Hold the Space

This episode I’m delighted to be joined by Barbara Neves Alves. 

Barbara was, for four years, a colleague of mine at the Master Institute of Visual Cultures, in St Joost School of Art and Design, where I teach. During that time, she was responsible for thesis supervision for Situated Design masters students. I really enjoyed working with her for all of that time, despite the fact that about half of it coincided with the global pandemic. As you’ll hear, she has a really interesting way of approaching theory, and practice, weaving them both into each other. 

Barbara’s PhD was on the subject of Miscommunication: advancing the concept of Miscommunication to challenge the notion of ‘good communication’ as an objective of the field of communication design—communication is often failing to reach its intended audiences or outcomes. It expanded on miscommunication as concept and practice to demonstrate how social and cultural exchanges that produce error or misunderstanding can be provocative sites for developing new modes of communication design.

In this conversation, we talk about an article she wrote about her experiences at Occupy London years ago - there’s an odd echo of my conversation with Nelly Ben Hayoun last episode; we talk about her practice, teaching techniques, balancing the different modes of practice; and what she does if she’s stuck in a creative rut. As ever, there is a full transcript of this episode available, and the show notes have links to many of the things we’ve talked about.

This conversation was recorded way back in November 2021.




Books and articles mentioned

I hope you enjoy this episode! For more information, full transcripts, and more episodes, please visit the show website at www.holdthespace.art

Creators & Guests

Barbara Neves Alves
I am an Amsterdam based designer and researcher. My focus is on teaching and lecturing, while developing self-initiated projects in design research, exploring hybrid modes of practice between design, theory and the political. I value research as a way of inhabiting practice and taking on a critical approach. An attentive merging of art and theory has been a core aspect in my work, both in education and artistic research. Current research interests and areas of work include ecologies of communication, politics of communication, noise, participatory methods, emerging modes of practice, socially responsible design, practice based research, decolonising practices, spectrality studies. In my PhD (Goldsmiths, University of London, 2016) I advanced the concept of Miscommunication to challenge the notion of ‘good communication’ as an objective of the field of communication design—communication is often failing to reach its intended audiences or outcomes. I expanded on miscommunication as concept and practice to demonstrate how social and cultural exchanges that produce error or misunderstanding can be provocative sites for developing new modes of communication design. Miscommunication is often regarded as the failure of communication. In other words, miscommunication interrupts, slows down, or creates misunderstandings. However, I showed that when miscommunication is acknowledged in design practices it can generate more situated contributions for designers, while creating the opportunity to explore exchanges that can foster new speculative design practices and new political formations. I looked at communication in its transformative capacity, understood as a key element in socially and politically engaged modes of practice. In this way, I contextualised and analysed communication design within social and participatory design, going beyond the literature in design, drawing on a diverse body of literature at the intersection of design, participation, the formation of publics and science and technology studies, to push the boundaries of Communication Design to rethink its role in creating political events and propose new imaginaries for participatory design practices. These were offered through a set of practical propositions for creating ‘political scenes,’ developed through three ‘figures of miscommunication,’ that of the parasite, the idiot and the diplomat, borrowing from the theoretical framework of Michel Serres and Isabelle Stengers, exploring noise that interferes with good communication, impasses to communication through apparent moments of nonsense and forms of exchange that take on misunderstanding. Articulating miscommunication through examples of works in art and design, participatory processes aiming at social change and, reflection on a set of exploratory practices in Lisbon, Maputo, London and Amsterdam. My background is in communication design, type design and typography (Type&Media, KABK). As a communication designer I have worked in a variety of settings and places, and also maintained a regular activity as a teacher in higher education. I have extensive experience with working community-based projects, and collaborating with others such as the collective Cascoland or Theatre of the Oppressed. I have initiated many workshops in design thinking and practice.

What is Hold the Space?

Conversations with creative practitioners who also teach, exploring what, how, and why they do what they do. A podcast for anyone who works in a creative field, who studies a creative subject, or who teaches one.

Hosted by artist, film-maker, and teacher Ollie Palmer, and supported by the Situated Art and Design Research Group at Caradt.

Barbara Neves Alves: Hi, my
name is Barbara Neves Alves.

I'm a designer, researcher and tutor.

My background's in communication design.

My research interest has been very much
around communication - communication

surrounding public space, and
engaging with the political dimension,

so different types of encounters
that can occur in public space.

As a tutor, I'm responsible for
teaching theory to fine art students

at the Rietvield Academy in Amsterdam.

And I'm also responsible for
the research seminar and thesis

supervision at the masters in Situated
Design at St Joost, Den Bosch.

Ollie Palmer: Hello, and welcome
to Hold the Space, a podcast

about the intersection between
creative practice and teaching.

My name is Ollie Palmer.

In each episode of this podcast, I
bring you a recorded conversation

between myself and another creative
practitioner who also teaches.

This week's episode is a
little late, and I apologize.

You can probably hear from my voice
that I've been a bit ill, and that

has caused a log jam in the one person
podcast production factory here.

But, I'm really excited about introducing
my guest, Barbara Neves Alves.

Barbara was, for four years, a
colleague of mine at the Master

Institute of Visual Cultures in St.

Joost School of Art and
Design, where I teach.

During that time, she was responsible
for thesis supervision for

Situated Design master's students.

I really enjoyed working with her
for all of that time, despite the

fact that about half of it coincided
with the global pandemic and all of

the weirdness that that brought to
teaching and also creative practice.

As you will hear, Barbara has a really
interesting way of approaching theory

and practice, weaving them both into
each other, embracing knotty issues,

messiness, and miscommunication.

Barbara is a practitioner who enjoys
the moments of recalibration that

come with finding and re finding
one's place in the world, and she

encourages students to do the same.

Unfortunately, due to decisions
made at a much higher level than

either of us, Barbara no longer
works in our department, and she is

very much missed by our whole team.

She does continue to teach
at the Rietveld Academy.

This interview was recorded way back
in November 2021, when Barbara and

I still worked together, and it was
also the first in person interview

in this series, so my apologies for
the occasional sound hiccup as I was

testing using multiple microphones
in the same room for the first time.

In this conversation, we talk about
quite a few things, starting with an

article she wrote about her experiences
at Occupy London years ago; there's

an odd echo of my conversation with
Nelly Ben Hayoun from the last episode.

We also talk about her practice, her
teaching techniques, the way that

she balances the different modes of
practice and the demands that are put

upon you by them, and what she does
if she's stuck in a creative rut.

As ever, there is a full transcript
of this episode available, and

the show notes have links to many
of the things we've talked about.

So, without further ado, here is my
conversation with Barbara Neves Alves.

Barbara, I'm so grateful
for you coming along today

Barbara Neves Alves: Very
happy to be happy to be here.

Ollie Palmer: Barbara and I have been
working together for two and a half

years, maybe nearly three years now

Barbara Neves Alves:
Nearly three years, huh?

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

And what's nice about our working
relationship is that the department

went through a lot of changes when
we both started working together,

and we've both been there to
see a lot of that stuff happen.

