equal voices in the room? is a socially engaged art project started by students at the Royal College of Art in response to group learning experiences which we felt were not inclusive enough.
The project focuses on the forms used as part of discussions and works to challenge the use of the voice as the primary medium of discussion as well as addressing practices of inequality and power structures that exist in classrooms and seminar rooms. The project sees group work as a microcosm of wider political systems, thus prompting questions about how democracy is enacted through speech and debate. Largely but not just contextualised within pedagogy the project demands a closer more caring look at structures and organisation within daily life and their potential to have political and social effect.
We strategise and try out new techniques for communicating, interrupting, affirming and supporting each other by drawing on people's existing knowledge and experiences. We use a range of practical techniques borrowed from practices such as consensus decision making, body centred methods of working together, and influenced by Jo Freeman's The Tyranny of Structurelessness we developed methods for recognising and articulating power dynamics,.
We put together a series of exercises for workshops with students and staff. The workshops had a good response, and we continued the project over the time of our education at the RCA. The project continues beyond the institution.
We have run workshops with students and staff at the RCA, Whitefield School, and at the Whitechapel Art Book Fair in London.
To share our research and work open source we put together this user-focused publication where we share our workshop materials, exercises, our ethos, CoC, methodology and resources, free for anyone to use and adapt to their own work.