Replacement for Art in Education

Paper presentet at the INSEA Congress in Heidelberg July 2007
Art Education is the name of the subject, where students are making paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculptures, videos and so on; and are looking at pictures and talk about them. The name is now used for over 100 years , since1901 at the Kunsterziehertag (Art education symposion) in Dresden.
Recently it is just called Kunst (Art). The teachers call themselves art teachers.
I think that art is not the right name anymore. There are two reasons:
1. The term “art” has changed in a way, which does not fit with the action in the class room.
2. Many of the contents, which the subject has to deal with, do not fit either in the traditional aesthetic or in the new institutional art term.

The basic problem is: art today has another meaning than 100 years ago. During this time a shift happened in the arts from an aesthetic to an institutional paradigm.
The aesthetic paradigm says that good quality makes art, and art is a quality of the work.
The institutional paradigm on the other hand says that art is not a quality of the art piece, but an attribution made by the art system (Luhmann) or the art world (Danto).
In the aesthetic paradigm the status of art is depending on the qualities which are said to be found in the works. Art works can have better or poorer quality on a scale from “no art” to a master piece. Because of the aesthetic qualities even works can be art which are ignored by the art system. Anyway there always can be a discussion if this or that remark has to be called art or not.
In the institutional paradigm something is called art or not – it is a yes or no decision. There is no scale. Art is what the system calls art.
Except from the declaration by the art system no other qualities of art can be mentioned which distinct art from other phenomena. Art has lost its identity. The declaration “art” is only a hint how to handle it: open interpretation, multi-interpretability, high cultural status, more or less important questions (life, death, love, justice, reality… and so on), play etc. The hope to find an identity for art in these characteristics is not fulfilled: you can find all of them outside the art.

Nowadays both paradigms were used side by side. But it is nearly impossible to find theorists which still use the aesthetic paradigm. The new institutional paradigm is winning because it describes and explains art better than the old one. It describes and explains the contemporary as well as the historic art. The new institutional paradigm is not only dominating the art theory but also large and powerful parts of the international contemporary art (Vilks) like: documenta, biennale….

This paradigm shift was provoked by artists since the 1960ies, accepted by curators and registered and described by theorists.

The art education has overlooked this shift for the most part: books on these subjects are not discussed. In many curricula the term “art” or “artistic” is still be used as if nothing had happened in the last decades.

In the significant ignorance to these new developments a collective mechanism of defence shows up. Art educators belief or at least hope that the current phenomena of the art system has more to do with the fun society rather than being a lasting shift. This reaction of resistance is easy to understand: the changes of the art term is more or less an expropriation of the terms “art” and “artistic” as they were used in the art education for over 100 years. And even the disappointment is easy to understand: the art education supported the idea of aesthetic quality for decades and fought for it. And suddenly the aesthetic quality is obsolete.

The art education can not do anything against it; because what art “is”, is not decided by the art education. To continue with the old meaning of art in the area of art education, while the art system uses another meaning, is making a very a high sacrifice for an antiquated definition (which will ultimately fail).

To have problems with terminology always means having problems with theory. (Renner) The “art” education has to find new names or terms for that what is taught in the field.

This is a chance to win terms, which fits better than the ones we used to use. It is an opportunity to modernize the subject.

It would not be the first time to make a paradigm shift.
Before Art Education

drawing in the 19th century (material and examples)
Until the end of the 18th century drawing, painting and forming only was taught in the context of professional training. During the age of enlightening drawing became a subject of general education. During the 19th century drawing was broken down to very small teach- and learnable elements and taught step by step.

The teacher was doing the drawing on the blackboard and the pupils were copying it as good as possible.

The teaching became easier when they introduced sheets with stigma. Several points had to be connected by lines. One drawing looked like all others. No space for own ideas.

The training in drawing was founded on the idea to make the industry strong for the international market. The workers should be able to read plans and to make good forms. And then there were expected positive effects on cleanliness, discipline and perseverance.

As paradigm were used craftsmen and industrial workers and technical drawings and ornaments. The teacher was the (school)master. The pupils trained what was right – the model.
Art Education

Against these ideas the art education movement started to work at the end of the 19th century. Individual expression, ability for aesthetic pleasure and the positive effects of art on the development of children and youngsters were central.
Art education claimed a teaching which was orientated on art.

