating a radically democratic learning environment and an open, nutrient-rich space with permeable boundaries are informing goals for the Islands Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies - an online organization that links art, ecology and community through education and dialogue. I view this openness as model for engaged art practice, for learning and for life. I saw how Open Space Technology could empower us to dwell in the field between chaos and order in our web-based educational work. Harrison Owen notes, 'The Internet...provides an electronic environment, as open space, in which organization without walls can grow." (2000, p. 147).
Educational organizations, like art organizations, are typically closed and closely guarded hierarchical systems, constituted by way of fiercely defended boundaries that separate insiders from outsiders, qualified from disqualified. Owen invites us to ask: from where, in a closed system, does power come? He notes that while no system is actually closed, in those which aim to be so "learning in a deep sense comes to a halt, and innovation withers....[T]he firewalls, external and internal, that defend the organization also isolate it from the external world, and internally its members are locked in hermetically sealed chambers" (p. 113-114). In ivory towers, as in white boxes, there is no way to change - no place for accident or for difference that makes a difference - and so the system's irrelevance is insured. In such claustrophobic conditions, "the whole system becomes toxic," and we must change or die (p. 81 ff.)
M'Gonigle and Starke (2006) speak of reinventing education, so that all those involved can act as collective producers of community and place, rather than fragmented, individual consumers of knowledge-power (p. 150). Tim Collins notes that new paradigms for engaged art practice can be invented by communities of interest, "Or...we can leave it to the artworld to define our artwork for us; that is our choice as I understand it."
We open space, and Spirit shows up, says Harrison Owen. And "We all know Spirit when we meet it. In its presence there is excitement, innovation, what we might call inspired performance"(2000, p. 7). Opening space means letting go of control, exceeding our detailed plans and careful budgets, and trusting in the transformations and diversifications of collective wisdoms, emergent forms and unknowable forces. In this process, art is not a luxury, as Audre Lorde says. Art dances in the dark, reaches down into the chaos. It can empower us to dwell within a dynamic process of creating and learning, so that the organizations and the objects we make stop partaking of spiritless abstraction, stop preserving discredited epistemes, and instead open to the shifting patterns, metamorphoses, diversity and distinctiveness of enspirited, organic life.
The early afternoon session of the online conference focused on art and ecology. Environmental artist Ann Rosenthal and Green Museum director Sam Bower opened a dialogue that touched on a range of questions. Is it necessary to be at home in a place to do an effective ecological art project? What are the benefits of being an outsider? How much should we direct community projects? How do we conceive nature and the earth? Is ecological art about changing perceptions or is it necessarily functional, involving some environmental remediation? Are we educators? How do we work within and without existing educational systems? What are differences between information and knowing?
This is conversation I had longed for: a passionate exchange with other artists who share my commitment to transforming human destructiveness and restoring natural systems. As I furiously typed my beliefs and challenges into a chat room where various threads of conversation from across North America and Europe were tangled in a frustrating technological snarl, I found myself weeping with joy. I was in a space and time of tremendous energy and potential—vital, urgent, creative.
The online conference was full of failures. Everything was problematic. Nothing worked as planned.
Technical calamities: Many people who registered didn't show up. Many of those who did found they weren't able to access the site due to inexplicable server errors. As people from around the world gathered at their computers to begin the conference at 9 am on October 12th, the "Discussion Board" technology we planned to use completely failed. While Mercedes Baines and Sacha Kagan bravely facilitated a voice-based dialogue in one area of the website and text-based dialogue in another, I worked feverishly to redo the technical environment. With these chaotic shifts, we lost several would-be contributors. Much of the real-time dialogue remained undocumented.
