The Art Education Library
Part I – University of St Andrews. 17-28 June 2019
Part II – Basic Mountain, Edinburgh. 23 June 2019
This event was the inaugural presentation of The Art Education Library, a collaboration between Andrew Demetrius and Naomi Garriock taking the form of a participatory installation. Our shared research interests involve a reassessment of the often-neglected material culture of art education, from kindergarten displays and school textbooks to higher education and beyond.
How do radical pedagogies move from the institutional curriculum into self-directed learning? Books provide guidance and instruction for a range of users, from pre-school education and theories of visual literacy to art as leisure or pseudo-spiritual activity. Artist-teachers at the Bauhaus produced a set of texts (Bauhausbücher) to disseminate their radical modernism, later adapted by the Basic Design movement to form the basis of the UK art foundation course.
The rise of postmodernism brought new approaches to art teaching beyond the educational institution. John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (1972) and the Open University Art and Environment course (1976-85) delivered fresh ideas to a larger audience in a multi-media format. The digital revolution has in turn given rise to the YouTube tutorial phenomenon. Is this the empowered independent learning Ivan Illich envisioned in Deschooling Society (1970), and can printed matter still offer a radical stimulant for artistic practice or social change?
Do we need instruction? Can we trust the authorial voice? When does the radical become convention or cliché?
The project was held in two parts; the first was a display in the Library at University of St Andrews and the second was a one-day event held at Basic Mountain art project space in Edinburgh.
The Library display was designed to show several rare photobooks from University Special Collections Photography division alongside some texts by artist-educator Kurt Rowland, a neglected figure of art pedagogy and subject of my research. Additionally, there was also a drop-in presentation where visitors could browse and handle a table-top selection of further books and discuss the history of the literature of art pedagogy.
In Edinburgh we were able to display an enlarged selection of books face out on shelves and arranged on table-tops so that visitors could fully appreciate the cover designs and browse and handle items. We hoped that by taking the books out of the library ‘proper’ and re-displaying them in the form of an interactive installation / reference library, visitors would see the books afresh, spatially and figuratively recontextualised in an active participatory setting.
Visitors were issued with a Reader’s Ticket and invited to browse and discuss points of interest with the artists, to examine the literature and media of art pedagogy and the ways in which it reaches beyond schools and higher education to engage a broader demographic.
Andrew presented a talk about the life and work of Kurt Rowland, whose four series of classroom textbooks and theoretical texts on visual literacy formed the centrepiece of the installation. Several films were also shown that had been digitised and edited from 35mm slides and ¼” audio tapes, allowing viewers to see an early form of multimedia presentation and hear the voice of Rowland narrating his vision.
Visitors received limited-edition artists’ prints.
Andrew Demetrius,Curator of Visual Resources, School of Art History, University of St Andrews
Naomi Garriock,Artist educator