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#3: Educational Turn

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Glosario Giro Educativo-Glossary Pedagogical Turn - English version

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Glossary Pedagogical Turn - English version.pdf

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Glossary: ​​Educational Turn

The connection between critical thinking and educational practices has become increasingly stronger in the field of cultural production and art. Various experiences during the last decade reflect a change in perspective on the artistic and curatorial production as well as in the activity of certain museums and art centers that have addressed their work to find concepts related to education, focusing on the potential of individuals and groups, in order to react to current reality and to promote their emancipation (Mörsch, 2011a). This trend, which has been called "educational turn" (Rogoff, 2008), is motivated by a desire to provide critical responses to the asphyxia generated on learning and to the social inefficiency of the systems of production and distribution of knowledge. All of this, under the new process of commodification and bureaucratization of the institutions which is undergoing within the neoliberal restructuring of Western societies (Mörsch, 2012).

Somehow, from the idea that art may help to perceive things from a different perspective, raise awareness and catalyze action or political participation (Emmelhainz, 2013), the art field has assumed the responsibility of examining the power relationships that occur in the institutionalization of education and has begun to imagine alternative ways of social organization, using education as form and adopting critical pedagogical models as medium (Allen, 2011). Somehow, this turn is presented as a possibility of generating strategies and new models of institutional critique from the field of art and curatorship, aimed at academy and institutions of formal education as well as art institutions such as museums and art centers.

However, this turn does not only involve the generation of formats, methods, programs, processes and procedures that takes education as a subject from a critical point of view; the purpose here is to legitimize art and curatorship as a critical and radical educational praxis in itself. In order to achieve it, a paradoxical situation rises in the field of artistic and curatorial practice that have expressed an interest in education. On many occasions, to highlight this idea and gain recognition of this role, these cultural agents show the need to differentiate from the art education and disregard the work of the educators, considering educators are merely exercising a transmitter and normalizing role. A role, moreover, that is often relegated to these professionals as being a part of the field of art.

In this process, curators and artists, not only overlook the knowledge of educators who have spent decades relating the art to the pedagogy within their practice, but often reject the references of the field of education, relying mainly on sources from the field of philosophy. Thus, they end up playing a certain discursive elitism that leaves out the dialogue towards those whom it is intended to address. Similarly, to refer to what they do and to distinguish from the forms of institutionality they are criticizing, artists and curators are turning to a variety of terms such as mediation, radical pedagogy, self-learning, self-education, etc. Thus, they avoid the use of other concepts such as education or pedagogy, considering these terms may have some connotation close to indoctrination or vertical transmission of knowledge.

This antagonistic positioning, besides of revealing a clear difference in position of strength between curators and artists, on one hand, and educators, on the other, within the artistic framework, shows the ignorance and denial of the processes of reinvention, resistance and change and transformative possibilities that are trying to offer both in schools and universities, as in many educational departments of museums or art centers. Furthermore, even if these projects often propose other models of educational institution, beyond a temporary change, they rarely question or disturb the institutional frameworks in which they are deployed. As Krauss, Pathick and Vishmidt (2010) point out, it seems that with many of these projects we are facing an institutional critique authorized and absorbed by the institutions themselves, culminating in a harmonious dialectic between the objectives of some groups and the goals of others, only reaffirming the privilege of the usual actors.

However, despite all these controversies over the years, there have been projects which have carried out reflections on the opportunities offered by this educational turn in order to reconsider the role of the curator, the artists and the education professionals and their complex relationship within the framework of art. In this regard, several authors (Graham, 2010; Mörsch, 2011b, 2012; Sánchez de Serdio, 2010) have noted how significant it may be to explore the potential opportunities for cooperation on equal terms between all these actors, starting from common interests and seeking to set up, embody and perform together an emancipatory project and a transformative practice for a reflective and critical institutionality. A practice that decentralizes the museum or the exhibition as a primary place of change, using it only as a starting point for the development of work processes that may arise out from the creation of new partnerships.


From these reflections, a series of questions that could be intended to open the debate are proposed:

  • What do we mean when we speak about mediation within the framework of the educational turn? What does this concept mean in different contexts to which the members of the network belong? What theoretical references are handled when defining this term?
  • Is the mediation a work of art when an artist originates it? What is the role we give to art? Does art have an educating power in itself?
  • What kind of participation/collaboration is encouraged in projects related to the educational turn? Who gains recognition?
  • Which are the ideal conditions for developing a project?
  • How can we escape the culture of the spectacular event, the symbolic capitalization of projects and the logic of the competition in the cultural sphere? Are other economies possible in the field of culture? Which forms of institutionality do we consider to be necessary to explore?
  • Which transformative possibilities do we perceive with the educational turn?


Bibliographical references

Allen, F. (2011). Education. Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Emmelhainz, I. (2013) Arte y giro cultural: ¿Adiós al arte autónomo comprometido?. SalonKritik. January 20, 2013. Recovered from: http://goo.gl/NN9Hmk

Graham, J. (2010) Spanners in the spectacle: Radical Research at the Front Lines. Fuse Magazine, Spring, 2010, Vol.33 (2), p.22 (7)

Krauss, E.; Pathick, E.; Vishmidt, M. (2010), Spaces of Unexpected Learning 2. In: O'Neill, P. and Wilson, M. (Ed.). (2010) Curating and the educational turn. London, De Appel Arts Centre.

Mörsch, C. (2011a) Alliances for Unlearning: On the possibility of future collaborations between Gallery Education and Institutions of Critique. Afterall N.26. Spring 2011. Recovered from: http://goo.gl/HW5dij

- (2011b) Educación crítica en museos y exposiciones en el contexto del “giro educativo” en el discurso comisarial: ambigüedades, contradicciones y alianzas. Translation Nora Landkammer. MED11. Recovered from: http://mde11.org/?page_id=1962

- (2012) Contradecirse uno mismo: La educación en museos y exposiciones como práctica crítica. En  Collados, A. y Rodrigo, J. (2012), Transductores: pedagogías en red y prácticas instituyentes. Granada: Centro Jose Guerrero. Diputación de Granada. pp.39-58

Rogoff, I. (2008) Turning. E-Flux Journal #0, 11/2008. Recovered from: http://www.e-flux.com/journal/turning/

Sánchez de Serdio, A. (2010) Arte y educación: diálogos y antagonismos. Revista Iberoamericana de Educación, Núm. 52, enero-abril, 2010, pp. 43-60. Organización de Estados Iberoamericanos para la Educación, la Ciencia y la Cultura España.