But I don't know a huge amount of
about your work outside of the academy

that we're part of, so I really want
to dig a little deeper into that, and

find out about the relationship that
you have with theory and practice

teaching, and, um, and everything else.

I want to start maybe with the
simplest question, which is

probably also the hardest question-

Barbara Neves Alves: Usually!

Ollie Palmer: Which is: How
do you describe your practice,

and does it change according to
the audience you're talking to?

Barbara Neves Alves: That's a really
hard question for me because sometimes I

think that's what my practice is actually
about: finding out what my practice

is and it has been so for a while.

I started going through a really
traditional, what was a communication

design course in the nineties.

And my expectation in entering
the course was all built around

the idea of, uh, communication.

And basically what I actually had to learn
was graphic design in a commercial sense.

So, you know, just to imagine a client
and work for a client, and sometimes there

was a bit more freedom, but that was it.

And there was, um, a very strong
frustration about on the one hand,

like, yes, I love shapes, I love
forms I love thinking in this way,

but then, where's the content?

Where's the communication?

Where's the explorative side of this?

I found that in new technologies, in
an Erasmus exchange for one year in

Barcelona, where I had Claudia Genetti as
teacher and she kind of turned my world

upside down, you know, getting to know
people such as Edward Kark or Marcel-li

Antunez and and, and, I fell completely
in love with net art and with the

possibilities it brought to communication.

And also the possibilities in
working in between the real

and the digital environment.

That was totally new for me...

I remember trying to set up an email
for the first time at that time.

So it was like in ninety...

94, or 95.

So it was quite a while ago, And so this
brought me to think, okay, my practice

is not going to be a graphic designer
as I was studying, but I'm going to

work in this digital environment and
led me to a work after studying at a

television station at the media department
of an ad, a big advertising company...

very unhappy with the
commercial setting of it all.

And then later at the
university of engineering.

So I thought, okay, I'm really
going into this more technical and

programming, but that's also wasn't me.

And I became really fascinated with
the possibilities of the digital

environment to deal with language, and
with complex layers of information.

And that led me to come to the Netherlands
to study type and media, that I thought

was really focused on the media.

Part of the title and description
of the course, but turned out

to be a masters in type design.

And yeah, and that was also, I think
I adapted to that, and it was really

interesting to deal with looking
at language from that perspective.

And for one year I was a type
designer, and it gave me an experience

that has shaped how I think.

And so that's another practice
that I went through, another

way of engaging with my passion.

And by then I was really kind of more
sure of the idea that language was

important to me, and words were important
to me, and meanings were important

to me, and how people understood
things were really important to me.

And that was like a common thread from
an interest in communication net art, to

these more complex digital environments.

But I was still also kind
of, um, searching after that.

Coming back to Portugal,
I was invited to teach.

I was looking for work, looking
what I wanted to do next.

And a friend asked me, do you
want to teach multimedia design?

You have one afternoon to decide.

And in that afternoon I decided, 'Yes,
okay, I'm going to try teaching while

I'm thinking about my next project.' And
that's, um, how a new practice developed,

that of teaching that was quite hard
to adapt to and difficult because it

asks something that was new to me in
engaging, thinking about how, what I was

doing and that I fell in love with, and
that I've continued doing ever since.

And teaching gave me the time to, to
continue to think about design, and

how I wanted to shape my practice,
and I started to follow courses:

post-graduate courses in cultural
studies, um, master course in sociology.

So just kind of trying to find out:
there's something I'm interested in,

I feel I need to know more about this.

How does it connect to design?...

I have no clue.

And during this process, I came to know
about theater of the oppressed and I

thought, oh, what they're doing this
idea of interactive theater within

a community is really very close
to what I'm actually interested in.

So how could design play a part there?

So basically I'm telling a very long
story, just to show a bit how my practice

has been shaped from I'm going to go a bit
faster now, but from this experience with

theater came an experience with community
projects, participatory projects.

And from that experience a
lot of questions derived, that

really kind of paralyzed me.

I didn't know how to deal with
the ethical conditions, questions

that were coming from my practice.

And that led me to a PhD and where
a, and they mentioning the PhD

because I encountered a practice
that I came to love that's writing.

I felt for many years that I didn't
have a practice, because I kept

interrupting whatever I was doing.

But now looking back, I see that I
was always looking for something.

And since I finished my PhD, I'm
actually enjoying not knowing and

trying things out and exploring how
the questions and what I'm interested

can be explored in different ways,
based on the experiences that I have

and the books I read and what surrounds
me, I guess my practice is ongoing.

It's playing with my curiosities.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

I mean, I think it's so common
for people think that their, their

practice is in some way illegitimate
because it doesn't fit into a box.

That it's sort of, you're not one thing
and not another thing, you've tried

a bit of this and you've tried a bit
of that, and it takes a long time to

realize that that is what you're doing.

Barbara Neves Alves: Yeah, it's true.

Ollie Palmer: Each time you're
relearning something else and it's

not just abandoning something else,
it's building on what you already

have to take you somewhere else.

Barbara Neves Alves: I remember the
first day that I met you actually in a

meeting, and I was a bit worried because
we were having a meeting about setting

up the whole structure of the masters.

And I'm always a bit unsure,
like how do I fit this structure?

And this design course, and what's
expected from a practice of a

designer within an institution also.

And I remember someone, I was asking
something about methodologies, and

you were giving such an open answer
about, but design artistic researchers

also design, and, and these separation
between fields don't make sense.

And I felt so liberated by the idea
that, okay, there's a space for

exploration and it can take many
forms and shapes and processes.

So that's something that I
really enjoyed in meeting you.

I had the same experience also within
my PhD, that I, I just didn't feel

comfortable with a chapter about
methods, and this discomfort was

stubborn, a stubborn discomfort.

Like it was also something I chose.

And I wasn't quite aware of why until I
encountered the book, inventive methods,

edited by Celia Lury and Nina Wakeford.

I guess their book was important for me as
a researcher: this idea that the methods

shape the environment; they, they, they
are a device that also unsettles the

place that you're studying, and that a
method is something that can be invented

also within a process and within a
question, and it can be something that's

open and positioned, and exploratory.

And that was really important for me.

It opens a much more speculative
way of looking at a method.

And I guess I draw on that
to, talk with students.

It doesn't mean that it becomes easier.

Somehow it's even more complicated,
I guess, because you to deal with the

implications and the, I think sometimes
the real questions around the project,

that students sometimes are avoiding
or hiding behind: this is how I'm

going to do something, and then I know.

Ollie Palmer: I think it's so
easy to not have to go through

the process of justification, if
you're using somebody else's method.

And that's, like, certainly my experience.

My first degree was in product design.

And we were taught the product design
method of the school that we were in.

And you follow that
method unquestioningly.

You know: "This is the way it's done."

There's a flow chart that
helps you, and you can identify

exactly which stage you're at.

And actually the whole time I went through
that - I mean, I completely understand

it for the purposes of an industrial
design project where you have a specific

client and you're trying to do something
specific, but anytime, you're trying to.

