Editorial (eng.)

Art Education Research °7

SHOWING GALLERY EDUCATION –

REGARDING THE REPRESENTATION OF PEDAGOGICAL
MUSEUM WORK

Editors: Stephan Fürstenberg, Nanna Lüth and
microsillons (Olivier Desvoignes/Marianne Guarino-Huet)



 
[Montage: Nanna Lüth 2013, on the basis of photos by Kunstmuseum Bern and Zentrum Paul Klee, Kinderzentrum creaviva, both 2011.]

 
EDITORIAL

 
In the professional daily routine, the way art mediators deal with the representation of their work – i.e. the «mediation of mediation» – often takes place only on a pragmatic level, when the routines of running the museum[1] require information about events and addressing visitors. Then and now, the resources for reflected documentation and presentation of gallery education are usually absent, as is the realization that this may even be necessary. An additional challenge for working on ways of representation becomes manifest, when methods and content are experimented with, but the resulting representations do not make apparent the extraordinariness of these actions. Instead, it seems that often only well known motifs and readings are repeated. (vgl. Gavranic 2012: 181).

With the project Showing Gallery Education (2011 – 13) it became possible to take on questions about gallery education work in a focused way; a theme that, for the most part, has so far not been worked on within the field of scholarly research. Since this theme lies at the interface between reflections on and theorizing of gallery education as well as the research field of visual culture, this project was realized in the form of a collaboration between the Institute for Art Education (IAE) and the Institute for Cultural Studies in the Arts (ICS) at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK). Financing of this collaboration was made possible by funds from the Swiss National Fonds (SNF). The project team – Stephan Fürstenberg, Nanna Lüth and the group microsillons (Oliver Desvoignes/Marriane Guarino-Huet) – is comprised of persons with different languages, different national and professional backgrounds, who are scholars, artists and mediators who look at gallery education and the practices of representations from different perspectives. Within the framework of the project, representational materials from 32 museums and exhibition institutions from Switzerland and Liechtenstein were brought together with a focus on contemporary art. The material corpus of the study comprises 712 documents with 2000 images from the past seven years and covers, among other things flyers, brochures and websites, but also books from gallery education departments.

 
REPRESENTATION: AN ANALYTIC APPROACH

The constructivist concept of representation is based on the idea that representation is not an unmediated, mimetic or neutral representation of somebody or something. Rather, representing is a creative, powerful practice framed by specific conditions where something that is absent is represented and produced, made present, substituted as well as exhibited (comp. Schade/Wenk 2011: 104f.) Stuart Hall – a British sociologist and cultural theoretician – describes representation as the: «active work of selecting and presenting, of structuring and shaping: not merely the transmitting of an already-existing meaning, but the more active labor of making things mean.» (Hall 1982: 64)

Representations produce meaning and knowledge in that they in present something for viewing in a particular way. They structure ways of perceiving, and thereby take on an essential component in the production of reality, instead of simply visualizing. The historian Michel Foucault notes that representation is not interchangeable with transparency, but instead produces interplay between visibility and invisibility. It is therefore decisive not only what is represented but also the question of: «how and why in what way something is ‘represented, pictured, demonstrated, made present, what purpose it [the representation] serves and what thereby remains excluded, that is, made invisible through visibility. It is about the power of giving to be seen.» (Sturm, 2001: no page numbers).

The main theme in our analysis of representational materials deals with power relations; how they are manifest in the representational patterns and institutional routines of presenting-for-viewing. Through the constant repetition of certain ways of representing powerful effects unfold, as specific images, meanings and subjective positions are designed but also can be moved about in connection with gallery education.

 
POSITIONING AS RESEARCHERS

As researchers with experience in the field of contemporary gallery education we are aware that resources in the entire field are extremely limited. In particular representational studies and in connection to this, the activity of reflection – not considered to lie at the core of mediators’ work, suffers from this limitation. However, from our point of view, it is necessary to take seriously representations of gallery education in terms of their expressions and social relations and to deal with the work on representations already completed in the form of a reflection. In aspiring towards gallery education as a (self) critical practice as well as a transformative educational occurrence it is not possible to thoughtlessly repeat the often unconscious and automatically repeated representational forms of classicist, ethnologist or other discriminating traditions in image or text. In dealing with art and the institution of the museum, gallery education should also take on the practices of documentation and presentation of art mediation and question these in terms of effects such as inclusion and exclusion, normalization and making special as well as making more valuable and devaluing (comp. Mörsch 2013, chapter 9).
In connection with this, Showing Gallery Education is intended to achieve a contribution towards the development of provocative, joyful, and differentiated ways of representing, where invitations and documentations become instruments for designing a democratic, egalitarian museum institution as well as society moving towards diversity.

An advantage of research in the academic field is, that the posed questions and their ways of working on them can partially be removed from the evaluation and logics of usability in place in the art system and its individual institutions where representational work takes place. Therefore, our exploration is a form of situated knowledge production (comp. Haraway 1995) formulated from a specific cultural and historical position. We do not start from the idea that we produce irrevocable truths about the representation of gallery education, not even after intensive research or examination of our texts, but that the questions we brought up and worked on nonetheless are valid and important.

At the same time, we consider it to be a problem that the place for research and reflection about art mediation at this moment lies almost exclusively in the field of scholarship and academia – with their own rules, specific language and history as well as economic and institutional constraints – creating an unequal distribution of reflexive knowledge production.

