Working alongside Paulo Freire, during Brazil’s dictatorship of the 1960s, Boal created Theater of the Oppressed. It grounds Freire’s philosophy in an artistic protocol. Groups of non-actors identify a collective problem, draft a tragic one-act play, perform it for fellow residents, colleagues, etc.; and invite the “spect-actors” to replay a scene by replacing one of the people on stage and adjusting his or her speech – so that others improvise more adjustments -- in an experiment to derail the tragedy. No longer a Marxist director after his release from jail, Boal developed “Forum Theater” in exile and then back in Brazil after 1986.
Cultural Agents have regularly used Forum Theater in University Courses, Partners in Health (Peru), Executive education, Pre-Texts training, Freshmen Orientation, etc.
Elected Senator of Colombia in 2018, the former mayor of Bogota (and President of the National University) connects his creativity with his pedagogy: “What really moves me to do things that other people consider original is my passion to teach.” philosopher and mathematician, Mockus pioneered artful interventions to revive civil society and has advised countless statesmen on civic culture. Mockus is our model for multiplying the number of co-artists/citizens in urban revivals. His creative interventions in all aspects of city life, from mimes who direct traffic to a vaccine against domestic violence, count on a broad base of active participation and co-creation.
The Berlin Biennale of 2012 invited Mockus to present “Blood Ties,” an installation that explores art in efforts against drug-trafficking and violence.
- Cultural Agents Reloaded: The Legacy of Antanas Mockus
-All Cultural Agents courses, conferences, publications reference Mockus as the most important model and inspiration for the field.
-Pedro Reyes, already distinguished Mexican artist, took a social turn after learning from Mockus.
-Luis Camnitzer, distinguished Uruguayan artist and essayist came into focus for us through his conversations with Mockus. See his Conceptualism in Latin American Art: Didactics of Liberation (University of Texas Press, 2007), where he develops the observation that Latin American artists are simultaneously poets, politicians, and pedagogues.
- Innumerable sequels; Mockus is the maestro of many.
An informal publishing house in Buenos Aires, established as a response to the economic crash of 2001. Poet Washington Cucurto and painter Javier Barilaro opened a storefront retreat from the book business as usual, buying used cardboard from practically destitute paper pickers. Soon the cartoneros themselves came to work making one of a kind covers that announced new literature donated by Argentina’s best living writers. Ricardo Piglia and César Aira were among the first, soon joined by Mexican Margot Glanz, Chilean Diamela Eltit, and many others. By now, Harvard’s Widener Library has an impressive number and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has more.
-Several of the former paper pickers in Buenos Aires found work in standard publishing houses.
-Eloísa is now a cooperative of 10 members who share the work and the income from book sales and from a venture in sustainable agriculture.
- More than 250 Cartonera publishers have been established throughout Latin America, with at least one distinguished example in Mozambique, Kutsema Cartao, kutsembacartao.wix.com/kutsemba
-Sarita Cartonera of Lima, Peru, developed a feedback pedagogy for a city that doesn’t read. Books become raw material for art-making projects, so that students become users rather than victims of texts.
-Pre-Texts is a sequel to Sarita Cartonera and gratefully acknowledges our coach, Milagros Saldarriaga.
Mexican fashion designer and collaborator with groups of indigenous artisans throughout the country, Carla’s slogan is “The future is handmade.” Her award-winning designs and projects have won recognition in international competitions and through the Prince Klaus foundation. The first designer to show in an exhibit at the Isabella Stuart Art Museum, Boston, and then at Jumex, Mexico, Carla Fernandez publishes her research online for all to benefit and to appreciate the continuing creativity of “traditional” artisans.
See for example her recycling project with Southwest Airlines:
JOSÉ ANTONIO ABREU
Founder of El Sistema in 1975 to help poor Venezuelan children by teaching them classical orchestral music, Abreu has since passed away 43 years later, after seeding hundreds of youth orchestras in Venezuela and throughout the world.
-Gustavo Dudamel, graduate of El Sistema, appointed Director of Los Angeles Philharmonic at the age of 27.
-Youth Orchestras of the Americas, established by Mark Churchill, Boston conservatory of music, and partner in annual Pre-Texts training, Frutillar, Chile.
-a spectacular example, among hundreds, is the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra (with recycled instruments)
From building opera houses with wire to mapping the connection between the automobile and your mother-in-law, Jaime Lerner, several times mayor of Curitiba, and Governor of Paraná, Brazil, delights in discovering eccentric solutions to vexing urban problems. In the process he has transformed the face of cities worldwide.
