Images after School. An Introduction

Joris Vlieghe, Nancy Vansieleghem, Pieter Verstrae

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

IMAGES AFTER SCHOOL 9 IMAGES AFTER SCHOOL An Introduction Joris Vlieghe, Nancy Vansieleghem & Pieter Verstraete Imagining afterschool In 2008 the movie Afterschool (Campos, Borderline Films, 107’) was released. Afterschool is the first full-length movie of the American director Antonio Campos and focuses on student life in an American boarding school. The school is portrayed as a place where the main protagonist of the film, a sixteen -year-old student named Robert, continuously watches videos on Youtube and other digital channels. As a consequence, the students of this school, and Robert in particular, seem to have lost their ability to be attentive as well as their sense of how to behave appropriately in a social context. At first sight the movie characterizes school life in twenty-first century American high school as boring and full of aimlessness. The viewer gets to know Robert as someone who is absent-minded and insecure, who fights with other students for no apparent reason, but who also smashes up his own face in front of the mirror, and who gets ever worse grades. In the end Robert is expelled from school. Therefore, the title of the movie ‘Afterschool’ can be interpreted as the time one has to confront once being kicked out of school. This, however, is not the only way one can interpret the title of Campos’ intriguing debut. Besides dealing with the emptiness in Robert’s gaze and behavior, the movie also focuses on an after-school project that the school authorities came up with, viz. a course in audiovisual techniques. Here, students are asked to produce a documentary on something that interests them. While preparing for this course and having put his camera in one of the corridors of the school, 10 Joris Vlieghe, Nancy Vansieleghem & Pieter Verstraete Robert and his camera witness and record the deaths of two twin sisters who were admired both by the student population, as well as by the teaching staff. The tragic event—as the viewer learns throughout the movie—is caused by an overdose of drugs. In response to this unfortunate event Robert is being invited to produce a video for a commemoration of the twin sisters organized by the school principal. What is interesting here is to note that the film which the principal had in mind was intended to lead to the re-establishment of order and of the good name of the school—something that was believed to have been lost, and that actually led to the deaths of the twin sisters (linked to drug dealing within the walls of the school). Robert’s video fails to meet the expectations the school authorities had with regard to the commemoration of the twins. In the end, his attempt at a commemorative video is dismissed and substituted by another one—a documentary which does not represent reality in too direct and unvarnished a way, but which re-installs the image of two students behaving in the way they are expected to do. Together with the overall presence of pornographic and violent imagery, it is precisely this tension between the two formats of commemoration, i.e. between the two videos by means of which something is recalled and revived, that makes possible a third interpretation of the title Campos gave to this movie. Then, Afterschool not only refers to extra-curricular activities or to what happens when a student is expelled from school, but points to a much more fundamental discussion about the different ways in which one can conceive of the relationship between education (and educational research) and images. In Campos’ movie the relation between images and education seems not to be straightforward. At least two different interpretations can be given. On the one hand it seems as if indeed the widespread, boundless and reiterated presence of images (watched on computer and cell phone screens) renders any attempt at education, understood as the passing on of traditional values and norms to the next generation, impossible. On the other hand, the commemorative video made by Robert also seems to point to the fact that images may still be considered as important elements in rethinking education and educational research. Images then serve as a critical instrument that can inspire us to think differently not only about what education An Introduction 11 is, but also about how to conceive of educational research. In this volume we would like to take Campos’ implicit invitation very seriously and invite the reader to reflect upon the many possible ways...
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAfterschool
Subtitle of host publicationImages, Education and Research
EditorsNancy Vansieleghem, Joris Vlieghe, Pieter Verstraete
PublisherLeuven University Press
Pages9-18
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9789462700499
ISBN (Print)9789461661852
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2015

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