Deal with some sort of like sensitivity
within the world and any thing that

doesn't necessarily fit into a box,
that transgresses the boundaries of an

academic discipline or anything else,
it's so hard to say, "Well, this is

the method you should definitely use."

And I think that's one of the things
that's really hard about artistic or

design-based research anyway - that,
alongside the thing that you're

studying, whatever your subject is, you
also have to design the methods of it.

And those methods are so much less
clear than they would be if we were

trying to find something that has
sort of a boolean or statistical

answer, like a yes, no, or a 5.3%.

Barbara Neves Alves: No.

What, what concerns me is also that it
shapes the questions that you're asking.

And so in that way it can
really limit the project.

And I guess that resonates a lot, in
my own work and my own curiosities.

My research was very much questioning,
how this idea that the discursive

is what you read in an exchange.

And so if you ask a question and the
answer is no, then it's no, but what

if you ask a question and of course I'm
talking now with a microphone, so I have

to describe, but you say no when you shrug
your shoulders, or you say no when you

stamp your feet, or you turn your face
around, or you become really, really red.

So what about all these other dimensions
of communication that can be performed,

but also material, how are they taken?

They are often not taken into account, and
actually they produce miscommunication,

and misunderstanding that are really
interesting and could be opening

questions that are sometimes hidden
unless you take care to notice them.

So this is something that's really
interesting for me, and that I think

is tied very much to this idea of,
okay, then how do I set up a question?

How do I study an environment?

How do I ask others to
participate in my research?

Or, help me think about something?

How do I set up that
conversation, that exchange?

Because in learning about something,
we often exchange with materials,

with people with something.

So, yeah, I think it's really
important in that sense.

Ollie Palmer: I was reading one of
your articles recently about Occupy,

and the way that communication happened
specifically within the encampment at St.

Paul's in London.

I'd also come across, um, in 2006, I
think it was, I was in iceland and I

met lots of environmental protestors
and attended a few meetings where, they

were kind of proto versions of this
method of communication, of - you've

probably described it far better than
I would - but hand-waving signals that

signify, either approval or disapproval.

It's a lot easier to signal approval than
it is to signal disapproval which, I sort

of realized as I was reading your article.

One of the meetings I went to went
on for absolutely hours, and got

nowhere, and was just kind of a
farcical set of miscommunications.

That everything that happened entered
these elliptical stages and went

round and round and round and round.

And I mean, we both work in
academia where this kind of

thing also frequently happens!

But I love the way that you've
managed to take these moments like

quite autobiographic moments, and
turn them into an artistic practice

and a research-based practice that
comes back to something that is - I

don't want to say a universal truth.

but it's something that I think
is very easy to identify with.

Um, so, yeah, I wonder if you could
...that's a terrible question.

I realized cause that's not.

I've done the classic thing of: "I've
got more of a comment than a question..."

Barbara Neves Alves: Fine.

I do that often.

I guess what I was trying to
do writing about occupy...

there's occupying the framework
of my thesis and thinking about

miscommunication and I'm going to
leave that for after, and talk about

the moment, and why I wrote about it.

I guess there was this need to
understand - this happened several

times in my life - in how feeling very
much involved in a political movement

or political idea, how in participating
in the group, so in the, in the, in

the organizations that we're working or
attending to that issue or organizing a

stand against or for something, I felt
disengaged, I felt like I want to go away.

I don't even want to
participate or communicate.

And that happened to me while
I was working on my PhD.

While at St.

Pauls, I was really believing in Occupy...

I'm going to open brackets here.

I was talking about occupy 2015,
at the Willem de Kooning Academy and

then realized that the students, no
one knew what I was talking about...

it's, also so interesting that for
me, it still seems so part of history,

of, of contemporary history, of things
that are happening now, and it's been

a decade now when people actually
don't know what we're talking about.

When I was following the Occupy
movement in New York and in the

U S and I was really like anxious
online, and I was really anxious for

this to happen in London, in the UK.

I really wanted to be part, so
I was really enthusiastic when

I set out to occupy St Pauls.

After a whole day of participating in the
occupation of St Pauls, I left feeling

scared because there was, um, really a
kind of, um, friction with the police.

And it was really intimidating in
the UK: a display of strength that

was significant, but I left, I wasn't
invested enough to actually stay and,

and I wasn't invested enough to then
return and be part of occupation.

And, I just kept wondering
why, what happened, you know,

what, what happened to me?

What happened during the day
that provoked this, that made me

not feel part of the movement.

It was really strange for me.

How is it that when I'm looking at the
movement online, I really feel part of it,

but then when I'm actually in the space,
looking to occupy, I feel disconnected?

And that brought me to look at how
communication was shaped in both

this online environment and in space
and how it was organized and what

was the space for participation.

And actually communication was organized
during Occupy in a way to project a

movement, to be part of the movement that
I was following online, to make a stand.

And in that way, it was all about
following a set of performers that

were seemingly talking about that
moment and that space, but also

pre-organized, and pre-established,
and predesigned, in a way that took

away the space for, for us actually to
participate really in what was happening.

I was just playing a part, I
that's my feeling during the day.

And I realized, okay, so if
I was feeling like that, what

were other people feeling there?

If we look at the crowd at
Occupy, it was really emotional.

Like we were all together, you know,
hands in the air, participating in this

general assembly, repeating what was
being said with the human microphone,

you're performing what the person that's
speaking is saying, but then what does

that actually do to we're listening
in a very powerful way, but then now

we really listening and how are we
responding to what we're listening?

It also made me think how, because we
were part of that movement and that set of

designed communication devices, we weren't
actually talking about the space because

that part was also kind of pre-programmed.

And that's my question.

If we actually had to talk
about the practical questions

of occupation of being there.

Wouldn't they be more invested when it
would be probably messier and perhaps

less effective, but maybe it would
also open up discussions that were more

political and about being there then.

And it also made me think about the
other people that were there next to me,

and that I actually didn't get to know.

And that each one of them was
understanding what it was to be there

in a different way, and how, while
we were signaling our hands into the

air, there was other parts of us being
there together and communicating with

each other, and what was behind that.

It was opening a space for something
beyond what we design as a device,

that I find really interesting and
there's something political about

very, very much not political design
that start shaping political spaces

in a very, very effective, strong way.

"Effective, strong ways" is perhaps the
wrong word; shaping political spaces and

different opportunities for dialogue.

And that was really interesting for me.

Ollie Palmer: Reading your description
of attending Occupy and the numerous

instances of miscommunication
did and didn't allow and kind of

When I did my masters, I got really into
cybernetics and one of my favorite books

was Gordon Pask's Conversation Theory.

And his analysis of communication, and
conversation specifically, boils down to

a formula of any conversation is about
reaching a mutual set of definitions.

The question that he posed was:

How can any two sentient organisms come
to a definition that works together?;

so if I picture a dog, and you picture a
dog, we're picturing different dogs, but

how do we define these things are dogs?

And so a conversation is a set of
refining of definitions to the point

where they can be mutually understood.

But the entire framing of Occupy,
I've seen and read about through

your work is that it really reduces
the set of definitions that can be

reached because the conversation
is framed in such a way that it

limits such a high degree of agency.

