Leap into Action
“While, for Ingham (2020: 49-50), the ‘conditions’ and ‘elements’ interconnected in teaching and learning include ‘curriculum, the pedagogies, the administration, the governance, the maintenance, and the estate of UAL. The “agents” are all the staff and students […]’. So, an image of the tutor as an agent of critical pedagogy emerges from the subjective praxis in the performed self who opposes the modernist concept of a pure self. Instead, the post-modern tutor under critical performative pedagogy emerges through a redefined collection of selves which adjust as agents move in between subjective and objective reality. As a result, the tutor becomes free to reconfigure the roles they perform in their relationship with learners (intersubjectivity). The tutor, implicated in the performance of critical performative pedagogy, too, may redefine how they, as educators and social beings, share and refine knowledge (dialogues).”
Ingham, M. (2020). Chapter Two: Assembling Agency—Learning in Liminal Space. In: L. Campbell, ed., Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art & Design Education, 1st ed. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, pp.49-50.
Art & the Public Sphere (Journal)
ISSN 2042793X , ONLINE ISSN 20427948
Volume (8): Issue (2)
Leap into Action: Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art and Design Education, Lee Campbell (ed.) (2020)
Authors: Joshua Y’Barbo
Joshua Y’Barbo Leap into Action Book Review 31 January 2020
Leap into Action: Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art and Design Education, Lee Campbell, ed. (2020), New York: Peter Lang Publishing, ISBN: 978-1-4331-6640-2
Reviewed by Joshua Y’Barbo, Artist-Curator-Educator
In the two-volume set, Leap into Action: Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art and Design Education, editor, Lee Campbell connects themes of strategic interruptions and liminality with challenges to the performed identities and power dynamics contained within higher education (HE), particularly the UK art school. The title of this book and its companion manual link together several authors’ academic associations with praxis acted and performed through a metaphorical, collective dive into the unknown. To illustrate, Campbell (2020: 3) describes a performative approach to pedagogy, which he emphasizes with considered ruptures in education to reorganize space for dialogue between tutors and students. Campbell (2020: 14) notes, ‘Scenes, or situations, are described in which the speaking subject performs a disruption in language and the placing of the self’. Campbell (2020: 5) notes these ruptures spoken by Subjects modify standard learning sites into ‘part-laboratory/part-discussion arena’. As such, the convergence of contemporary art principles and self-aware education give the intended readers of these volumes evidence of roles and actions designed to activate political agency in speaking Subjects through interpersonal interactions and reflections.
Campbell draws a few assumptions to conceptualize performance art ideas as a topic, set of methods, and pedagogical tool to readers. For instance, Campbell (2020: 12) argues for tactical interruptions to ‘the scene of teaching’, which challenge the delivery of agreed-upon-truths upheld and protected by traditional academia. In particular, these volumes assumes the body as a site of risk, conflict, reflection, and action implicated in the construction of liminal spaces within institutional contexts. Thus, a series of significant shifts in between institutional phenomena, such as its multiple roles, settings, values, and practices, occur. At the same time, these transitional moments among teachers and learners create space within established academic institutions. Campbell engineers these values in the monograph’s provocations, which disrupt the standardized chapter by chapter format to generate different dialogues within the narrative structure of these two books.
The arguments, which appear throughout these chapters, include performed praxis in student bodies against institutional settings and social-political contexts connected to everyday life where pedagogy is a collaboration. Campbell (2020: 3) applies collaborative strategies to perform and disrupt speech-acts as an educational apparatus, which manoeuvres and risks the body as a site and material. Performance, too, is located in transactions between participants and co-created when these actors engage in various dialogues (Meller 2020). As a result, pedagogy becomes the method, and the body acts as material for action over mere representation within restricted academic contexts.
The audience for these books includes artists and educators familiar with the culture agency and reformation of actor-to-audience relationships in art’s performative turn (Fischer-Lichte 2008; Meller 2020). These books deliver a revaluation of artists’ agency that follows post-1960s performance art with a focus on education performed in HE institutions in the UK after the Situationist International, the Gutai Group, Yoko Ono and Fluxus (Parkes 2020: 206; Bond 2020: 108; Lee 2020: 80; Campbell 2020: 2). These volumes suggest adjustments to tutors’ authorities to teach students to learn through acts against personal problems and mechanisms of oppression within their everyday lives, immediate surroundings, and individual situations. These volumes, too, connect the legacy of critical thinking and education of Freire (1968), Illich (1971, 1973), and Rancière (1991) to lived experience within contemporary HE institutions through performance art strategies. Thus, these books break from other collections on critical pedagogy and teaching approaches in the art school in its attention to tactics of performative interventions designed to enable self-awareness and empower students through participation.
