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Aesthetic/ activism : the liminal area between aesthetic formalism and socio-political activism in art.. Burnett, Matthew Christian 2009-12-31

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AESTHETIC/ACTIVISM:THE LIMINAL AREA BETWEEN AESTHETIC FORMALISMAND SOCIO/POLITICAL ACTIVISM IN ART EDUCATIONbyMATTHEW CHRISTIAN BURNETTBFA, Emily Carr Institute, 1999B.Ed., University of British Columbia, 2001A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THEREQUIREMENTS FOR A DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESTHE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA(Vancouver)June2009© Matthew Christian Burnett, 2009P a g e iiAbstractThis thesis inquires into how an elementary art education curriculum can embodythe space in/between aesthetic formalism and socio/political activism. I call thiscurricular approach aesthetic/activism. Visual texts will be the catalyst for researchsubjects to engage with aesthetic/activism through art-making, writing anddialogue. I am also interested in the learning and meaning-making that happens asa result of an aesthetic/activist curriculum.This research is situated in an after-school elementary art program in amulticultural, urban area. Much research has been written about engagingsecondary students with socially activist curriculum (see Alter-Muri, 2004; Brown,2007; Chalmers, 2005; Darts, 2004; Desai , 2006; Gude, 2007; Lanier, 1969;McFee, 1974). There is little research concerned with how younger students wouldrespond to such curriculum.Two questions guided this research inquiry. The first question is: How can acurriculum be enacted that uses visual texts to inquire into the liminal area betweenaesthetic formalism and socio/political activism? The second question is: Whatlearning results from such a curriculum? The research methodology of a/r/tographywas used to inquire into these questions, which requires art, research and teachingto be integral parts of academic inquiry.The process of inquiring into the two research questions stated above led to newlearning and knowledge that was co-created by the researcher and the researchsubjects. While most subjects conformed to the dominant discourse in theclassroom as constructed by the teacher, a minority of subjects had the initiative toexpress their personal, subjective values when analysing and producing artworks.Most subjects demonstrated an appreciation for the therapeutic qualities of naturalenvironments unaffected by the corrupting influence of human activity. A number ofstudents did use art-making as a vehicle to engage with socio/political problems.Finally, some subjects demonstrated an understanding of aesthetic activism andP a g e iiithe inter-relationships between visual and textual data. These results are fullyexplained in the Findings and Discussion chapter.This thesis is organized into five chapters. The introduction is the first chapter,which will explain the purpose, rationale and objectives of my research, as well asmy research questions. The second chapter includes a literature review that willsurvey the history of aesthetic formalism and socio/political activism in arteducation research, as well as criticisms of each of these paradigms. An inquiryinto art, art curriculum and art education theory that embodies both aesthetics andactivism will provide a context for my research. The third chapter explains myresearch methodologies: what they are and how I will use them, as well as adescription of the actual research process which involves teaching and art-makingactivities. The fourth chapter, the Findings and Discussion will analyse my researchdata. The last chapter is the conclusion of my research and my recommendationsfor further inquiry.P a g ejivTable of ContentsAbstract iiTable of Contents ivList of Figures vDedication viAcknowledgments viiChapter One: Introduction IThe Question IChapter Two: Literature Review 6The History of Aesthetic Formalism in Art Education Theory 6Critiques of Aesthetic Formalism 11The History of Socio/Political Activism in Art Education Theory 14Critiques of Socio/Political activism in Art Education 17Art and Curriculum 22Artistic Auto-ethnography 34Art Education for the21stCentury 38Chapter Three: Methodology 44Research Site and Subjects 44Theorizing Social Reconstruction 47Methodological Notes: The Method to my Madness 50The Theory and Practice of AIr/tography 61Chapter Four: Findings and Discussion 63Art Education in the Real World 63Exhibiting Students’ Artwork: The Big Show 86Analysis of the Data 89Chapter Five: Conclusion and Recommendations 99When it is all Done 99Transferability 104Recommendations for Further Study 105Final Thoughts 106References 109PageIvlist of FiguresFigurel.1Figure2.5FigureS7Figure47FigureS13Figure 817Figure 719FigureS20Figure921Figure 1021Figurell23Figure 1229FigurelS.30Figure 1433Figure 1537Figure 1641Figure 1742Figurel&47Figurel957Figure 2059Figure 2160Figure 2260Figure2364Figure 2467Figure 2568Figure2668Figiire2769Figure2B69Figure2971Figure 3073Figure3l79Figure 3279Figure3S80Figure 3480Figure 3581Figure 3681Figure 3782Figure3882Figure 3983Figure4U83Figure 4184Figure 4284Figure43.85Figure 4499DedicationDedicated to SusanPage lviBits and PiecesP a g efviiAcknowledgmentsThank you to Ed Pieri, BobMitchner and Carol Moesavitchfor being the beststudio art teachers I everhad.Thank you to Dr. GraemeChalmers for encouraging myinterest in social issues inart education and recommendingme for graduate school.Thank you to Dr. KitGrauer for “too much funand transformation”. Thankyou to Dr. Rita Irwin forintroducing me to a/ritography.Thank you to Dr. AnnaKindler for reaffirming theimportance of aesthetics, andthank you to Dr. Donai O’Donoghuefor introducing amore intellectually rigorous arteducation to me.Thank you to Elliot Eisner,Kerry Freedman, June King McFee,Olivia Gude andDavid Darts for being my theorymentors.Thank you my mom and dad,for the sketchbooks, alt supplies,art lessons andgallery trips and for getting mybutt into art school whenI was a 17 year old punk.PageIiChapter One: IntroductionThe QuestionFigure 1Matthew Burnett, 1993Screaming Self-PortraitI have been obsessed and fascinated with art for most of my life. As a childI spenthundreds of hours sitting alone in my room perfecting my drawing skills.During mychildhood my experience of art was restricted to creating visually realisticpencildrawings. I felt a great deal of pride in my ability to create detailed, realisticdrawings. After graduating from secondary school I attendedpost-secondary artschool; as a result of this my artistic repertoire expanded to include painting,photography, ceramics and animation. I was particularly interested in creatinglarge-scale expressionistic self-portrait oil paintings. I was inspired bythe work ofFrancis Bacon, Attila Richard Lukacs and Odd Nerdrum. In 1999,I graduated fromEmily Carr University with a Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts (Studio Arts).Today Iam an art teacher, art-maker and art researcher. As a resultof my participation inart education as a student I have had many art teachers. As a young art studentIsought an inspirational art teacher that could teach me tocreate aestheticallypowerful, politically potent art-work; however, only a few of my manyart teacherscreated the socially transformational learning experience I was searchingfor. Nowthat I am an art teacher myself, I want to be that inspiring, socially transformational,exciting art teacher that I was searching for as an art student. As a resultof myPage 2experiences I have reflected deeply on the question:What teaching and learningis essential for a socially transformative art education program?” This thesisis anattempt to answer questions that stem from this issue.Based on my experiences in art education I believethat a transformational artcurriculum must contain two elements. First, I believe thatsuch as art educationprogram must teach the “how” of art making because technical proficiencyemancipates art students to express themselves more powerfully (Kindler,November, 2006, personal communication). Second, art education mustalsoaddress the “why” of art making. Students needto learn that art is not just fordecoration: “[s]tudents need to use art for socially reconstructivepurposes”(Chalmers, 2005, p.105). lam interested in the interrelationshipsof technicalproficiency in art-making and socially activist art-based experiences.This leads tomy research question:How can a curriculum be enacted withinart education thatuses visual texts to inquire into the liminal area betweenaesthetic formalism and socio/political activism?As a corollary to this question, I was also interested in:What learning results from a curriculumthat inquires into theliminal area between aesthetics andactivism?In order to answer these questions I taught an eight week longafter school artclass for upper-elementary students in an upper middle-classarea of amulticultural, urban Canadian city. This served as my research site whereIenacted an aesthetic/activist curriculum and measured the learning andmeaningmaking that occurred as a result of an aesthetic/activist curriculum. MuchresearchPage13has been done to inquire into teaching a socially engaged art curriculumat thesecondary level (see Alter-Muri, 2004; Brown, 2007; Chalmers, 2005; Darts,2004;Desai , 2006; Gude, 2007; Lanier, 1969; McFee, 1974). However, there islittle datato suggest how younger students would respond to such a curriculum. Anotherfactor that made this study unique is its Canadian context. How do Canadianstudents within our unique “multicultural mosaic” respond to social and politicalissues presented in an aesthetic context? I constructed a specific curriculumtoteach; however, I did not want to predict specific learning outcomes. I wantedtoremain open, responding to any learning and meaning-making that resultedfromthis curricular approach.This thesis explores the in/between space of aesthetic/activist visual textcocreated by researcher and subject or teacher and student. The in/betweenspace isthe relational space in/between aesthetics and activism. It is a space that isconstantly in-flux, changing and shifting as contexts, artworks and interpretationschange and shift; as a result, the space in/between aesthetics and activismrequires a situational, subjective, embodied and personal understanding. I am alsointerested in the spaces between teaching, learning, art-making and research.I willattend to all of these practices and the way these practices exist in contiguityandreverberate with each other. My paintings and writing, my student/subjectsart-workand writing and the art and writing of artists and theorists that informthis researchoverlap and intertwine with each other to create a “rhizomatic relationality”(Irwin,Beer, Springgay, Grauer, Xiong, Bickel, 2006,p.70) that I hope will create deeperand enhanced meaning-making through the inter- and intra- relationships.A/r/tography is a qualitative arts-based research methodology that I utilizedtoinquire into my research questions. This methodology is fully explained in detailinthe methods chapter.My teaching and research goal was to enable my research subjects toexperienceand understand how formalism and activism in art are intertwined. In orderto dothis I designed curriculum that seeks to cause an improvement in mystudents’Page14ability to manipulate art materials to create aestheticallypowerful results. Tofacilitate this process I gave direct instruction ontechnique and allowed time forstudents to practice. I also facilitated an investigationwith students into historicaland contemporary examples of sociallyengaged artwork in an attempt to inspiretheir own artistic inquiry into socio/politicallyengaged art-making. Students alsohad the opportunity to take part in an art exhibitionin order to expose their art to awider audience, thereby increasing the sociallyactivist potential of their art. Theobjective of these activities was to create an embodiedawareness throughexperiential learning of how aesthetic art-makingcan be used to engage withsocio/political activism.It will be useful to define the conceptsused in this thesis so readers understand thelimits of this inquiry:ArtWithin this thesis I am restricting the concept ofart to the visual arts, being types ofart which are primarily visual in nature, such asdrawing, collage, painting,photography, printmaking, computer-generatedart, textile arts, installation art,sculpture and multi-media art that containsa combination of these media.ArtistThe term artist can be applied to a wide varietyof identities. The definition of artistused in this thesis is “a person who creates visualart with a degree of seriousintention”, It is not necessary to be a full-time professionalartist to call oneself anartist since this occupation only exists in specificsocial, cultural and historicalcontexts. I believe being an artist is not a job thatsomeone can apply for; it is aprocess someone chooses to engage in. I referto myself and my subjects/studentsin this thesis as artists because we are engagedin an art-making process with adegree of serious intention.Page15Aesthetic FormalismAesthetic formalism is the idea that the valueof an art-work is dependent on itsform. This includes its visual aspects, how it is madeand the medium used. Arteducation practice that utilizes the conceptof aesthetic formalism sometimesfocuses on the formal elements of design,such as line, colour, shape and volume.These elements can be used by an artstudent to create the principles of design,which are balance, repetition, texture,gradation, contrast, dominance and unity.ActivismActivism is an intentional action to bringabout social or political change. Activist arteducation uses student art production as a catalystto critically inquire into social orpolitical issues. This thesis specifically engageswith activism through communitybuilding, transformational education andarts-based activism.Aesthetic/ActivismAesthetic/activism is the concept that the visualaspects of art can be used toenhance the activist significance of the art-work.Inquiring into the interrelationshipbetween aesthetics and activism is theprimary purpose of this research.Figure 2Matthew BurnettPlowed field, 2008Page16Chapter Two: Literature ReviewI am interested in inquiring into the liminal area between aesthetic formalismandsocio/political activism within art education; therefore, it is imperative to inquire intothe histories of these paradigms within the history of art education. Where didthese theories come from? How did they develop and change? What placedo theyhave in art education research and practice today? Answering these questionswillprovide a theoretical context for my research and create a “rhizomatic relationality”(Irwin et al., 2006, p. 71) between this thesis and the field of art education researchand practice.Some contemporary theorists have inquired into the area between formalismandactivism. The work of two such contemporary art education theorists, David Dartsand Olivia Gude, will be looked at as examples of theory that exist in relationalitytomy thesis. Jeff Wall, Eva Hesse and Leon Gulob are three artists whose workwillbe used as case studies to demonstrate how formalism and activism are used byartists.The History of Aesthetic Formalism in Art EducationTheoryBased on my experiences as an art student in secondary and post secondaryartprograms and later as a substitute teacher and art teacher, the main methodforteaching aesthetics in some art education contexts is the useof the elements andprinciples of design. In order to decide if the elements and principles of designarea suitable tool for teaching aesthetic formalism, it is importantto understand wherethe elements and principles of design come from and why art teachersuse them.Where did the elements and principles of design come from? They areas old asart itself. The elements of design can be seen in virtually all visual art. Lines,P a g e7shapes, texture and colours can be seen in theprehistoric cave art in Lascaux,France, in Ancient Greek Sculpture and in the contemporaryvisual arts.Figure 3 and 4The elements and principles of design as a tool forstructuring art education theoryoriginated in early20thcentury art theory. Art movements such as cubismand post-impressionism challenged traditional aesthetic values;as a result, there was asearch for a system that could be universally usedto create and evaluatestandards in art.In 1913, art theorist Clive Bell wrote a book simplyentitled “Art”. In it he introducedthe idea that various parts of an image, suchas line, shape and pattern caninteract with such other parts to producea sense of balance, harmony and rhythm.Bell’s focus on the aesthetic qualities of an image de-emphasizedthe importanceof social, political and historical contexts of images.Another art theorist, Roger Fry, described thepure aesthetic experience asseparate from ethical, religious or conceptual experiences. Hepointed to wellrespected artwork from the Renaissanceas examples of pure aesthetics andexcellent design. He described a composition asbeing “of value in proportion tothe number of orderly connections whichit displays” (Ross, 1929,p.132). The postimpressionists disgusted Fry. He felt a focuson experimentation and selfexpression led to “disorder, lawlessness and thedegradation not only of art, butlife” (Ross,p.148).Page18Arthur Wesley Dow expanded on the ideas ofBell and Fry by introducing “theteaching of art through such elementsas line and colour organized by specificprinciples of composition” (Elfand, 2004,p.694). He was the Director of Fine Artsfor Columbia University Teachers College from1904 to 1922. Dow believedstudents could recognize value in art through a studyof formal qualities. Hecreated a series of curriculum guidesto lead students through art projects thatfocused on the elements and principles of designas the primary method of art-making and art appreciation.The idea of using the elements and principlesof design to organize art educationbecame popular with art teachers even while Dow wasthe Director of Fine Arts atColumbia University Teachers College because itreduced the visual arts to “a setof universal, teachable rules” (Efland, 2004,p.694). In addition, it “enabledstudents to discover beauty in all culturesand periods” (Efland,p.698).Despite the fact that Dow introduced the elementsand principles of design to arteducation more than eighty years ago some art education theoristssuch as DavidDarts and Olivia Gude believe they are still usedextensively in contemporary arteducation practice: “[am aesthetic formalist approachto art education enactedthrough the elements and principles of design constitutea significant portion of arteducation practice today” (Darts, 2004,p.27). “[T]oday’s students regularlycomplete school art programs that are based on elementsand principles” (Gude,2007,p.7).The claim of Darts and Gude resonate withmy own experience in art educationpractice. On the first day of my practicum as a studentart teacher in 2001, I walkedinto the secondary art classroom where I would be practicingand refining my skillsin art education and the first thing I saw wasa huge poster hanging in the front ofthe classroom. Large colourful words at the top onthis poster proclaimed “THEELEMENTS AND PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN”. Underneath thisstatement theposter listed the elements and principles: line, shape,colour, value, texture,balance, gradation repetition, contrast, harmony anddominance. This posterPage19visually dominated the classroom and the elementsand principles dominated thecurriculum of my sponsor teacher; for example, Iwatched my sponsor teacherpresent a lesson to the students in which they had to selecttwo elements and twoprinciples of design and paint a non-representationalimage onto a small canvas.My sponsor teacher began by showing some examplesof the same project fromthe previous year’s class. After a brief question and answerperiod the studentsbegan to work. Some of the students seemed enthusiasticabout this project, otherstudents grudgingly began painting. The conversationsin the classroom revolvedaround design ideas and how to manipulate the paint to achievespecific visualeffects. As a novice teacher I found myself leaning heavilyon the elements andprinciples of design when planning lessons. This practicewas met with warmapproval from my sponsor teacher.Why are the elements and principles still used insome art education practicessuch as my sponsor teachers curriculum? One reasonis that they are entrenchedin curriculum prescribed by the British Columbia Ministry of Education:The use of visual elements and their organizationaccording toprinciples of art and design are the basic components ofimage-making. These visual elements include colour, form, line,shape,space, texture, value, and tone. The principles of art and designinclude pattern, repetition, rhythm, balance, contrast,emphasis,movement, unity, and harmony (British Columbia MinistryofEducation, 2002, p. 3).I believe another reason the elements and principles of designcontinue to be usedextensively in art education practice is that they figure prominentlyin somecommercially available curriculum guides used by art teachers. For example, Dr.Betty Edwards, professor at the Art Department at CaliforniaState University,wrote “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” (1979 revisedand reprinted in 1989and 1999). In her book, Edwards instructs readers to complete aseries ofexercises that focus on line, shade, space, texture and proportion.The implicitmessage is that art education is about learning to draw realisticallyby improvingthe ability to manipulate the elements and principles of design. I foundthis book toPage110be widely available in the art classrooms where Itaught. In fact, some art teachersI worked with used Edwards’ book as the primaryteaching resource for theirdrawing and painting units.Today “[i]t is difficult to find support in seriousacademic writing (as opposed tocommercial textbooks) for using the elements andprinciples of design as acurriculum structure” (Gude, 2007,p.7). While many contemporary theoristsdorecognize aesthetics and art-making as vital aspectsof art education, they do