Barbara Neves Alves: I think engaging
with your example, what I became curious

about in relation to design was: what
if we stopped worrying about a common

definition of a dog, and stop trying to
arrive at common definitions, or think

about what common definitions might
be, but actually see: what's different?

And how that's really interesting
and perhaps more provocative of,

of new ideas and new possibilities.

To try, rather than always thinking that
we have to arrive at consensus, or to

arrive at a common definition, accept the
fact that a common definition is a norm.

It's something that's always going
to exclude something, some matter,

some perspective, some voice,
and, and, and so perhaps things.

And, but then how to find that, you know,
that was what I was kind of busy with.

And I think perhaps things that we take
for granted, dimensions of being together

that we just are not used to notice.

Then we can just take time to notice them.

And maybe that's doesn't give us any
answer, but just give it some time

and perhaps some questions or, and I'm
simplifying of course, because there was

a whole conceptual, theoretical framework
around this, but that's the basic idea.

So that was what I was
really interested in.

Then if we think in that way, what,
what modes of encounter can take place?

I think interesting ones, at least.

New questions for, for designers,
especially those working

with complex societal issues.

So, keeping things complicated,
somehow being okay with that.

I referred to it in my thesis
as a sense of ' disquietude'.

And that comes from Fernando
Passoa, the Portuguese poet.

But it's a word that I embrace very
fondly; I think it's important.

We try to simplify, to solve, to, to
get rid of that sense in many different

dimensions of our life, to calm ourselves.

But there's something very important
in being able to deal with that,

to be with that state for a while,
at least, I mean, our practice.

Ollie Palmer: I get the feeling that
reading your work, your intention is

to leave people in a place that they
can sit with a realization for some

time, but then when I talk to students
about the thesis supervision that you

provide, I also get the feeling that
that's the way that you teach with them.

I wanted to ask about audience and
who the audience of your work is.

Barbara Neves Alves: Regarding
audience, as we were speaking before,

I have a troubled relationship
with the idea of audience, I guess,

because I struggle myself with why
make my work public, how make my

work public, but fundamentally why.

Um, and also because I'm extremely
shy and I feel for me to show

something, it has to have a purpose.

And then there's a troubled
process that comes with that.

A few years ago, I was at Manifold
Space in Amsterdam, working there

and developing also an exchange with
artist Maartje Fliervoet in her space.

Maartje's space is a studio space in
Amsterdam is where she organized this

kind of curatorial practice, where she
invites people to join her in her studio,

to bring a book into her space and to let
that book inhabit her space in some way.

I need to simplify, I'm just
thinking, because there's a whole

theoretical framework that I don't
think it's interesting to go into now.

So maybe I refer to the concept, but I
don't, I think have time to explain it.

So I was dealing, engaging with
the idea of the diplomacy and the

diplomat of Stengers and this idea of
misunderstanding, of moving beyond the

borders of a practice and what that means
to me as a designer, as someone working.

Part of my process at Manifold Books in
trying to enter the space, I realized

how difficult it was for me to make that
stand, to become public in that way,

to enter that space, to show something:
what did it mean to show something?

And at the time I was reading a book
by Portuguese philosopher José Gil,

Portugal Today: Fear of Existing.

And I started to translate that
book for Maartje, for us to talk.

But also exploring the
idea of miscommunication.

So what happens when I'm a person
dealing with an issue and translating

someone's words, and it's a man, much
older than me, very different than

me, speaking about something that I'm
also relating to while translating.

So that process was
really interesting for me.

Anyway to make the story short, I really
came to see how part of my difficulty in

dealing with an audience had to do with
me being Portuguese, with me being brought

up in a system where the idea of public
discussion is a really problematic one.

We do not have that culture.

With the end of the dictatorship
there, wasn't a movement

towards an actually public open
political discussion of things.

I've a personal quest, a personal
question on dealing with my shyness.

My self-confidence also in
showing work with my positioning.

So why do I show work?

That needs to be a reason why.

It took me awhile to arrive at the idea
that it can be to start the conversation.

And I think that would
be my answer to you now.

What that audience is, is something that
I'm also questioning because it tends to

be a very closed circuit when I actually
would like it to be a much broader one.

So what's the point, for example,
of working in public space, but

then presenting or showing, you
know, in conferences that are

about artistic research; that's
something that I'm struggling with.

I want both those kinds of responses.

I want both those kinds of dialogues
with peers, but also with people that

are actually affected to what I'm
working on, asking questions about.

So my relationship to an audience is a
difficult one and one that I find very

hard to describe in applications, because
I want to be blurry because it's easier.

But also because, when I define
it, it becomes less interesting.

I don't know, there's a kind of a mix.

I haven't really given
so much thought to that.

In regards to teaching: what I sense
is that students need to be sure of

something, to feel good, and to feel
confidence in being able to do a project.

But on the other hand, that's not so
interesting for a research project.

So I try to, on the one hand disturb
that, question that, try to, gradually

make their process more complex, by
opening questions, asking them to

perhaps experiment in a different way.

Asking them to situate themself and
position themself in what they're

doing and deal with the consequences
of that and the implications of that.

And then also bringing in
a theoretical framework.

But I always try to do that
in connection to something.

So theory from me is never abstract.

I just can't think about it in that way.

And so that's also how I relate to that.

And I try also to bring other people's
to relate to that and to enjoy.

So sometimes it's a gradual process,
cause I don't think you can really

read something and understand it.

If you're not really enjoying
it or committed to it.

I've often had the feeling, 'I
need to read this, I need to

read this I need to read this!'

And then I'm reading it and I'm
thinking, 'I need to read it.' And not

that I'm reading it, you know, it's
just like, my brain does not read.

It just thinks it has to
read and I just can't get it.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

Barbara Neves Alves: So I try to
invite them also into those readings.

And that sometimes readings are
frustrating, but they're worth,

they're worth, you know, getting into
someone's language, game or universe.

It's quite a journey to do also,
but you need to want to do that.

So it's a bit...

finding that balance.

Ollie Palmer: I feel like your answer
with lack of definition of what audience

is and where it sits really is harmonious
with the work that you do though.

Because it's not like you're saying,
'I don't want to have an audience!'

because you haven't thought about it.

But it's rather that there's more
possibility in the lack of definition,

and that's kind of what the work is
trying to do anyway, to reach these

areas of, I keep using the word
discomfort, but it's not discomfort.

It's sort of, of, unease in a way.

That's like a playful, joyful unease.

Barbara Neves Alves: Thank you.

Thank you.

It's really nice way of summing it up.

Ollie Palmer: I'm going to ask you
a little bit about success criteria,

because I think it's something
that's, it's really hard to define.

And I think success criteria are really
hard to define within teaching, but

they're also really hard to find within
creative practice, particularly if that

creative practice is not a creative
practice that fits into a simple category.

Barbara Neves Alves: But for me,
like at this point of my life,

success criteria is getting funding.

