Andrea Průchová, Ph.D. is an associate lecturer (Charles University, Prague College), a researcher (Czech National Film Archive, Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Charles University) and a founder of Fresh Eye, the educational platform for the research, study and promotion of visual culture. Andrea is a Fulbright Alumnus (NYU, Pratt Institute, USA) and Georg Arnhold Program Alumnus (Georg Eckert Institute, GE). Her research work has been published in form of a single-author book chapter in Palgrave Macmillan (2015), Springer Publishing House (2017) and University of Turku Press (2018). She has translated to Czech Berger’s Ways of Seeing (2016), co-translated Mitchell’s Picture Theory (2016) and currently is working on translation of Mirzoeff’s How to See the World (2018).
Who Is Allowed to See? With-in-out Academia: Strategy of Teaching Visual Literacy Across Institutions
The complexity of modern society has resulted in an important shift in the area of academic studies. It has become impossible to conduct any exclusive research in one particular field of professional expertise. Instead, the contemporary scientific practice offers a unique opportunity to adopt a collaborative approach resulting in sharing of specific knowledge, theoretical concepts and research practices across the disciplines. The paper discusses not only the necessity of widely accepted inter-disciplinary strategies, but namely, it critically reflects on the need to establish and further develop the inter-institutional strategies of how the study of (past, modern and contemporary) visual culture and its phenomena can be organized with-in-out academia.
The orientation towards inter-institutional practice creates the main direction for the project Fresh Eye (www.fresh-eye.cz / www.fresh-eye.org), the only platform exclusively oriented on the study of visual culture in Czech Republic. The project, originally established by a group of graduate students in 2011 as a collective respond on the lack of information related with the field of visual culture studies, has become an important local platform for public discussion where professionals from academic field, media, cultural organizations and NGO’s meet in order to negotiate their professional as well as personal experience with visual culture.
The platform runs its activities mostly in form of community gatherings outside the infrastructure of academic system. In course of its 6-year existence, the project has found a stable place within the independent local cultural and art scene. Although it has gradually professionalized in terms of promotional activities, technical equipment and online presentation, it has never lost the original identity of DIY platform that still resonates in the heart of its community.
There are six main public programs organized by the platform targeting different audiences in terms of age, educational background, professional experience and geographic location: (1) monthly public discussions, (2) high school workshops, (3) best essay competition for university students, (4) online library, (5) video archive of public programs and (6) public conference. The principles of availability (programs are offered for free and their documentation can be accessed online) and diversity (different programs engage different audience/communities) constitute the pillars of the philosophy of this organization.
Yet, the project does not alienate itself from the academic practice fully. It helps to build the connections between professional/DIY communities involved in visual culture, academic/everyday knowledge and experience of visual culture and theoretical/popular issues dominating to visual culture. It pursues to collaborate with various research and academic institutions in order to enrich the practice of creative cooperation and communication on the both sides.