notadvocate using the elements and principles ofdesign as curricular organizers,(Chalmers & Desai, 2007; Darts, 2004; Eisner, 2002; Freedman& Stuhr, 2004;Gude, 2007; Parsons, 2004). There are theorists that promotean art curriculumbased on aesthetics in general. Anna Kindler (2004) has writtenextensively aboutthe importance of developing aesthetic awarenessin students. She writes: “[aJrteducation can and should free some space for theenjoyment and savoring of art inits purely aesthetic layer, for the inspiration and uplifting feelingthat are byproductsof sensory enrichment and delight” (p. 117). Sheargues that “technical mastery ofart materials emancipates students to express themselvesmore powerfully throughtheir artwork” (personal communication, November, 2006).Similarly, one of the foremost theorists inart education, Elliot Eisner, believes artmaking skills are important aspects of art education:“[i]f a material is to be used asa medium, techniques for working with the materialmust be developed...skills mustbe at hand” (Eisner, 2002,p.83). Like Kindler, he also believes in developingaesthetic awareness in students: “[t]he arts helpstudents learn to pay attention toqualities and their expressive content. Attentionto the particular aesthetic qualitiesof, say a rock...there is more beauty in a rock than any ofus is likely to discover in alife-time” (Eisner,p.88).While Eisner and Kindler advocate for aestheticawareness in art education due tothe intrinsic value of aesthetics, American philosopher MonroeC. Beardsleyargues that aesthetic literacy is a necessary component ofcultural criticism:PageliiCultural criticism cannot avoid takingaccount of the judgments ofaesthetic criticism. In order to do justice to eachof a variety of culturalstrands, cultural critics must be sensitiveto the differences anddivergences among them as identified and characterizedby aestheticcriticism. Therefore, rather than eliminating orreplacing aestheticcriticism, cultural criticism must embrace it(Beardsley, 2004, p. 173).Beardsley’s statement reveals the interdependenceof cultural and aestheticcriticism that is consistent with the aimof this thesis, which is to inquire intotheliminal area between formalism (aesthetics)and activism (cultural criticism) as wellas the philosophical stance of a/r/tographyto inquire into “an in/between space thatexists between and among categories”(Irwin & de Cosson, 2004,p.28). While theelements and principles of design receive littlesupport in contemporary academicresearch (see Chalmers & Desai, 2007;Darts, 2004; Eisner, 2002; Freedman&Stuhr, 2004; Gude, 2007; Parsons, 2004), theoristssuch as Beardsley, Eisner andKindler argue that aesthetic studies should remainan important element of arteducation because they are interrelated to culturalcriticism, they help studentsdevelop sensitivity to expressive content andthey create inspiration and delight.However other theorists arguethat aesthetic formalism and the elements andprinciples of design are no longer relevant inart education. This view will beexplored in the following section.Critiques of Aesthetic Formalism“An aesthetic formalist approach to art educationenacted through theelements and principles of design constitutesa significant portion ofart education practice today” (Darts, 2004,p.35), despite the fact that“[i]t is difficult to find support in serious academicwriting (as opposedto commercial textbooks) for using the elementsand principles ofdesign as a curriculum structure”(Gude, 2007,p.7).Is aesthetic formalism, as enacted through the elementsand principles, stillrelevant to art education? Does it reflect currentthinking about art and arteducation? Is it a suitable vocabulary to create andcritique the range of postmodem art that students will encounter today,such as feminist art, post-colonialart, conceptual art, installations, outsider art,street art, appropriated art, computerPage112graphics and animation? Certainlysome avant-garde art does not lenditself to anaesthetic analysis in the traditional sense.For example, a small group of politicaland artistic agitators based in Europe andcalled “The Situationist International”aimed to create alternative life experiencesthat interrupted and critiqued capitalistbased society. One of their acts involved standingin front of the altar of the NotreDame Cathedral in Paris, France dressedlike monks during Christmas mass anddeclared “God is dead!”. A public outrageresulted. Art happening such as this canbe critiqued politically and socially. However the elementsand principles of designare ill-equipped to provide a meaningfulcritique of such art.Many theorists have turned away fromaesthetic formalism in general, and theelements and principles of design in particular,in favor of a more “issues-oriented”form of art education. For example, Desaiand Chalmers are theorists thatadvocate the social importance of art. They explainthat “[w]e need art for socialcritique, cultural survival, and community identity.Art involvement can becomeparticularly meaningful in the lives of students whenwe find ways to connect artlearning and production to important socialissues” (2007,p.8).Many other theorists believe the elementsand principles are not relevant foraddressing the concerns of contemporaryart; for example, Gude offers this critiqueof the elements and principles:Art educators whose research involvescontemporary art, criticaltheory, or youth empowerment do not considermodernist elementsand principles to be uniquely foundationalto quality art curriculum orto making or understanding art. Do we really wantstudents to saythat art is about “line, shape, colour, contrastand repetition?” (2007,p.7).Page113Figure 5Contemporary art often combines aesthetics and activism in creative ways.Understanding the history of aesthetic formalism and the elements and principlesof design within art education, how aesthetic formalism is enacted in current arteducation practice as well as how theorists have advocated and critiqued itsuse inart education creates a contextualized understanding of aesthetic formalism, whichis important because this thesis is an attempt to construct a curriculum that existsin/between aesthetic formalism and activism. I believe it is important thatartteachers do not neglect teaching aesthetic formalism because “[i]f a material istobe used as a medium, techniques for working with the material must bedeveloped...skills must be at hand” (Eisner, 2002, p. 90). I believe creating visuallyengaging, aesthetically powerful art-work is central to a quality art educationcurriculum; therefore, aesthetic formalism needs to be a vital part of art educationtheory and practice; however, a curriculum that only addresses the formalaspectsof art neglects the socially transformative potential of politically activist images.Thenext section will inquire into activist art education.I//\/Page114The History of Socio/Political Activism inArt Education TheoryThe desire to utilize art education for socio/political activismmushroomed in the1960’s. At that time a massive youth movement in North America andEurope waschanging the world. Young people were rebelling against conservativesocialnorms and protesting socio/political injustices. There wasa desire for participatorydemocracy. This often took the form of political activism; for example,the anti-warmovement, environmental protests and the civil rights movement. Artseemed to bethe ideal medium with which to pursue social and political change. Forexample,Robert Crumb was a cartoonist who helped initiate the underground“comix”movement which was closely associated with the 1960’s counterculture.Hissubversive comix criticized and satirized mainstream culture. Theidea that arteducation can and should be used for social re-constructionarose as a result ofthese social, political and artistic revolutions. This following sectionexplains howtheorists have advocated for art education to be linkedto activism.Vincent Lanier, an early and outspoken advocate of activismin art education, feltthat learning how to draw and paint realistically was uselesswhen there weresignificant sociofpolitical issues that demanded urgent attention. Hebelieved artstudents should use photography and video cameras to inquire intothe issues thatwere polarizing Western society in the 1960’s, suchas war, sex, drugs andpoverty. Lanier proclaimed: “[a]lmost all that we presentlydo in teaching artin...schools is useless. Students need to examine thegut issues of the day- war,sex, race, drugs and poverty.., these new ideas must engagethe guts and thehopes of the youngsters” (1969,p.7).While Lanier focused on how art education can addressthe pressing socio/politicalissues in the U.S. in the 1960’s, June King McFee believed that art educationcouldbe more compelling if it was related to world economics, politics and society.Herwriting encouraged teachers to perceive art education in relation to globalproblems, and design art education programs that would change peoples’attitudesPage115and behaviors relating to world issues:“[w]e may no longer be able to indulge inthe luxury of art for its own sake; we must be equallyconcerned with art forhumanities sake. We need to be able to relate artisticdecisions to economic andsocial decisions” (McFee, 1974,P.16).More recently, interest in post modernism, multiculturalism,critical theory and adesire to address ongoing atrocities have been thecatalyst for politically engagedart education theory. In “Notes for a Dialogue onArt Education in Critical Times”(2007), Chalmers and Desai show how art educationcan be used to inquire intocontemporary horrors, such as the Iraq War. Whatmakes this study particularlyuseful is that Chalmers and Desai included anextensive list of contemporaryartists’ whose work addresses socio/political issues,thereby making a direct linkfrom theory to practice.Many art education theorists havepromoted the concept of politicizing the contentof art education. S. L. Brown wrote “Using VisualArt as the Bridge to our CulturalHeritage: Roy Strassberg’s Holocaust Bone StructuresSeries” (2007). In hiswriting Brown discusses how a contemporaryartist uses ceramics to createcompelling sculptures that deal with theHolocaust, then gives instructions on howto use the sculptures as a catalyst for a student inquiryinto cultural heritage. In“Teaching about War and Political Art inthe New Millennium” (2004) Simone AlterMuri declares “[t]he inclusion of political art in thecurriculum demonstrates thepower of art in society and inspires students tocreate art about meaningful issues.”David Darts inquires into how “engagement withsocial issues through theexamination and production of art and visual cultureimpacts studentsunderstanding and awareness of these issues”(Darts, 2004, p. 6). A central idea inhis dissertation is the idea of resistancetheory suggesting that student artproduction can be used as a form of collective resistanceagainst oppression. Thusart education can become emancipatory. The common thread linkingthe ideas ofBrown, Alter-Muri and Darts is that in order forart education to be of social value, itneeds to be socio/politically relevant by inquiring into socio/politicalproblems. I___ _____Page116agree with this; however, I would add that socially transformative arteducationshould also enable students to make aestheticallycompelling art-works.In “Celebrating Pluralism Six Years Later: Visual Transcultures, EducationandCritical Multiculturalism” Chalmers explains the difference between “celebratingmulticulturalism” and the more aggressive, “critical multiculturalism” theories.Acurriculum that celebrates multiculturism inquires into the art and artifactsof amultitude of cultures as a way to come to a greater understanding of othercultures,thus challenging stereotypes (2002).Chalmers is preceded in this by John Dewey:Civilization is uncivil because human beings are divided into non-communicating sects, races, nations, classes and cliques. Art is amore universal mode of language then is the speech that exists inamultitude of mutually unintelligible forms. The differences betweenEnglish, French and German speech create barriers to understandingthat are submerged when art speaks (1934,p.349).Chalmers has subsequently constructed a more forceful curriculum hecalls “criticalmulticulturism” in which art education inquires into the art and artifactsof culturesthat have been marginalized and therefore disadvantagedby the increasinglyhomogenized global village based primarily on American hegemony.The goal ofcritical multiculturalism is to create social justice through cultural andartisticinquiry.The idea underlying both Chalmers and Dewey’s writing is thatart education canreduce conflict and make the world more just because art facilitates anunderstanding among people that emphasizes our similarities;as a result arteducation can be truly socially transformational. While I am not arguingagainstsocially relevant art education, I do not believe an effectivecurriculum needs to beexclusively concerned with overtly political art. Since all art is made withincertainsocio/political contexts, all art can be read as a socio/political statement.Conversely, all visual art has formal qualities that can be analyzed. Anartwork canPage j17exist in the liminal area between aesthetic formalismand socio/political activismwhen it can be perceived as havingboth powerful formal and activist qualities.Inquiring into this is the goal of my research.Critiques of Socio/Political activismin Art EducationArt education is not just about making decorativeimages; art education can andshould be about social reconstruction and politicalactivism. While there is littleargument that art education should be sociallyrelevant, there have been severalcriticisms leveled at overly-politicisizing art education.Eisner points out that mostart teachers entered the profession becauseof a love of art, not socio/politicalactivism:I believe most art teachers came into art education becauseof thesatisfactions, indeed the joys they received fromthe visual arts. Thearts are processes or objects they cherish and liketo experience, andI believe most art teachers want to open the doorsof suchexperiences to their students. The politicalanalysis of images is notquite the same (Eisner, 2002, p. 30).Figure 6Ross Penhall’s arm tattoo______Page118He also points out that the creative process of art makingis what is trulyfoundational, unique and significant in art education, andthat focusing on activismwill undermine what is really important to thefield:The concept of [socio/political art education] transforms the studentfrom a productive young artist into an analyticspectator. In artcourses the experience of bringing an image intobeing that isappraised by a sense of purpose held by a young creator requiresstudents to think in very special ways, ways that are almost absentinmost classrooms (Eisner, 2002,p.31).Eisner believes aft teachers should focus on aftand thatsocial studies teachersare better suited to engage students in socio/politicalactivism. Eisners’ attempt toseparate art from social issues expresses a philosophythat the intrinsic value ofart, is divorced from any didactic, moral or utilitarian function. This iscalled “art forart’s sake”, and has been criticized as being elitist since itholds art above andseparate from socio/political contexts, as well as being Eurocentric,given thatmany non-Western cultures create art that is integrated intoevery aspect of socialand political life (Chalmers & Desai, 2007; Darts, 2004; Freedman& Stuhr, 2004).Art Education theorists such as Eisner are not theonly people who critique activistart. Contemporary artists often have strong opinionsabout the function of art insociety. Odd Nerdrum is a Norwegian artist who embracesan “old-masters”aesthetic. He offers this critique on the post-modern disinterestin craft andobsession with “issues”:Modern artists have abandoned the grand humanisticthemes ofWestern art in order to indulge in an all-pervasive irony. Theyhaveforsaken not only hard-won techniques of figurative realism butthevery notion of quality standards...the avant- gardenow dominateschools, museums, galleries and publications worldwide exactingadherence to their artistic doctrine with all the fierceness of highpriests. They have completely divested art of any connectionto thereal emotions of everyday people, devoting their workto abstraction,victim group protest or mockery (as cited in Vine,2003,p.81).Page119Figure 7Odd NerdrumHomecoming, 1975While I agree with Nerdrum’s point that some “protestarL..lacks quality [aestheticfomalist] standards”, he fails to articulate that his ownart is a screamingsocio/political protest against the contemporary art he criticizes.Nerdrums’paintings are the ultimate form of activism because theyare not only a protestagainst the art avant-garde, but they also do what some protest art does not: theyoffer an inspiring aesthetic example and direction forfuture artistic inquiry.While Nerdrum’s paintings undoubtedly demonstratean uncommon level oftechnical virtuosity, there is a contradiction in his art. He claimsavant-garde art has“completely divested art of any connection to the realemotions of everyday people”(as cited in Vine, 2003, p. 81). This charge of elitisms isironic considering Nerdrumhas aesthetically aligned his art withthe European, museum based, high arttradition of large scale figurative oil painting, which is viewedby some as elitistitself due to its tradition of exclusive membership reserved forwealthy, urban,highly-educated, male European bourgeoisie. For example, the idea ofthe malegaze, which refers to the artist/model polarity that exists in the Westernart historythat Nerdrum draws inspiration from has been criticized by feminist theorists:P a9e 20The male gaze acts as a mechanism of oppression as it elevatesmales to the status of privileged spectators. Feminists respond thattreating people as objects of aesthetic contemplationisdehumanizing and call for a revised aesthetic, attentiveto andrespectful of differences among gendered spectators (Garber,1992,p.213).A counter-argument can be made that some avant-gardeart can itself be viewedas elitist due to its use of materials traditionally considered non-artistic,its lack ofrecognizable craft and its theoretical nature, thereby making itsmeaning andimportance inaccessible to laypeople. As an artstudent I studied MarcelDuchamp’s ready-mades as watershed momentsof2OCentury Art History, yetwhen I suggested that Duchamps’ Fountain(1917)was “art” to friends and family Iwas met with disbelief and anger. While European highart has been associatedwith cultural elitism, art that is conceptually and aestheticallyinaccessible tolaypeople can be considered intellectually elitist.• •••Marcel DuchampFountain, 1917Page121Aesthetics: David Henry Thoreau said “Most men live livedof quiet desperation” My late 1990’spaintings were a screaming protest against quiet desperation, mediocrityand the status quo. Mixingoil paint and tar I wanted to create smeared, sensuous drippingcolours that expressed the anxietyof modern life. I believe an artist needs strong technical art makingskills in order to create visuallypowerful art. Aesthetics is the language of art.ure 9Matthew BurnettRage Against it All, 1998VISUAL TEXTS IN THE LIMINAL AREA BETWEEN AESTHETICS AND ACTIVISMActivism: All art is about somethinci. Within the context of animal testing andresearch my painting isa direct political statement against such practices. By putting a face on sufferingthe viewer is muchmore likely to emotionally connect with ideas presented in ariworks. Visualtexts like mine can opendialogic spaces for viewers in which the issues of animal testing and crueltycan be explored anddiscussed.wMatthew BurnettThe Prisoners, 1997Page122Art and CurriculumIn order to contextualize my research interests ananalysis of contemporary artistsand art educators whose work exists is the liminalarea between aestheticformalism and socio/political activism isnecessary. Jeff Wall, Eva Hesse and LeonGolub are three artists whose artistic interests havecommonalities with myresearch. David Darts and Olivia Gudeare art educator theorists who haveenacted curriculum that inquires into theliminal area between formalism andactivism.Jeff Wall is a major international photo-based artistwho is based in Vancouver.With a career that spans four decades, acomprehensive analysis of his work isbeyond the scope of this thesis. I will focuson how one art work that Wallcompleted in 1978 entitled Destroyed Room inquiresinto the liminal area betweenformalism and activism.While primarily known as a photo-basedartist today, Wall did not start inphotography: “since childhood, my backgroundwas painting and drawing” (as citedin Galassi, 2007,p.203). In fact he calls himself “[a] painter of modernlife” (2007,p.192). Not so surprisingly, much of his work makesdirect reference to paintings.Destroyed Room is aesthetically indebtedto Eugene Delacroix’s The Death ofSardanapalus.Paae123Eugene DelacroixThe Death of Sardanapalus, 1827Both Wall’s Destroyed Room and Delacroix’s The DeathofSardanapalusdisplay adiagonal composition, dominated by the colour orange and byrich visual detail.They are both monumental in scale (Delacroix’spainting is 392 x 496 cm; Wall’simage is 159 x 234 cm.) When asked why he makesreference to modernistpaintings in his large scale photo-based work,Wall talks of trying to map a newartistic course: “[my aim was to] recuperate thepast-the great art of the museums-and at the same time to participate with a critical effectin the most up to datespectaclarity” (as cited in Galassi, 2007,p.57).While Wall’s choice of materials (a colour photographdisplayed as a transparencyon a light box) creates a very different aestheticthan an oil painting, Wall explainshow he aesthetically connectsthe materials of modernist painting with his photo-based work:[I] had been thinking about the masters [I] saw in Spain, aboutVelazquez and Titian, Goya and Manet, andin particular howpowerful those pictures were, how much of contemporaryart lackedsuch authority, and how one could instill art today with a comparablesense of significance and relevance. Then [I] looked out the windowof the bus and by chance saw a sight I had seen hundredsof timesbefore- a back lit bus