More than actually thinking about
a project, I look at postdocs and

fellowships every day, like, I just
wanted to get funding to work, to be

able to enjoy ...I can't even afford
a studio, you know, to have my studio

space and to do my work, you know?

So the success criteria has changed
with, with, with, um, the realities...

then that becomes the main thing.

And then you think about success
criteria is in terms of what

the funding committee thinks...

Ollie Palmer: yeah.

Barbara Neves Alves:
...the success criteria is.

And my personal success criteria is
just goes, is squeezed, and turns,

you know, like it's just going
through, it's like not important.

So, you know, it just it's,
between me, but I can talk about

that if you like, I don't know.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah, well, I mean, I think
that's a really interesting perspective.

And also something that I
completely empathize with.

A thing that I tend to find I do and I
know it's a weakness of my own practice,

but, because it takes a long time to
talk about the kind of work that I make.

At my wedding, my dad said,
"Ollie, Nobody has a clue what

you do, but we love you..."

you know, there's this kind of It's
... but each project I do, I find, requires

so much time to frame a bunch of ideas.

to talk about something.


I've always been made.

to feel that That is a weakness of the
work because you can't just go, "Boom!

I make this thing.

It's really Cool.

You like it!"

Or find another way in.

And for funding applications
and things like that, I always

just fall back on relying on
some sort of institutional name.

And for me, the things that
are most interesting about

the projects are the content.

But for the external committees, who have
to decide on things, it's like, "Oh, can

we just tick off, does this have 'brand
name recognition?' Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Here we go!"

And, and that's not saying that I'm by
any means successful with applications...

Barbara Neves Alves: But I think I have
a problem also with the word, like when

you often ask students about success
criteria and I'm always, and, and, and

the reason why is that I do ask them
the same question, because of course,

when you're structuring a thesis, you
go through all the bits and pieces that

have to come together to make a coherent
project that you need to know what it's

about and what you want with the project.

But I just don't call it a 'success'
because success for me has this kind

of capitalistic, Um, connotation
that you, that succeeding is

something that's compensated somehow.

And, and this is ridiculous because
it's kind of also this old fashioned

notion of success, that they are
the true artists, then the lives

outside those kinds of notions.

And it's totally bullshit, of course.


Ollie Palmer: Well maybe, in that
case, maybe I phrase it wrong, but

the thing I'm trying to find out when
I ask people about success criteria

is really: what would make you happy?

Barbara Neves Alves: I know, I know
that it because I know you and.

you ask it to know where
the students understand.

Perhaps when I ask it, they
don't get what I'm talking about.

So that's why I never said anything.

And I, because I think it
is an important part of the

conversation in those settings.

Ollie Palmer: And frequently with
students, you'll get to a stage with the

teaching where you have to ask - well,
actually within my role of teaching, I

try to have conversations with students
about where they want to be in the future.

You know, like what's this.

going to look like in five years time
for you; what are the core things

that we want to set up so they can be
sustainable, and you have a motor practice

that can be continued in some way.

But quite often you'll find that
the thing that they're presenting to

you, as a member of an institution.

is something that they think
is going to satisfy you...

and that really, what they
want to do is go off and work

for a graphic design studio.

Or they want to go and do something
that's completely different.

Or maybe.

even they're studying this particular
programme because it's going to keep

their parents happy, because it still
has the word 'design' in, not art.

Or something like that.

So the reason.

I always ask about these criteria is
basically: What would make you happy?

How, would you be satisfied,
if this thing succeeded?

And yeah, I agree, success is a very,
sort of uh, capitalist way of phrasing

it, but it's almost like the question
of: " when are you going to put that

final brush stroke on the painting?

When's it going to be you feel
like you've done a good job?"

And again, good job.

Absolutely comes from
capitalist sort of space.

But that's the thing I
find the hardest to define.

It's the thing I find the hardest
to define myself, my own work.

But also with students, it can take,
half an hour of beating around the Bush.

Before you find out that actually they
have a very specific thing in mind

that they don't want to tell you, or...

Barbara Neves Alves: Often it's so!

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

Barbara Neves Alves: I think that's
why at the end of the year, there's

a relationship that's formed that
is quite a tight one in some aspects

because you gradually got to know
the inner, the inner corners of

someone's mind and how they work.

That's, that's really nice and they put
a lot of trust in us as teachers, and I

think that's an amazing sometimes to see,


um, and respect that very much.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

And particularly when you think of.

So many students.

Moving from literally the
other side of the world to.


Spend hours talking to
us Something or other.

and maybe I should clarify.


There's very few.

Moments that we actually teach together.

Barbara Neves Alves: Yes, we actually, I
don't think we ever have taught together.

Ollie Palmer: No, I mean we're in panels
together all the time, for student.

assessments and things like that, and
sometimes interviews, but never in sort

of a probing into what students are
up to, trying in some way to help shape

a project, or help resolve something.

How do you develop ideas?


Who do you work through them with?

Barbara Neves Alves: So one thing that
happens when you're teaching is less time.

So teaching, I have a family, a
young daughter, so there's less time.

So, the notion that I had before of
really being into a project and then it

developed quite fast, I was trying things
out now with this kind of slower process.

That's frustrating, but also gives
some time for ideas to simmer.

And that's quite nice.

I think since also my experience in
Maartje's studio was to think, I'm not

sure I want to explore my practice, that
it can take many forms, but I want there

to be conversations and, I know that
I'm quite shy, so I made the decision to

get out of my comfort zone and contact
people as part of my working process.

And that's something that I've been doing.

I guess in initial stage I have a
partner at home that someone that

I really enjoy bouncing ideas a lot
with, and he's from a different field,

so that's really interesting too.

So I have another pool of references,
another set of, a framework that

disturbs mine and that's really nice.

And then I try to in a first instance,
contact people by email, people that I

think might be interested in the same
topic or familiar with some ideas.

And if they can meet me, point
me in the direction of people,

that could be interesting.

So I don't know...

I know I'm entering into too much
detail, but there's my community

of friends and people close to
me; there's people that I ask.

And they generously actually offer their
time and talk to me because they are

interested in the same issues and we meet,
and we have, you know, conversations,

lately on zoom, and then research groups.

So I'm part of research groups,
at the Rietveld, but also research

groups that actually grew from me
starting a project and bringing

together a set of people that then
thought, okay, let's continue talking.

And so that also happens.

That's really nice to do.

And then my colleagues, the people
that I work with, the team of

teachers actually become people
that I really enjoy listening to.

Not that I always have the time to
talk about my practice, but I do have

the time to bring about questions,
or readings, or share thoughts.

And, and then there's a struggle in
relation to teaching between, reading, as

I say, at the Master Institute, it's true
that my role is very much of a supervisor.

So I'm kind of dealing with students
mostly on a one-to-one basis,

but at the Rietveld, I'm a theory
teacher, and there I prepare classes.

The way I prepare classes is really
very close to also how I want to work.

So I started by thinking that to be
a theory teacher have to be a theory

teacher that someone that I'm not, and
that was really hard, because I'm not a

theory teacher in the sense of someone
that comes to present a text or share

knowledge or present an idea very clearly.