Real-World Interface: Tania Willard, Mercedes Baines and I agreed that "at minimum" the online conference would have value in that it would document the Vancouver Conference as it occurred, and allow people who could not attend to participate in it. But when it came right down to it, this "minimum" live connection with the Vancouver conference never really happened. We were overwhelmed, and couldn't manage to keep up with documenting the real-world conference as it unfolded. Very few participants in the Vancouver conference stepped outside the excitement there to record their conversations and interact online. Yet, without the real-world aliveness of the Vancouver conference, the online conference wouldn't have happened, as British performance artist Rajni Shah observes. Theron Schmidt comments: "I don't generally participate in online forums. Having the [Vancouver] conference as a focus led me to set aside time in my calendar for thinking and reading." The network eventually documented the entire real-world conference with sound recordings and images. But the document stays static, fixed. What conditions could empower a real-world interface?
Disembodied Voices: David Abram (1996) describes how computer-mediated communications separate us from a capacity for language that is informed by our embeddedness in natural systems. Because the body is "an active and open form, continually improvising its relation to things and to the world," it keeps us in sensuous, breathing, dynamic, ever-unfolding relationship with the non-human world. What is it in our work, our practice, and our relationships that demands the presence of the body and the breath?
On the Internet, we are at once isolated from one another, and situated right inside a global social context. This context is characterized by the emergency of environmental degradation, the uncertainty of rapid social change, the displacement of traditional cultures, and an overwhelming quantity of information. The difficulty of engaging in sparkling conversations asynchronously can further isolate us from one another. Do online conversations tend to be superficial interactions? Is this conversation limited to communicating more information, rather than cultivating vital relationships?
Space for Silence: Loretta Todd (2006) asks how, inside the assault of information and imagery that surrounds us, we make space for silence. Silence is not emptiness, Todd suggests; it is a moment of knowledge integration within attentiveness. Silence is a space where we can productively meet each other. Elizabeth Lange likewise comments on the "increased volume and accelerated flow of activity in every aspect of society." Business ideology creates intense, hyperactive work environments with restructuring and cutbacks, while the consumer society's cultural construction of home and family creates inflated expectations for comfort and connection. Activists work with a sense of emergency about their community commitments. The Web itself provides an overwhelming, infinite and inassimilable environment of information and imagery. Lange writes, "the power of electronics and a corresponding frenetic economy is increasingly at odds with the organic needs of humans - their embodied seasonal and biological rhythms, social need for continuity and the spiritual need for reflection and meaning." Interacting in an online environment, how can we make space for silence, stillness, attention, and the integration of knowledge?
How can we forge alternate models for culture, and open spaces for art that is innovative, creative and deeply embedded in human community and natural systems? How can we resist entrenched cultural assumptions and global economic pressures to make space for culture that expands the space of the possible, "creating conditions for the emergence of the as-yet unimagined...."
Harrison Owen (2000) locates a model for broad social change in the notion of self-organizing systems. This model, adapted from physics, chemistry and ecology, describes the mysterious emergence of order from chaos in open systems that draw energy from the surrounding environment. Owen summarizes the conditions in which self-organization will emerge over time, including: relatively safe and protected, nutrient-rich surroundings; high levels of diversity in the elements present; high levels of complexity in terms of potential inter-connections; a drive towards "fittingness" with the environment; sparse prior connections between the elements present (so nothing is fixed); and the presence of chaos, disequilibrium.
Here learning, adaptation and organization are understood as durational processes that unfold over time, through heterarchical structures wherein all elements share in the design and management of the system. Self-organization is an ongoing movement without a determinable aim or end. As Owen observes, the existence of self-organizing systems invites interrogation of such bifurcating notions as self and other, order and chaos, power and surrender, knowledge and ignorance. As I reflect on the potential future of the Engaged Art Network, I suggest that the model of "self-organizing systems" can be posed as an open question that may expand the space of the possible.