-Metro-Bus in Mexico City
-Transmilenio in Bogota
-Silver Line in Boston
Art historian and author of the book E.P.S. Huayco. Documentos (Lima, Centro Cultural de España, 2005). Born in Buenos Aires and resident in Lima for many years, Gustavo was Director of the Cultural Centre of the National University of San Marcos and leads the Micromuseum (There's Room at the Back) project, a museum-archive initiative to track the term “micro,” in the sense of small, transportable, public and nomadic. He is the author of numerous works on Latin American visual arts and forms part of the Colectivo Sociedad Civil (Civil Society Collective), who staged Lava la bandera, which contributed to the fall of the dictator Alberto Fujimori in the year 2000.
-Javier Suárez (Harvard University LAVA Perú (Laboratorio de Vanguardia Pedagógica) (LAVA Perú, Pedagogical Vanguard Laboratory), inspired by “Casa de la Literatura” under the directorship of Milagros Saldarriaga, Gustavo Buntinx, and Cultural Agents.
GEDIMINAS and NOMEDA URBONAS
Lithuanian artists now working in MIT. They have dedicated their careers to creating socially interactive art, founding the JUTEMPUS initiative, which aims both to establish a critical discourse to explore today's reality and to articulate a link between art and other fields of life.
In 2005, the Urbonas team organized an effort to occupy the last remaining movie theater in Vilnius, a public space illicitly sold to developers. Their Pro-Test Lab and struggle to keep open the lab space/theater/monument successfully lobbied the government to recognize the concept of public space in an amendment to nation’s constitution.
-their many students
-The Swamp School [to re-learn how to live with the world]
Born in Tirana on July 4th, 1964, Rama is currently the Prime Minister of Albania and is head of the Socialist Party of Albania. When he was mayor of Tirana, he used his background as a painter to help transform public spaces with colorful designs on dilapidated buildings. This helped to instill a sense of pride, to reduce crime in the city, and inspired confidence in the processes of structural change.
CULTURAL AGENTS COURSE (AI13) HARVARD GENERAL EDUCATION
Aesthetics is a mainstay of Democracy through cultivating the faculty of Judgement. In this way, aesthetics and the Humanities in general can partner with all fields of study and professional practice (medicine, politics, business, law, education, among others). In collaboration with speakers from a variety of fields, we examine the writings of several theorists to explore arts and interpretation (point of view, technique, context, competing messages, aesthetic effects). Part of the work is to train free, disinterested judgment. This faculty for pausing to step back and take stock is basic to all disciplines. That’s why humanistic training is a fundamental contribution to general research and to social development. Interpreting art, appreciating its power to shape the world, can spur and support urgently needed change. This is not a deviation from humanistic attention to the mechanisms of art production and reception. It is a corollary and a homecoming to civic education.
A lecture series by a range of professionals demonstrates that change and growth can stem from an aesthetic approach to any discipline. Theoretical readings (Plato, Kant, Schiller, Dewey, Freire, Gramsci, Rancière, Mockus, Boal, Nussbaum, among others) are grounded in concrete cases of agency. The final project will be a design for a creative social intervention. A companion essay will trace the development of the design and reference theoretical texts and cases.
- Amar Bakshi and Proud Zambukira found Aina Arts, to promote girls’ education in India
- “Dancing to Heal” established by Alice Li, Harvard College '14
- Barrio Ballet Company, established by Javier Aranzales
“We´re not heroes,” he said. “But we have better guitars.”
Nayib Bukele was born in San Salvador on 1981 and was elected Mayor of San Salvador in 2016. During his administration, he designed strategies to solve violence problems in the city.
Medical doctor and founder of “Health by Motorbike” to train maternal care health workers in rural East Kenya, Spanish born Dr. Alonso directs the Public Health Program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison where interns accompany her to Kenya and now worldwide. Recognized by UNESCO, her ngo has scaled up as “Health by All Means.”
-literacy in villages
-potable water projects
Mexican artist Pedro Reyes explores the limits of usefulness” of artistic practices in intractable social situations. Ad usum, his 2007 exhibition shown at both Harvard and the Americas Society in New York, and now a collected volume edited by José Falconi, showcases the research Reyes has conducted in collaboration with the Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard on the disputed notion of utility in art processes. 2008 saw Palas por Pistolas, a project to collect illegal arms, deliver them to the army that melted down the metal and sold it to a shovel factory, to make as many shovels as there had been guns. Disarm followed, as well as many other engaged projects.
Regular contributor to the Cultural Agents course and to Pre-Texts, Jay Critchley is a Provincetown based artist dedicated to raising awareness of urgent issues, including the AIDS crisis of the 1990s and the threat of Nuclear War. See for example his “Old Glory Condom Corporation,” and “Mobile Warming.”
Simpson Center of Humanities - University of Washington
The Nyaka School for AIDS Orphans, Uganda,
Boston Pubic Schools, Boston, MA