Negotiating the Discomfort of Art Education

Year: 2010

Author: Elsden-Clifton, Jennifer

Type of paper: Refereed paper

The visual arts has a long tradition of providing a space for disruptive practices such as, challenging what is known, questioning and exploiting cultural codes, and providing alternative social practices.  This paper however, is interested in how visual arts students take up these disruptive possibilities within schooling; a space historically characterised by hierarchal power, surveillance and institutionalised structure.  I will argue that because of the social and cultural structures that influence school settings, students’ art that is characterised as disruptive is often seen as ‘dangerous’, ‘messy’ and ‘difficult’.  This paper draws upon interviews with art teachers to explore two narratives that illustrate the potential for students to disrupt traditional notions of sexualities and bodies in the visual arts.  Utilising a poststructuralist framework, this paper explores how students, teachers and the general school community negotiate the tension, fear and anxiety that can arise from ‘disruptive’ art created by students and the difficult classroom discussions and issues that can arise in visual arts education.