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Fall 2003 Gala Exibition: Naked Space

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Created: December 7, 2003
Latest Update: December 8, 2003

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Index of Topics on Site First Draft of Report for
Fall 2003 Gala Exibition: Naked Space

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, December 2003.
"Fair use" encouraged.

In Fall 2003 students and faculty from two state universities decided to risk creativity and adapt an aesthetic approach to teaching. For a variety of reasons we agreed that liberal arts education had moved away from the ideal of educating the people of a democracy to monitor the governance of their elected officials, to train each other in governance participation, and to address in real depth the social issues of the republic.

The result of this leap into the aesthetic process, supported by social theory and a general commitment to change and understanding because of the turmoil the world presently faces was the Fall 2003 Gala Exhibition, Naked Space. This paper offers a narrative from multiple perspectives of the process and the product and suggests the power largely unrecognized of visual sociology and visual communication in governance, personal achievement, and civic activism.

I know I need to explain this more, but I'm on my way with a neglected husband to the Southwest Museum. So here are random notes on things I need to say. All of you are welcome to join in this narrative. It is, after all, our narrative, not my narrative. I figured my notes would give you a clue as to what I was thinking and help you write. E-mail me whenever, but we have a deadline for the submission of this paper. I've got to get it to Susan in three weeks.

Random Notes:

  • Basic theory: answerability, transparency, accountability, paradigms on haves and have-nots, responsibility

  • The idea of the importance of exhibition to artists, and now to us, as a means of creating awareness of social justice

  • The ineffectiveness of the written word and of talking heads to accomplishe some of our goals

  • The participatory nature of answerability - there is to be no censorship, only answers and all voices heard in good faith

  • The audience for participatory answerability - and how our exhibit began to establish such an audience

  • The contrast between this university program's invitation to an exhibit over two days and evenings as compared to the parents' night of two hours one night.

  • The importance of student's sharing their work with one another, and the effect we found of people seeing the exhibit, going home, and bringing back another project for the same exhibit.

  • A comparison of the visual sociology exhibit to the traditional fine art exhibit in process and in goal.

Monday, December 8, 2003. Continuing notes:

This morning I just have a little time before I go out with neglected husband, so I thought I'd add some more random notes.

  • Am I advocating this aesthetic process of answerability as "the" teaching technique? No. There's a place for what Freire calls "banking education," developing a familiarity with information out there. Today, I'd prefer that you learn how to access the information, rather than try to encode it into your own heads. There's too much of it for any of us to manage. But you can't achieve decent access to information unless you have a pretty solid sense of the cognitive tools and materials available to us in the 21st Century. That means you need a rudimentary understanding of most disciplines, so that you will know how to access "experts" when and if you need them, and so that you will be able to make reasonable decisions about how much you're willing to trust their authority as experts. Experts, like other people, have their own agendas. And you have the ultimate responsibility for your own decisions.

    But I am advocating that this aesthetic process of answerability should be a part of every teaching process. That students should be heard and included; motivated and guided, not forced and tested. The concept of forcing and testing goes with "in loco parentis," in which we assume that the adults in charge of young people know more than the young people and are entitled to an authority which precludes the young person's own voice. Today the world is changing so fast, both technologically and morally, that no one of us can pretend competence and all encompassing knowledge. Now, more than ever before, the voice of the young must be included. This affects Habermas' assumption that every citizen must be included for legitimacy in governance discourse. I don't think that works anymore, especially where citizenship often doesn't come till 18, but service in war comes by 12 and 13 in many settings. Our concept of age and its rights has not kept pace with the meaning of age and youth, mature and old in today's world.

    One way to include young people responsibly well before the granting of "citizenship" is to cultivate an awareness of answerability. The voice of the Other is not limited to age. Neither is answerability. By including th Other (presumably to be educated or socialized) in our socializing moves, we approach responsibility in manageable steps. Manageable for us who are giving up some authority. And manageable for those who are taking on new responsibility.

    If we want world peace and non-exploitative government, that's hard work. I don't know other cultures as well as my own, but I am constantly faced with members of my own culture who consider hard work anathema and believe that it's cool to get away with doing the least possible. I suspect that's a result of authority taking too much glory to itself and suggesting that the Indian Chief didn't have to work. Not so. The Chief should be the model for the work of the others. (I'll go back and reference all this later.) How does it happen that she who gets away with "doing nothing" is perceived as "cool?" Dominant discourse, entertainment discourse. If those messages are fed over our media, we respond to them. We all want to be "cool." By admiring and celebrating that which harms others, we become complicit in that harm.

    Now that was a giant intellectual leap. I need to go back and take the argument through each step. But you get the idea, yes? And maybe you can begin to see how answerability might help. Now I gotta run. More later. jeanne