Performing Pedagogy: Toward an Art of Politics

By White, John Howell | Studies in Art Education, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Performing Pedagogy: Toward an Art of Politics


White, John Howell, Studies in Art Education


Performing Pedagogy: Toward an Art of Politics Charles R. Garoian (1999). Albany, NY: SUNY Press. 248 pages. ISBN 0-7914-4324-8

Reviewed by John Howell White

Kutztown University

Readers who enjoy contemporary art, the relation of art to education, and the interweaving of theory and practice will find Charles Garoian's Performing Pedagogy: Toward an Art of Politics w be a revealing, rewarding, and seminal text. It provides insight into the aesthetic and ethical alignments of the performance art of both students and professionals, highlighting Robbie MacCauley, Goat Island, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Suzanne Lacy, and Garoians own performance work. It also provides a cohesive integration of theory and practice. Garoian has been engaged in art education for more than thirty years. His art education reputation rests primarily with those in the field involved in higher education. This insider/outsider position allows Garoian to bring to the field a world of ideas drawn from education, fine arts, linguistics, philosophy, cultural studies, and literature and a world of experience as an artist, high school teacher, and university professor. Although this is not a manual for constructing or teaching performance art, the reader is provided with some exercises that Garoian has developed for his university level performance art class. This text is useful in a general way to interrogate the influence art forms have on pedagogy, in methods classes to introduce ways to embody course content, and in performance art classes to structure the teaching of performance art.

Central Premise

While Performing Pedagogy is not specifically a theoretical text, it does fit comfortably in the company of theory, and it utilizes theory liberally in the development of key points. The central thesis of the text is that "performance art enables students to learn the curriculum of academic culture from the perspective of their personal memories and cultural histories. In doing so, performance art represents the praxis of postmodern theories in art and education" (p. 1). Theory and praxis form a co-dependent engagement here, with performance art being an embodiment of orientations formulated alternatively as critical theory. It is with Postmodernism's transgressive criticality, as opposed to Modernism's creativity, that Garoian envisions the emergence of personal and collective agency through art.

Garoian's claims are: first, that performance art is the most appropriate art form for our time; second, that performance art implies, influences, and requires changes in pedagogy, and third, that this pedagogy is applicable to art education in general, replacing prior models such as Beaux-Artes, vocational training, Arts and Crafts, Bauhaus, child-centered, and Discipline-Based Art Education. It is from a faith in flesh that Garoian constructs both his position and the structure of his text. For Garoian, our bodies are politicized, our skin forming the ramparts from out of which we must claim our educational culture. Our flesh, so fully inscribed by cultural conditions, requires deep critical work to reveal and assert the agency of the person, i.e. to be educated. Performance art, because it most fully utilizes embodiment, placing artists and viewers on the line corporeally, psychologically, and socially, provides the fullest range of resistance sites for education to take place.

The staging of this resistance is realizable when people enter into a liminal experience, where personal and cultural habits are free to be reconfigured. One might think of performance art and performance art pedagogy as providing a clearing that allows for emergent connections to occur. Garoian infers that the evolution of performance art in the 20th century coincides most usefully with constructivist theories of teaching and learning.

How the Author Supports the Premise

Garoian ambitiously works on several intertwining fronts to support his thesis. …

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