Pedagogy, Image Practices, and Contested Corporealities
The call for participation in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts conference reaffirms disciplinary teaching and curriculum while simultaneously acknowledging changing conditions outside the school. Conceding that we live in an interdisciplinary world, and that new disciplines such as video, book arts, digital media and others are now taught along with traditional disciplines, the call openly seeks to find ways to further entrench a disciplinary approach to curriculum. Although the text of the invitation makes the claim to be responding to "the complexity of the 21st century", it clearly avoids suggesting that, in itself, a disciplinary approach may no longer be appropriate.
Careful to include the notion of interdisciplinarity, it is presented here as one 45 of the disciplines, or "self-designed major", added to a growing lists of new forms of production, thus neutralizing the term and what it stands for by enclosing it within disciplinary boundaries Appendix A. The compartmentalization of art into specific medium and techniques, which in most art schools takes the form of departments, reflects a modernist legacy where a medium was taught to have its own syntax and language de Duve, Like in the academies, content experts in a specific medium act like masters in maintaining a stronghold on the organization of curriculum into distinct departments disciplines.
Discipline presupposes the unruly body and works to regulate it. Despite acknowledging changing conditions, the conference titled Respecting Boundaries: Teaching the Disciplines within an Interdisciplinary World can be read more as a warning that everything is not well than as a celebratory call to for what is.
From my experience as a teacher and as an administrator in an art school, I see students transgressing disciplinary boundaries like outlaws surreptitiously breaking the rules. They navigate through the walls we put in place to access the range of form making we judiciously keep apart.
To that end, we may begin by asking ourselves: What does it mean to work collaboratively across disciplines?
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How can we structure ourselves to reflect the realities of 21st Century art practice? What is at stake in maintaining disciplinary boundaries under the pretence of preserving the disciplines? Who do we exclude by holding on to pedagogical models of earlier times?
By ignoring the increasing web of connections reflected in contemporary art practice in relation to disciplinary pedagogical models, we are prevented from developing the theoretical knowledge specific to teaching and learning within such changing context. So while the conference may ask, how can we do what we do better, it fails to recognize the increasing gap between the premises onto which disciplinary based pedagogy rests in relation to cotemporary art practice.
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Left unexamined, the enclosed disciplines have for effect that of a social quarantine Foucault, where nevertheless the unfolding of art practice continues to evolve outside its perimeters and despite the constraints of a narrowly based pedagogical model. Thus the gap between practice and pedagogy continues to grow. Some might be inclined to understand the attachment to disciplinary pedagogy as a necessary precursor to interdisciplinary practice based on the belief that one must know the rules before being able to break them for productive ends.
However, one must then ask by what course of action would one be led to make a break with a disciplinary way of thinking and making 47 to an interdisciplinary one, to one that accounts for the multiple connections between disciplines. In other words, if we accept that contemporary art practice no longer reflects disciplinary thinking, as even the call to the conference seems to suggest, how does one who has been taught in disciplinary ways make the bridge to interdisciplinary thinking?
I am reminded here of my own experience teaching drawing in first year of art school when, confronted with an assignment that extended beyond reproducing facsimiles of what was in front of them, some students objected on the basis that dealing with subject matter or ideas should be demanded of them only after they had acquired the necessary technical skills to do so1. In response, we would discuss things, and I would ask them such questions as: at which point, or by what 'markers' would they know that they have reached sufficient technical skills to begin dealing with more complex ideas?
Indeed whose' authority would they rely on? Or is there something that is felt in the [social] body that makes one aware of becoming able to work in more complex ways?
As Foucault states, "the power of the Norm appears through the disciplines" , p. But if the role of art is to challenge established criteria as suggested by Andrew Brighton or to challenge the norm, I would suggest that it also ought to challenge disciplinary pedagogy in order to counter conformity: 1 Rather than simply asking students to draw a still life to practice rendering highlights, shadows, and texture, I asked the students to set up a still life with objects which, from each of their own perspective, represented the culture that we live in.
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They had to come to the next class prepared to articulate why they chose each object and how they understood the word, 'culture'. While they did get to practice their technical skills, they also had to reflect on their choice of objects and the meaning that they individually assign to them. It is easy to understand how the power of the norm functions within a system of formal equality, since within a homogeneity that is the rule, the norm introduces, as a useful imperative and as a result of measurement, all the shading of individual differences Foucault, , p.
It seems that my students' reluctance to make drawings that were not solely focused on demonstrating levels of technical skills came from being asked to work with their own interpretations and their own experiences. By striving to be true to life, working in a representational way provided a simple and clear sense of purpose, but faced with the open-endedness of selecting their own objects and articulating their own sense and meaning of culture demanded efforts from students that could not be as easily measured against established models norms. In the regime of disciplinary power Foucault, , the threat of punishment "measures in quantitative terms and hierarchizes in terms of value the abilities, the level, the 'nature' of individuals" Foucault, , p.
In the regime of mimesis, distinguishing between success and failure relies on normalizing judgments. Mindful of this, as a teacher I gradually changed my approach to curriculum so that, while nurturing craft skills, students were also expected to venture out on their own, encouraged to give shape to 49 materials so as to give physical presence to their visions through their interactions in the world. My hope as a teacher rests in the desire to make students aware of their presence as emerging artists in relation to the time and space in which they live.
