Contemporary Art and Citizenship Education: The Possibilities of Cross-Curricular Links on the Level of Content

Article excerpt

Unlike the previous phenomenon of modern art, contemporary art strives to return to society and everyday life, while thematising the current issues that the individual faces here and now. One of its more frequent topics is that of sustainable development, and the accompanying issues of environment, values, relations to others, etc. All such topics are part of the concept of active citizenship, which is why understanding contemporary art calls for active citizenship. This particularly holds true for relational art, which demands active participation on the part of the viewer. This paper inquires into the possibilities of the connection of contemporary art and citizenship education in elementary schools. Contemporary pedagogic doctrine highly encourages cross-curricular teaching; therefore, I have focused my analysis on the curricula of the subjects of Art Education, and Citizenship and Patriotic Education and Ethics, determining that (from this perspective) their link is quite troublesome. The absence of contemporary art from the curriculum of Art Education has been criticised on many occasions, but the problem of its curriculum seems to be of a conceptual nature. Only by a more intense inter-institutional link between schools and contemporary art galleries and museums can the common goals of art education and citizenship education be realised. This paper will, therefore, strive to show potential cross curricular links in content on three examples of participatory practices (Proletarians of All Countries, Beggar Robot and EU/Others), while warning (from the pedagogic perspective) against the often neglected fact that contemporary art is experienced here and now.

Keywords: Contemporary art, Participatory art practices, Citizenship education, Art education, Cross-curricular links

Links between Citizenship and Art education

The doctrine of contemporary pedagogy encourages cross-curricular teaching; consequently the most recent updates to the new 2011 curricula required even further emphasis on cross-curricular activities. Teachers and schools were required to link different subjects more closely; excursions and trips were also supposed to become more interdisciplinary and include crosscurricular fields (Karba, 2008). Key innovations of the elementary school curricula included cross-curricular teaching and cross-curricular topics. There have recently been many papers written on this issue in Slovenia with regard to citizenship education, most commonly seeing potential links with the subjects of History, Geography and Slovene Language (for instance Davies, 2003; Mihelj, 2003; Resnik Planinc, 2003; Slater, 2003; Justin, 2003; Kunaver, 2006; Kostrevc, 2006; Devjak, 2007).

The political philosopher and theoretician of citizenship Will Kymlicka asserts that citizen education should not constitute a separate part of the curriculum, but rather one of them main objectives and principles that shape the whole curriculum (Kymlicka, 1999). In Slovenia, it is most commonly realised within the subjects of Citizen and Patriotic Education, and Ethics (hereinafter: CPE). Some authors point out that programme content should be focused on the specific phenomena of pupils' surroundings, and that an interdisciplinary approach should deepen the understanding of their relations to the world or connect different subjects into an active project in which the links with everyday situations would reveal themselves (Drake, 1998, p. 154; Stemberger, 2007, p. 96). Interdisciplinary discussions ought to enable pupils to express their ideas and interpretations more easily, and to offer diverse opinions and perspectives (Hickman & Kiss, 2010). Knowledge conveyed in such a way is integrated and contextualised, thus stimulating the transfer of knowledge and skills from one field to another. Hickman and Kiss (2010) claim that teaching pupils to transmit knowledge and skills from one field to another would enable applicability as well as a more integral and in-depth understanding of contents and learning concepts. …