stop advertisement (as citedin Galassi, 2007,p.20).P a g eI24Wall realized that the backlit transparency wasa “glaring symbol of theconsumerist spectacle” (as cited in Galassi, 2007,p.29) which he was interested incritiquing (see Galassi, 2007) as wellas “an excellent means of creating andpresenting large, richly detailed, seductive colourimages” (2007,P.29). Theperfect medium for a man who aspiredto be “[a] painter of modern life” (2007,p.192).The Destroyed Room can also be read in terms ofits politically activist content; it isan updated re-reading of The Death ofSardanapa/uswhich is the story of a King,who, upon military defeat has his concubines killed,his horses slaughtered andthen commits suicide. Delacroix’s image can beseen more generally as eroticviolence designed for the male gaze. Wall’s imageof a violently destroyedwoman’s bedroom alludes to domestic violence,rape and murder, specifically ofwomen. In this way Destroyed Room is a feministsubversion of The Death ofSardanapa/us because it represents the violenceagainst women that is intended totitillate in Delacroix’s image as an ugly, brutal, contemporaryreality. Wall alsocritiqued how advertising art uses sexualized images:The pleasure which has become ideologicallyattached to the imageof erotic violence by making explicit allusionsto its acceptablemanifestations in fashion magazine illustrations,shop windowdisplays, advertizing, art and cinema (ascited in Galassi, 2007,p.25).By using the same technologies of representationthat are used in the commercialart he was critiquing, he not only critiques commercialart, but subverts its methodsof representation as well.These artistic relationships are important becausein order to fully appreciate Wall’sinquiry into formalism and activism itis vital to understand his ideas. Without thishistorical context Wall’s work may be incomprehensible.Wall was interested in anaesthetic that was visually powerful as well as politically provocative,therefore his_____P a g eI25artistic intentions explored the liminal area between formalismand activism. Oncethe formalist and activist content of Destroyed Room isunderstood a viewer canexperience the image as existing in the liminal area between formalismandactivism by mentally flipping from a formalist to anactivist reading of the image,resulting in an experience that can be describedas “an in/between space thatexists between and among categories” (Irwin& de Cosson, 2004,p.28).Another artist that deals with contemporary social issueswith a unique aesthetic isAmerican artist Leon Golub. In October, 1995, I vieweda major exhibition of hiswork as well as an artist talk by Golub himself at the Vancouver ArtGallery, inVancouver Canada. I was deeply impressed with his aestheticallyand politicallypowerful canvases.Golub acknowledges his aesthetic influences in classical Westernart history: “Iused to go to Roman and Greek statues, and in many ofmy paintings I stole fromGreek sculptures-that is to say I took an image and imitatedit-I tried to give it acontemporary flare” (as cited in Enright, 1995,p.4). He fused his artistic interest inclassical aesthetics with contemporary media images because “[ut seemsto methat the world we live in has to be understood largely through photographyandfilm”(p.4). As a result of this fusion he discovered a relationality between Greeksculptures and media photography “I thought I found a kind ofurban stress andviolence and vulnerability in these sculptures whichwere equivalent to the kind ofurban stresses that I was interestedin my own time”(p.7).Golub explains this relationality by pointing out the Greek word“Agon”, from whichwe get the word agony originally meant sport: “There isa relationship betweenagony and sports-the body under stress” (as cited in Enright,1995,p.4).Golubs’ aesthetics are intertwined with the political content of his images.His workis about stress, violence and power. Golub, himself, states this, “Ihave alwaysdealt with stress and violence. This comes from my ownstate of mind” (as cited inEnright, 1995,p.5). Interrogation 2(1981) isa huge canvas that met me as IP a g e 26walked into the gallery space at Golubs’ exhibition.The figures in the painting areten feet tall, making them impossible to ignore.The edge of the canvas cuts themoff at the ankles, approximating the limits of visualperception in a real situation.This makes the image seem less theatrical, more real.The background is a flat,blood red. The painting is a scene of torture. Golubcreated anxiety by showing themoment before terrible events unfold: “[t]hese actions...areon the verge ofhappening” (as cited in Enright, 1995,p.5). The torturers look directly at the viewerand smile, implying the viewer is one of thetorturers. This is not a hypotheticalscene, his imagery originates from actual media reportstaken during the civil warsin Central America during the 1980’s. I havebecome desensitized to photos ofactual acts of violence due to oversaturation of such imagesin the media; thereforeGolub’s painting of violence was more shockingly realto me then a photo. Hisimages of torture came from media images fromCentral American conflicts thatwere active at the time he created Interrogation2 The image has a renewed senseof horror within the context of the recent shocking imagesin the media depictinghuman rights abuses in Iraq.Golubs’ methods of image making are connectedto his theme of violence. Hepaints thick layers of acrylic paint then scrapesthem off with a meat cleaver. Herepeats this process several times, giving the painted surfacea tortured look. Hepaints on a canvas surface that looksas if it is the remains of a military tent. All ofthis adds to the feeling of acute brutality in his work.Golubs’ painting InterrogatIon2(1981) exists in the liminal area between aestheticsand activism because theaesthetics, such as size, surface quality of paint, painting ground andsubjectmatter, all express a politically activist desire to shockus out of compliancy andforce us to deal with an example of a horrific eventthat unfortunately “manifestsitself everywhere in the world” (as cited in Enright, 1995,p.5).While Golubs’ work is a massive, aggressive, violent reactionto the atrocities ofwar, artist Eva Hesse had a completely different aestheticresponse to brutalrealities. Hesses’ artistic political activism and aestheticscan best be understoodby relating her artwork to the political and personalcontext in which she worked.________ _______P a g eI27Her life was excruciatingly tragic. She was born intoa Jewish family in Germany in1936. When the Nazi party came into power her parents fledwith her to New York.Her uncle and grandparents were murdered in concentration camps.Her parentsgot divorced when she was still a child. When Eva was ten years old hermotherhad a mental breakdown and committed suicide. Eva marrieda fellow artist, but themarriage fell apart. 1n1964 she moved back to Germanyand lived in an abandonedfactory. Danto describes her as “cop[ingj with emotionalchaos by reinventingsculpture through aesthetic insubordination, playing withworthless material amidthe industrial ruins of a defeated nation that, only twodecades earlier, would havemurdered her without a second thought” (2006,p.33). When she was thirty-fouryears old she developed an inoperable tumour inher brain. She continued makingart until her death a few months later.Her art can be read as a potently subversive reactionto the brutality of the Naziwar machine and the emotionally devastating effects ofsuicide, fatal disease anddivorce, as well as the male dominated, sterile, mathematical, reductiveaestheticof minimalism, which was the dominate art paradigm duringher career.While living in an abandoned textile factory in Germany,with the memory of WorldWar 2 still painfully fresh, Hesse used industrial garbageto create a new sculpturalaesthetic that embraced the organic, the handmade and the erotic witha sense ofplayful absurdity in a country that had tried to exterminate her people.While Hessedid not consider herself a feminist, she brought a feminine sensibilityto a maledominated art world. Her work is pregnant with metaphorand metonym, makingfrequent reference to the body and skin. Made of organic materialsher sculpturesdroop, sag, hang and fold, as wellas decompose. She did not intend to makepermanent museum art. Her work is activist because it isa reaffirmation of thepower of art that expresses an embodied, emotive sensibilityin the face ofinhuman horror. Aesthetically she pioneered the use of traditionallynon-traditionalart materials to create a new aesthetic based on organic, tactile substancesthatchallenged the dominance of the impersonal aestheticof minimalism.P a g e 28Jeff Wall, Leon Golub and Eva Hesse createdaesthetically innovative art thatengaged with social and political activism. I have includedan analysis of their workbecause “[am element of postmodernist art educationis that art education practiceis conceptualized in response to the contemporaryart world” (Clark, 1996,p.137).Wall, Hesse and Golub’s artwork is the background forthis research project.This research project uses an engagement with politicalcontemporary art tofacilitate student art-making that inquires into thespace in/between formalism andactivism. Other art education researchers have inquiredinto this area as well. Thefollowing section clarifies how the work of two suchresearchers parallels anddiverges from my own research.Art education theorist David Darts wrotea doctoral dissertation in 2004 at theUniversity of British Columbia entitled Visual CultureJam: Art, Pedagogy andCreative Resistance that has commonalities to myresearch interests in someimportant ways. Like me, he identifies a/r/tographyas his primary researchmethodology: “[w]orking as an artist! researcher!teacher over the course of threemonths, I adopt a relational approach to the study,which is informed bya/r/tfography(p.3). Another commonality in our research is our sharedinterest ininquiring into the intersection of art education and activism.Darts’ researchquestion reveals this focus in his research:How might engagement with social issues throughthe examinationand production of art/visual culture impact students understandingand awareness about these issues? As a corollaryto this question, Iwas also interested in how this engagement might influencestudentsunderstanding and awareness of the social rolesand culturalfunctions of art/visual culture(p.6).The third similarity between our inquiries is our chosenresearch sites. Both Dartsand myself used a classroom where we taught as theprimary research site, withour students as research subjects.P a g e (29Darts is primarily interested in “engagement with social issues” (2004,P.6). Thereis no analysis of aesthetics in his dissertation, despite the fact that a largeportionof his study involves the creation of visual art, and is therefore engagedwithaesthetics. Darts spends a considerable amount of time with his students/subjectsfacilitating an engagement with socially activist art and visual culture:...at the beginning of the dissertation, the students and I, over thecourse of our three-month curriculum unit, examined, deconstructed,and interpreted numerous examples of popular visual culture,including print and television advertisements, newscasts, movie clips,and TV programs. We also viewed and discussed the work of sociallyengaged visual and performance artists, including culture jammersand art activists(p.108).ri 12Matthew BurnettSpring, 2008P a g eI30After this engagement with social issues the students responded by creating amixed media sculpture based on a social issue they were interested in:As well, an integral component of this curriculum unit involvedengaging the students in artistic production, by ... producing sculpturalassemblages based around social issues. In creating theassemblages, I provided each student with discarded mannequinheads and invited them to convey a message through their sculpturesbased on a social issue or set of issues of personal significance. Iencouraged the students to incorporate found objects and othercultural artifacts from their everyday lives into the sculptures as ameans of actively participating in the (re) production of culture. In sodoing, I was encouraging my students to understand “that they havea role in the making of their world and that they need not acceptpositions as passive spectators or consumers.” (Trend, 1992,p.150)(Darts, 2004,p.108).Figure 13David Darts2004While I have admittedly been influenced and inspired by Darts work, I feel that hisproscriptive use of art materials for students limited the visual statement thatPage131students could make. In other words, the available artmaking materials:mannequin heads set on plungers and found objects limitedthe ways in whichstudents could make art to express their ideas. If art is trulyabout exploring andexpressing ideas, then art students should beable to freely choose the materialsand techniques best suited for expressing their ideas. Darts does acknowledgethisweakness in respect to a “pedagogical recipe” that teachersmay follow, but not inrespect to the potentially detrimental effect it would have in students’engagementwith ideas:I SUSPECT THERE is an inherent danger in reducing this study to apedagogical recipe for visual culture education (take20 mannequinheads, add two large bags of cultural artifacts, some glue,one box ofmagazines, and stir). There is no question that using mannequinheads and other cultural artifacts from the everyday lives of students(e.g. Barbie Dolls, toy soldiers, corporate logos, Disney products,etc.) to create assemblages was an effective method of expandingthe students’ conceptions of art/visual culture. But I worry that thispedagogical/artistic approach could be rendered less meaningful ifitis not also accompanied by thoughtful discussionsabout theconnections between these materials, signs, and symbols, andourown social lives and cultural identities (2004,p.116).Darts dissertation provides an excellent example of how students canengage withsocial issues within the context of art education; however, I find the lackofarticulation within his dissertation to the issue of aesthetics and theproscriptive useof materials for art making weakens his inquiry.Olivia Gude is another art educator who has influencedand inspired my own work:Olivia Gude is a Chicago artist and educator. She isa professor of ArtEducation in the School of Art & Design, College of Architecture&Arts at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She has worked in thefield of community public art for 20 years and has created over30large-scale mural and mosaic projects, working with intergenerational groups, teens, elders, and children.She has createdmajor works in Los Angeles; Madison, Wisconsin; DeKaIb, Illinois aswell as in the Chicago area (Gude, n.d.).P a g e 32This section will look at her rejection of the elementsand principles of design andher creation of the principles ofpossibillty(Gude,2004, p. 6) as a way to constructcurriculum that exists in the liminal area betweenformalism and activism.Consistent with my experience in art education,Gude believes the element andprinciples of design are commonly usedto teach art today due to their presence inresources material used by teachers:The elements and principles are presented asthe essence ofartmaking. If not literally engraved in stone, the big seven (elements)+ seven (principles) are reified in print, achieving theoretical unity,notthrough persuasive argument, but through seemingly endlessrepetition in formally oriented textbooks or, duringthe last decade, asgovernment mandated standards (2004, p.7).She has criticized the elements and principlesof design as being out of date andunable to address issues in contemporary art:[Arthur Wesley] Dow advocated a newsystem of art education hebelieved would bring to the student “an increaseof creative power”[the elements and principles of design] (1920/1997,p.65). But 75years have passed since he wrote those words. We owe itto our fieldand our students to study the art of our timesand to begin, as Dowdid, with probing questions and, far reaching goals. Whatdo ourstudents need to know to understand the art of many cultures,fromthe past and the21stcentury? Today, what knowledge do studentsneed to stimulate and increase their creativepowers? (Gude, 2004,p.8).In response to what Gude saw as the inadequacy of modernistelements andprinciples of design, Gude created the Principles ofPossibilltytogive art teachersa theoretical framework more relevant to contemporaryart and society. ThePrinciples of Possibility are:AppropriationJuxtapositionRecontextualizationP a g e 33LayeringHi brid ityGazingInteraction of Text and ImageRepresentin’Do women have to benaked to get into U.S.museums.Less than 3% of the artistsin the Met. Museum arewomen, but 83% of thenudes are female.Figure 14Guerrilla Girls, Do women have to be naked to get into U.S. museums?2004The Principles of Possibility seem more appropriateto address the formal andactivist content of contemporary criticalart, like the Guerrilla Girls, than the “blandand formal 7 + 7 [elementand principles of design]” (Gude, 2004,p.7). In theabove image the Guerrilla Girls appropriated FrenchNeoclassical painter JeanAuguste Dominique Ingres’ painting Odallsqueas an example of patriarchal art,then juxtaposeda guerrilla head onto it, subvertingand recontextuaIL’ing theimage into the contemporary feminist critique ofthe male gaze. The interaction oftext and image re-enforce the feminist critique ofthe Western cannon of art historythat favours art made by and for men, which is beingsustained by the museumsystem. The image is representin’ the frustrationsof contemporary female artistsconcerning their lack of presence in art history.____P a g eI34By critiquing the elements and principles, which are primarilyconcerned withformalism, and creating the principles of possibility,which are primarily concernedwith how form and content inter-relate,Gude has provided a framework for arteducation that inquires into the liminal area betweenformalism and activism.The work of Jeff Wall, Leon Golub, Eva Hesse,David Darts and Olivia Gudeprovide background and context for my inquiry intothe liminal area betweenformalism and activism. Their work servesas reminders that aesthetically powerful,politically provocative art can be socially reconstructive.I use their examples asinspiration for my own efforts as an artist, teacherand researcher.Artistic Auto-ethnography“Every text one writes is autobiographical: anything elsewouldbe plagiarism”(Boa!, 2001,p.xi).Clandinin and Connelly point out that the researcher’s personalinterests arerevealed by the area of inquiry that the researcherchooses:“[olurresearchinterests come out of our own narratives of experienceand shape our narrativeinquiry plotlines” (Clandinin& Connelly, 2003,p.121). Therefore, research andautobiography are intertwined. By revealing the liminal areabetween my life andmy research I hope to delve deeper into a/rltography and revealwhere my interestin the liminal area between formalism and activism originated.My interests in art, art education, formalism and activismhave developed as aresult of my life experiences. I intend to reveal these connectionsby telling mystory.I have a younger brother who has always been athletic, confidentand popular. Asan adolescent he competed in sports at the nationallevel, hung out with “thepopular crowd”, dated numerous attractive girls andwent to numerous parties. HePage35always seemed to get want he wanted. From thepoint of view of a teenage boy hislife seemed perfect to me. In contrast, my experienceof adolescence was lonely,depressing and boring. was clumsy, bad at sports,shy (especially around girls),skinny and introverted. For me, high school wasa lonely, miserable experience.As a student, I did not excel academically, athleticallyor socially; however, mydrawings impressed teachers and classmates. Inelementary school I was knownas the class artist. In high school, art was the only thing for whichI receivedpositive attention. I remember doing pencil, pen and ink drawingsusing a visualreference of my choice in high school art class. Ido not remember receiving anytechnical instruction on how to draw, which was ironicsince visual realism washighly valued at this level. I always suspectedthat my art teachers in public schoolwere not practicing artists.When high school graduation reared its ugly headI was forced to make a decisionabout which direction I wanted my life to go. I was not ready towork and my gradeswere not high enough to go to university. I feared graduating andleaving themiserable but familiar routine of a high school student.I felt unprepared to deal withreal life; luckily, my mom registered mefor a two year fine arts program at a localcollege.Going to art school changed my life. I no longer saw art as onlya school subject; itwas a lifestyle. I met an inspiring group of friends. Wesaw ourselves as youngrevolutionary left-wing artists. Our art was goingto change the world! We devouredKerouac’s “On the Road”, listened to Jane’sAddictionaswe painted at 2:00 a.m.and sipped red wine, moshed to Rage Against the Machineat small, dirtydowntown clubs and talked about politics, art, philosophyand music while we sataround a campfire on the beach. Throughout my life,art and exciting social changehave been inseparable.The art college instructor’s critiques were usually directedat aesthetic formalistconcerns in a vague way. I remember comments like “loosen yourcolours up, beP a g e 36free!” and “this line works, this shape doesn’t”. Despite the lack ofconcretetechnical instruction, I eventually became quite good at visual realismdue toconstant practice. Teachers and students seemed impressedby technicalproficiency and visual imagination. I remember thinking “there mustbe a better wayto teach art!”