Bamboozled: A Visual Culture Text for Looking at Cultural Practices of Racism
Parks, Nancy S., Art Education
Over the past decade art educators have engaged in a dialogue about a reconceptualization of art education theory and practice. This reconceptualization has roots in cultural studies, anthropology, and critical theory. One focus has been on the notion of art as visual culture. Duncum (2001) describes this dramatic change taking place in art education.
The shift from art to visual culture appears to represent as fundamental a change in the orientation of our field as the shift from self-expression to a discipline base in the 1980s. (p. 101)
Duncum, Freedman, Bracey, Pearson, Chalmers, and Garber (2001) initiate a useful dialogue about the epistemology of art in On Knowing: Art and Visual Culture, by presenting individual position statements and responses to each other's respective positions based on questions central to art education. Is art something special and different from other forms of visual culture? What is art? What is art for? How do human beings know art? I find particularly useful the positions shared by Duncum, Freedman, Garber, and Chalmers, when teaching art and focusing on the concept of difference.
Duncum (2001, 2002) and Freedman (2001) share similar positions about the reconceptualization of art education that Duncum refers to as Visual Culture Art Education (VCAE). Chalmers (2001) suggests that "We get closer to 'knowing' art (broadly understood as 'visual culture') when we include the perspectives and lenses of a great variety of individuals and groups, across different cultures and time periods, who make 'art', sell it, collect it, steal it, study it, use it, display it, label it, hate it and enjoy it" (p. 86).
Garber (2001) borrows from literary theory to propose the use of the dialectic approach, which is often tied to "the context of narrative to signify 'interplay' between various voices, beliefs, roles or possible decisions" (p. 102). Regarding the dialectic approach, Garber states, "It takes in the dynamics between social and historical and individual, and the conflicts that arise" (p. 102). Referring to her own research, Garber points out that representing cultures outside of one's own tends to encourage a process of selectivity. She refers to Clifford (1988) who states, "We tend to rescue phenomena that we deem typical or 'traditional'-what by definition is opposed to modernity, from a complex historical reality (which includes current ethnographic encounters), the researcher or teacher selects what he or she thinks is important" (p. 231). It is through this process of selection that Garber contends we make other cultures different from our own. She continues by suggesting that "We fail to see the influences European-based cultures have had on them and they have had on European-based cultures" (p. 102).
A discussion about European-based cultures and how they have influenced perceptions of representation and racial difference have typically not been a part of educational practice in the United States. jagodzinski (1999) recognizes the need for such a conversation and proposes film as a vehicle. He states "To initiate a critical multicultural and cross-cultural art education, it is crucial that art teachers become versed in the skills of how the dominant society presents the Other in all forms of art, but especially film (and no less television) because of its ubiquitous nature as an art form" (p. 75). Such a conversation seems particularly important since as King (2000) notes, 90% of K-12 teachers are White while 36% of the national school population is comprised of students of color.
The remainder of this article is organized into four sections. The first section looks at the notion of representation and racialized looking. The second provides a discussion of Black identity and the process of signifying and reifying stereotypes of African Americans in American popular culture. Next, the article focuses on the film Bamboozled and finally, connections are provided between theory and practice as a means for examining racial difference and stereotypes. …