Correspondingly, there was an unequal relationship as well between researchers and researched in the project Showing Gallery Education. In order to place something in opposition to this inequality (at least partially) we invited the mediators who presented their material to a discussion with us before publication. It became clear during this meeting that all the participants – from scholarship as well as gallery education in museums and other exhibition institutions – were greatly interested in meeting in order to exchange knowledge, experiences and approaches in terms of the representation of gallery education. Looking ahead towards a publication on gallery education and representation planned for 2014 by the IAE and the ICS we want to continue the discussion that started with art mediators from different institutions, in order to develop and make available within this framework materials at the interface of scholarly research and museum pedagogy.

 
NODES OF RESEARCH WORK

After the collection, digitalization and viewing of the research material, the following three categories Space, Artwork and the figure of the Art mediator could be discerned within the framework of Representing Gallery Education, structuring the representations and in this way making possible a partitioning of the analysis. The parts hereby coming to the forefront are marked by overlap and horizontal connections describing important characteristics and dimensions of the representational material, which will be sketched out briefly in the following.

The forms of representation of the public and the practices and methods of gallery education are closely intertwined. In contrast to usual exhibition photography in which spaces are often shown without people, the visibility of visitors plays a central role in the material presented here and contains thereby also in the analysis of Space, Artwork and the figure of the Art mediator a high position. Based on the different ways of presenting-for-viewing of persons, considerations about implicit pedagogies, about roles and power relations in gallery education, but also about parallels and differences between the representation of educational work in museums and school can be taken up. In addition institutional norms and conventions create a transversal axis. In the analysis of the representation of gallery education a connection to museum rules can come up and the trail whereby ways of representation of gallery education reproduce normalized behavior, as well as where, in relation to this, deviations and interruptions are re-produced and produced. The medium photography creates an additional common point of reflection. The use of documentary style photography is omnipresent and underlines the aspiration of the photos to convey authenticity and truth. The interplay of formal characteristics such as format, excerpt or perspective with certain motifs allows certain conclusions to be drawn from the gaze (of the photographers as well as those participating in the selection process) to gallery education and their institutional framing.
The powerful interplay of visibility and invisibility, which is constitutive for representations and co-creates the production of meanings, shapes an additional horizontal axis. Notable among the following analysis is, for example, the invisibility of spaces external to the museum, of moments rich in conflict about art as well as the frequent absence of art mediators. By connecting these critical representational approaches to the thinking and workings of feminist art and cultural creators as well as queer and postcolonial studies, the aspects of feminization and infantilization that concern art mediation as pedagogical professional field although devalued today in many ways, form an important connection between individual parts. Finally, whiteness is an additional node, appearing as «normality» in the representations of persons as well as in the institutional critique about the exhibition space as white cube with its specific traditions and value creations.
Not all points sketched here can be considered in their full depth in the following three articles of this e-journal, but they all spin a network of indications branching out from individual contributions.

In his article «Ordered Bodies, Embodied Orders» Stephan Fürstenberg focuses on typical representational forms of mediators and the public and works out the production of differences between these two figures. In her text «Between Instruction and Self-education. Didactic Pattern Analysis Starting from Art», Nanna Lüth asks what forms of dealing with art are represented photographically, what are the «roles» played by the art works and what pedagogical methods and goals can be gleaned from this. In its article «Inhabited, Familiar, Disrupted. An ‘Other‘ Institution of Contemporary Art in Representations of Mediation?» the collective microsillons describes the coexistence of two representational regimes central to documentations of contemporary art institutions in Switzerland. As a matter of fact, the specific representations of gallery education show an institution that differs from its traditional image. The text proposes interpretations of this differentiated practice in relation to the representation of the museum and its function. With these first insights into the project Showing Gallery Education we hope to strengthen thinking and exchange about forms of representation of gallery education and to provide impulses for change. In this sense we wish all readers inspiring reading.

Texts

 


[1] With the term «museum» used collectively here, aside from museums, art houses, art associations, collections as well as foundations are covered, that show art.

Literature

Gavranić, Cynthia (2012): «In Dialoge führen». In: Bernadett Settele and Carmen Mörsch (Eds.), Kunstvermittlung in Transformation. Ergebnisse und Perspektiven eines Forschungsprojektes, Zürich: Scheidegger & Spiess, 2012, p. 171-184.

Hall, Stuart (1982): «The rediscovery of ideology: Return of the repressed in media studies». In: M.Gurevitch a.o.(Eds.), Culture, Society and the Media, London: Methuen, p. 56-90.

Haraway, Donna (1995): «Situiertes Wissen – Die Wissenschaftsfrage im Feminismus und das Privileg einer partialen Perspektive». In: Haraway, Die Neuerfindung der Natur, Frankfurt/M.: Campus, p. 73-97.

Mörsch, Carmen (2013): Zeit für Vermittlung. Eine online Publikation zur Kulturvermittlung, ed. by Institute for Art Education der Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK), commissioned by Pro Helvetia. Available at: http://www.kultur-vermittlung.ch/zeit-fuer-vermittlung/; (05.07.2013).

Schade, Sigrid/Silke Wenk (2011): Studien zur visuellen Kultur. Einführung in ein transdisziplinäres Forschungsfeld, Bielefeld: transcript.

Sturm, Eva (2001): «In Zusammenarbeit mit gangart. Zur Frage der Repräsentation in Partizipations-Projekten».Available at: http://eipcp.net/transversal/0102/sturm/de; (05.07.2013)

 

Editorial team: Stephan Fürstenberg and Nanna Lüth
Translation into English: Lisa Glauer
English Lectorate: Margarita Garcia Asperas
Layout: Anne Gruber