September 2019, Suhail boat, Kastelorizo to Athens

Experimental Education Protocol 3: Exploring New Worlds of Relationships 

Living in a civilization dominated by the presence of the media, our contact with physical reality is constantly mediated. Try and observe people at a social event, such as an art exhibition: watch how people behave, how they mechanically transcend themselves in their own experience, perplexed and almost segregated, impulsively looking at or editing different versions of the “now” on their screens. The only thing that matters is their image of alternative versions of the show, “rebuilt” on social platforms which generate other ways of sharing experience and knowledge. Amplified emotions follow… comments, likes, followers and unfollowers, conflicts or alliances form a new psyschological need for reward and attention, all measured and quantified, all made semiotically explicit. The competition for likes and dislikes is a struggle for domination, a classic power- game of social hierarchies, perhaps similar to that of the antiquated notion of teacher and student. But the internet was the tool that originally questioned this hierarchy of broadcaster and receiver by turning every receiver into a potential broadcaster, leading to a hierarchically interchangeable form of communication. Do events such as the art exhibition cited above also become some sort of (a)synchronous solitary tutorial or anarchic participatory lecture? Does this form of communication really guide us to new experiential realms of pedagogy in which new (de)constructions of knowledge take place?

We can begin by exploring these realms along with the desire for more authentic and direct forms of interpersonal communication and knowledge. We can discover the possibilities within these complex and intermedial spaces of learning and observe them in a range of activities in the temporary form of communal life. An example of a space such as this is the Experimental Education Protocol #exedupro. When I founded it three years ago, it had a very simple description: “an alternative educational model in which each edition takes place in a new location. Participants are asked to create educational ideas and workshops that revolve around a case study and the local context”. 

The 3rd edition of the Experimental Education Protocol will take place in the form of a cruise on a wooden sailing boat in the midst of the sometimes-angry, sometimes-peaceful Aegean Sea. The cruise is the case-study in itself, and will start from the remote island of Kastelorizo and work backwards to our destination in Athens, stopping at numerous un-inhabited small islands where many ancient stories and legends are set. Both the islands and many of the sea routes have been used as hidden hideouts by rebels over the course of history, such as the island of Polyaigos, now a nature reserve. At other times they have been used as semi-fictitious models, filled with amibiguous interpretations by historians, natural scientists and anthropologists alike, such as the island of Ro. 

An important point of reference for our project is the Acali Experiment initiated by the Mexican anthropologist Santiago Genoves, who selected a crew of strangers from different races and religions in order to create a microcosm of the world and examine human behavior while crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a raft. Genoves believed that this small isolated raft—floating far out on a dangerous sea for 101 days— was the perfect laboratory in which to begin a discussion about themes such as conflict and human behavior. Acali is an ancient Aztec word meaning “the house on the water”. 

Our own temporary “house on the water”, the Suhail, will similarly move us from
the familiar world to new and different situations, including within the natural environment. This is the one entity that human beings have not been able to dominate, something we are gradually realizing as we experience natures’ environmental revenge. We will be in “direct” access to nature, and will explore it from spatial, social and environmental perspectives. The cruise will act as our base for exploring new types of educational relationships between a small but diverse groups of temporary communards. Learning new experiences of presence, of visual, auditory and haptic sensations, #exedupro3 is a trip with meditative overtones, providing room for all the contradictions that are constructed through contact with a place, using the sea as an open-source, decentralized interface. 

Angelo Plessas