.After graduating from the two year art diploma program at the college, Iapplied toand was accepted into a four year degree granting art school. The artinstructorsintroduced us to post-modern discourse the “p0-mo disco”. Discussionsconcerningfeminism, critical theory, post-colonial theory and post modernismwereencouraged. Aesthetics, at least in the traditional sense, was viewed aspassé. Iquickly tired of reading long articles with titles like “Critiquingthe Post-StructualistFeminist Gaze”. I longed to smear red oil paint onto a pure white canvas.While the art college I attended emphasized aesthetic formal concerns in theirarteducation program, the art school I attended instead stressed conceptual concernsin their curriculum. My goal is to construct a curriculum that embodiesboth theaesthetic and the conceptual in one curriculum.P a g e 37Aesthetics: As an artist, I can’t help be influenced by the aestheticsof other artists. Ross Penhall,Lisa Burke, Phillip Rafanel and Tiko Kerr have all inspired/influencedmy aesthetic sensibilities.Figure 15Matthew BurnettThe Path, 2007Activism: The path of progress stretches out before us, but the path isbisected by a ragged greyline. We must move forward in our lives, but we always have free will. Wecan always decide whichside of the line we will walk. This line represents the dualities of life decisions.David Darts reminds us that the elements and principles ofdesign still have a gripon art education practice today:Aesthetic formalism, which can be defined as the practice of reducingart objects into the basic elements and principles ofdesign, hasplayed a role in art education since the early 20th century. Althoughitserves to isolate form from context, this aesthetic model remainstoday as a staple curricular component of many art educationprograms (2004,p.65).Based on my experience in high school and the art department of a collegetheaesthetic formalism model of art education is widely used despite the factthatmany art education scholars promote theory that suggestsart education should beused as a method of inquiry into socially important issues, rather than focusonaesthetics.This schism between contemporary art education theory and practiceneeds to beresolved. It requires art educators to be skilled in the material processesofaesthetic formalism, as well as the conceptual framework of art activism.This isasking a lot from art teachers. What is needed is curriculum that embodiesbothP a g eI38technical skills and social activism within art education.This thesis provides oneexample of how aesthetics and activism can existwithin an art curriculum.Art Education for the21stCentury“There is no single sacrosanct vision of the aims ofart education” (Eisner, 2002,p.25). Art education paradigms are constructed to meeta perceived societal need.What approach to art education is needed today? Unfortunately the aestheticformalism-socio/political activism debate has polarized muchof the field of arteducation:Essentially 1 of 2 aesthetic theories tends to inform art educatorsthinking about teaching, learning and curriculumdesign and thatconsequently, art programs are often skewed inone theoreticaldirection or the other. The theories of formalismand contextualisminvoke very different conceptions of art; for example,the formervalues art for art’s sake, while the other embraces the functionalvalue of art. A program skewed in a functional direction emphasizesindividual creativity, skills development and compositionalexcellence. While a contextualist program focuseson collaborativeexperience and social issues (Jeffers, 2000,p.4).Art embodies both the aesthetic and the activist, but mostart education programsare “skewed in one theoretical direction or another” (Jeffers, 2000,p.4). Thechallenge for art educators is to construct curriculum that includes bothformalistand activist inquiry. An approach to art education that relieson the elements andprinciples of design to construct curriculum can be classifiedas aestheticformalism. This approach can lead to students developingtechnical art makingskills; however, the artwork produced serves no social roleother than beingdecorative. Focusing on aesthetic formalism also leavesschool art programs onthe curricular periphery, in favor of programs with socially relevantcontent, such asEnglish, Social Studies and Science.P a g e 39Alternatively, an art class that focuses exclusivelyon the socially activist role of arteducation can lead to art that does not visually engagethe viewer in aestheticallypowerful ways. This brings to mind an experienceI had while attending post-secondary art school. A student displayeda blank canvas during a group critique.He justified this by proclaiming that his non-paintingis a protest against the elitistgrand-narrative of Euro-centric, patriarchalart history. The class then arguedpassionately for 45 minutes on the legitimacy of thisstatement. I present this in ahumorous tone; however, my example is taken froman actual experience in artschool.I believe a socially transformative art education curriculumneeds to attend to both:Aesthetic Formalism(Developing technical skills and visual imagination)AndSocio/Political Activism(The socially activist role art can play in society).Kit Grauer’s concept of “Inbetweenia” is consistentwith this idea. She explains thatmodernist education compartmentalizes and decontextualizesknowledge. Schoolsubjects taught using a modernist philosophy are presentedas discreet bodies ofknowledge, even areas of inquiry withina subject are not connected. For examplepainting and sculpture are sometimes taught as twoseparate classes. Postmodern education inquires into the area betweentraditional bodies of knowledge,for example, the intersection between social activismand visual art making (fromlecture at the teacher institute “Explodingthe Cannon”, July 9, 2007, Vancouver ArtGallery).I am interested in the I n b e t we e n i a of aesthetic formalism and artactivism.______P a g eI40In his book “The View from the Studio Door” Ted Orlandexplains why both thesocial role of art technical skills are so important while discussingthe music ofBach:There’s pretty good evidence that Bach himself understood thattomake work that mattered meant addressing art at every level-fromthepurely technical to the completely profound. He once composeda setof training pieces whose purpose, he said, was “to glorifyGod, toedify my neighbor, and to develop a cantabile style of playing withboth hands” (2006,p.103).He goes on to say the following:How deeply can art matter if the only fitting description of its meaningand purpose is “art for art’s sake”? Perhaps all of us-artists andotherwise-would benefit from Bach’s self-imposed discipline thateach of us should work to glorify God, educate our neighbors, andcontinue to expand our technical abilities (p. 103).Bach thought music should be technically proficient, while expressing profoundideas that are used for social activism. I suggest that contemporaryart educationshould focus on the same things.While there is much theorizing about possible directions for2lsCentury arteducation, there is little in the way of documented curriculum that embraces theseideas. Olivia Gude explains this well:There is much discussion in the field of art education aboutcreatingnew styles of art education that are more relevant to contemporary artand culture; there are few models of what such post-modernarteducation would actually look like in schools. Teachers seemingreluctance to shift their teaching practices is often rooted in not beingable to visualize what students would actually do or make inpostmodern art curricula (2007,p.7).P j9eI41Aesthetics: Copying has been neglected as an outdated, overly academic activity in art education infavor of developing authentic personal imagery (API). I believe there is value in “master-copies”. Mytechnical painting abilities improved as a result of copying Mary Pratt’s painting.Matthew BurnettAfter Mary Pratt, 2000Activism: The first time I bit into an organically grown apple my taste buds exploded with pleasure.As an artist I wanted to create a visual representation of this experience. Organic fruit is healthybecause no toxic chemicals are used. It is the way humans were meant to eat.Eisner agrees with Gude that what actually happens in the classroom needsto bestudied in order to create change:Among of the most important kinds of research needed in the fieldare studies of teaching and learning. By studies of teaching andlearning I mean studies that try to carefully answer the question:What do teachers of the arts do when they teach and what are itsconsequences? (2002,p.215).Unfortunately much contemporary art education theory that focuses on using art asa vehicle for social transformation does not address what art students tend tospend the most amount of time actually doing in the classroom, which is theprocess of creating art, or the craft of artmaking, despite the factthat “without someattention to aesthetic and “craft” concerns, some supposedly socially consciouswork falls absolutely flat” (Chalmers, personal communication, September, 2007).P a g eI42Despite Chalmer’s warning, there is little theorizingabout aesthetics and craft incontemporary art education theory. I believe this isdue to the following:1. It is assumed that art teachers attended artschool; therefore, at one timethey were practicing artists, so they should beproficient in the technicalprocesses of art making;2. Many celebrated contemporary artists make artthat is purposely non-aesthetic or anti-aesthetic As Ted Orland explains:“Beauty has become adirty word in the art world-and sincerity an embarrassing reminderof gentlertimes” (Orland, 2006,p.46) Some contemporary artists chooseto focus oncreating art that opens dialogic spaces throughhuman interactions with theartwork, for example relational aesthetics is a newway of conceptualizingart that does not rely on traditional notions of visual aesthetics.3. There are many “how-to” art books available,so theorists may believe thatthere is no need to concern themselves withcraft.Aesthetics: While working on this painting I was completely immersedwithin the process ofcomposition, layering of colours and creatinga sense of lightMatthew BurnettThe Bog and the Rain, 2007Activism: This painting is a gentle reminder that “Getting and spending we laywaste out powers.Little we see in nature that is ours” (Wordsworth). It could also bea visual protest against airpollution.Page143Student art production should be central to any art education curriculum; thereforecraft and aesthetics are central to art education theory and practice. Thequestion“how can an art teacher combine mastery of technical artmaking processes withmeaningful student art production” is central to my study.Olivia Gude has made impressive efforts to bridgethe gap between social activismand aesthetics. In her website, Spiro/Art Education, she is “re-thinkingthe styleand content of art curriculum in the21stcentury”. Gude explains that art curriculumshould:1. deal with an issue of developmental importance to thestudent;2. be based on a contemporary social theme;3. include examples of past and contemporary artworks that explore thesethemes; and4. teach a method for making art.This certainly seems like a lot for one art project to embody,but Gude doesn’t justtheorize. She offers a multitude of detailed lesson plans that utilize allfour of theseprinciples; thereby bridging the gap not only between aesthetics and activism,butbetween theory and practice as well. This thesis aims to expand onGude’sphilosophy of linking art, activism, theory and practiceto develop a relevant,exciting post-modern approach to art education.This literature review has summarized the history of aesthetic formalismandsocio/political activism in art education, including where thoseparadigmsoriginated, how they developed and how they are situated within the fieldof arteducation today. The work of artists and art education theorists who haveinquiredinto the same issues as this thesis have been explored, and, finally, Ihaveexplained how my research interests have developedas a result of my own lifeexperiences as an art student and art teacher. This information givesa contextualbackground to my research, methodologies and artistic interests.P a g e 44Chapter Three: MethodologyResearch Site and SubjectsMy research site will be an after school art classthat I will be teaching, which is acomponent of the Artists for Kids Program (AFK) which isa program in an urban,Canadian public school district. As the director ofthe AFK program, BillMcDonald has created a mandate for the programto be the “best art enrichmentprogramming in Canada” (McDonald, personal communication,July 15, 2008).AFK has an art gallery that exhibits artwork by Canadianartists; this gallery isused as an art education resource by teachers. AFK fundraisesby selling printsdonated by artists. These funds are used to purchase artworkfor the art galleryand fund after school art education programmingand a two week summer artcamp. The classroom I will be teaching in is adjacent to the AFKgallery, allowingme to use the artwork in it as the primary visualtexts for this study.I selected this site because it is in the school districtthat I currently teach in, so Iam somewhat familiar with the student population. In addition,the AFK programhas the advantage of having an art gallery in theteaching facility, giving studentsand teachers easy access to original works byCanadian artists such as EmilyCarr, Jack Shadbolt, Graeme Gilmore, Toni Onley, Ross Penhalland EdwardBurtynski. This is an advantage because students can experiencethe visual textthat will form the basis of this study in an embodied, kinestheticmanner. Beingable to physically interact with an artwork is potentially a more meaningfulexperience than simply viewing a reproduction of an artwork ina textbook. Theafter-school art program that is my research site is non-mandatory,increasing thechances the students will have a genuine interest in art anda willingness toengage with art in meaningful ways.P a g eI45The art class I will be teaching is for grades four to seven.There will be eight oneand a half hour classes. I will endeavor to enacta curriculum that attends to aspace in/between aesthetic formalism and socio/politicalactivism through theanalysis of visual texts in the AFK gallery thatis next to my classroom, followed bythe production of visual texts in the classroom in responseto the dialogic spacesgenerated by the analysis of artwork in the AFK gallery.The room I will be teaching in is a dedicated art classroom.It is well stocked withfine art supplies such as paint, brushes, paper,drawing supplies, clay, a kiln,easels, art books from the Western cannon of art history suchas Picasso, VanGogh and Monet, two sinks, printmaking supplies and still life objects suchas cowskulls, driftwood and a stuffed seagull. There are no computers in the room.Thesupplies in the room seem set up for a curriculumbased on a traditional fine artsstudio model of art education. Walking aroundthe room I find it easy to envision artclasses held here based on cubism, still life painting andcolour theory. There arefew resources in the classroom I will be using thatare intended to support acurriculum based on contemporary socio/political art suchas computers, camerasand books on contemporary art.My research subjects will be the students that attend theafter school art class whoagree to participate and whose parents sign a consent form agreeingto allow theirchildren to participate in my study. It is reasonable to assumethe students in theclass will have an interest in art making since they areattending a non-mandatoryafter school art enrichment program. Since the tuition feefor the eight classes is$90 it is also reasonable to assume the children I will be teaching come fromfamilies with some disposable income. As of 2006, the city in which I willbeteaching had a population of 48,165 people. 74% of residents identifiedthemselvesas not being a visible minority. (Statistics Canada, 2006) I would characterizethecommunity as predominantly Caucasian and upper middle class sincethe medianincome was greater than the average in British Columbia.P a q eI46Most theory that attends to art education as social reconstruction addressesthesecondary art classroom (see Alter-Muri, 2004; Brown, 2007; Chalmers,2005;Darts , 2004; Desai, 2006; Gude, 2007; Lanier,1969; McFee,1974). My research isaimed at upper level elementary students. With their limited life experience,whatsocial issues would be appropriate to inquire into with thisage group? How shouldthe social issues be introduced and discussed? Are there certain issuesthatshould be avoided? How will elementary students respondto socio/political issues?Can they articulate their ideas and feelings through themedium of art-making? Mythesis will attempt to answer these questions.Students are engaged when they inquire into issues that they have directpersonalexperience with; therefore, I need to design curriculum with this in mind.I will usetwo artists as central visual texts to initiate an inquiryinto concepts of utopia anddystopia. I will present this to the students as an opportunityto design their ownvision of a “perfect world” free of socio/political problemsor as an exploration intosocio/political issues that each student is personallyconcerned with.P a g eI47Aesthetics: While painting this I was experimenting withform and colour in an intuitive manner. Iparticularly like how the red and blue colours playoff each other, as well as the black backgroundand the pale skin.Figure 18Matthew BurnettAlienation, 2000Activism: This painting could be read as a depiction of the modern worlds’capacity to causedisillusionment and disenchantment in the individual. The personfeels completely sociallyostracized. Surrounded by cold darkness, his face and body twist into unnaturalshapes. Thispainting could bring greater awareness to the social issue of the dehumanizingeffects ofcontemporary society.Theorizing Social Reconstruction“I’m looking for too much fun, and transformation!”Kit Grauer (personal communication,September, 2007)I want to show students how they can changethe world with their art.My research question is: How can a curriculum be enactedwithin art education thatuses visual texts to inquire into the liminal area between aestheticformalism andsocio/political activism?As an art teacher, what kind of curriculum do I need to design inorder to facilitatean inquiry into this question? Simply instructing studentsto make an anti-warP a g eI48poster is unlikely to create meaningful aesthetic social reconstruction.I remembermy high school art teacher giving us an assignmentto draw an anti-drinking anddriving poster for display in the art room. I had nopersonal experience with thepotentially devastating effects of drinking and driving; therefore,it was an empty,meaningless assignment for me. I believe that inorder for curriculum to be sociallyactivist:Students must have direct, personal experience with theissue they areinquiring into.Inquiring into the research participants’ notions ofutopia and dystopia through theanalysis and creation of visual texts allows the participantsto reflect on their ownvalues, beliefs and experiences in order to create anart work that expressespersonally meaningful ideas and feelings.I believe the other requirement to make sociallyactivist art is:Students must have the opportunity to show their workto an audience.In his dissertation Visual Culture Jam (2004), DavidDarts experiences the powerof “the show” while discussing student art making:The collective artistic intervention which we designed early intotheunit as an afternoon field trip became the central focus of thestudents work and a core component of the curriculumunit. If factfor many of the students, the art installation itself becamethe singlemost pivotal event during the three months I wasat the school(p.86).Student artwork needs to have an audience in orderfor it to have the opportunity toeffect social change through dialogue that is generatedas a result of the exhibition.This process may create student self-determination and socialconfidence byenabling students to realize that their art matters and that theycan make a positiveP a g eI49difference in the world with their art. I will facilitatean exhibition of the students’artwork at the completion of the eight week course.It is my hope this student artexhibition will be the catalyst that initiates a processof social transformation for theresearch participants.I also want the curriculum to attend to aesthetic formalism. Eisnerexplains why thisis important: “[i]f a material is to be used as a medium, techniquesfor working withthe material must be developed...skills must be athand” (Eisner, 2002,p.90). Iacknowledge my own interest in the area of formalart making skills was a factor indeciding to include formalism as a curricular focus.I am a representational painter.I have spent thousands of hours painting,struggling to achieve a specific look tomy paintings. I always wished an art teacher wouldhave helped me to improve myformal art making skills. I want to be the teacher thatI never had. By including bothaesthetic formalism and socio/political activismwithin the same curriculum I hopeto create a curriculum that allows students to analyzeand critique issues that areimportant to them in aesthetically powerfulways.The intent of my thesis is to inquire into the liminalarea between formalism andactivism within art education. This thesis and theresearch methodology ofa/r/tography share the common philosophical approachof exploring “an in/betweenspace that exists between and among...