I'm someone that really
enjoys engaging with texts.

And, and so that's what
I'm asking students to do.

I bring a text and the text
is tied to an exercise, to an

experiment and that experiment, that
exercise leads to a conversation.

So it's a very hands-on way of
reading texts and engaging with ideas.

And so that's very close to
my practice and how I work,

and something I enjoy a lot.

But then of course, if I'm teaching
first year of fine arts, I need

to be aware of different topics,
readings, ideas that are interesting

to them and not necessarily to me.

So I struggle sometimes with the lack
of time to read what I want to read for

my own research, because I'm reading
what I think is interesting for theirs.

And sometimes, actually what I
think is interesting for there's

ended up becoming part of my
research and in unexpected ways.

And it's really nice.

I make connections while teaching
that I would never have done if

I hadn't worked with those texts.

But on the other hand, they
always feel a lack of time.

I want to be able to read without having
to teach what I read, to have that blank

space around my relation with a book
or with an idea and that there's space

for anything to form in that I tend to
not have so much because I'm teaching.

So I guess conversation also enters
my practice, my creative practice

in that way through teaching.

Um, because then a lot of people are
bringing me their perspectives and it's

really interesting and really nice.

And I learn a lot.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

I think it's.

One of those things that for me
has taken a long time to realize

that with teaching it's it's
okay not to have all the answers.

Oh, completely!


Barbara Neves Alves:
It's quite interesting

Ollie Palmer: There's a common conception
with students, particularly, depending

on different educational backgrounds...

There are some methods of teaching.

that students will have been exposed to
before they come to us, where they expect

the tutors to know absolutely everything,
probably like a very technical way.

And there are other methods of
teaching, which I've only experienced

secondhand where the students treat
you as some sort of a master who,

they supposed to do everything you.

As opposed to the reality of the situation
that we find ourselves in, where there

are a series of dialogues that students
have with tutors, and it's their

responsibility to pick the path through
those things that sort of works the best.

But for me, sometimes the best
teaching happens when you're exploring.

an idea with a student that you don't
fully know yourself, because you can

discover things together, and find
out a lot about the way that somebody

thinks through encountering something
at a very similar time to them.

I think also it's just in
a way, a bit more exciting.

And not me saying, "Oh, I, I always
just make it up as I go along.

I don't know what's going on."

But, the nature of the type of teaching
that we do is such that there isn't a

set subject that you have to be studying.

Students can bring anything to us, and
we have to react to it and sometimes

when those things take you in an
unexpected direction you find that

you're really interested in something
that you never, never found before.

I realize this, is me talking to you, so
I don't want to use too much of the time,

but the thing you were saying before about
having a family, and that shaping a lot.

of The way that your
practice actually works.

I also find that, I also have a
family, and a partner, and all

of the responsibilities that go
alongside those things, and my time,

my studio practice, from being...

a few years ago I would've said I'm
doing it six, if not seven days a week,

and I can work at any time, and my
peak hours for working are the evening.

Now, everything I do with studio practice
has had to shift to very specific times

of the day, and they have to start
at the time they start and they have

to finish at the time they finish.

And quite often, they're interrupted by
a child being ill and being sent home

from daycare, or something like that.

The thing that always has to give.

Is your individual studio practice...

for me at least.

And a lot of that has to do with
the accountability, where the

only person I'm accountable to my
own studio practices is myself.

Whereas it's a lot easier.

For me to shift that burden when it
comes to teaching, because there's

somebody who I have to say, actually,
I can't do this right now, or,

there's a bunch of interested parties.


There's something that for me has changed
in the last few years in the amount

of attention that I can pay to things.

Now my time is so much more
fragmented, I never truly get time

to immerse myself in something.

Barbara Neves Alves: I really relate
to that, and why they was working with

my PhD, and there were deadlines and I
had one child, and I worked nights and

weekends, and our life as a, between
us as partners was really fractured

between your time, my time, we were both
working at a PhD with a small child.

I was so tired and with two
children it's just not possible.

I just can't handle working
nights and working weekends.

I physically can't handle that, so, it's
really strange that having time to work

became like my free time, that luxury.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

Barbara Neves Alves: And there's actually
not a lot of it available because,

yeah, you described it very well.

And I still do commit to teaching and
to preparing, because I guess because

as thesis supervisor, I do need to
read, and I feel a big responsibility

in my role, but then I'm waking
up at four o'clock in the morning

sometimes, and that's when I'm working.

And then I have my day of teaching
and then I'm totally tired.

And by the end, when I have my days for
a studio practice, I'm still dealing with

emails and all the administration that
comes with teaching and it's frustrating.

I feel that need a lot of energy to
keep motivated above anything else.

It's really nice also because it
made me realize how passionate

I actually am about my projects.

I can not give them up and, and
then really am committed to them.

So there's this kind of engagement
with my work that I didn't have before,

because I realize how precious it is
for me and how much he needed also

to feel me to feel like Barbara.

But then it's hard.

You have to be very patient.

Things come up very slowly,
and I feel very frustrated that

really important moments for me,
for exchange of showing more, of

course, shaping your conversation.

I don't have any time to prepare.

I just do them last minute and that I
feel it's a pity because I'm working

towards something and then I don't have
time to care for it like I would have

liked to if I could, but I also think,
it's a temporary situation; hopefully

it changes, but I've been through that
before, that I was teaching for a few

years and then I stopped teaching.

And the reason why I stopped teaching
is that I thought I can't teach

anymore, I have nothing else to give.

If I do not invest in myself, I
can't, then I have nothing to share.

I'm here.

I don't want to be a parent.

I have be a person here, present
busy, occupied with something, living,

otherwise, you know, what am I doing here?

So it's a balance that I think
is really necessary, to keep.

And I, I do think the teaching positions
should include time for teachers

also, if they are teaching research
to have some time for research.

Ollie Palmer: I couldn't agree more!

And I also think that the attitude you've
expressed is probably quite common with

people who have a creative practice
of whatever kind and also, teach.

And that's part of the reason that
I started this interview series,

was that I find myself teaching, and
trying to maintain a creative practice.

And there's a lot of friction
between those two things, but they

do nourish each other in a way.

And I find if I do too much teaching
it completely zaps my energy, but

I love it as well: I love those
conversations, I love the dialogue, I

love the conversation with tutors, I
love the conversation with students.

I love trying to work out how we
nurture something that sort of like

is a longer scale project than just
a normal project that I would...

Barbara Neves Alves: Yeah, I really,
I like teaching, and I missed it the

years that I wasn't teaching immensely.

And I think it's also about being part
of a bigger project; I really like that

I feel like I'm what working towards
making things better, making the world

better somehow, like leaving something
behind contributing to a cause and I've

been lucky to work in really nice groups
of people where, where that makes sense.

It's not, I don't feel alone in that.

And then where I'm teaching at the moment.


Ollie Palmer: Can I ask a question
about the practice of practice..

is there anything that you do If you find
yourself in one of those stages where

you have a limited amount of time, so
it would definitely spark your brain

up, or get you in the mood for making
something, thinking about something.