Heaney (1995) describes education as "the art of implementing a social vision through support, nurturance and inspiration." As I began designing the online conference environment, I was guided by this educative aim. I imagined a Community of Practice for ongoing conversation and apprenticeship among engaged art practitioners. In Community of Practice learning theory all communities are seen as having centripetal and centrifugal forces within borders that separate outside from inside. Heaney (1995) writes, "Centripetal participation moves us inward toward more intensive participation so that our learning and work influences and becomes constitutive elements in the definition of the community. Such participation (learning) is empowering. On the other hand, centrifugal participation moves us outward...and is this disempowering." But project participants, and the network architecture, challenge this model for learning. In contrast to a closed circle where a (privileged) few influence and define the community, the network suggests a fractal form for collaboration, learning and association that is forever open, interrogative and multiplicable. It allows us to imagine temporary, provisional, contested communities whose purpose and power are opened by infinite layers of hypertext, and argued in asynchronous discussions where each person can speak without being interrupted. Multiple approaches - including email, private forums, public forums, collaborative work space, online events, and offline catalysts could make space for friendships and gradations of intimacy. Rather than opening space for a dreamed-of community, the network offers space for a perennially branching web of relatedness in a culture of infinite complexity.
As I write in January 2008, the network is still alive and emergent. Rajni Shah has offered to curate "a diverse and inquisitive program of artists-in-residence" for the site. Jan Cornall is hosting an online monthly tea party. A number of Indonesian artists have recently joined, and are holding a dialogue in their language. The Engaged Arts Network will host a gathering this spring with a focus on art, education and ecology. Sponsored by the Integrated Studies Program at Athabasca University, this event may extend the network into more interdisciplinary intersections between "art" and "life."
Beverly Naidus, artist and teacher of art for social change, comments, "For me, as facilitator [of a discussion on Teaching Art for Social Change], the greatest delight [of the online conference] was this sense of our world as activist art practitioners, leaping across borders, time zones, and significant logistical boundaries. To be able to connect with deeply passionate colleagues in Australia, England, Qatar, Vancouver and Pittsburgh - wow, is all I can say....There are so many people everywhere who feel the preciousness of this time and recognize that we must gather our energies to turn the tide....We need to gather all the sparks, and develop more momentum from the margins."
Is the Engaged Art Network ending or beginning? Consider this an invitation to decide.
In time: reciprocal, durational
Not transmitting knowledge but honoring a
process that is, itself, generative, restorative,
and transformative. "Truth is not one
thing, or even a system. It is an increasing
complexity." (Adrienne Rich, 1979)
Collective work, participatory intelligence:
Artist as initiator and facilitator of an
extended process of exchange with the
Object for consumption - "bitter pill"
Out of time: withdrawn from process
Artist as teacher, truth-teller, provoking
transformational shock via confrontation
with (stupid) audience.
Art as the "product of the artist's unfettered,
expressive self"; The artist's "promethean
subjectivity" asserted through intervention
(Kester, 2005a, p. 20)
The shock of the new
Abram, D. (1996). The Spell of the Sensuous. New York: Random House.
Bowers, C. A. and Apffel-Marglin, F. (2005). Re-thinking Freire: Globalization and the Environmental Crisis. Sociocultural, Political, and Historical Studies in Education.Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc
Corrigan, C. (2006). The Tao of Holding Space. http:/A/vww.chriscorrigan.com/ftp/Tao_of_holding_space.pdf
Davis, B. (2002). Inventions of Teaching. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Heaney, T. (1995). Learning to control democratically: ethical questions in situated adult education. Proceedings of the Adult Education Research Conference (University of Alberta, Edmonton). http://www.nl.edu/academics/cas/ace/facultypapers/ThomasHeaney_Democratically.cfm
Kagan, S. (2008). "Art effectuating social change: Double Entrepreneurship in Conventions." In Sacha Kagan and Volker Kirchberg (eds.). Sustainability: a new frontier for the arts and cultures. Frankfurt: VAS, forthcoming (2008).
Giroux, H. (1992). Border Crossing: Cultural Workers and the Politics of Education. New York: Routledge.
Kester, G., ed. (2005a). Groundworks: Environmental Collaboration in Contemporary Art. Pittsburg: Carnegie Mellon University.