[to create]deeper and enhanced ways ofmeaning making”(lrwin & de Cosson, 2004,p.30). Being an artist and a teacherare important aspects of my life; a/r/tography providesroom for my art andteaching to inform my research practice. Usinga/r/tography as my researchmethodology has allowed me to see connectionsbetween art/research/teachingthat enhance the meaning-making of this inquiry.P a g eI50Methodological Notes: The Method to my MadnessTwo thousand three hundred years ago Aristotle identified three kinds of activities,associated with three different types of knowledge: knowing (theoria), doing(praxis) and making (poesis). The end goal of theoria was truth. The endgoal ofpraxis was production. The end goal of poesis was action. Taken together,thesethree ways of knowing represent a hybrid process that exists in/betweentraditionalbodies of knowledge. Much more recently a movement within academiceducational inquiry has developed a methodology that encompassesa pluralistic,hybrid approach to research and knowledge-production that includes theory,teaching and art-making: “[w]ithin the field of education, arts-based researchisemerging as an inquiry tradition that reaches beyond disciplinary boundaries-creating innovative junctures among art, education and research” (Garman,Piantanida & McMahon, 2003,p.182).There are at least three indicators that arts-based researchhas become alegitimate area of scholarly inquiry. First, the growing number of researcherswhoare arguing for the inclusion of art-based research withinthe field of educationalresearch (see Barone,1995; Barone & Eisner, 1997; Diamond& Mullen, 1999;Donmoyer & Yennie-Donmoyer, 1995; Findley & Knowles, 1995; Norris, 2000;Willis, Smith, & Collins, 2000). Second a growing presence within academicjournals with a focus specifically on arts-based research; for example, the April,2003 edition of Qualitative Inquiry was devoted to exploring discussions withinarts-based research. Third, graduate level courses specifically dedicated to arts-based research shows an acceptance of such scholarly inquiry within academia;for example, in 2007 I took a graduate course at the University of BritishColumbiaentitled Contempora,yArt Practice andArts-Based Educational Research:In/forming Connections. It is from this tradition of arts-based research thata/r/tography emerged. In 2004, Rita Irwin and Alex de Cosson wrote a/r/tography:Rendering Se/f Through Arts-Based Living Inquiry. In it Irwin and de Cossonarticulated a new form of arts-based research called a/r/tography.P a g eI51Irwin connects a/r/tography to Aristotle’s threeways of knowledge: “knowing(theoria), doing (praxis) and making (poesis) arethree forms of thought that areimportant to a/r/tography...relationships betweenand among these ways ofunderstanding experience are integral to the...foundationfor a/r/tography” (Irwin etal., 2006,p.73). A/r/tography is a qualitative arts-based research methodology thatinquires into “an in-between space that exists between andamong” (Irwin & deCosson, 2004,p.28) the categories of theory/research, teaching/learningandart/making, as well as art and writing which “unite the visualand textual bycomplimenting, refuting or enhancing one another(p.31) as a way to “providespace for exploration, translation and understanding indeeper and enhanced waysof meaning making” (p. 30). By inquiring into this in/betweenspace a/r/tographyaims to move away from a modernist model of “dichotomousthinking” to a post-modern model of “dialogical thinking” (p. 30). The opening of dialogicspacescreates a relationality within a/r/tography that has been called “rhizomatic”(p.71).A rhizomatic plant such as ginger grows roots and shoots in multipledirections,thereby making multiple connections and rejecting predictablelinear progress.Therefore, the rhizome is a fitting metaphor for a/r/tography“where conceptsemerge from social engagements and encounters” (Irwinet al., 2006,p.72), whichare nonlinear and unpredictable by nature. Asa result of this, a commitment toa/r/tography is a commitment to “a way of being inthe world [that] embracesambiguity, improvisation and entertains uncertainty” (p.80). Thus, a/r/tographyis anopen methodology: open to change, open to criticism, open to new ideasand newdiscourses.Figure 19A)r/tography is living inquiry that is about self and community: “no researcherorartist or educator exists on their own [community], nor do they only existwithin aPagecommunity [self] for in fact both occur” (Irwin et al.,2006, p.77). A)r/tography isabout self-identity as an artist/researcher/teacher and how attendingto thoseidentities “alter...perceptions and actions [so that] transformative practiceemerg[es]” (Irwin & de Cosson, 2004,p.34). In this way a/r/tography hascommonalities to auto-ethnography.AIr/tographers work in communities of practice to provide “an opportunityto inquiretogether as they create deeper understanding and meaning-making”(Springgay,Irwin & Kind, 2005, p.905). Irwin et al. (2006) explain how a/r/tographersseekmeaning in communities of practice: The intelligence ofa community of practice isexponentially greater than the intelligence of any one memberof that communitybecause collaborative interactions create new ideas and concepts.This collectiveintelligence transforms individual perspectives, whichin turn transforms thecommunity of practice. As a result of this transformativepractice “a/r/tographers...are continually evolved through ... engagement withone another”(p.82).A/r/tography puts an emphasis on practice, in fact Irwinet al. (2006) callsa/r/tography theory as practice. They describe a/r/tographyas: “not merely aphysical location of object, but a process, a movement and displacementofmeaning” (p. 75). As such, a/r/tography is fluid, dynamic, within a/r/tographicresearch initial questions are formed, but the embodied, relational practiceofa/r/tography is reflexive. New questions arise from the hermeneuticcircle thatoccurs within communities of practice, resulting in new perspectivesand newquestions. A/r/tography is always in a state of becoming. It is never static,neverfinished because a/r/tography is an embodied, reflexive practice.AIr/tography’s focus is on embodied process of living inquiry that is “attentiveto thesensual, tactile and the unsaid” (Springgay et al., 2005,p.899) of the lives ofartists/researchers/teachers. In this way it has commonalitiesto action researchwhich is “a term used to describe professionals studying their ownpractice in orderto improve it. Applied to teaching, it involves gathering and interpreting “data”tobetter understand an aspect of your teaching that interests or concernsyou”Page153(Queen’s University, 2009). Springgay et al. identifysix renderings of airitography.These renderings describe how a/r/tography is enactedand represented; they areconcepts rather than methods. As Springgay et al. (2005) explain:“[c]oncepts areflexible, dynamic and inter-subjective locations throughwhich close analysisrenders new understandings and meanings”(p. 898). The renderings are notmeant to be static and separate, but are rather“visual, aesthetic, and texturalperformances that dance and play alongside each other”(p.908). “Renderingsoffer possibilities of engagement. To render, to give,to present, to perform, tobecome - offers for action, the opportunity for living inquiry” (Darts, 2004,p.82).ContiguityContiguity emphasizes the dis/connections betweenthe various roles embeddedwithin a/r/tography. Contiguity opens spaces for the “interaction and the movementbetween art and graphy so that research becomesa lived endeavor” (Springgay etal., 2005,p.901). Engagement in a/r/tography is to be attentive to the process ofresearch and be open to revisions, rewriting and rethinking. AIr/tographersresistabsolute truths and final conclusions. They are constantly ina state of not-knowing(Springgay et al., 2005). My own lived experience as anart teacher, graduatestudent and painter over the last four years resonates with contiguity. Painting,teaching and researching are never finished; they are processes tobe engaged in,not products to finish. The relationality between art, teaching andresearchenlivens and enhances the three areas of inquiry in a way that must be livedto befully understood. As Irwin & de Cosson put it “[t]hese in-between spacesaredynamic living spaces of inquiry” (2004,p.9).________P a g eI54Living InquiryIrwin & de Cosson (2004) explain that a/r/tlography isa “living practice of art,research and teaching: a living metissage; a life writing, life creating experience”(p. 28). Living inquiry postulates that research is not separate from life; rather it ispart of life. As Springgay et al. (2005) explain: “[t]hrough attentionto memory,identity, autobiography, reflection, meditation, story-telling, interpretation and/orrepresentation, artists/researchers/teachers expose their living practices inevocative ways”(p.902).The visual and textual aspects of living inquiry can inspire socially transformativeactions. Springgay et al. (2005) explain that image and text can be viewed as“interrogations with difference and contradiction that ask viewers/readerstoreexamine assumptions, destabilizing forms of identification. Some encounterswith a/r/tographical texts [can] inspire thoughiful action”(p. 903). Whilea/r/tography is a living inquiry that “engages emotional, intuitive, personal, spiritualand embodied ways of knowing” (p. 902), it does demand rigor and discipline. Artand writing come from long traditions of rigorous academic inquiry. These traditionsare present in a/r/tographic inquiry that “creates its rigor through continuousreflexivity and analysis” (p. 903).For myself, art, teaching and research are not simply my jobs, they area large partof my personal identity. I draw upon my life, my history and my experience,knowledge and values to inform my engagement with a/r/tography. For example, Ifeel narrative storytelling can deepen engagement with concepts and meaningmaking. I often tell my students stories from my own life as a way of illustratingaconcept I want them to engage in.______P a g eI55Metaphor and MetonymyMetaphor is image or text that reveals commonalitiesbetween two or more distinctsubjects. Metonymy is image or text that reveals contiguitybetween two or moredistinct subjects. Metaphor and metonymy do notseek to classify and containmeaning, instead they open up meaning to multipleinterpretations. As Springgay,Irwin, and Kind (2005) explain: “[m]etonymical meaningis not intended to closespaces with singular interpretations but instead allowsfor the ambiguity of meaningto shift in space and time”(p.904).As a former art student I am intimately familiar withthe powers of metaphor andmetonymy. The ability to generate multiple meanings through powerfulassociations is what attracts me to art. The openingup of multiple reactions,dialogues and interpretations through metaphorand metonymy creates newmeaning and knowledge that can be socially reconstructive.Sullivan argues this isconsistent with the goals of research:“the utility of research is to be the capacity tocreate new knowledge that is individually and culturally transformative”(2004,p.800). Therefore using metaphor and metonymyare effective strategies forengaging with research.The slashes in a/r/tography and aesthetic/activism havemeaning. They are“intended to divide and double a word-to makethe word mean at least two things,but often more” (Springgay et al., 2005,p.904). The spaces between art, researchand teaching suggest multiple intertextual and intratextualmeanings. “The slashmakes the terms active, relational, as they reverberate with,in and through eachother”(p.904). Aesthetics and activism in artwork inform and enhance oneanother. It can be hard to separate them. The slash betweenaesthetics andactivism is an attempt to get away from binary concepts andcall attention to themessy, entangled, liminal area between the two conceptsthat includes aestheticsandactivism, but also something more, a third space. Thespace in-betweenaesthetics and activism, this is the area of inquiry that mythesis endeavors toexplore.P a g eI56OpeningsAIr/tographic research creates conceptual openingsby “deliberately seeking outthe difficult, the unknown, the ambiguous and theunpredictable” (Springgay et al.,2005,p.905). By negotiating these difficult areas the a/r/tographerseeks theun/making and re/construction of meaning. Art-making,teaching and research canall be difficult, unknown and ambiguous. Theconcept of curriculum and currierdemonstrate the ambiguous and unpredictablenature of teaching. Curriculum isthe teachers’ lesson plan for what the teacherwants to happen in the classroomwith students. Cumer is what actually does happenin the classroom with students.By embracing the unpredictability of human interactiona teacher can be open topotentially transformative educational experiences.Openings create space for analytic and reflexivediscourse which is the source ofacademic rigour in a/rltography. Openings allowresearchers to “move within theresearch text, penetrate deeply, and to shift boundariesof perspective” (Springgayet al., 2005,p.905). They identify that openings in a/r/tographic practiceallow fornew dialogue and concepts to enrich the researchpractice as a way ofcollaborative meaning-making:Such research is situated as a conversation for understanding,asan act of negotiated meaning, and as an ongoingexchangebetween Self and Other, and between texts andimages. Thereforethe intention of the imaging/writing is not toinform-as in to giveinformation- but to open upto conversationsand relationships (p.906).ReverberationsReverberations call attention to the echoesand resonations that occur betweenteachers and students, artists and researcherswhich challenge our perspectives.David Darts explains how social and textual reverberationsalter our point of view:P a g e 57I remember sitting in Ted Aoki’s class a few yearsback anddiscussing the idea that each time we engage witha text (I amdefining text very broadly), we are changed. Thus, when we laterreturn to it or engage with another text (whatdoes it mean toconceptualize research participants as texts?), we are inevitablyviewing it (and ourselves) from a different perspective” (2004, p.85).ExcessExcess serves as “a point of rupture between absolute knowledge andsheer loss.Vacillating between conservation and destruction,excess becomes a movementtoward anything...” (Springgay et al., 2005,p.908). This notion of excess remindsme of a powerful experience I occasionally have while art-making:when I start apainting I often have a general idea in my mind of howI want the painting to turnout, usually informed or influenced by other paintings I have recentlycompleted, aswell as artwork by other artists I am currently studying. Theprocess of thinkingthrough the medium of oil paint (the act of painting) oftencauses my original ideasto change as I respond to the evolving canvas in front to me. By being opento“happy accidents” I am often surprised and pleased with the finalresult of thepainting process, but occasionally the painting process will lead medown a road offrustration, in which I feel like I am fighting with the materials.The harder I try tomake the painting work, the worse it becomes. This leads toa point of rupture,where I give up, out of frustration, and stop trying to make the painting lookgood. Itis at this point of surrender when I stop trying to make conscious aestheticandtechnical decisions that the most exhilarating and completely unpredictableresultscan occur. I find myself standing in front of a thrilling painting, yet I haveno ideahow I created it. This is my point of excess.Even though these renderings are presented as separate entities they arenotintended to exist independent from one another. They are “visual,aesthetic andtextual performances that dance and play alongside each other, reverberatinginexcess and as openings...each rendering moves alongside and betweenthe others”(Springgay et al., 2005,p.909).P a g eI58I am using the methodology of a/r/tography because it iswell suited to my researchquestions and design. A/r/tography is about self (Irwin et al., 2006).This thesis isabout challenging myself as a teacher to create socially transformativecurriculum,as an artist to re-read my own art as an inquiry into aesthetic/activismand as aresearcher to engage in a meaningful inquiry. A/r/tographyis also about community(Irwin et al., 2006). As a teacher/researcher it is my goalto create a community ofartistic practice in my classroom which is socially transformative.I try to achievethis by creating an atmosphere of mutual respect witha focus on artistic inquiry.My data collection will be done within the contextof teaching an after-school artclass. I will write field notes, take photographs, audio-recordconversations andwrite reflections as soon as each classis over. The processes of working as anartist/researcher/teacher with my students who will alsoengage inart/research/teaching will be used as a source ofdata collection. In order toevaluate the effectiveness of my curriculum inengaging students with the liminalarea between aesthetic formalism and activism Iwill conduct open endedinterviews during the course of my research as wellas at the conclusion of myresearch. Questions will be designed to ascertain ifstudents felt they increasedtheir skills and appreciation for the formal qualities oftheir artwork and the artworkof others, as well as their ability to read and understand thesocio/political contentof artwork. In addition questions will be asked that determine if studentsunderstand how the formal qualities in artworks contributeto their activist content. Iwant to design the questions in such a way that they leave spacefor students torespond in individual and authentic ways. I will audiotape theseinteractions forlater analysis. A presumption this thesis makes is that art-workscan be read asvisual texts. Through metaphor, metonym, contiguity, openingsand excess artworks can express ideas, thoughts, feeling and values. The art-workthe studentscreate in response to an analysis of visual texts over the course ofthis study will bepresented and analyzed as research data.P a g e 59Aesthetics: I started this painting with the intention of creatingan expressionistic figurative painting.The figure in the middle looked terrible, after hours ofpainting I gave up, so out of frustration, Iglued a piece of white paper overtop the figure, and scribbled on it. Suddenlythe painting worked. Ismeared some paint onto the paper, letting it drip down the canvass. Sometimeswhen I give up ona painting it suddenly improves.Activism: A flat white square (self). partially sticks into the undersideof a transparent threedimensional cube (society). While slashing diagonal paint strokes whirlaround it (nature). Thisimage is a socially relevant metaphor of the human condition,which, is open to multipleinterpretations.Figure 20Matthew BurnettThe Rising, 1997P a g eI60Aesthetics: I paint representational; however, Ido not use any visual references. I experimentextensively with mixing and layering colours, andI am often surprised and pleased with the results;but I feel not using any visual reference can lead to overly-simplifiedand uninteresting compositionand form.CAN ART BE BOTH AESTHETIC AND ACTIVIST?Activism: The earth is scorched red and brownby man-made toxic chemicals. The rivers flow aputrid yellow sludge. My painting depicts the environmentalnightmare we are headed for unless westop thinking of the earth as our collective dumping ground.C. IMatthew BurnettSunset, 2007Matthew BurnettRed, 2007Page J61The Theory and Practice of A/r/tographyI have worked as a secondary visual arts teachersince 2001. I am a teacherbecause the idea of facilitating experiences that allow my students torealize theincredible power of art is the most important workI can imagine doing. I want mystudents to create personally meaningful art and experiencethe deep satisfactionthat can result from that process. I want them tobe proud of the art they make andrealize the social importance of art. I want them to see that artis potentially themost powerful form of human expression. Based on my experience, firstas an artstudent then an art teacher, I believe a curriculum that includes both aestheticsandactivism will be effective in facilitating a personally meaningful art-makingprocess.Despite my passion for art education, in 2005 I was beginningto feel that my artteaching practice was stagnating. I was becoming bored. I felta need to enlivenand enrich my teaching. I wanted to feel excitedabout teaching art like I did when Ifirst began teaching in 2001. Going to graduate school seemed likethe best way toenhance and deepen my knowledge and involvement inart education. As agraduate student I studied art education research. I was looking fortheory thatwould inform and enrich my art teaching practice. Ibelieve I found that theory ina/r/tography. My interest in art-making, art teaching andart education research arenot unrelated. They grew out of each other and theycontinue to influence andenhance each other. AIr/tography offers the opportunityto bring art practice intoteaching and research, the ability to access creative resources foruncoveringartistic ways of knowing, and an acknowledgement that art practicecan beconsidered a form of research and the sharing of art as teaching (Bickel,2007).The reason I resonate with a/r/tography is because it utilizes whatI do already:make art, teach art and write about art. I teach, make artand write about art almostevery day. These are all forms of research. They are all manifestationsof the samecreative impulse, expressed through different mediums. Switching fromonemedium to another often helps me pass a cognitive block. When Itry to write aboutP a g eI62art education and the ideas do not flow, I simplyswitch to painting. This stimulatesmy creativity, and as I paint I think of ideasto articulate in writing. While I teach art,I often refer back to my art practice when dialoguingwith students about theircreative processes. Each activity enrichesand enhances the other. Whenconceptualizing a/r/tography I realize thatthe whole is greater than the sum of itsparts.The practice of a/r/tography createsconnections between self and others,art andteaching, teaching and research, the visualand the written. These connectionscreate new dialogues and new meanings.They create a meaningful context forartmaking. By linking art making to pedagogicalpractice and academic research artmaking becomes part of a living practicethat exists in a relational context tootherparts of life. The methodologyof a/r/tography forms the basis of my thesis. It ismygoal to contribute knowledge to a conceptthat has enlivened and enriched my artmaking, research and teaching practices.P a g e 63Chapter Four: Findings andDiscussionArt Education in the Real WorldVisual TextsThis section describes the process of teaching eightafter-school art classes toelementary students using a curriculum that inquiresinto the liminal areain/between aesthetics and activism. The students’ art-workand conversations arerepresented and analysed as research data.Class 1 of 8: October 15th2008Describing art as “visual text” implies that ideasare embedded in art that can beread by the viewer. My goal for this class is toshow students how to read a visualtext they create, in preparation for reading the visualtext of Penhall andBurtynsky. Pictures and words are different formsof communication; therefore,the process of constructing information from themwill be different. Images oftensuggest multiple interpretations though metaphorand metonym. Images oftenexpress connotative, rather than denotative meaning. I wantto students toexperience how visual text can open many interpretivepathways.I demonstrated to the students howpaying attention to shapes, shadows andforms can result in visually realistic drawings. Withguided practice the studentsdrew realistic eyes, mouths and noses. I discussed theidea of“inter/connectedness” with the students. lnter/connectednessrecognizes that allworld cultures and religions contain an idea that everythingin the universe is one,and separation is an illusion. I suggested that attendingto this idea would preventall sorts of conflicts in the world, both at the national(wars) level and personal(arguments) level.P a g eI64I gave each student a 1/12 section of a drawing of an old man’s face set inchiaroscuro and instructed them to draw the image they saw onto a larger piece ofpaper. Some of the sections looked like abstract shapes of black and white whileothers were recognizable parts of an eye or nose. The students copied them usingcharcoal and erasers onto letter sized paper. I showed them the additive andsubtractive method of drawing. This involves adding black marks with charcoal andthen adding white marks with the eraser. This became quite messyas studentsplayed with the intensely rich blacks that charcoal can create. We then pinned thestudents’ drawings to the wall to create a huge face, with beautifully dramatic lightand shadow. I wanted the students to see this as an amazingly aesthetic drawing,and a metaphor for the concept of social inter/connectedness.Figure 23Collaboratively created faceStudents of Matthew Burnett’s afterschool art class2008P a g eI65I presented the following ideas:• When we work together, we achieve something wonderful that noneof uscould have predicted or accomplished by ourselves (community building).