Academic journal article The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education (Online)

Hosting the Occupation of Art Education as Aporia

Academic journal article The Journal of Social Theory in Art Education (Online)

Hosting the Occupation of Art Education as Aporia

Article excerpt

I was recently asked to respond to the question "Who do we teach?" as part of a panel1 that included participants from art history, studio art, and design. By asking for challenges to and strategies for recognizing and serving students from multiple constituencies with diverse learning styles, the session prompted panelists to share dynamic and effective curriculum exemplars from their respective disciplines. In contrast, as I prepared, I found myself ruminating on the implications of asking the question itself and some of its implications within my teaching contexts. Examining the very notion of recognizing and knowing who students are within schooling and schools of art and design while engaging discipline-specific content was my alternative slant to re-focus the question away from an array of "best practices" to service diverse students. This question "Who do we teach?" held my attention theoretically, pedagogically, and ethically. Additionally, as I lay out below, dwelling on this question facilitated a probing of the ways in which we engage with outsiders to our field and how these engagements can limit and/or expand the very field of art education to which we cling.

In order to directly face the complexities of attending to those moments of ethical disruption that reveal themselves as an openness to the Other, I ask that we approach art education as contradictory and ambiguous to keep the field in a state of undecidability. Correspondingly, I articulate an ethics of hospitality within art education that adopts an uncertain disposition to visual arts learning and affirms the unforeseeable while inviting openings for the transformation of art education knowledges and associated subjectivities. Throughout, I endeavor to keep the question of whom we teach unanswered and open, while searching for spaces of possibility within unpredictable, aporetic entanglements inherent in normalizing frameworks within the field of art education. I contextualize Derridean notions of aporia, hospitality, monstrous arrivant, undecidability, and responsibility within the specificities of art teaching that call on us to imagine the field and ourselves otherwise. Art education as aporia must be both rule-governed and unruly, open to the heterogeneity and incalculable of what may come to occupy our field as household.

Occupying the Question

Curriculum discourses in art education produce and regulate subjectivities of learners (Atkinson, 2008). As a field, art education continually creates restraints around itself to allow others in or exclude them from being recognized. Using priorities set before we even meet someone, we are also caught up in classifying who an art educator is, who a competent art student is, and who lies outside our field. Educators engage in re- presentations of students-in how they perceive them and use discourses to describe them often through stereotypical ideas about types of students as deficit and/or superior to other types, as insiders or outsiders. If we consider the question "Who do we teach?" in schooling and schools of art and design, for example, more often than not, we begin by answering through classifying and reducing a student into a thing devoid of his or her own subjectivity (Aoki, 1983/2005). Inherent in this is the limiting of possibilities for expansion of the very field we are protecting.

Instead, Atkinson (2008) suggests we simply start with "Who are you and how do you learn?" to greet the subject that is not yet comprehended or recognizable (p. 235), thereby allowing the Other to speak for him or herself. "Who are you and how do you learn?" acts as a form of address toward each learner within pedagogical encounters that potentially disrupt assumptions of a deficit pedagogy and hegemonic dispositions of teaching. This "disruption of established states of pedagogical knowledge and practice through which learners are recognized" (p. 235) unpredictably turns against itself as an ethical imperative. …

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