Postmodern Dilemmas: Outrageous Essays in Art & Art Education

By Jan Jagodzinski | Go to book overview

PRE FACE

The sense of outrage belongs somewhere at the limit of the frame, in the sublime, perhaps in the nonrational, for it signifies an almost unbearable desire, an uncontrollable temper, a body which cannot be contained in any sedate and normal way in order to be heard. This is the writing of a male hysteric wanting his own lack to be filled by an unattainable desire for recognition. Unable to do so, it becomes a writing machine . . . endlessly, incessantly producing in the hope of a hearing. These volumes chart this outrageous desire that has been experienced over the past decade or so, since coming into a field whose hybrid space is marginalized between art and education, often belonging to neither one, nor the other comfortably. Part of my title -- art&art education -- indicates this difficulty. The functioning of the ampersand "&" as a category (cf. Žižek, 1996:103) "splits up the ambiguous starting unity" of either art or education. Art education, as I use the term throughout these two volumes, includes both the teaching of art in postsecondary institutions as well as in public schools. Sometimes art education is housed in the department of fine arts, and sometimes it finds itself entirely within an education faculty. Its ambiguous location repeats the necessity of including "&" in my titles -- a logics of both/and. These essays are my signposts -- various markers of my journey in trying to understand what this phenomenon "postmodernity" is, and how it informs my chosen field.

There is an anger that runs through some of these essays which is often excluded from polite academic discourse. Outrage is, after all, a parading, an exaggeration; often polemical in its dress, it is directed at specific relationships and situations which offer no escape. Much of my anger stems from a feeling of frustration and exclusion from being unable to shape visual art education toward a more radical and critical perspective, given that the dominant mood of art&art education has embraced a neo-conservative curricula agenda like Discipline Based Art Education (DBAE), echoing neo-conservative cultural critics such as E. D. Hirsh, Jr., and the late Alan Bloom. Reception of postmodernism into art education has succumbed to more clever ways of recycling the Western artistic canon through the pastiche of artistic styles, and yet more clever ways to contain and absorb the "difference" that threatened to decenter it -- namely the challenge offered by feminist and queer artists, artists of the First Nations (indigenous peoples) and the Diaspora, as well as the heterogeneous popular culture of a youth that is decidedly at odds with the salient art of its canon. Discipline Based Art Education, feeling at least some pressure from its Other, has metamorphosed into a more benevolent benefactor of the arts; "difference" is now given more rhetorical space. However, the "backlash" against feminism, which the journalist Susan Faludi ( 1991) described several years ago, applies equally well to the "backlash" against a conservative agenda in the arts and education. I have tried throughout these essays to articulate a position that differentiates itself from the legacy of the racist, patriarchal, and capitalist developments of the humanist Enlightenment tradition, and

-xi-

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