• Our differences (drawing styles and abilities) are our strength becausetheycreated an amazing drawing (celebrating diversity).• Our art making connects all of us in a mutually beneficial way (collaborativeart-making).As I discussed these ideas I couldsee the students nodding in agreement, but I amnot sure they were internalizing the concepts. They seemedwell trained to bepolite and agree with whatever their teacher says, ratherthan critically engagingwith issues. This is the teacher’s dilemma: when there are25 squirming bodies inyour classroom it makes a teachers job easier ifstudents obey orders withoutquestion, but the basis for education ina democracy is critical inquiry. How does ateacher retain orderly control necessary forsafety while encouraging students toproblematize normative practices? I am hoping the engagements with visualtexts Ifacilitate will open dialogic spaces and allow studentsto come to a greater criticalunderstanding of art and activism.Art can tell stories, challenge stereotypes, reveal hidden truths, or makepoliticalstatements. Art is not politically neutral, it is a visual language.Many researchersuse politically engaged art as an entry point to socially reconstructive curricularexperiences (Kumashiro, 2004; Knight, 2006; Aoki, 2005; Ulbricht,2003; Gude,2007; Giroux, 1992; Bamett, 2008; Freedman, 2003; Darts,2004). Teachingstudents to view visual texts critically is important because “much contemporaryculture has become visual. Global culture is rapidly shiftingfrom text-basedinformation to image saturation” (Freedman, 2003,p.86). If visual texts are thepredominate medium of communication in society, thenusing images as a vehicleP a g eI66to facilitate student inquiry into socially relevant issuesis essential to educationalpractices.Students need to become visually literate in orderto engage with art in meaningfulways. Students need to be taught howto read and critique visual text so they canexperience both the aesthetics and the socio/politicalcontent of artworks. Do wereally want to restrict the analysis of art to line, form,shape and repetition?Class 2 of 8. October 22, 2008I will use the work of two Canadian landscapeartists as central visual texts to enacta curriculum that inquires into the liminal area betweenformalism and activism. Ihave chosen these visual texts because my own artpractice is primarily concernedwith landscape that is “aesthetic/activist”, the art clearlyembodies both formalistand activist concerns and the research subjectshave easy access to the originalartworks.Ross Penhall is a North Vancouver landscape painterwho creates soft, utopianlandscapes that express the beauty of natural formswhich have been manipulatedby the hand of man. “Ross Penhall.. .is widely recognizedfor his carefullycomposed and vibrant imagery depicting man’s intersectionwith the land. Hisstylized forms resonate with inviting spaces” (MacDonald, 2005). WhilePenhall’simages show landscape that has been tamed byhuman activity, his images nevershow humans or any man-made objects, giving his picturesa quietness that can besoothing for city dwellers accustomed to jack hammers and police sirens.As a painter I recognize the “joy of art-making” inhis images. The sensual qualityof colours, the thickly applied paint and the painterlytechnique, which allows thebrushstrokes to remain visible all point to a profoundenjoyment of the process ofpainting. Since most art students will not become criticallyacclaimed, financiallysuccessful artists it is this joy of art-making that mustbe nurtured in the classroom,so it can sustain student’s art making efforts. An art teacher’s attitudetowards artP a g eI67can either nourish or destroy the pleasure of art making in students. Themosteffective way I know of teaching students the joy of art-making isby allowing themto see the happiness I get from making art.Ross Penhall lives and works in the same neighbourhood that my studentsdo.Therefore, his art often depicts local scenes my students would havepersonallyexperienced themselves, thereby creating embodied meaning forthe subjects.Penhall’s work is the ideal visual text to use as a catalyst for an inquiryintoformalism because of his strong use of intense colours and simplified shapestocreate well constructed compositions. His work is also ideal as a foil fortheanalysis of more critical and politically confrontational work.Figure 24Ross Penhall, 2006P a e 68While Penhall’s paintings offer apositive image of manicured landscapes,photographs by Canadian artist Edward Burtynsky’soffer an aestheticallyseductive view of dystopia. The main themeof his work is ‘hature transformed byindustry” (Burtynsky, 2004,p.3). While the viewer is drawn into the rich visualdetail, highly saturated colours and carefullyconstructed compositions of hisshattered landscapes that referencefine art conventions. The viewermay also besimultaneously repulsed by the real environmentalnightmare depicted. Whileaesthetically beautiful, Burtynsky’s work raisesquestions about the sustainabilityofour consumer based society. As weenjoy the products of industry the earth isbeing transformed into a post-apocalypticlandscape. Viewed within thissocio/political context, Burtynsky’swork serves as an effective starting pointfor astudent inquiry into environmental issues.In further contrast to Penhall’s work,Burtynsky’s subjects are international, notlocal. For example some of his photosare of the Three-Gorges Damproject in China.Figures 25 and 26: Ross Penhall, 2005Edward Burtynsky, 2003P a g eI69The study of these contrasting visual texts willbe used as the mechanism forstudents to inquire into issues of pollution, globalawareness, socio/politicalactivism, the politics of image, artistically constructedtruth, and formalism throughdialogue, writing and image making.I took the students to the gallery space wherethe Ross Penhall painting andEdward Burtynski photograph are located. Thestudents sat down in front of thePenhall, and I started asking questionsto initiate the reading of the visual text:Figure 27Edward Burtynsky, 2003• .‘•••Ross Penhall, 2005P a g eI70What colours do you see?Are the colours warm or cool?Would you want this to be your backyard?Have you ever seen a place that looks like this?Does this place look friendly or dangerous?How does this painting make you feel?If this painting told a story, what would it say?How has the artist simplified the shapes?Does this show beauty?The answers of my students ranged from noticing the warm colours and claiming tobe able to hear the waves, to saying “I don’t like the painting because I hatehiking”, “It looks dangerous” and “My parents have a painting like that!”I then turned the students’ attention to the Edward Burtynski image and continuedto ask questions, this time inquiring into the political message as well astheaesthetics:P a g eI71Figure 29Edward Burtynsky, 2003Why would someone take a photo of all these tires?Why would someone want to look at this?Is this beautiful or ugly, or both?How does the artist feel about garbage?What does this photo tell us about garbage?How would you feel if you saw this in yourcommunity?Is this art? Why?Does this place look friendly or dangerous?Where do you think this is?One student acknowledged the aesthetically seductivequality in the image: “I lovethis photograph because there is an amazing amountof detail in this photo. Itmakes you want to look at it.” I asked the student ifshe thought it was a beautifulimage. She replied “Yes, but not in the usual way. It is garbage,so it’s meant toP a g eI72make you think about how peoplepollute so much.” I asked her why an artist wouldcreate a beautiful image of such anugly scene. Her answer revealed anunderstanding of the inter/relationship betweenaesthetics and activism. Sheexplained: “The artist made it beautifulso people would look at it, like at all thedetails in it. No one will look at somethingthat isn’t interesting. Once people arelooking at it they will think about all thegarbage and pollution in the world.” Herstatement shows that some upper elementaryaged children are able toconceptualize the relationality between aestheticsand activism in visual texts.We walked back to our classroom.I gave the students various images, somebyBurtynski, showing how industry transforms/destroysthe earth and some by theCanadian “Group of 7” artists showing the raw beautyof Canadian wilderness. Iasked the students to classify the work as showingeither “images that show howpeople destroy the earth” or “images thatshow how wonderful the world is”.This started a dialogue about how weboth hurt and help the earth. This is exactlywhat I wanted. One student commentedthat “schools are landscaped with treesand bushes, to make them more beautiful, butsome people throw garbage on theground, making it ugly”. Another student said“a banana peel is litter, because itlooks bad, but it isn’t because it doesn’t hurt theearth. Cars are the real litter,because they do hurt the earth” One student noticeda contradiction in Burtynski’swork: “it shows garbage, so we are supposed tofeel bad, but the garbage lookssodetailed and beautiful, so I like it”. Another studentexpressed another contradiction“if this was in my front yard [pointing to the Burtynskitires image] I would think it’shorrible, but because it is a cool photograph, Ilike it”. I was glad the visual text Iselected opened dialogic spacefor the students to express complex thoughts andconcerns about environmental issues and aesthetics.Their comments foreshadowthe next experience I want to facilitate with them: Toturn garbage into art in orderto inquire into the aesthetic, political and social intersectionsof art and activism.P a g eI73Class 3 of 8: October 29, 2008The next class I gave the students some cardboard, newspapers andmagazines tocreate the ground for the image they will create. The students will expresstheirideas about the intersection of art and activism in responseto the dialoguegenerated by Penhall’s and Burtynski’s images. Theprocess of transforminggarbage into art will be used to start conversationsabout the nature of aesthetics,political activism and multiple meanings in visual text.I explained to the studentsthat they will be “creating an art-work that expresses eithertheir ideas about howpeople can make the world better or their ideas about problems that maketheworld not nice to live in”. The students glued cardboard,newspaper and magazinestogether to create a rich multi-layered, textual ground for painting. Ipointed out thatmany of the magazines they were including in theirgrounds had “found text”, andthat they could intentionally include text that expressed their artisticandenvironmental concerns.Figure 30Before the students started their final painting they did some art exercisesthat Ihave found invaluable for building technical art making skills. Thefirst activityinvolves cutting out a small piece of paper from a magazinethat has a fragment ofa photo on it. The student then tries to replicate the coloursand composition of thephoto fragment through painting. The fragments are abstract coloursand shapes,so students can focus entirely on technique without being concerned withpictorialrealism. Next, the students painted a sphere, cube orcylinder using highlights andP a g e 74shadows to create the illusion of three-dimensionalmass. While these activities donot engage the activist, or even creative aspectsof art, they allow the student tobuild some confidence with art supplies and techniques.I demonstrated how to mix colours to create light, shadowand details, how to use apaintbrush for wet on wet and wet on dry effectsand how to compose an imageusing the rule of thirds. At the end of the class wetalked about the artist as activist:Q: We are painting on cardboard, magazines and newspapers, so weare changinggarbage into art. Why is this important? Why don’t wejust paint on paper?A: It’s recycling. It’s helping the environment. Weare doing the opposite ofpolluting. I’m in the environmental club at school, werecycle, reuse and reduce.Q: Good. Would you say that the art we are making here is doing that?A: Yes.Q: Any other ideas about why we are using garbage to make art?A: If we painted on canvass or paper,we would be spending money and creatingmore garbage by using new materials.Q: Do you think art is just about decoration or can art be about somethingelse?A: Art can be about expressing ideas, like in this projectwe are showing what wewant or don’t want the world to be.Q: Do you think that as artists you can improve the world?A: Most student nod the affirmative, one studentsays “no”.P a g eI75Q: (To the student who said no) Why do you think an artist can not improve theworld?A: Because this art will eventually become garbage, and wehave to dump out ourpaint water.“If writing is thinking expressed in words, then art is thinking expressed in pictures”(Grauer, 2005,p.113).Class 3 of 8: November 5, 2007Art making is often an intuitive, aesthetic process that createsmeaning throughmetaphor, metonym, contiguity, openings and connotative meaning. I wanted thestudents to inquire into the ideas embedded within the images theycreatedthrough a discursive process, so I asked each studentto write one paragraph toexplain how their art-work expresses the ideas of utopia or dystopia in relationtotheir personal values. I hoped the students would “inquireinto the world throughan ongoing process of art making in any art-form and writingnot separate orillustrative of each other but interconnected and woventhrough each other tocreate additional and/or enhanced meanings” (Irwin, 2008).The processes of artmaking and writing creates a hermeneutic circle in which the studentexpressesideas through the aesthetics of art, which informs what thestudent writes, whichcan transform the meaning of the artwork. Grauer explains this: “Byusing theunique aspects of knowing represented by visual as wellas verbal thinking,children have the opportunity to experience deeper and richerforms ofcommunicating their ideas and to appreciate these capacities in others” (Grauer;2005,p.112). Writing about their art encourages students to not only analyse theiraesthetic choices, but to explore the ideas, values and meaningexpressed throughthose choices.Page176Classes 4 to 8 of 8: November 12-December10, 2008The final five classes were studio classes. Studentsworked on their art-work and Iassisted with aesthetic and technical decision making.These studio classes wereabout artistic process. This is what Irwin refersto as a “community of practice”a/r/tographers work in communities of practice to provide“an opportunity to inquiretogether as they create deeper understanding andmeaning-making” (Irwin et al.,2006,p.77). Art-making can be an intensely private activity;however, while art-making in a classroom filled with students whoare also art-making dialogic spacesopen up that allow students to collaboratively problemsolve aesthetic andconceptual problems, which may leadto deeper levels of artistic inquiry. Forexample, I overheard students discussing howto mix paint colours together inorder to achieve atmospheric perspective. I alsonoticed students sitting in closeproximity to each other selected similar subjectmatter. Three boys sitting at thesame table all painted mountainous landscape images.Their conversationsrevolved around how mountains are metaphorsfor utopia. The community ofpractice in my classroom seemed to inform eachstudent’s artistic process, which inturn informed the community of practice.Most conversations that I engaged in with studentswere concerned with aestheticdecision making that would be consistentwith their personal expression of utopiaor dystopia. This focus on the craft of art-makingled me to consider theories ofartistic development. Should I be teaching visualrealism as the logical endpoint toart education? How do I teach artistic thinking?Is there a universal criterion forartistic skill? Answering these questionsis important for two reasons. Firstly, myresearch is concerned with aesthetic formalism,and the artistic development ofchildren primarily deals with how childrenaesthetically engage with art-making atvarious developmental stages. Secondly,one role imbedded in the methodology ofa/r/tography is art teacher and as an art teacherI want to facilitate a process ofartistic development in my students.P a g e 77Anna Kindler (2004) has inquired into notionsof children’s artistic development.She critiques the idea that visual realism shouldbe the endpoint to art education:“[t]he ability to achieve mastery in pictorial realismis neither a necessary norsufficient condition for artistic success. Technicalproficiency has proven redundantin some manifestations of art”(p.233). A survey of contemporary as wellas non-Western artworks demonstrates the “redundancyof pictorial realism” in some art-making practices; therefore pictorial realism cannotbe used as the singularendpoint to art education. Kindler proposes a modelof multiple endpoints to artisticdevelopment. Wolf and Perry (1988) suggesta system of artistic developmentbased on a child acquinng multiple drawing systemsthat form a pictorial repertoire:.development in drawing consists of a growthin pictorialrepertoires as well as an evolution and improvementwithin each ofthe drawing systems.. .The ability to use the mostrecent, newlyacquired system is less relevant then the abilityto select fromamong the attained choices a system thatbest matches a specificpictorial task (p. 19).I used this notion of developing pictorial repertoiresto guide my interactions withmy students. The “specific pictorialtask” of creating a personal vision of utopia ordystopia determined the criteria for makingaesthetic choices. Pictorial realism wasnot necessarily desirable. For examplea student who was focusing on the notion ofdystopia was painting the sinking of the Titanic. I assistedhim in selecting colours,designing a composition and creating a brushstrokethat would express violentmovement and impending death. This aestheticstyle could be calledexpressionism, which could be considereda drawing system within the pictorialrepertoire of an art student.The notion of artistic development canbe applied to more than aesthetics. A#istIcthinking can be considereda determinate in artistic development as well. Kindlerexplains:If the meaning and the message in art can be regardedas equallyor, at times, even more important than the form,then a questionPage178regarding developmental pathways guidinggrowth in “artisticthinking” becomes central to the concept of“development in art”(2004,p.244).In relation to this study, the notion ofdevelopment in artistic thinking appliestostudents conceptualizing utopia and dystopia withinthe context of their personalvalue system and expressing those ideasthrough the medium of visual art. I haveendeavoured to facilitate a growth in artistic thinkingby opening dialogic spaceswithin the classroom that attendto the expression of ideas in artwork, specificallythe ideas of utopia and dystopia. A few of the studentsmade comments thatsuggested they had perceived art asbeing merely decorative before this inquiry;for example, in reference to a Penhallpainting one student said “I like the wayitlooks, but it doesn’t mean anything,it just looks cool”. However, once I introducedthe concept of art as visual text that expressesideas that can be read, most ofthestudents seemed capable of reading metaphoricalmeaning in artworks.I do not believe there is there a universal criterionfor artistic skill. Art is a vast andheterogeneous domain; therefore, any notionof artistic skill needs to be situatedwithin a specific social/political/aestheticcontext. Kindler’s critique of singleendpoint models of artistic developmentand proposal for a model based onmultiple drawing systems that forma pictorial repertoire seem consistent withmyview of a diverse art-world.P a g eJ79I like peacefulthings. Likea swan inthe middleof the lake.It’s like noone isbothering you,no homework,so you canfeel good.I like to paintthings thatarerelatedto nature. Idon’t like toput in a lotof detail. Ilike to keepthings simple.SometimesI like to drawthingsthat aren’t evenreal. I justmake themup.