Although focused on strategies of performance art, these books, too, contextualize interdisciplinary approaches to critical pedagogy designed to expand the tutor’s toolkit with the participatory devices of art, which embody experiences, engage audiences and enable agency. For instance, ‘performative pedagogies rapidly increase the possibilities of experiential learning and leads to an enriched form of (student) participation and emergent knowledge base in terms of action, doing and the body’ (Campbell 2020: 4). Campbell argues for a new language of pedagogy drawn from the interruptions and interventions of performance art to engage with the physical body and create agency in teachers and learners. This argument appears in these chapters as instances of teachers’ accountabilities and expertise mingled with students’ subjectivities and transferable skills. As a result, Campbell presents his readers with reflections and calls to action, which explore teachers’ and students’ agencies and praxis within HE institutions.
Regarding Art and the Public Sphere, Campbell and his contributors characterize critical performative pedagogy by participatory, collective acts of dialogue, which stipulate unconventional substance to the in-between spaces and immateriality of educational exchanges. Thus, these editions give readers the art techniques used to produce and execute pedagogy in terms of subjective praxis, site-specificity, and collaborative dialogue. The reader gains a unique perspective of verbal and non-verbal strategies of performance art and critical pedagogy concerned with tutor-student dynamics and shifts in-between space, place, knowledge, and power.
Across these volumes, praxis emerges in who gives and takes critical agency, where these situations occur and how these educational environments form. These volumes also advocate theoretical and practical disruptions to the tutor-student dynamic, interruptions of educational sites and encounters based on cooperative acts of negotiation. For example, Campbell introduces praxis in terms of Garoian (1999)’s challenges to educational institution’s pedagogy, performance art and post-modern ideals, which interweaves students’ spectatorship within their learning process and activates their political agency. To a reader, these volumes propose the pedagogical figures of tutor and student implicit in the creation of reflection and action within the undercurrents of education, which reproduce preconceived, performed roles of traditional pedagogy. Critical performative pedagogy, too, leads readers to the creation of liminal space by dissociation of the normative, oppressed self and the institutional mechanisms, which perpetuate oppression. In particular, these volume point readers towards individual’s and collectives’ occupations of social contexts, embodiments of political concerns, actions in space and places, and navigations around people, things (desired and owned) and objects (drawing attention and demanding interaction).
Across the many sections of these volumes, Campbell and cohort suggest themes of self-awareness through reflection and action (praxis) to rethink the performance and interrelationship between tutors and students. For example, Meller (2020: 82-83, 85) reveals the tutor as an actor and an agent able to disrupt and suspend education practices and relationships with student-audiences. This revision to the tutor-student dynamic produces self-referential insight on who, what, and how critical pedagogy is taught and performed. According to Weltsek, the self is ‘an aggregation of factors’ which bare on one’s performance of the self while giving material to the self-awareness produced through such a performance (Weltsek 2020: 38). While, for Ingham (2020: 49-50), the ‘conditions’ and ‘elements’ interconnected in teaching and learning include ‘curriculum, the pedagogies, the administration, the governance, the maintenance, and the estate of UAL. The “agents” are all the staff and students […]’. So, an image of the tutor as an agent of critical pedagogy emerges from the subjective praxis in the performed self who opposes the modernist concept of a pure self. Instead, the post-modern tutor under critical performative pedagogy emerges through a redefined collection of selves which adjust as agents move in between subjective and objective reality. As a result, the tutor becomes free to reconfigure the roles they perform in their relationship with learners (intersubjectivity). The tutor, implicated in the performance of critical performative pedagogy, too, may redefine how they, as educators and social beings, share and refine knowledge (dialogues).
