Postmodern Dilemmas: Outrageous Essays in Art & Art Education

By Jan Jagodzinski | Go to book overview

4
a Para/critical/sitical/sightical Reading of Ralph Smith's Excellence in Art Education1 (1987)

This is the "uncut" version of a tamer essay published under the same title in The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education, No. 11 ( June 1991): 90-137, which was greatly toned down, shortened, and scrubbed of its excruciating mocking style. I have decided to let the "uncut" version stand here since it is consistent with "pun (k) deconstruction" as exemphfied in the second volume. It first appeared as a performance piece during an invited panel to respond to Ralph Smith Excellence in Art Education on Friday, April 23, 1987, at the 27th National Art Education Association (NAEA) meeting in Boston. This particular version includes the transcript of this "bad theater," as I call it. It retains its excruciating mocking style and hides under the pretense that it is a work of fiction, a familiar postmodern ruse. Reader be warned!

The idea of a "paracritical," "parasitical," and "parasightical" reading(s) drew on the work of Rosalind Krauss ( 1985) and David Carroll ( 1987). Krauss introduces the terms paracritical and paraliterary to identify poststructuralist criticism which "is the space of debate, quotation, partisanship, betrayal, reconciliation; but is not the space of unity, coherence, or resolution . . ." (292). Carroll uses the term "paraesthetics" to refer to the extra-aesthetic in general. He is interested in the philosophical, historical, and political issues raised by the question of form and the problem of beauty rather than in form and beauty as narrow aesthetic questions. The prefix "para" carries all the disruptive effects of dislodging aesthetics from its complacent moorings. As a preposition the OED gives it the meaning of

____________________
1
This performance and text was "staged" and read during Friday, April 23, 1987, at the 27th NAEA meeting, Boston, as part of an invited panel to discuss Ralph Smith's statement on art and excellence as endorsed by the NAEA's Committee on Excellence in Art Education. Those who sponsored the panel were entirely unaware of the contents of this critique and should be absolved of the consequences and its reverberations. Since this is a revised writing, it puts to question what is "original" and what is a "copy" of what took place. During the performance Ralph Smith walked out from the audience. Later, when asked why he had left, he said that he had to go to the bathroom for he couldn't stand "bad theater." This is an entirely appropriate gesture historically made by kings of officialdom, defenders of the code when vulgarity, excessiveness, sensationalism, exaggeration, and parody affect their sensibilities. i believe such strategies become effective rhetorical weapons against any form of elitist culture, which Smith's position represents. Such tactics have historically constituted the "popular" text. Besides, i take comfort in Oscar Wilde's quip that there is no such thing as bad publicity! Smith has since published a second volume on excellence in art education in 1993, also endorsed by the NAEA.

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