From the “Embodying Unlearning” Workshop with Daniel Bryan from the Pachaysana Institute (Fall 2022)

Question: How did your experience in the workshop elaborate on “embodied unlearning”? How did you “embody unlearning”?

“This workshop elaborated on ’embodied unlearning’ because it broke down some of the automatic responses my body would have because my mind. The exercise where we had to go when he said walk and clap when he said jump make me realize how reality is just constructed by societies preconceived notions so when these are flipped, we struggle with how to deal with them. The exercise where the group made a physical picture of education and contrasted that to learning was interesting as we were able to deconstruct what education typically looks like. We deconstructed it into more of a group effort and less teacher centered when we switched it to education. By breaking down these preconceived notions with our movements and actions, we unlearned some of most simple ideals that seem trivial but hold larger implications.”

“My experience in the workshop helped me understand embodied unlearning by trying to remove all the previously embedded stigmas I had about education. The workshop was trying to get me to unlearn all the negative associations I have about school and learning as a whole, and they were trying to create a more positive outlook on education for us all.”

“We embodied unlearning by walking around a space and getting to know our surroundings. Then, once we knew the space, we were asked to perform tasks which were opposite from their actual meaning. It was difficult to get used to, but overall, most people were able to do it once they got the hang of it. I am glad that I went to this workshop because I had never experienced something like this before, and it was interesting to see the things that could be done in a simple way to honor a space and to honor a culture in which I had never been a part of.”

“I learned about story makers reading these words can provoke powerful conversation and leaning opportunities about the history.”

“My experience in the workshop was a positive lasting one. Taking on learning in a new way, “embodied unlearning” was something out of my comfort zone. Learning in a way that I didn’t just use my brain let me relate to the embodiment of metaphors when relating to decolonization. I embodied learning by receiving a leaf and placing it at the root of a pillar in the classroom to show respect to my ancestors. Showing gratitude in a different way was a learning curve that I can apply to future embody unlearning activities.”

“One way that the workshop experience elaborate on embodied unlearning was through the exercise with starting, stopping, clapping and jumping. I embodied unlearning in this exercise because I did the opposite of what was said every time to embody unlearning of actions.”

“I enjoyed the workshop more than I thought I would, I think mainly because of all the movement. I expected to just sit and listen to someone lecture for the whole time but was happy when it was the complete opposite. I think the workshop elaborated on embodied unlearning because we literally learned things about ourselves and the people around us about how our bodies react to things. For example, when we were doing the activity of having to do the opposite of what the speaker said, many people’s bodies twitched and stuttered when told to jump or stop. Also, in the last activity where two groups of people had to create an image just with their bodies. It was interesting to notice how the two groups made different and similar shapes with their bodies.”

“Throughout the workshop, the instructor touched on how students of OSU and really every should honor the land that the university sits on. We learned how to honor the land by placing ancestral leaves by pillars of the room we were in. But, in a sense, we unlearned big concepts like the land grant/grab debate and more focused on learning how to honor the land that was stolen under the ancestors’ feet.”

“In the workshop, I embodied many aspects of the all-around experience. Using trace paper to trace objects in the environment gave me a land to life realization. I chose a picture of a cactus and cowgirl in the desert. I first started tracing leaves and gravel and nature itself because the picture was outside. I then saw that I was able to use my body to represent nature and land. I traced my hair to show grass and learned that you can embody the Earth through representation of yourself. This workshop opened my mind up and I really did enjoy it.”

“The Pachaysana Workshop allowed me to ‘unlearn’ deeply. For one I believe many do not understand the meaning behind decolonization, as well as the efforts made by individuals to grant reparations to those in need. I believe this the fault of our education system. Throughout the workshop we were asked to perform in different activities using different techniques in order to perform properly. Though if and when we messed up (Seeing as many of the tasks were difficult to learn on your first attempt), we were not punished for our mistakes. While this workshop was based on unlearning (and also relearning), it made me learn a lot more about the indigenous culture within Columbus as well as learn about the practices of teaching as well as how we educate our youth. Personally, I find my classes difficult, despite putting in so much effort and receiving lower grades for not understanding the material one hundred percent of the time.”

“In the Pachaysana Workshop, we focused on the embodiment of unlearning. My experience elaborated on this idea to show me that this involved a few things that were quite difficult to adjust to. After we have learned things and accepted a certain status quo, it can often be difficult to go against it. Through this workshop we were forced to do things like change our interactions with strangers on a whim, work both with and against strangers to achieve a goal, and interpret language that had been assigned alternate meanings. In all of these instances we got to experience what it was like to suddenly question our preconceptions and be given extra mental steps to complete basic tasks. For example it may be easy for someone to get annoyed with another person for not speaking their language clearly, but the exercise that flipped the leader’s commands with the participants’ actions gave a great context of the difficulty of the additional mental processing required when these people are trying to translate in real time. I think that this was a great workshop because we should always focus on both considering the positions of others and questioning our own judgements.”

