Towards a critical approach to art education: in action research project
The action research project documented in this thesis was informed by Jurgen Habermas' theory of knowledge-constitutive interests. In this theory Habermas postulates three anthropologically deep-seated interests that inform our search for knowledge. These interests are the technical, the practical and the emancipatory. In the action-research project, which was done in collaboration with a group of first year art students at Bellville College of Education, I attempted to uncover the values, assumptions and interests underlying our educational interaction in the hope of transforming it to be more empowering and emancipatory. The project went through three stages, each of which was informed by a different interest. The first stage could be described as having a technical interest because it was based on positivist assumptions of reductionism, duality and linearity. In this "- stage art was understood as being value-free, objectively describing and reflecting visual reality. It was believed that theory and skills could be applied to achieve a predetermined product. In the second stage of the project the positivist paradigm of perception was replaced by the assumption that our relationship to others and the world is mediated by language which needs to be interpreted in a socio-political and historical context. Art does not only have a descriptive role but it can express subjective understandings of the networks of meanings and social rules involved in experienced reality. Finally, the third stage evolved within a critical framework informed by an emancipatory interest. In the drawing project we looked critically at aspects of our society which frustrate and constrain individuals to sustain dependence, inequality and oppression. We tried to uncover existing power relations and the historical, social and material conditions underlying certain problems we were experiencing. We hoped to find ways in which we could contribute to the transformation of ourselves and our society. The process of making art was here seen as a form of communicative action which can be empowering, emancipatory and transformative.