Review: Visuality in Teaching and Research: Activist Art Education

By Hicks, Laurie E.; Sullivan, Graeme et al. | Studies in Art Education, Fall 2001 | Go to article overview

Review: Visuality in Teaching and Research: Activist Art Education


Hicks, Laurie E., Sullivan, Graeme, McRorie, Sally, Chalmers, Graeme, Studies in Art Education


Review: Visuality in Teaching and Research:

Activist Art Education Laurie E. Hicks

University of Maine

This paper is much improved from the first draft. I appreciate the author's efforts to address the reviewer's comments. However, I still maintain that the paper lacks a single clearly organized focus or its focus is presented in such a way as to make it slightly opaque to this reader.

In reading the paper, I find five possible areas of focus: visuality (implied throughout but discussed primarily in the first half of the paper), "lens media" (discussed in the latter half), art criticism (the primary focus in the first half and implied in the second half), activism in education (implied throughout but as an underlying theme) and interdisciplinary teaching in post-secondary education (a focus of the latter half ). These are listed here in no particular order. Clearly, there are moments in the text where these five components intertwine, but there is not sufficient integration for them to merge as a single focus and remain clear throughout. For example, the author spends most of the first 15 pages of the text discussing issues related to visuality in criticism. At the end of this section, the author provides two examples of works created by students in an effort to respond critically to pieces created by Hans Haacke and Eugene Delacroix. The author provides a visual image of the students' work accompanied by the author's brief description and commentary. This section of the paper provides the reader with a theoretical discussion and practical application or examples of the author's focus on issues of visuality in art criticism. However, the aspect of it that is activism (as indicated in the title) is less clear. This may be due to the author's attempt to keep these practical descriptions brief, but nonetheless, this discussion does not clarify how such experiences help the student see the act of creating such responses as a form of "basic activism." Such a discussion would be extremely helpful in linking the various elements of this paper together and in interweaving educational concerns and considerations throughout.

A related, but somewhat separate concern, is that the author provides us with an assessment of what he or she assumes the individual response pieces were intended to imply instead of with an insight into the students' sense of their work. This is a result of what I see as the author's attempt to let the visuals stand alone, without explanation. However, in so doing, the author leaves us focused only on his or her interpretation of the response works, not with an insight into how the students saw what they did as a form of critical analysis or as a form of activism. As indicated before, such information would be extremely helpful in linking together the various elements of this paper. This leads me to a question concerning the counterpoint of visual vs. verbal: How did each student arrive at a response to the work they were given? Was the entire process visual, or were verbal (oral/written) tools used to work through student responses to the work, and then to give these responses visual form? Was this part of the author's consideration in his or her interpretation and assessment of the student work?

In closing this section of the paper, the author uses Fiske's distinction between popular culture and consumer culture to indicate how the "reproduction of an artwork," the process used in creating the response works of his students, opens up "the authority of the work, the critic and, ultimately both the academic and economic branches of the artworld" for 11 critical review." Though appealing, the author fails to develop how Fiske's concepts apply to the students' work or how they "opened up" these bastions of Western art for critical review. I suggest more development is needed here.

In what I see as the second section of the paper, the author describes experiences with an interdisciplinary, team-taught course in which students were encouraged to "use visual and rhetorical means to communicate critical social insights. …

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