Kester, G. (2005b). Conversation Pieces: The Role of Dialogue in Socially-Engaged Art. Theory in Contemporary Art Since 1985, ed. Z. Kucor and S. Leung. Blackwell. Retrieved online July 1, 2007 at http://digitalarts.ucsd.edu/-gkester/GK_Website/Research/Blackwell.htm
Lange, E. (n.d.). Beyond Transformative Learning: Work, Ethical Space and Adult Education. Retrieved online August 8, 2007 at http://www.edst.educ. ubc.ca/aerc/2000/l angee-final.PDF
Lorde, A. (1984). Sister Outsider. Freedom, CA: Crossing Press.
M'Gonigle, M. and Starke, J. (2006). Planet U: Sustaining the World, Re-Inventing the University. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers.
Owen, H. (n.d.) http://www.openspaceworld.com/spirt_shows.htm
Owen, H. (1997). Open Space Technology: A User's Guide. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Owen, H. (2000). The Power of Spirit: How Organizations Transform. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Sandilands, C. (1999). TheGood-Natured Feminist: Ecofeminism and the Quest for Democracy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Sedgwick, E.K. (2003). Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy and Performativity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Smith, S. (2007). Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art. Catalogue of an exhibition at the Smart Museum of Art http://smartmuseum.uchicago.edu/ publications/Beyond_Green_CatalogueWEB.pdf
Todd, L. (2006). Talk at the Victoria International Arts Symposium, October 27 - 30, 2006.
The site had eleven thousand and sixty-nine absolute, unique visitors in October and November 2007. Four hundred and twelve unique visitors attended the site during the period of October 11-13 2007.
Approximately 190 signed up as network members before October 12.
Sandilands, C. The Good-Natured Feminist: Ecofeminism and the Quest for Democracy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (1999) p. 196
Dialogues from the online conference are documented in part on the Engaged Art Network at http://islandsinstitute.ning.com/.
Quotations without dates and references are drawn from these dialogues. Graphics are drawn from hundreds of photos posted by online conference participants.
Kagan made these comments during the conference, drawing from an article to be published in 2008 (Kagan, 2008).
Open Space practitioners describe this "Chaordic field": "There is a path to take between Chaos and Order that leads us to the new, collective learning, real time innovation. It goes through our fear, and confusion, but together we can travel this Chaordic path...." Graphic and text from http://www.artofhosting.org/thepractice/mentalmodels/chaosogorder/
Harrison Owen writes, "High Learning occurs when chaos cracks the established order, permitting us to see some difference that makes a difference. We find ourselves on a quantum leap past, and through, what we knew before, and on to a new way of perceiving the world" (2000, p. 29).
Heaney recognizes (with Giroux) that the borders of communities of practice are characterized by "dynamic, chaotic energy" and the "frenzy of transformative learning." A pedagogy of engagement is ideally situated along these borders, at "contested sites subject to the competing claims of intersecting communities."
Brent Davis, in his 2000 book on teaching, notes the distinctions we use to organize our world can be organized by way of dichotomies that separate, for example, self and other, art and non-art, nature and culture, qualified and disqualified. Thinking rooted in dichotomies aims to be objective and totalizing, reducing truth to essence and separating the knower from the known. Education, in this discredited model, is a developmental progression toward a specific, future goal of "knowing" or accumulating truth. In contrast, emergent structures of thinking utilize a process of discerning bifurcations, not dichotomies, of "branching into two parts, rather than breaking into two pieces" (p. 8.). For example, rather than understanding nature and culture as discrete classifications that can contain a whole inquiry, these categories can be explored as a branching, prompting us to ask what concerns underpin the distinction. Each stopping point, in this branching inquiry, generates additional bifurcations, pointing beyond itself to a larger web of interpretations that is always partial and incomplete. Davis notes, "This process of bifurcating is fractal. It does not get simpler as I zoom in on a particular term, it does not get simpler if I zoom out for a broader view" (p. 10). Education, seen through this fractal model, is a process of multiplying differences and proliferating voices in a durational process that has no determinable aim or end. And in this exploratory process of teaching and learning, Davis writes, "at every moment, at every site of distinction, there is a potential for the exponential growth of new possibilities" (p. 11).