In this chapter, I reviewed some of the key issues that dominate aspects of the current discourse about art school education. I reflected on disciplinary pedagogies and mastery as problematic paradigm for art school education today. I also turned to an example from my own teaching that indicates a shift in my thinking as a teacher.
The non-linear movement between the positions that I simultaneously occupy as artist, teacher and administrator means that the complexity of the relation between them is always tangible with each role constantly being re-defined and always in process.
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In the next chapter, I turn to my own experience as embodied knowledge to examine identity formation as it relates to the process of change as an artist and as an educator. From there, I explore the contingency of meaning, both in relation to language and in relation to art. It is from that standpoint that I consider art school pedagogy, which I suggest, relies on mastery as a linear construct leading to an imaginary ideal.
The stories that I tell in my artwork are not complete before they are told.
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They evolve as I paint, draw, or write. They take shape out of the process of making, manipulating, seeing, reading and listening. They come out of language as best as they can, and as much as language will allow. Several years ago I did a project with the intention of investigating aspects of the power dynamics involved in teaching art.
To that end, I painted a series of twenty studies of the same image representing a mid-section of a shirt as a stand-in for the drapery I had learned to draw at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Each image of the shirt was painted on primed paper using oil pigments mixed with various additives and hung in chronological order of execution from the first to the last Figures 3. Below each study explanatory notes written in pencil document steps, pigments, and materials used for each painting thus rendering accessible the information necessary to produce each painted image.
By revealing information that is usually unavailable when looking at a painting in a museum or an art gallery, the text disrupts contemplation as a privileged process for engagement with art. Mediation and Image Installation view , Figure 3. The twentieth shirt does indeed convey the drapery with its texture and surface details rendered in a more convincing way than the first one implying that as the author, I am reaching for an imaginary ideal.
It is precisely because the ideal is out of sight and unimaginable that the series could continue indefinitely suggesting that, while the production and succession of the same image are driven from the position of the artist, the desire for improvement is itself socially constituted by and through our discursive practices. One of the goals for this project was to invite the viewer to regard the series as a metaphor for teaching and learning, and to call attention to the limitations of working within the paradigm of the authoritarian constraints of what Henry Giroux calls, "pedagogies of certainty" Since the site of the exhibition for this project was in an art school, I was actively addressing students who, by virtue of their being there, one may assume have an investment in wishing to become artists.
Consequently, the visible formulas for each painted image is intended as a critique of the confines of teaching and learning focused exclusively on the acquisition of technical skills and the attendant belief that such skills constitute the quintessential aspect of curriculum in art school. Therefore making explicit the position of the viewer in reading the work shifts the focus away from the illusory autonomy of the art object to stress instead the essential role of the viewer for creating meaning from the work.
I believe that this shift is crucial for promoting critical approaches to pedagogy within art schools, an issue I will return to later. I dreamt of adventures. With my cousin Denis, I would ride my bicycle around in the tourist areas of the city looking at parked cars. Denis tried to guess car makes and models and marveled at the sight of Buicks, Chevrolets, Meteors and Studebakers, while I looked at license plates imagining places such as Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.
My curiosity was not so much about what these specific places looked like but what they stood for. Growing up in Quebec in the 50s and 60s meant that seeing the world for people around me was going to France, 'the Mother country'. But seeing the world for me was much more about a desire to leave a cultural context in order 53 to access another, the thought of living in English sounding far more exotic than going to France.
Desiring English persisted during my childhood. I was raised in a Catholic unilingual francophone community. Given the context, my childhood was interspersed with acts that I now recognize as simultaneously defiant and acquiescent. I recall imagining that my name was "Nancy" and while exploring my neighborhood I discovered a construction site where an empty hole had been left to accumulate water; I named it Lac Simpson. Living in Quebec when I did, I now know that my fascination with English was not with the language itself but what it represented.
English symbolised the opportunity to transform myself, that is, a way to gain distance from the controlling socio-cultural context of home, and to access the dominant discourse it stood for. In elementary school, I remember vividly my English textbook. Shoes, trousers, pie, boat, book, flower, words and illustrations for things from John and Mary's world. Not mine. In my hope for liberation from the technologies of domination Foucault, embodied in the set of rules and conditions of family, religion and culture, Toronto offered unknown possibilities.
From where I stood, speaking English implied self-assurance, success, and participation in the hegemonic culture. As Braj Kachru writes, "the alchemy of English [present and future], then does not only provide social status, it also gives access to attitudinally and materially desirable domains of power and knowledge" , p. At the bank where I worked in Toronto, there were low-paid clerical workers like me, and there were people in middle and upper management positions but their status did 54 not matter as much as my perception of the way people spoke.
My inability to fully understand all that was being said translated into a perception that all that I did not understand had value and purpose. Living in a predominantly English context was a means of acting on myself. Every day I existed in the interplay of hierarchical and mutable relations engaged in shaping myself under the rubric of progress. In Technologies of the Self Foucault discusses the history of how an individual acts upon himself to regulate her 'self to be a self.
According to Foucault, knowledge of oneself constitutes the fundamental principle of the modern world and care of the self comes from the process of gaining knowledge of oneself.