Are there any rituals or.

methods that you have for...

Barbara Neves Alves: It changes.


Well, for example, if Maartje's
has space, I was rubbing her wall.

Her studio space has a really high wall.

I don't know how many
meters, but really high.

I don't know how many meters I should
actually, I spend so much time with it.

But part of me relating to her
space and feeling that I needed to

find a way while I translating, was
picking up a paper and a graffiti.

And I created a series
of hundreds of rubbings.

I rubbed the whole wall.

So I stayed in a level of proximity
with that wall, with the split.

I had to physically encounter the
space somehow meet, I think it was

an embodied way of dealing with that
invitation and that's what I did there.

And it was really fruitful for
me, to actually be present in that

way, looking at it from there.

In other instances, it's
walking, I walk a lot.

Sketching, having too
much coffee and sketching.

I think that's also like putting
things in diagrams and creating some

kind of, not really mood boards, but
I need to put together images, texts,

words, and map them out and then
shuffle them and then reshuffle them.

I think that's a process
that I need to do.

Ollie Palmer: How do
you do that physically?

Is it, do you have sketchbooks
that you keep or it um...

Barbara Neves Alves: I fill walls.

I also sometimes need to feel things.

It's a very, like really like my
body it's it's on different levels.

I think on the one hand it's
dealing with ideas and sources

and influences and trying to track
actually what I'm interested in.

And on the other hand, it's my body
that needs to go for a walk or touch a

material or deal with something also.

Ollie Palmer: when you say walking,
do you walk to specific places

every time, or is it just the act of
walking that helps the mind to think?

Do you take a sketchbook with you or...

Barbara Neves Alves: No, I just walk, and
I don't think it really matters where I

go, because I'm not really looking around.

Sometimes smelling or, it's more about
feeling the fresh air and the environment.

Cause my head's somewhere
else, my head's...

sometimes I can't remember where I
was, you know, it's a kind of walking

that you're really distracted.

I think that happens quite often.

And I just like the pace, the
exercise of course, nature is better

than walking in the middle of....

Ollie Palmer: ...yeah,
an industrial estate...

Barbara Neves Alves: I I won't
go to the center of Amsterdam.

If I'm in Amsterdam, I go to
the park; it feels much better.

But when I'm walking, I don't
even think about picking up a pen.

If I'm talking to students and
I don't have pen in my hand, I

can't accompany people's work.

It's like, I need, I write a sketch,
I, I visualize, even if it's just

a diagram that I go, I need that.

When I was doing this, for example, with
my PhD, where ideas were on a level of

complexity that I would forget them,
I would record, I would just pick up

my phone and record what I had thought
that I didn't forget or lose that idea.

Or, you know, sometimes I just
solved a chapter, and I just make

the quick note, but using voice.

And it's really funny.

It's only when I'm walking and
this act of running away from

something, just moving my body.

I'm not running around.

I don't know what I'm doing,
but it's just, I'm in my head.

And otherwise, I do use
always a pen and paper.

But also when I'm really writing, I
have this capacity for concentrating

on something for hours I forget to eat.

And sometimes I have to force myself
to actually get out of the house and

walk because now I know that I'm going
to approach the work in a way that's

much more fruitful and interesting.

Then I keep working on it.

But it's really like, I have
to pull myself out of the work.

Then this happens much less lately
because I haven't had that time you

know, for this kind of commitment.

And when I do have, then I
really don't go for a walk...

so I'm talking about a few years
ago when I was working in that way.

I needed to get out of the work and I
sometimes did it and I learned to do that.

In having less time for a project,
there's more time for something else

around the project that I can't quite
define, but it matures also in a different

way, but then also it can't be like
that because I think you need to work.

And that's what we keep telling
our students actually not to do,

to think about things, because
thinking about something and imagine

a situation is very different than,
than actually engaging with it.

Ollie Palmer: Just thinking about what
you said, I think there's a nice bridge

to the same question, but about teaching.

Are there any exercises that you come
back to again and again that you love

to run through with students that
get them through a certain thing?

Barbara Neves Alves: No, I tend to always
change something, but I guess what's

behind the exercise is very much similar.

I go about it in different ways,
because I like to try different things

out, I guess every year, I don't like
so much to repeat the exercises...

Maybe I can give an example of the
exercise that I just I'm trying

out now with students at the
Rietveld, at the start of the year.

Uh, I don't, I don't know.


I'm just thinking of it's
the most representative one.

I guess I start the year always trying
to find a way for students to feel at

ease and realize that the class is a
space for questions and for unsettling

ideas rather than following ideas.

And I do that in different ways,
depending on who I'm teaching

or what the group is like.

And this year I'm asking students
at the Rietveld academy to write an

opening line to their work this year.

And that's been a really
interesting, process for me at least.

And I'm still in it.

The first text we read together
was a how to texts, like how

to write an opening line.

I really enjoyed that, start in that
way and around the idea of setting

up a plot and creating a narrative
for the year, we're identifying

characters, themes, questions.

We talked a lot about, what kind of work
process can be and how do we tell a story?

But also we were questioning, thinking.

They really had to think about
their practice, and what they

do and what they wanted to do.

So that's what I'm working with them on.

And I'm bringing in a text, we're
reading, a text by Ursula LeGuin called

the Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction.

It's a beautiful text where, Ursula
LeGuin is talking about how our

stories are based around the idea of
a hero and about an act of action.

So the idea that history has been told
around the idea of missing the sphere

and of, of the hunter, that's kind of
the image that's kind of populating our

minds, and that in reality, people, we
were as humans, were eating, what came

from the ground, and that we could also
retail history from the point of view as

the carrier bag, as a diverse tool that
allowed people to bring more than one or

two seeds back home to feed the community.

But then what's the interest of the
carrier bag as a story, you know, it's

much more interesting to think about
the hunter coming, and this happened.

She's questioning that what about.

If we don't tell stories in that way.

And if we tell stories, looking at the
idea of a carrier bag where there's

lots of different objects that can
form many different attachments and

where's, there's not one hero or when
storylines, but perhaps many storylines.

So this idea also to talk with
students about also theory and how you

build up ideas in relation to that.

So this idea that maybe we don't have
to have a hero or an action, but you

can have this more tentative, I guess,
associative way of pulling threads

together and building up a story.

Students are working on each other's
opening lines, and I'm also introducing

a bit, this idea of the speculative,
like we're speculating, speculating about

something that still is going to happen.

And that I'm going to
return to later in the year.

So this is an example of how I'm thinking
of an exercise, like where I am now, this

moment that the Rietveld that's meant
as an introduction; they get to know

me, I get to know their practices, but
there's also a process of questioning

and thinking about the texts that
we're going to read in a certain way.

So I'm also establishing a way of thinking
and working about around texts with this.

Let's see it goes.

as a writing exercise, they also
are writing in my class from

the start and, they can write an
opening line from the point of view.

Of course, we're looking at the opening
lines and then discussing this, but

they can write an opening line from
the point of view of the character,

of the question, or the theme, and
then combinations, like: they can

ask questions also to the character
from the perspective of the theme.