-Elizabeth(name changedfor confidentiality)Figure 32My subject iswar. My artshows a terribleworld. Myart shows whatpeople feellikeduring war.If war doesn’tstop it mightend the entireworld. Thecolours Iused(grey, brownyellow),show the darknessof war. I don’tknow if mypainting willmake peoplerealize howbad war is.Figure 31-Conner (namechanged forconfidentiality)P a g eI80My painting is about a peaceful sunset. Iput the tree and the cloud in it because itlooks good. My painting shows my bestworld.-Meagan (name changed for confidentiality)Figure 34My art shows the perfect world. It’s a worldwhere everything is natural, wereeverything is free in the wild. No cities, car or pollution.A horse represents freelyrunning in the wild. Horses are big andstrong. They are natural, and that isimportant, not like cars that are also bigand strong but they pollute. Horses makeme feel calm and relaxed. They are just themselves.They can run faster thanhumans. I think a horse is a symbol of freedom. I think art canopen people’s mindsand make them think about how we could changethe world to make it better.Figure 33-Trish (name changed for confidentiality)P a g eI81I painted a sunset, mountains, a waterfall. Myart shows the best world I imagine. Ididn’t paint any houses or roads because I thinkthe world should be more natural.-Ryan (name changed for confidentiality)I started with collage, then added plants and designs.It shows a garden, like theone in my house back in Mexico. Gardens are alive,but they are controlled byhumans. Being in a garden makes me feel happy. Itis a way people can be withnature. I like pictures more than words. Picturesdescribe things better. They aremore real. Pictures have more information. Theycan be more emotionalFigure 35Figure 36-Kim (name changed for confidentiality)P a g e 82Figure 37My art shows the perfect world where everythingis free in the wild. No cities, carsor pollution. Most of my colours are bright. Everythingis natural. We really shouldstart recycling because we have too much garbage,like that photo of tires (EdwardBurtynsky) you showed us. At schoolthe teachers talk to us about the environmentand recycling , but not about how art canchange the world.I like my painting because it looks beautiful.My art means a nice sweet world. Itmakes me happyFigure 38-Bosco (name changed for confidentiality)P a g e 83Figure 39My picture shows the Titanic sinking ina storm. This is the terrible thing thathappened. Many people died. This shows my worstworld.-Simon (name changed for confidentiality)Figure 40My art shows abnormal tanks that firetoast. It shows how war feels, terrible.-Aaron (name changed for confidentiality)P a g eI84Figure 41I like my painting because it looks beautiful.I like the nature. Mountains are betterthan cities because they are quiet.-Peter (name changed for confidentiality)Figure 42My art says a perfect world.My picture is peaceful floating in thedeep water.-Susan (name changed for confidentiality)kJP a ej85Figure 43Matthew BurnettUtopia 2009During the eight week period when I taughtthe after-school art class I also workedon my own painting in my studio, removed fromthe educational context of theclassroom. It was based on a painting I had seen in Germany.My oil painting is alarge diptych, measuring three feet high by six feet long.I became intenselyinvolved with the painting process, spending manyhours on its production. When Iwas finished there were three to four layers ofpaint on the surface of the canvass. Iwas not actively thinking about the conceptof utopia while in the painting process.However, when I looked at my painting withinthe context of my students’ paintingsI was struck by the realization that I had created my versionof utopia. Like many ofmy students expressed in their artist’s statements, I lovebeing in wilderness areas,away from the noise and pollution of the city. Hiking, camping,mountain biking androck climbing have a therapeutic effect on me. I feelthat my paintingcommunicates this. I do not think art needsto be confrontational to be activist. MyP a g eI86image is activist because it can remind me, and perhaps other people, of what istruly enjoyable and worthwhile in life and as a result attitudesand behaviours canbe transformed. My aesthetic approach to activism reminds me of something JuanCarlos Castro said to me about how he would prefer to engagewith ideas in art-works: “I’d rather be seduced then assaulted” (personal communication, April,2007).Exhibiting Students’ Artwork: The Big ShowAbout two weeks after the final art class, a student art exhibition was heldtoshowcase all of the artwork made in the various after school classesthat are heldat the AFK facility. By increasing the audience of student artwork via a student artexhibition, the importance and influence of student art can also increase: “[w]henart is presented outside of the classroom or school it can also act as a means ofeducating a wider audience and increasing the visibility and importance placed onstudent art” (Blatherwick, 2005, p.129).At the art exhibition the students were excited to show their friends and family theart they had made and to enthusiastically explain how they made it and themeaning of their art. Student exhibitions create dialogic spaces allowing student artto “become a catalyst for reflection, discussion and interpretation” (Blatherwick,2005,p.129).As I looked around the exhibition room where the parents and childrenwerebuzzing with energy as they responded and reflected on the student artwork, Irealized: this is what it is all about. Children need to exhibit theirart to a wideaudience so they can feel pride and if child art is to be valued in society,it needs tobe exhibited to a wide audience. Both Children and society benefit by suchexhibitions.P a g e 87Freedman & Stuhr (2004) explains how student artexhibitions can be a form ofsocial activism: “from [the perspective of student art exhibitions],artistic productionis valued in part, because it has the power to influence, and anyone,includingstudents, can work to initiate social and personal change through thevisual culturethey produce” (p. 90).I interviewed a small group of students during the opening receptionto see if thepublic exhibition of their artwork altered their perception of the roleofaesthetic/activism in society:So now that your work is on display show do you feel?Great! This is cool!More people can see our art this way. I ilke itDo you think people understand the ideas in your artwork?They might not understand it iftheyjust look atthe painting, but they woulddefinitely understand it ifthey read our artist statements.I told myparents what my art is about so they didn’t even needto read my artiststatement.The artist statement is part ofthe art, so everyoneshould read itDo you think your art may make people think about the ideasin your artwork, likethe ways we can make the world a better place?Some people might look at our art, but not care aboutthat stuff I think it dependson ifthey are into that stuffanyway./ see some peoplejust quickly walking by the artMaybe they don’t care.P a g eI88/ don’t know.How can we change the world to make it theway it looks in your artwork?People have to stop polluting and start recycling./ think c/ties will always be dirty, crowdedplaces. WhenI grow up I want to live inthe country, where things are natural and free, ilke in mypainting.It already exists,wejust have to go there.We recycle all ourpop cans at school, so there isless garbage, but I think there willalways be some garbage.There is garbage is some places and not others,ifyou don’t wantgarbage, don’tlook at it.Do you think art shows like this can change the world?I think making these paintings got us thinkingaboutpollution and war, soit couldmake us change the way we do things. lguess that is changingthe world.I don’t think so. People will look at our art, but it doesn’t change anything.It mIght make people think to pick up garbage and not litter.Have you ever seen art that makes you think about things?Before /just thought about art as decoration, to lookgood, butyougot us to thinkabout the ideas in art. / never thought about that before. Art canbe about how wecan make the world better. Bypainting and writing we think about itmore, and thatcan change things.P a g eI89The process of art-making, talking and writing caused the studentsto reflect on andexternalize their beliefs about the intersection of aesthetics and activism. Thiscreated new awareness and new ideas. The students can now express theiropinions about socio/political activism with some confidence; however,they seemreluctant to admit their art work could act as a catalyst for wider socialtransformation. Some of their comments seem to revealan attitude that someaspects of the world are unchangeable: “I think cities will always be dirty, crowdedplaces. I think there will always be some garbage”. Others are cautiously optimisticabout meaningful activism starting with themselves: “I think making these paintingsgot us thinking about pollution and war, so it could make us change the way we dothings. I guess that is changing the world”.Overall I think the art exhibition allowed the students to experience how theirartistically expressed concepts can generate large dialogic spaces where theirideas are treated as serious issues that deserve attention froma wide audience. Iwould like to extend this study to further engage students withaesthetic/activism.Creating a permanent mural or organizing a direct action activitylike “Buy NothingDay” or a shoreline clean-up afternoon could extend the concept ofaesthetic/activism into other areas of inquiry; however, as is the natureof afterschool art classes, time runs out quickly and no further action ispossible with thisgroup of children.Analysis of the DataMy goal was to construct a curriculum that inquires into the area in/betweenactivism and aesthetics. I used Ross Penhall’s paintings and Edward Burtynsky’sphotos as central visual texts because their work exists within the liminalarea Iwanted to explore. I facilitated an inquiry into Penhall and Burtynsky’s work with mystudents by asking them to respond to the artwork through drawing, writing andtalking. We then discussed how to express utopia (Penhall) anddystopiaP age 90(Burynsky) through the production of visual texts. The students createdpainting/collages that conveyed their personal vision of utopia or dystopia usingboth written and visual text. The students also wrote artist statements to explaintheir artistic creations.I taught the class that also served as my research site, took field notesandphotographs, audio-taped conversations and wrote reflections after each class wasover. I used the students’ art and artists statements as researchdata; in addition, Icreated my own artistic inquiry into the notion of utopia. I was cognisant during theresearch practice of using the methodology of a/r/tography. This included activelyworking as an artist, teacher and researcher, while being awareof how attending tothose identities “alter...perceptions and actions [so that] transformative practiceemerg[es]” (Irwin & de Cosson, 2004,p.34). I also tried to create a community ofpractice with my students by opening dialogic spaces that allowedstudents “anopportunity to inquire together as they create deeper understanding and meaning-making” (Irwin et al., 2006,p.77) through the analysis and production of visualtexts that investigate personally meaningful social issues.After the course was over I looked at the art-work created, read and re-readthestudents artists statements, and listened to the audio-recordings ofmyconversations with the students. During the course of reviewing all thedata sixthemes emerged. While I am hesitant to say they provide a comprehensive andcomplete analysis of what happened in this inquiry, they encapsulatewhat Ilearned during the research process from my subjective perspectiveas anartist/researcher/teacher inquiring into the concept of aesthetic/formalismwithin aclass of students/community of practice. These six themes are set out belowP a g eI91First Theme: The student/subjects desireto conform to the dominant discourse inthe classroom, as constructed by me within the roleof their teacher.Sometimes during this study, when the students and Iwere engaged inconversations that addressed utopia, dystopia, reading visualtexts andaesthetic/activism, I had a feeling some studentswere trying to guess what Iwanted them to say. Some students acted as ifthere was one correct answer to myquestions and they wanted to answer with the “correct” answer.When we were inthe AFK gallery I asked the studentsa series of questions that were designed tofacilitate a critical reading of the visual texts. When I askeda student the question“[w]hy do you think Ross Penhall does not includepeople in his paintings?” Theanswer the student gave was phrased as a question,as if he was asking if hisanswer was the correct one: “[bjecause he wantsto show how peaceful nature is?”This concern with finding the “correct answer”runs counter to the waysa/r/tographers make meaning and create knowledge. AIr/tographerscan makemeaning when individuals or communities engage with art,writing and teachingthrough the concepts of metaphor, metonym,openings, reverberations, excess,contiguity and living inquiry, which rely on personaland relational ways of knowingand meaning-making, that are subjective and situatedwithin a specific embodiedcontext. Knowledge is socially constructed within acommunity of practice.AIr/tographers do not seek an objective, universaltruth that exists independent ofcontext. The idea of an objectively correct answer is not congruentwith the natureof a/r/tography.Why do some students think there is only onecorrect response when asked for apersonal interpretation of artwork? Some teachingand evaluation practices ineducational contexts require students to select one correctanswer from a list ofincorrect answers. I have taught in schools within thesame community in whichthis research into aesthetic/activism takes place. In someof these schoolsstandardized high-stakes tests are used to evaluatestudent learning. Some ofthese tests rely heavily on multiple choice questions,which can lead students toP a g e 92believe that they need to find theone “correct” answer. When I asked thestudentsin this study if they were requiredto perform in high-stakes multiple choice teststenout of twelve of them said yes.I believe the existence of evaluationmethods that require students to memorizeand reproduce information that is regardedas objective twth creates an imperativefor students to have the opportunityto experience alternative methods of meaning-making and knowledge constructionthat do not rely on memorization andreproduction of facts. A/r/tography offers an embodied,personal, relational andartistic method of knowledge constructionthat may represent a more personallymeaningful method of learning thenthe memorization/evaluation methodused insome schools that I have taught in.Second Theme: Some students/subjectshad the confidence to express theirpersonal, subjective values when analysingand producing ariworks.While some students displayeda desire to conform to the dominant classroomdiscourse as presented by the teacher, other studentsexpressed individualopinions that ran counter to thedominant discourse of the classroom, whichwasconstructed by me as the teacher. Forexample, I presented Ross Penhall’slandscape paintings that include an imageof rocky cliffs and the ocean as a visionof utopia. Most students agreed with thisinterpretation, but Kim disagreed: “I don’tlike the painting because I hatehiking; it looks dangerous”. I always supportedthiskind of personal meaning-making by encouragingstudents to express theirsubjective interpretation as well as askingthe students to explain theirinterpretation. Meaning in artwork is socially constructedby the people engagingwith the art-work; therefore the meaning ofan image is not an unchangeable,permanent construct, it is fluid, dynamicand subjective. My research suggeststhatupper elementary aged children are ableto engage with meaning-making whenanalysing art-work by refuting or concurring withthe dominant discourse that ispresented in the classroom by the teacher.____P a çj eI93Third Theme: Most students demonstrated an appreciation forthe aesthetic andtherapeutic qualities of natural environments unaffectedby the corrupting influenceof human activity.“Nature unaffected by human activity” emergedas a dominate theme in all ninestudents who identified their images as utopia. Three of those nine imagesincluded animals. When asked to explain their choice of imagery the studentsuseddescriptors such as “peaceful”, “beautiful”, “free”and “natural”. This seems torepresent a high value placed on the aesthetic of naturalforms and low valueplaced on the aesthetic of human built forms as wellas an appreciation for thenature of animals. When I asked students about their choiceto include animals intheir visions of utopia, some students expressed theirappreciation for what theyperceived as the “natural” qualities of animals as wellas their symbolic meaning.One student stated the following:A horse represents freely running in the wild. Horses are big andstrong. They are natural, and that is important, not like cars that arealso big and strong but they pollute. Horses make me feel calm andrelaxed. They are just themselves. They can run faster thanhumans. I think a horse is a symbol of freedom.While the students investigated the aesthetics of trees, mountains andoceansthrough painting and collages, they also alluded to thesocially activist role of theseimages. One student linked nature unaffected by humanactivity to socialtransformation: “I think the world would be a betterplace if there weren’t anyhouses, roads or pollution. Everything can be natural andfree. That’s what I wantto show in my art”. Some students also felt that nature can havea calming effect onpeople, as opposed to city life, which can cause stress,as one female student putit: “I like peaceful things. Like a swan in the middle of the lake. It’s like noone isbothering you, no homework, so you can feel good”.Page194Why did most students paint images of the naturalenvironment, includingmountains, sunsets, rivers, trees and animalsto express their vision of utopia?Wilson and Wilson (1985) argue that children’s visuallanguage is strictly sociallyacquired: “...all images created by children.. .can be tracedback to pre-existingschemata that are socio-culturally shared”(p.243). If the dominant images in thestudents’ artwork are culturally acquired, where are theyacquiring them from?Some students may have used the artwork in their homesas source images fortheir artwork. For example, when analysing a landscapepainting by Ross Penhall,one student shared: “[m]y parents have a painting likethat!” Another source maybe the local natural environment. The communitywhere this study is located is invery close proximity to several mountains, whichare popular recreation areas forfamilies. The ocean is also in close proximityto the community. Therefore it ispossible the students are using the natural environmentthat surrounds theircommunity as an imagery source. The images createdby the students may havebeen influenced by the art-work I presented to themas representative of theconcept of utopia. The painting I presented by Penhalldepicts trees, the ocean anda mountainous landscape. Penhall lives in the same community that thisstudytakes place in. His paintings depict landscape thatis representative of theenvironment surrounding the community, so there couldbe an interestingoverlapping of imagery sources for the students’ art-work,since their naturalenvironment and the visual text we analysed exists incontiguity to each other.Much contemporary activist art education focuseson bringing attention to theatrocities of modern life: (Chalmers & Desai, 2007;Darts, 2004; Brown, 2007;Freedman & Stuhr, 2004). In contrastto this, nine out of twelve subjects engagedwith art activism by creating images that offer a positiveview of a more “natural”future as a method to inspire positive personal and societalchange, rather thancritique social and political problems. This positive engagementwith activism wasunexpected, but may indicate a new area of inquiry. Perhaps positiveactivismcould be a new direction of art education research andpractice. If aesthetic!activism is to be transformational, then students needto engage with an inspiring“future vision” to work towards, as opposedto critiquing socio/political problemsP a g eI95like war, violence, homelessness and crime whichchildren may not be emotionallyprepared to inquire into.Fourth Theme: Some students did use art-makingas a vehicle to engage withsociolpolitical problems.Three out of twelve students’ choseto critique social problems. Two focused on thehorrors of war and one inquired into the man-madedisaster of the sinking of theTitanic. All three students were boys who weresitting at the same table for theduration of the study. They seemed to really enjoytalking about war, guns andtanks; however; their comments reveal anunderstanding of the real devastationwar can bring:“[mly subject is war. My art shows a terrible world. My art showswhat people feel like during war. Ifwar doesn’t stop it might end the entire world”.While these three students were confident expressingtheir intentions, when askedif their art could be a catalyst for social changethere was a variety of opinions:“I don’t know, maybe”.“I think making these paintings got us thinking about pollution and war,so it couldmake us change the way we do things. I guess thatis changing the world”.