The orientation on art brought a lot of modernizing:
1. The pictorial utterance of children were taken serious, analysed extensively, supported and exposed (Franz Cizek, Vienna).
2. The training in drawing slowly disappeared from every day life at schools. Among drawing even painting and forming was trained.
3. The topics were taken from the field of experience and interests of the pupils.
4. Perception, pleasure and joy took the place of the former drawing-drill.
5. Creativity

The art term of the aesthetic paradigm made this orientation on art possible. Art had a discovery function, which was much more than technical skills. Artists expressed themselves in art. As genies and exceptional humans they decided free over there works. And there was a belief that children were capable to do that as well. They can even create works similar to the freedom of the artists. Children are only little influenced – so the thinking – by the culture and therefore more authentic. The better artists. It is easy to construct similarity between children and artists. Pictorial utterances of children could be taken as art.
If art is in the (formal) quality of the work, then paintings of children can reach this quality and be experienced as art. If art is a question of quality, then the works of children can be art even if they are ignored by the art system.
Aesthetic quality can be applied principally on everything. That means art education can even deal with phenomena outside of art, if they have good quality.
To summarize: The Paradigm of art education is on one hand the artist – the students doing their work - on the other hand the art lover – the visitor in the museum. On the practical work it is the masterpiece. The teaching is oriented by the pupil’s interests and skills like artists work is guided by their interest.
After art education

Crises pave the way to paradigm shifts.
The crisis in art education has two reasons:
1. The institutional art term fits not to what is happening at schools. Art is one among many social systems with no right to claim of having the truth.
2. Art and its content fit only partly for preparing children and young people for a world which is dominated by pictures.
This was recognized at the end of the 1960s by the so called Visuelle Kommunikation (visual communication). They tried to establish a new paradigm – with less success. The current publications in the field of art education in Germany and the classrooms are still dominated by art. Internationally the ideas of Visuelle Kommunikation are coming to life again through visual culture (Boughton in Istanbul)
If the old paradigm has come to a critical stadium then people embedded in the old paradigm react by making modifications to the theory. When art education is criticized to disregard the new media it is said, that media art can solve the problem, or pop art is dealing with advertising…
A new paradigm

As I said in the beginning the paradigm which determined art education is under pressure:
1. Changed art term: today art can no longer be defined by quality. What Duchamp has taught us, is now common knowledge. Art is a yes/no decision made by the art system. So the term “art” in “art education” refers to what the art system calls art – and the art system is only one social system among others, it is the art scene, a scene among many with no special right to truth (Demand 2007). But this scene succeeded to establish its own science and education as publicity instruments.
The works done by pupils can no longer be called artistic or like art, because they are not recognized by the art system. The term art can no longer be used to characterize teaching at schools.
(by the way: children in the media age even lost their naivety and therewith the likeness to the artists of the aesthetical era because of the Disappearance of Childhood, (N. Postman 1982))
2. Changed contents: the teaching no longer can ignore the so called visual culture. These phenomena do no longer fit under the aesthetic paradigm which is based on a hardly understood idea of quality. We know that questions of quality are questions of taste and with that questions of power, which are decided in the ruling classes. The occupation with “good” advertising, with “good” design and “good” architecture always tastes like taste education…
So we need a new paradigm:
What about this: we stop using special professions (artists, craftsmen) to define the skills of the children and young people. Instead we take modern democratic citizens who influence and form the social reality by being consumers and producers of visual signs in a wide meaning. Content would be the “space in all of its semantic dimensions” (Prevodnik, 2006).
The teachers are neither schoolmasters nor children’s friends which know everything better. They should meet with the pupils on the same level as citizens fostering education for both sides.
Not art but the picture in a wide meaning is central. The subject has to deal with: how pictures, design and architecture are used to communicate, to argue, to dream, to decorate, to play, to learn, to think, to understand, to express, to manipulate, to make believe, to rule, to explore, to research, to see, to entertain and so on. Some pictures can be used as art, but as they are “products” of a social system this is not so interesting and not that important as art teachers think.

In short the subject we now call art education and we in the future might call picture education (as the colleagues do in Sweden) should deal how pictures, design and architecture are used to construct our reality and how each of us can use them to influence that construction and herewith the reality. This includes understanding, creativity and communication.

The education should be orientated on a public which together generate, discuss and evaluate knowledge. How this public has to be organized is another story.
Paradigms in the field of "art"education
Before art education
craftsman, industrial worker
Ornaments technical drawings
Art education


Art lover
Coach artist children’s friend
Art masterpiece pupils interests
After art education
Democratic citizen
Democratic citizen
“visual culture”