“The workshop explained to me of what embodied unlearning was all about. I took away from the workshop that embodied unlearning is unlearning what was told to us that teaching a learning had to be where a teacher stands at the front of the room in front of a bunch of students. We are told that this is the only way that we can learn and grasp knowledge. But in reality, we can learn in different ways. This workshop taught me that there are different ways to see things and that learning can be the teacher joining students down on their level and joining in on the learning process rather than just throwing information at the students and expecting them to know it. Overall, I really enjoyed the workshop and I learned new things about embodied unlearning of practices that were ingrained into me.”

“I think the activities where we had to walk around, but in the most confusing way possible. I enjoyed how interactive the activity was, but nothing in particular surprised me. The unlearning came through when we had to mix up the directions and actions for different words. It was hard and will continue to be but it was all about the effort, similar to real life situations with whatever prejudices and stereotypes we’ve thought for a while.”

“The most memorable experience for me was the 2nd workshop where we did the exercise about unlearning. I liked activity where we had to do the opposite of what the workshop director said.  I think that exemplified how we are conditioned to think a certain way after many personal experiences.  It was surprising to see how conditioned we are though because even when we were given the task to do something when he gives the key word, we all still struggled because of how we are so used to doing things.”

“I liked this experience because it was very different than the type of learning I have been used to this school year. It was a very active workshop with tons of participation. I also enjoyed that the professors participated in the same way as the students. The workshop began and talked a lot about the land grant here at OSU and we also did an activity with a leaf that represented the indigenous people who lived here before us. This connects to what we have learned so far because we talked a lot about how this is a land-grant university.”

“I really liked the embodied learning workshop. My favorite part was how we had to think about unlearning what the words meant and trying to assign them a new meaning, stomp when they say clap, go means stop, stop means go etc. I felt that it was very beneficial to get out of the classroom and do some hands on conceptual learning.”

“The most memorable thing I took a way from the field trip was the rap video that the group leader showed us. I forget which country the rapper was from, but it was really cool to hear his message in a different language. It is nice to take a break from hearing American rap and get a new perspective. The fact the he was also rapping about something meaningful to him is also awesome! I think that the guided activity really pushed us to connect to our own roots and culture. It was almost like an out of body experience. This is something I would definitely part-take in again.”

“I really enjoyed that it wasn’t just us listening and sitting down, I enjoyed getting up and moving around. It surprised me because it was not what I was expecting at all. The activities from the workshop connects to what we’ve learned so far because I feel like I have been able to open my eyes to the world around me more so than before. I have never been known to be close-minded but after taking this class and then going on these field trips, I have felt like I have learned so much about myself and the world around me. The different cultures and ways of learning were incredible and being able to learn more about them was awesome. I appreciated the new way of learning in class as well as through the Unlearning workshop. I hadn’t been on a field trip in so long so it was really refreshing to be able to get out of the classroom for a couple days.”

“My most memorable experience was the beginning when they just had us walking around, observing the room. I thought it was really strange but it was actually really cool. I liked how interactive it was. We got to actually engage in new ways with some of the same stuff that we had talked about in class. The guide talked about unlearning things preconceived ideas and notions, we have talked a lot about that in this class. Unlearning is actually just learning what’s true, having experiences that support the new beliefs.”

From Dancing with Devils: Latin American Masks Traditions (Fall 2022)

post it with visitor commentspost it with visitor comments

The above visitor comments, left on post-it notes in response to the prompt “How did the exhibition make you feel?,” read:

“Make me realize how much I miss Ecuador I was living there for 9 years…<3 <3”

“I feel superconnected with my country and I loved making masks! I loved hearing Spanish all over the room. I miss Ecuador & this place made me happy. <3”

Drawings and captions

This page is from the visual journal of Katie O’Shaughnessy, an OSU English major who visited Dancing with Devils with her class, ARTEDUC 2250 Introduction to Art Education, taught by kawsay waqaychaqkuna Tamryn McDermott.

Dancing with Devils Course Visit Feedback

From an instructor’s perspective, I found the space enhanced group work and discussion.  The artwork was the perfect backdrop to set the stage for learning about ethnobotany.  – Dr. Jennifer Olejownik, College of Medicine

Story Gourd Feedback (Ongoing)

Starting with our Tukuypaq Open House (see below), we have invited visitors and workshop participants to offer feedback and reflections through writing directly on gourds, creating our own Kawsay Ukhunchay story gourds. These photos don’t quite capture the experience of reading the feedback, but can give a sense of the story gourds. Full quotations are typed out as well below (though some participants chose to respond non-verbally!).