“I don’t think so. People will look at our art, but itdoesn’t change anything”.While the students were reluctant to admit theirart-work could be the catalyst ofsocietal transformation, their art-work was the catalyst for personaltransformationas evidenced by their choice to articulate their fears of warand violence throughimage production and textual information. Thereforethis study allowed students toopen dialogic and contemplative spaces that address realsocial issues.P a g e 96Fifth Theme: The student/subjectsdemonstrated an understanding ofaesthetic/activism in artworksDoes the students’ work engage withaesthetic/activism? While the art-makingprocess is inherently aesthetic,the students were also thinking through themedium of art, as evidenced in theirartist statements. They seemed awaretheywere creating visual texts thatexpressed their ideas and feelings about whatwaswrong with the world and how we canimprove it. Some of the comments fromthestudents reveal that the experience of inquiringinto ideas about societal changewithin a community of practicewas an individually transformational experience:“Ithink making these paintingsgot us thinking about pollution and war, so it couldmake us change the way we do things.I guess that is changing the world”.A curriculum that inquires into the conceptof aesthetic/activism is about exploringthe rhizomatic relationality in/betweenaesthetics and activism; it is about howaesthetics and activism are inter/related, en/tangledand inter/twined. A curriculumthat explores aesthetics and activismas separate concepts will not achievethis. Ibelieve the comments of one studentreveal an understanding of the rhizomaticconcept of aesthetic/activism:Before I just thought about art as decoration,to look good, but yougot us to think about the ideas in art. I never thoughtabout thatbefore. Art can be about how we can makethe world better. Bypainting and writing we think about it more,and that can changethings.The comments of this student revealan understanding of how concepts andvaluescan be embedded within images and howthose images can open dialogic andcontemplative spaces that can be personallyand socially transformative. This isthe goal of enacting a curriculum that engagesstudents with aesthetic/activism.Ifeel that some students comprehended and internalizedthe concept ofaesthetic/activism fully, but not all the studentswere able or willing to engage withP a g e 97the curriculum I presented. Some students were not able to articulate anunderstanding of aesthetic/activism. When I asked a student if he felt his art-workcould cause people to think about the social problem depicted in his image, and asa result change their attitude or behaviour, he answered “I don’t know”. Inretrospect I feel his “I don’t know” response may indicate he did not understand myquestion or the concept of aesthetic/activism. It is possible some students withinthe age range of nine to thirteen years old are not yet able to comprehend theconcept of aesthetic/activism.Sixth Theme: The student/subjects demonstrated an understanding of the interrelationships between visual and textual data.Kit Grauer (2005) explains the importance of integrating visual and verbal modes ofunderstanding to enhance educational experiences:.using both visual and verbal modes of understanding andrepresenting could actually enhance children’s expression. Byusing the unique aspects of knowing represented by visual as wellas verbal thinking, children have the opportunity to experiencedeeper and richer forms of communicating their ideas...(p.213).A/r/tography values the intersection of art and writing not to illustrate or explain, butto enrich and enhance inquiry: “[AIr/tography] unites the visual and textual bycomplimenting, refuting or enhancing one another, [as a way toJ provide space forexploration, translation and understanding in deeper and enhanced ways ofmeaning making” (Irwin & de Cosson, 2004,p.31).The students’ comments reveal an appreciation for how visual and textual data caninform and enrich one another. For example, one student explained how textualinformation can make visual information more accessible. I asked him if he thoughtpeople would understand the ideas expressed in his artwork. He responded: “[t]heymight not understand it [the students’ artworks] if they just look at the paintings, butP a g eI98they would definitely understand it if they read our artiststatements”. Anotherstudent discussed how an artist’s statement is not an explanationof the artwork,but is in fact an integral element of the artwork: “[t]he artist statementis part of theart, so everyone should read it”. The students wereable to expand and articulatetheir ideas of utopia and dystopia by creating visualas well as textualrepresentations of their learning. Writing about artwork creates bothdenotative andconnotative expressions of cognitive processes that enrichand expand thelearning experience of students.During the eight week after-school course studentsmade meaning while engagingwith aesthetic/activism in the following ways: By expressingpersonal andsubjective interpretations of art-work, inquiring into the inter/relationshipsbetweenvisual and textual information, learning about the liminal area betweenaestheticsand activism and demonstrating an ability to create images that expresstheir ideasand feelings concerning the concepts of utopia and dystopia. I foundit interestingthat most students decided to communicate ideas in theirart-work of how theythink the world can be improved. This seems to represent a hopeful,positiveengagement with socially transformative art education. Perhaps focusingoncreating a vision for a better future is an area that would engage elementarystudents in deeply meaningful ways. I would like to continue an inquiry intothisarea with another group of students at some point in the future.P a g e 99Chapter Five: Conclusion and RecommendationsWhen it is all DoneThe purpose of this study was to enact an elementary art curriculum that exploresthe spaces in/between aesthetic formalism and socio/political activism using themethodology of a/r/tography and to measure the learning that results. Mostinquires into art education as activism use secondary students as researchsubjects (see Kumashiro, 2004; Knight, 2006; Aoki, 2005; Ulbricht, 2003; Gude,2007; Giroux, 1992; Barnett, 2008; Freedman, 2003; Lanier, 1969; Chalmers,2002; Darts, 2004). There are few academic inquires into how elementary studentswould respond to such a curriculum.Figure 44Engaging secondary students with socio/political issues may be easier than withelementary students because older students are more cognitively developed; as aresult they are better able to understand issues like the politics of representation,connotative meanings and art as metaphor. At times I have wondered if myelementary school aged students were able to understand art on this level. Thestudents did seem to understand that the formal qualities of art can expressP a g e 100socially-transformative ideas, that visual and textual data can enhance or refuteone another, that art can offer an inspiring future vision as wellas critiquesocio/political problems and that art is visual text that contains ideas. My guidingpedagogical principle was to ensure that I engaged my students with issues thatthey had direct, personal experience with and that they were able to show theirwork to a wide audience. At the same time, I endeavoured to teachstudentstechnical art making skills because “[w]ithout some attention to “the craft” of art-making, some supposedly socially conscious work falls absolutely flat” (Chalmers,personal communication, February, 2005).This purpose of this thesis was to construct a curriculum that will engage mystudents with certain types of learning. In addition, it affords mea leaningopportunity as well. Art-making has occupied a large portion of my life. I feelconfident in my technical art-making abilities and my understanding of the formalaspects of art; however, I wanted to expand and enrich my ability to engage withthe activist facets of art as an art-maker, art teacher and art education researcher. Ibelieve the process of researching and writing this thesis caused that learning tooccur. Understanding and experiencing how art not only expresses ideas throughits formal elements, but how those ideas can be socially-transformative hasbeen amajor learning objective for me. I have been teaching art in schools for eight years.During this time, I have constructed and enacted art curriculum basedon amodernist/formalist understanding of art. The format of my course outlines lookedlike this:Studio Art 11/12September: Pencil drawing using a visual reference.October/November: Acrylic painting copying a “Master’ painter’s work,change a small aspect of it to personalize the image.December: Clay ceramics: pinch pot, coil vase, slab container.Page1101January: Linoleum prints of a personal metaphor.February/March: Industrial design. In a small group build a functional chair.using cardboard.April: Research and write an art history essay.May/June: Student choice of project.While I enjoyed teaching this type of curriculumand my students seemed to enjoymy art courses, I now realize that my curriculum wasbased on a formalist studiomodel of art education that conceptualizes art curriculum asa series of unrelatedprojects whose primary learning objective is technical proficiencywithin a givenmedium. Researching and writing this thesis has allowedme to reconceptualise artcurriculum. An art curriculum that inquires into socialand political activism throughthe analysis and production of aesthetically compelling visualtexts has thepotential to be socially transformative. Young artstudents can becomeartists/activists when they use their art to articulate their vision for abetter world.While looking at the art-work the students and I made overthe course of this studyI realized that much of it is fairly “safe” looking landscapeimages. The images arenot obviously provocative or even political in nature. Forthe most part the studentsand I did not create aesthetically confrontational artwork. While the art-workcreated may not initially seem to have any activist content,the process of analysingthe political content of the art of Ross Penhall and Edward Burtynsky andusingthat analysis to discuss, write, create and exhibit art-workthat inquires into theconcepts of utopia and dystopia is a socially activist process becauseit can causestudents to critique their life/world and articulate their ideas for an improvedlife/world.Page1102The process of researching and writingthis thesis has also caused me to re/readthe art-work that I have made overthe last eighteen years as existing within thespace in/between aesthetics and activism. WhenI created the art-work that ispresented in this thesis I was not consciously tryingto create activist art-work;however, the art I created does expressideas, values and feelings and therefore ispolitical, but this is not the same as activism. Almostany image that expressesvalues and ideas can be considered political. Activismis intentionally trying tocreate social or political change. Apolitical image can become activist when it ispositioned in a way that is intended to create socio/politicalchange. Positioning myart-work within this thesis, which is intended toinspire pedagogical change inmyself and others, transforms my art-work frombeing political to being potentiallyactivist. I have also included an aesthetic andan activist reading of each individualwork of art within this thesis to demonstrate howmy thinking about my own artworkhas been transformed as a result of myinquiry into aesthetic/activism.Curriculum itself can be aesthetic/activist. Theact of teaching a specific curriculumcan be intended to cause cognitive discordin students and, as a result, createsocietal change. The cumculum I constructedand enacted during the course of thisresearch project was intended to enable studentsto experience how visual textscan communicate socially-transformative conceptsthrough their formal elements.Students were then able to engage in aesthetic/activismthrough discussions,writing and art-making, which they shared with anaudience during the studentexhibition. I posit this process has the potentialto be activist because if can causestudents to re/examine their values, which can resultin thoughtful action.What I would do Differently Next TimeThe process of inquiry creates new ideas.The eight week after school course Iused as my research site is finished, but mythinking is not. Next time I would liketo do the following:Page11031. Use non-traditional art materials for student art analysis and productionthereby challenging students and myself to expand the definition of artbeyond conventional studio-art materials. For example, showing studentsthe art of Scottish environmental sculptor Andy Goldsworthy asa way tofacilitate an inquiry into environmentalist issues as expressed through art.2. Use art-making as a way to engage with direct socio/political activism.Oncethe students have articulated their vision of utopia through art-making theclass could brainstorm activities that could cause their utopian vision to berealized. For example tree-planting, garbage clean-up or a public mural canchange the environment of students in real ways.3. Be less prescriptive in assigning a concept to inquire into. I wonder, forexample, instead of telling students to express their ideas about utopia anddystopia, what would happen if I showed students a wide varietyofpolitically engaged art-work and then told them to research any personallyrelevant socio/political issue and express their research in a process ofwriting and art-making not separate or illustrative of each other, but woventhrough each other?I have included my own art in this thesis because my art-making practice, myartteaching practice and my interest in art education research do not exist in isolationfrom one another. They are intertwined, entangled and knotted together. Theyarethe knowing, doing and making of my art-based living inquiry.As a teacher, I enjoyed getting to know the students, watching them becomedeeply engaged in the art making process, and seeing the pride on their faceswhen they finished an art project. As a researcher, I wondered if they could makethe cognitive connections between images, words and activism. As an artist,Ienjoyed working with students to create aesthetically powerful, politically potentmulti-media art-works.Page1104Most of the students created images of utopia that includedmountains, lakes, treesand animals. While these subjects are not uncommonin many children’s drawingsand paintings, re-framing these images as visionsof utopia that could be used as acatalyst for discussions and actions meant to bring about real socialandenvironmental change could be an important consideration when designingsociallyreconstructive elementary art curriculum. It suggestsan optimistic form of socialactivism through the process of art-making. Oncestudents have visually articulatedtheir ideal world view in their art-work, the next logicalstep would be to createprojects that allow students to transform their environmentto so it matches theirartistic utopian image. This could lead to activismbecause students would beintentionally creating social and environmental change.TransferabilityI realize the time constraints of this inquiry limit the potentialof it. Eight 1.5 hourclasses is not a lot of time. A classroom teacher may have differentresults if thiscurriculum was extended into a year-long program. My researchsubjects/studentsranged in age from 10-13 years old. There can be huge variability of maturityandcognitive abilities within this age range. A classroom teacher may havea smallerrange of student ages and therefore, be able to focus curriculum to moreeffectivelyengage students in a developmentally appropriate manner.Despite these limitations my research subjects/students did not containsomevariables that can make teaching art more challenging, soI was able to focus moreon the art curriculum, as opposed to individual student needs. Forexample, I hadno English-as-a-second-language-students, no special needs studentsand nostudents with serious behavioural problems. I had a smallgroup of students whowere all interested in art. While this made my experience in the classroompotentially less challenging and more enjoyable, I realize that classroomteachersmay have to dedicate more time and energy to meeting a wide range ofstudentsPage1105needs. As such, they may have less time and energy to focuson a challenging artcurriculum.Recommendations for Further StudyMore research needs to be done that inquires into how elementary art educationcan engage students with activism. Chalmers (2005) states: “[ajrt involvementcanbecome particularly meaningful in the lives of elementary students when we findways to connect art learning and production to important social issues”(p.105). Inresponse to Chalmers statement I would ask howcan children connectart toimportant social issues? This thesis offers one possible answerto this question,but more research needs to be done in this area.I believe the idea of positive activism needs to be further explored. Usingart tocreate inspiring visions for the future is a great starting pointfor studentsocio/political activism. I would like to continue to investigate whattypes ofcurriculum can lead to social reconstruction. I think a teacher withan enthusiastic,caring attitude, serious involvement in the field of study and a focus on buildingpositive, inspiring ways for students to engage with the world creates the potentialfor a transformative educational experience for students.I also believe education theory needs tobe more readily accessible to teachersworking in the field. As David Darts points out in his dissertation (2004,p.125):“Responsiblethought cannot remainconfined within thewalls of the academybut must take to the street”(Taylor& Saarinen, 1994, Communicative, p. 10).Page1106I have researched and written this thesis with theintention of unsettling andtransforming my teaching practice as well as the teachingpractice of others. Howcan I position this research so practicing teachers canaccess it easily? Websites,conference presentations and published curriculum guidesmay allow teachers toaccess this research more readily, increasing its influenceon the field of arteducation.Final ThoughtsWhile the process of researching and writing this thesishas been arduous, Ibelieve new knowledge has been created. I have become intimatelyfamiliar withart education theory, I have gained the experiential knowledge thatresults frompursing an academic inquiry over an extended period of time,I have been able toreflect deeply on the question “what learning is importantin a sociallytransformational art education program?” and I have experimentedwith newcurriculum and evaluated the results. I have beenable to contribute something to afield of study that I care about passionately.My goal was to enact a socially-transformativeart education curriculum; however,reflecting on my teaching and research process hascaused me to recognize apotential limitation within my curriculum design. My curriculum askedthe studentsa question: How could you create an artwork that expresses your ideasconcerningwhat utopia or dystopia looks like using collage, drawing, paintingand writing inresponse to the visual texts presented? This focusing question thatI based thecurriculum on could be considered proscriptive dueto the limitations set on the artmediums and concepts that the students were permitted to engagewith. This couldlimit how students are able to engage with aesthetic/activism and leadtopredictable, almost predetermined results which are socially-conformist,notsocially-transformative. I recognize that some of the students’ art-workappears tobe derivative of the Ross Penhall visual text that was presented as an exampleofutopia.Page1107In my defense, the “proscriptive curricular question” I used that may limit students’engagement with aesthetic/activism has some commonalitiesto Juan CarlosCastro’s notion of “constraints that enable: creating spaces for artistic inquiry”(2007,p.76). Castro argues that limiting the scope of student artistic inquirythrough enabling constraints can create focus and purpose to student artisticinquiry: “Well structured constraints [focusing questions] createa space that canorient and enable artistic inquiry [by] asking for a reordering and reconsiderationofaccepted understandings and inviting elaboration and extension”(p.77). Castroused the question “What would your self-portrait look like if you couldn’t includeyourself directly?” (p. 76) as an enabling constraint when he taught a photographyclass. He found this question “enabled artistic-inquiry so artist-students were ableto enter into spaces of uncertainty and be able to reorganize previousunderstanding”(p.77). The question I posed to my students: “How could youcreate an artwork that expresses your ideas concerning what utopia or dystopialooks like using collage, drawing and painting in response to the visual texts Ipresented?” could also act as an enabling restraint by orienting and enablingartistic inquiry.Is my curricular approach limiting and proscriptive or is it a constraint that enablesstudent artistic inquiry? Perhaps the limitations set on student art materials, area ofinquiry, and the presentation of only two example of visual text that express utopiaand dystopia create more restraint then is necessary to enable artistic inquiry.Some constraint can be enabling, while too much constraint may be limiting. Iwonder if the restraints I used on student inquiry may have been limiting. Howwould the results of this research would be different if I removed some of thelimitations I set on student inquiry? What would happen if a teacher placed norestraints on student inquiry?My research subjects/students have been engaged with an art curriculum which Ibelieve contains the best of what art education can offer. They have experiencedthe process of being exhibiting artists and have hopefully gained new technical artPa g e1108making skills and a greater awareness of the socio/political activist potential of theirart making.My research question “How to construct a curriculum that exists in the liminal areabetween aesthetics and activism and what learning will result?” has led me on ajourney that has created new questions: “Does aesthetic/activism have to critique asocio/political problem to be effective?” and “Can expressing a positive world visionin art lead to transformational activism?”. Writing this thesis has made me realizethat research is a never ending process.Page J109ReferencesAlter-Muri, S. (2004). 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