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

On Being Naïve: A Queer Aesthete in Art Education

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

On Being Naïve: A Queer Aesthete in Art Education

Article excerpt

The naïf arises as an indispensible element in a system of epistemological checks and balances; recurrently naïfs may be seen unwittingly critiquing and counterbalancing the dominant knowledge regimes of a given era. (Cresap, 2004, p. 34)

There is a current trend in various social theories, particularly queer and feminist, to disappoint, to embrace failure, or "feel backwards" as a way to intervene, interrupt, or contest the social worlds we inhabit (Edelman, 2004; Love, 2007; Halberstam, 2011). In addition, failure has become an emerging topic in the self-help and business advice markets (Harford, 2011; Heath, 2009; Lewis, 2014; McArdle, 2014). Failure is having some success these days and people, including myself, are hoping to experience some type of success in thinking about or through failure. It has become an object of intellectual inquiry and ironically only the successful engagements with failure will succeed. There is a right way to fail when failure becomes objectified and caught up in the grinder of the academy. Some will fail to articulate successfully the purposes, uses, or feelings of failure while others will get published, read, and engaged. These articles will perversely fail at failure. They will be deemed "sophisticated" or "rigorous" or "serious." They are not naïve. They are worldly in that they travel the world of scholarship to provide thoughtful commentary or analysis of failure.

I am skeptical of this turn to failure, perhaps because I am not sure what failure is or perhaps because I am afraid of failing. Or perhaps as an adjunct professor - part of the growing second class of professors - feelings of failure are all to real both psychically and materially. As such, I am drawn to the naïve, which allows me to survive the feelings and material realities of "failing" in the emerging new economy of when the odds are against the arts of teaching, research, and making as contingent offer a mentality that allows me (and maybe you) to keep engaging in the intellectual pursuits that may not garner particular ideas of success, but allow me (and maybe you) to live in creating alternatives?

In this article, I ponder the promises of a queer aesthete who can be read as "naïve," but critically so. To be "naïve" or to be called "naïve" is a form of failure; a failure to be worldly or knowledgeable in one's doing and becoming. Accusations of naïveté are used, after all, to distinguish the work one is doing from others that have not "gotten it right" or fail to see what you as a scholar see in a more critical, more worldly, less naïve, vein. What, I ask here, is this thing called "naïveté" in the midst of all kinds of failures - economic, political, and educational? How might the "naïf" help (re)frame failure or illustrate one way failure might be reframed for us in an aesthetic way as artist-teachers to survive?

This is precarious territory. If I fail to write in a compelling way about the naïve, I succeed at failure. My article is a failure and perhaps I will, upon failing, "learn" something and redeem myself later after I am less naïve about naïveté. If I succeed in writing in a compelling way and am published I experience success, but my article fails failure. If you are reading this, I have succeeded, but my article has failed failure. My ideas will have become approved by a disciplinary structure that framed and perhaps reframes concepts that inevitably still create distinctions between "success" and "failure." Yet, to engage in such conversations, complicated to be sure, are necessary to work through complicated ideas, conversations, and encounter scholarly debate. Perhaps proceeding naïvely is a way to move through such precarious conceptual terrain, recognizing I cannot be completely naïve in doing so? And this terrain is precarious, in part, because more often than not scholars and critics will quickly fall back on expert knowledge and their worldliness to critique ideas. Knowledge of critical social theories born out of a hermeneutics of suspicion put knowledge first, often negating how such knowledge disallows (or allows) people to relate. …

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