Thursday, 23 October 2008

The Ignorant School Teacher

I was reminded of French philosopher Jaques Ranciere's book The Ignorant School Master during last week's drop in art session using clay. This book describes the emancipatory education of Joseph Jacotot, a post-Revolutionary philosopher of education who discovered that he could teach things that he himself did not know! After a first week of folk playing with the clay I was unnerved to see two or three of the group heading down the figurative route. I hadn't done any 3D figurative modelling since primary two when the teacher told me I was 'making' a very nice dog when infact I thought I was 'making' a very nice bird...

Perhaps since Duchamps Urinal in 1917 Art has been a contested practice. It may be that there is most agreement about the negative - what Art is not and hasn't been for a while. And that is representation. There is a broad (but not universal) consensus then,  that modelling from life as an end in itself is not-Art.

Fair enough, but that left me in a precarious position vis-a-vis my art group who were looking to me for to the Fine Art Library then on George IV Bridge to seek out some helpful 'working with clay' manuals.  Tentatively I started following instructions for a simple figure using six balls of clay. Quite quickly  however, I started thinking, or rather feeling yoga - one of my favourite poses - Upavistha Konasana to be precise.  I proceeded with pleasure, enjoying the process and content that the result, although rough, did communicate to me anyway, some of the tranquility of the pose.  

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