Throughout this volume, disassociations of the self and performed roles within existing educational systems appear as strategic interruptions, which creates space to enable tutor and student praxis. However, to dissociate the performed self to critique how we act and the roles we play is changeable and unfixed. Therefore, the occupation of dissociative space is an ontological mystery, which challenges tutors and students’ sense of self within typical institutional hierarchies. Weltsek (2020: 41) states,
Although the dissociated space affords an opportunity to theorize how an aesthetic experience may work to imagine a moment of critical self-awareness and proactive self-agency, it can never be assured. […] The implication that we can somehow determine how the other will see us once we have defined that performance for ourselves is likewise suspect
Campbell (2020: 5) calls this fall into the unfamiliar a ‘pedagogy of risk’, where ‘[….] students engage not just their mental faculties with an idea, so too do they grasp ideas with their bodies through direct physical engagement’. While Foster (2020: 79) asks, ‘Can we, as artists and teachers, ever really enter into a collective praxis with our students; or are the risks involved potentially too great for both parties?’ Here, the responsibility of the tutor to distribute knowledge and students to become self-aware is challenged by an intersubjective exposure with cognitive and physical consequences when one offers their body and mind to educational exchanges. As a result, relational accountability shared between tutors and students, emerges when these two actors, vulnerable in their interpersonal dialogue, join to bound into the unfamiliar.
As these volumes break from traditional tutor-student relationships, they expose the vulnerability and risks at stake when two Subjects connect through dialogue. The renegotiation to the rules of interaction develops new associations between tutors and students in HE institutions. Bond (2020: 106) states, ‘Interruption in education is a two-way dialogue of learning as non-hierarchical knowledge. Making and articulating interruption can “uncover” gaps in communication’. A distinct site-specificity appears to confront readers with different manners of movements, shifts, and disruptions in-between ‘conditions’ and ‘elements’ of education. As a result, the reader finds relational nomadism, which moves beyond the designated material and linear trajectory of higher education to intersections between physical, social and discursive sites.
Furthermore, these volumes value a transitional and emergent site-specificity, which moves inside, outside and in between different positions, perceptions, and feelings in both physical and immaterial education spaces. For example, ‘Working with and across physical and virtual platforms, without rendering real-world physical in class communication obsolete, dialogue that is initiated by tutors in the digital world is then picked up again in the real world in the classroom and vice versa’ (Campbell 2020: 21). The movements between physical and online education sites allow for collaborative dialogue and adjusted tutor-student interactions to circulate and inform one another as they develop. Subsequently, the dissociation of roles requires the construction of liminal space, while dissociative space, requires the interruption of the typical academic hierarchies, dialogues and relationships to produce liminality.
These volumes, too, gives a rare insight into the feelings and physicality of tutor and student bodies as they navigate institutional situations and experience physical, digital, and sensory educational scenarios. For example, Layton (2020: 166) maintains, ‘performative pedagogy unites the body and mind, tangles and untangles the senses’. While Manu (2020: 177) counters Layton to argue,
the idea that performative pedagogies indicating agency and freedom to “wander, drift, dawdle, be late, or not arrive at all” is liberating, yet must be approached with some caution as such liberation requires, still, a level of awareness, discipline and proactivity to be able to negotiate between the senses and its relevance to space
Layton and Manu amalgamate the body, mind, and senses as a collection of matter and processes for critical pedagogy’s enactment and negotiation within contemporary academic institutions. These physical attributes and behaviours show how tutors and students respond to the physical, social and discursive characteristics of education when united within their shared pedagogical experiences. Hence, the site-specificity of critical performative pedagogy, too, is unrestricted by any particular set of situations or conditions but materializes in the formation of multiple politically critical Subjects, the transition between roles, and the emergence in between established hierarchies, institutional practices, and support structures of academia.
Contrary to the premise of these two books, a reader might argue that critical pedagogy already establishes contemporary HE institutions’ values, pedagogy, and curriculum. For example, critical pedagogy emphasizes education as a social encounter and daily experiences, which reflects different localities, educational paradigms and cultural backgrounds at play within a globalized HE academic market. A HE system driven by consumers’ expectations and institutional accountability must contend with student bodies fragmented by conflicting identities, multiple languages and diverse cultural values, which leave little room for radical experimentation through critical performative pedagogy. Harley (2020: 117) explains how divisions caused by everyday experiences in the UK classroom resulted from contrasts in spoken languages, which impacted the development of relationships between overseas and students.
[…] many students feel disconnected, culturally and socially. Other students, who are more oriented to the culture of English language-speaking HE, interpret the liminal state of the former as lack of commitment and a barrier to the discursive possibilities of group learning.
A reader may notice rifts caused in student bodies when subjectivities diverge regardless of the tutor’s intentions. In this case, the home and international student bodies represented in art schools pose particular challenges for the University to deliver effective pedagogy in a trans-cultural educational environment. Although a tutor may act as an agent and use the principles of critical pedagogy to develop an institution’s curriculum, invested readers will discover students’ experiences may not result in the intended criticality for all students, regardless of intentions to teach praxis and self-awareness.