Gourd with written text on tapestry

Feedback story gourd

Prompt: How is our work as Kawsay waqaychaqkuna:

  • Social?

We collaborate and help each other as equals.”

“gift economy”


“The collection is just an excuse for coming together as a community. We play to our strengths not our ranks or our titles.”

  • Decolonial?

“To practice decoloniality, to embrace truly being decolonial, requires being anticapitalist.”

“How might we challenge given frameworks AND replace them with alternatives?”

“language + reflecting”

“Our decolonial intentions as a group have inspired my own intentions as a history educator to emphasize indigenous perspectives, worldviews, & alternative literacies. I’m excited to teach history with an emphasis on art. [smiley faces]”

  • Affective?

“It’s exciting to learn about alternative literacies.”

“What it feels like to hold, to cuddle our little companions, to spend time with them and learn to listen to them and eventually talk with them.”

“Kawsay ukhunchay ein anchata simikunpin vimariykupuni. Kayeiningtespin españolpin quechuaein portuguesein eis rimayta atinipumi, me siento muy cómodo aquí. We use all languages here and encourage others to express themselves however they feel more comfortable. Kaypi kusisqa kamkami. Kawsay Ukhunchay alluyyt, es mi commuunidad, this is my home.”

Prompt: Tell us something that challenges something you thought you knew before.

“I believed the male gender dominated the physical and spiritual realms but I was pleasantly surprised to find the culture was so gender fluid!”

“I loved relearning how to tell a story.”

Prompt: What spoke to you today? (And what did it say?)

“I thought about the way of researching in totally different methodology: by escaping the traditional (?) way from Western canon. It was impressive to see the different perspective drawing our life and universe (e.g. circulation, reversal). As a graduate student, reading a lot of journal articles that are fit to the Western system of knowledge, I imagined different direction of ways of knowing/researching and the way of writing.”

“The collaboration of the chalk anaconda reminds me of the collaboration of Andean cultures to create art. I love the chalk drawing below and the continuity, power and ease of life contained in the drawing. So beautiful!!”

[drawing of a snake]

Prompt: Please let us know if you enjoyed our Tukuypaq event and what you got out of it.

“I greatly enjoyed it!!! Learning about the processes and myths that was shared with me.”

“I particularly enjoyed learning about the relationship kept with the artists and the meaning behind their work. It makes the learning experience more real.”

“Awesome pieces along with awesome explanation. I didn’t know about few things that other people already knew such as Yacu Mama, so it might be nice to have things explaining background info.”

Open-ended responses:

“‘An ounce of practice is better than a ton of theory.'”

“The cycle of time as a vital aspect within the Andean cultures spoke to me.”

“I was really impressed by the gourds, the detail and use of space impressed me.”

“The Yacu Mama spoke to me because I find it fascinating how different cultures spiritual significance to each person & daily life.”

“Thinking about death and the birds when the feathers were flying.”

“Always turn a negative into a positive.”

“¿Quién era yo muchos años en la vida ant? ¿Quién será en la vida proximante?”

“Don’t stop learning!”

“Expanding your knowledge of other cultures encourages respect.”

“I loved the in-progress weavings! They show the true complexity of the art.”

“This event was very interesting and I really enjoyed learning about the different artifacts.”

“This was very fun and interesting!”

“Be kind to yourself. Be kind to one another.”

“Thank you.”

“I am so interested in the relationship between time, language, and doing. Non-linear representations and communications.”

“Thank you so much for this beautiful display — and this creative feedback system! I love the guided tour of all the artifacts. I’ve never known about the paintings depicting different types of time — mythical, personal, familial — all equally existant & simultaneous. It’s made me look at paintings like that differently.”

Feedback story gourds

Feedback story gourds

From Tukuypaq Open House (October 2021):

ARTEDU 236701. Visual Culture: Investigating Social Justice & Diversity Student Feedback

“This tour was significantly more interactive, while the other ones have had some hands-on activity, we rarely get to hold the objects. Most institutions are white-gloved institutions. I think being so interactive and having the workshops worked really well.” -Yadira Mendez

“The display cases in the main area were incredibly unique in how the shapes and lines flowed between them carrying the ideas throughout all the artifacts. I especially enjoyed the mirrors in the bottom of the water case reflecting the sky like wallpaper behind the case making it seem as though the mirrors were small windows on the group looking into the sky above.” – Cole Koehler

“These gourds were so detailed, and I can’t even imagine the time and effort put into them because they looked amazing. I feel like this tour was more relaxed than an actual museum tour, mainly because we could touch the objects, which made the experience feel more personal.” – Katie Beale

“This was a very fascinating experience as it differed quite a bit from a typical museum tour. One aspect that differed the most is that the people who were giving the tour were a lot more experienced and seemed a lot more invested and passionate about what they were doing.” – Kai Wang