So the idea is also to introduce this
idea of looking at work from different

entry points and how those also change
the story, and that they're sharing the

opening lines, and that they're sharing
what they're thinking that they want to

do with other students, I think, is also
important that they get to meet each other

in that way and start to analyze a bit...


I'm not just doing, I'm also, there's
some, there's a theme maybe, or a question

or my character can be a material.

And if it's a material, then
what's it like as a character?

You know, like: How do I
represent that character?

And how does it connect to a question?

So these kinds of issues are important,
but also at the end of the year,

they're going to end the year writing
about their practice it's there.

And so I think it's really nice
for us to return to the, this

opening the end of the year.

that's the idea until then work from.

Ollie Palmer: That's really nice.

I love the idea that you're taking all of
the critical elements of the project; the

subject matter, or the methods, or any
of the things that we normally talk about

in these very abstract terms and giving
them a characterization and material.

The other teaching exercise I
wanted to ask you about was one

that you've described to me before,
and really stuck in my mind.

And this was the one where you ask
students to think about brushing their

teeth when they're brushing their teeth.

Barbara Neves Alves: So that's an exercise
that I gave as an introductory exercise,

two years ago for the first time.

And I'm actually changing it this year.

I'm not connecting to what other
exercises and It's no longer going

to be an introductory exercise.

But I'm reading with students.

So Kathy Acker's text, Against Ordinary
Language: The Language of the Body.

And I think it's such an interesting
text because Kathy Acker was a

prolific writer, teller of stories,
reader, performer, someone that's

not really lost for words, I guess.

So, my idea of her starts to talk about
her experience of bodybuilding in this

text and realize is that when she tries to
write about body building and share that

experience, she fails to find the words.

And so she started to ask
herself, why does this happen?

I don't have time to explain, I think
the whole text, but just this idea of

how we're not used to actually engage
and listen to the language of the body.

We're so used to the discursive.

We're so used to explaining, and to ideas
that we are not used to engage with the

bodily dimensions of what we do and what
kind of language does that take and how

it defies as Kathy Acker says, ordinary
language, and asks for something else.

Of course, she's really
simplifying her text.

And I think when reading her text,
that's interesting for several reasons.

I find that there are some things
about this difficulty, this fissure

this discrepancy that students
face when they have to write and

do, and write about what they do.

I think my idea actually is to
explore how writing about something

changes, how you do something also.

So I'm asking them to choose a
practice, something that they

do every day in their life.

And students have chosen opening
and closing a door or going up,

climbing up stairs, or washing their
teeth, and then to return to that

practice daily, and to write about
it after performing that practice.

And it's really interesting because of
course, when you write about washing

your teeth, you started off sort of
brushing your teeth in a different way.

And so for me, it's a really interesting
way of starting to disturb the

separation that exists in student's
mind, that writing is one thing and

practice is another ...and actually see
that they inform each other, and that

they open questions for each other.

And, and that, it's interesting to
keep them together,, as practices.


That's the idea.

Sometimes I'm afraid that I'm simplifying,
so I'm using a text that's quite

complex and has other layers and many
other, ideas and issues involved.

And then using it really like using
it is the word for something very

specific to work with students.

And I'm very afraid of doing that also.

So I'm a bit hesitant.

Also, it's a really nice exercise, but you
know, I'm also putting Kathy Acker in this

role where she's an excuse for something
that the students are going to do.

But on the other hand, they get to meet
her and she's such a wonderful person.

And I do talk about the text.

I'm always a bit divided about that
and wonder what she would be thinking

about that she though Kathy Acker, I
know the texts that I engage with; it

would have been nice to know actually.

Ollie Palmer: I think
that's the things that you.

As, as a writer or as somebody who's
producing something, you can't always

control the context in which experience.

And for people who do end up trying to
take control of that environment too

much, it sort of reminds me of those old
psychology professors who are adamantly,

rigorously defending their position
something they did in the seventies.

And not realizing that this
stubbornness about what they've

created really inhibiting to an extent.

I don't know if I phrase that in a way
that's intelligible or even makes any

sense at all, but, when you've made
something, I'm not saying you have to

give up ownership of it, but other people
are free to interpret it how they like.

Barbara Neves Alves: But as a teacher,
I think I need to respect the material.

And that's how, you know, something
I'm not sure about sometimes

because I do this for several texts.

Some of them are quite complex.

Ollie Palmer: Barbara it's been so lovely
to spend this time with you . been

so nice to have a conversation face
to face after what, like, nearly two

years of just meeting each other online.

And it's been nice to have this
conversation about your work in a way

that enables the framing of teaching.

But also doesn't just rely on it.

So, yeah, thank.

You so much for taking time to talk

Barbara Neves Alves: to me.


Thank you so much for having me.

It's really.

Nice to talk, and I also feel like I
really want to talk more and also to

know more about you, now, and, um, yeah,
and it's really nice to meet again.

So, thanks.

It's really nice to have
this time also to reflect.

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

Well, I mean as you you were saying,
earlier about the relationship

with colleagues as being something
that is creatively inspiring.

And I, I definitely, definitely.

feel that as well.

Part of the reason I teach.

is because I find those.

The conversations with students
and The conversations with

co-teachers really nourishing.

If people are interested in your work,
I'll try to put links to everything we've

talked about on the show notes and on the
website, so that there's a resource there.

If people want to follow your work
or see you do something, what's

the best way for them to follow?

Barbara Neves Alves: Well, I
have a website that I haven't

updated at the moment since 2018.

I'm thinking about it,
then I need to do that.

So I think that's the best way.

And then I guess if you
search for my name, online.

You'll see recent publications
or work, but I update them in

academia.edu, and the research kit.

Also, I have to do that also now.

So I've been kind of.

Postponing taking care
of my online presence.

But, I'm doing that soon.

Ollie Palmer: As I said to you
earlier, I don't trust anybody who's

website's completely up to date...

Barbara Neves Alves: but some material
you'll find already on on mine!

Ollie Palmer: Yeah.

thank you so much for talking.

Barbara Neves Alves: Thank you.

Ollie Palmer: Thank you for listening
to this episode of Hold the Space.

If any of the things we've discussed
are of interest, please do take a look

through the links in the show notes
and its website at www.holdthespace.art

I've tried to link to as many of
the projects and people as possible.

Of course, I probably
have missed a couple.

Many thanks to my guest, Barbara
Neves Alves, for generously

donating her time to this episode.

As you know, this is quite a new
podcast and I'm still working out

the best way to make the format work.

If you have any comments or
suggestions, please do send me a note.

I'd love to hear feedback on this.

There are details in the show
notes and on the show website,

again at www.holdthespace.art.

This podcast is made possible by the
Situated Art and Design Research Group

at Caradt, the Centre for Applied
Research in Art, Design and Technology.

Each episode is recorded, edited
and mixed by me, Ollie Palmer.

For more information, including
full transcripts for each episode,

links to relevant work or resources,
please visit the podcast website

at www.holdthespace.art, or click
the link in the podcast notes.

Thank you so much for listening, and
I'll be back with you again soon.