However, these volumes suggest critical performative pedagogies materializes dialogues between teachers and learners who collaborate to overcome their fragmentations through playact interventions. For instance, the interruption of typical schooling re-establishes space for discussion and interactions between tutors and students outside educational programmes while simultaneously produces a network of actors who operate within academic institutions. Accordingly, these books submit a solution in collaborative dialogue, which disrupts language, challenges educational formats, and values gestural and non-verbal interactions among student bodies, both inside and outside the classroom.
Finally, these volumes offer academics, educators and art practitioners a breadth of material, which employ art’s disruptive principles to rethink teaching values, strategies, and techniques. These volumes, too, gives a unique example of students enabled by teachers through negotiation and exchange, which materializes in the gestures and interactions between actors and agents in space. These pedagogical actors perform dialogues either through shared connections, such as language or through other non-verbal collaborations, such as senses or occupations of familiar places. As a result, a reader will find examples of liminal space constructed through dialogues produced by educational encounters designed by tutors. As a reader follows these shifts between dialogues, they may find pedagogical or aesthetic value in feelings, or senses of not knowing, which transition and emerge in physical and digital environments.
I recommend these books to any reader who is interested in the use of performance art principles and strategies to create liminal spaces for experimentation and dialogue within educational settings. These books helped me to understand tangible ways to upset established methods of art pedagogy within the art school context. Although useful for performance art and critical pedagogy, these connections of theories and practices may be more disruptive than effective in the pedagogy of other disciplines. However, these two volumes suggest we try to interrupt other fields and expand art’s principles further, nonetheless.
Bond, P. (2020). Chapter Seven: Gaps. In: L. Campbell, ed., Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art & Design Education, 1st ed. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, pp.106, 108.
Campbell, L. (2020). Introduction: Critical Performative Pedagogies: Principles, Processes and Practices. In: L. Campbell, ed., Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art & Design Education, 1st ed. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, pp.2-5,12,14, 21, 32.
Fischer-Lichte, E. (2008). The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics. London, UK: Routledge.
Foster, G. (2020). Provocation Two: The Art of Interruption. In: L. Campbell, ed., Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art & Design Education, 1st ed. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, p.79.
Freire, P. (1968). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Translated by M. Ramos, 1970. New York: Herder and Herder.
Garoian, C. (1999). Performing pedagogy. New York, NY: State University of New York Press.
Harley, C. (2020). Chapter Eight: Feelings to Knowledge: The Trouble with Sensations, Matter and Systems. In: L. Campbell, ed., Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art & Design Education, 1st ed. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, p.117.
Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling Society. New York: Harper & Row.
Illich, I. (1973). Tools for Conviviality. New York: Harper & Row.
Ingham, M. (2020). Chapter Two: Assembling Agency—Learning in Liminal Space. In: L. Campbell, ed., Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art & Design Education, 1st ed. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, pp.49-50.
Layton, J. (2020). Provocation Three: From Space to (Embodied) Place: A Manifesto for Sensory Learning in Site-Specific Practices. In: L. Campbell, ed., Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art & Design Education, 1st ed. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, p.166.
Lee, A. (2020). Provocation Two: The Art of Interruption. In: L. Campbell, ed., Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art & Design Education, 1st ed. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, p.80.
Manu, R. (2020). Chapter Eleven: Beyond the Visual: Exploring the Intersection of Performative Pedagogy, Interaction and Multimodal Interventions in the Creative Classroom. In: L. Campbell, ed., Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art & Design Education, 1st ed. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, p.177.
Meller, F. (2020). Chapter Five: Tricks and Erasers: Disruption as Performance Pedagogy. In: L. Campbell, ed., Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art & Design Education, 1st ed. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, pp.82-83, 85.
Parkes, D. (2020). Provocation Four: Transition. In: L. Campbell, ed., Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art & Design Education, 1st ed. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, p. 206.
Rancière, J. (1991). The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. Translated by Kristin Ross. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
Weltsek, G (2010). Chapter One: A Leap into Dissociated Space: Liminality, Liberation, and Action in Performative Pedagogies. In: L. Campbell, ed., Critical Performative Pedagogies in Art & Design Education, 1st ed. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, pp.38, 41.