On the Threshold-looking In: Bakhtin’s Concept of Dialogue in Visual Art Education

By Gabriele Esser-Hall.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Before the emergence of new visual culture products the relationship between student and teacher was well defined. The teacher possessed relevant canonical knowledge which could be communicated to students.
The majority of practitioners in art education are still working within this mental framework. As a result most staff meetings revolve around the question: ‘How can we motivate our students, avoid the frequent vacant stares during lecture time and improve badly written essays?’ For quite some time now we have recognized the gap between ‘Generation Analogue’ and ‘Generation Digital’.
The focus on new modes of delivery rests on the idea that art education practitioners should enter and familiarize themselves with students’ visual spaces in order to experience the visual culture that surrounds them. Only then will they be able to communicate the close link between traditional visual culture products and current ones. This approach is still based on the ‘magisterial’ mode of teaching though, where the educator presumes to achieve knowledge through intellectual engagement rather than experiential osmosis. It does not acknowledge the fact that ‘Generation Digital’ has internalized this culture whereas ‘Generation Analogue’ can never gain this kind of embodied understanding.
Applying Bakhtin’s concept of dialogue I will present an approach to art education which celebrates the difference in engagement with visual culture products and recognizes the value of remaining on the threshold of each other’s visual culture domain where shared engagement is by invitation only. A teacher who is willing to admit ignorance can initiate a dialogue and inspire students. It is in this particular space of distance and mutual respect that embodied learning can take place.
The paper aims to provide theoretical background and suggestions for utilizing the ‘threshold space’ in classroom teaching.

Keywords: Visual Culture Products, Art Education, Bakhtin

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 5, pp.301-310. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.140MB).

Dr. Gabriele Esser-Hall

Lecturer in Contemporary Art Theory and History, School of Media Arts, Wintec Waikato Institute of Technology, Hamilton, Waikato, New Zealand

Gabriele Esser-Hall is currently lecturing Contemporary Art Theory and History at the School of Media Arts in Hamilton/New Zealand. Before that she taught at the University of Northampton in England. Her doctorate on the interrelationship between text and image in Victorian children’s books is from the University of Goettingen/Germany. She has published essays on issues of art education with specific focus on the integration of practice and theory and on the role of narrative theory in art practice. She has also edited an exhibition catalogue and contributed to the book about intercultural communication and signage: ‘The Means by which we find our way’.


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