Embracing the Enclosure: Intimate Spaces of Learning

– Conversations in Connection Series 1 –

Title: Degrees of Separation
Creator: Almigdad Aldikhaiiry 2019
Exhibition: The Future is Unwritten

By Chris Small

If the pandemic has done anything, it has enclosed us. We live in a world of closed doors. A world where coffee shops, playgrounds, and park benches are precarious places to be. We’ve lost chances to meet and connect with new people and we see much more of those that we share living spaces with.  The dangers of our physical proximity makes our experience essentially characterized by isolation.  When we are forced to abandon these outer social spaces of expression and creativity, we risk losing the capacity to learn from people of different faces, places, and ages.

The solution to feeding our curiosities and building educational and reciprocal bonds has been to turn inward, to look to those who we are isolated with. When we shut our doors and we don’t send ourselves off into the world every morning–to the schools, to the places of work, to the neighbourhood parks–the home environment is emphasized as the most vital place of learning. Living rooms become lecture halls and dinner tables become debate forums. To this effect, a family member’s responsibility as teachers and students are emboldened. Guardians and youth that share close domestic spaces are highlighted, each as both educators and students. These emphasized relationships of intergenerational learning reflect different dynamics than the teacher-pupil we see outside the domestic space. That is, this type of learning is constituted by intimate, emotional, and empathetic connections between those involved. Parents learn from their children through caretaking, considering their concerns, and protecting their ambition for the future. Youth absorb the storytelling of their elders and take on gratitude and understanding of personal histories that inform the present. 

The empathetic dynamics of domestic spaces that specialize ways of learning in the time of the pandemic ought not to exist solely in isolation. Paradigms of intimacy and emotionality that characterize spaces of learning need to break from domestic enclosures and be fundamental modes of reciprocal educating in society. By providing spaces and platforms that ask for us to share personal experiences, we are able to break down social barriers of generational categorization that hold us back in learning from each other and build a community that works for everyone, taking ideas from all spectrums of life. Spaces that are grounded in intimacy and emotionality allow for intergenerational learning because sharing that which is personal calls on the empathy of others, regardless of age, place, or race, and broadens understandings of the human experience.

This matter is of particular importance when we are made to physically distance. Restricted mobility has separated families and mentoring relationships, leaving more and more people alone and enclosed by themselves with no one to turn inward to learn from. This is emphasized for those who do not have personal connections with family, or close mentors from which to learn and teach, intimately and empathetically. As such, communities have been forced to rethink their cultural and social operations so as to continue to promote intimate and empathetic learning.  The Together-We-Empower project is critically timed and  functionally important. The e-platform seeks to foster genuine connections by providing reciprocal learning spaces through a series of semi-structured programs, seeking to ultimately generate valuable intergenerational understandings of personal experiences. 

Centering the Together-We-Empower initiative on artistic creation is essential for the goal of the project and its intergenerational theme. Through the generation of creative and passionate forms of representation, we hope to promote intimacy and empathy between contributors by using art to call on personal and emotional perspectives from the multiplicity of identities. With an intergenerational approach, we hope to develop creations that express empathy through oppositional forces. We want to holistically embrace the present by protecting our stories of the past whilst pushing towards the goals of our future, embodied by youth. By bringing the personal to the table, we look to find creative harmony in stark difference and shift our paradigms by fostering learning environments that promote empathy, reciprocity, care, gratitude, and ambition between generations.

Our investigation into fostering intergenerational learning spaces in the community won’t stop here. Insofar as the project seeks to bring people young and old together into building empathetic educational environments, this article acts a preliminary to a series that Together-We-Empower will be investing in. Conducting interviews with the youth and elders of our community, we will dive into personal experiences of intimate learning, and begin to unpack how these essential bonds are built, kept, and developed.

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About Chris Small:

Born and raised in North Vancouver, B.C., Chris is currently pursuing a Political Science and Philosophy degree at the University of British Columbia. He writes for the VACS’s e-zine to support local art projects.

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