Teaching into “the grey areas”: Arts based possibilities for looking and talking through divisive logics

Year: 2021

Author: Maher, Katie

Type of paper: Symposium

This paper enquires into how visual arts based pedagogies can open possibilities for teachers and students to address matters of coloniality in culturally responsive ways. Attending to the affective dimensions and pedagogical possibilities of engaging with visual arts, it considers how close, careful attention to artwork by First Nations and anti-/decolonial creatives can provoke critical and necessary reflection on continuing colonial dispossession. Such work can provoke viewers to think and feel about what it is to occupy Aboriginal land in the colonial present.To work close up with artworks is to attend to what is seen felt and storied, asking learners to envision and locate ourselves within difficult cultural terrains. The extra-rational imagination of visual arts can bring attention to material and conceptual fissures through which we might dwell in what one participating student explained as the “grey areas” of cultural relation that trouble simple binaries and expose hidden curriculums. Viewers are provoked to witness a story that relates us and calls for a personal and shared response.  Close attention to artworks brings about possibilities for cracking colonial logics and engaging in affective dialogue that evokes more and less than the democratic limits of the written word. These grey areas can be fraught spaces as well as promising sites for learning together. Such spaces defy expertise, inviting infinite potential readings. Working close up with visual art can act as a deeply democratising mode of public education, interrupting divisive colonial logics and unfolding possibilities of relation.