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NEW-MEDIA-CURATING  May 2010

NEW-MEDIA-CURATING May 2010

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Subject:

The pedagogical turn

From:

Dave Beech <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Dave Beech <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 6 May 2010 08:10:58 +0100

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Hi everyone,

Thanks for inviting me to this forum to talk about the pedagogical turn.

First of all I want to say that it is important that we see the pedagogical
turn in art as having taken place within the same cultural, political and
economic conditions as the pedagogical turn in TV entertainment.
Education-as-entertainment on TV is a huge proportion of factual programming
that developed in the 1980s and 1990s. We can list these shows without much
effort ­ cookery programmes, wine programmes, antiques programmes, gardening
programmes, survival programmes, technology programmes and medical
programmes, as well as a profusion of programmes to help you decorate and do
up your home, to dress better, to buy and sell property better and to bring
up children better. Celebrity chefs are a prominent symptom of this
development of education television.

At the same time, as education became one of the leading entertainment
genres, Tony Blair came to power in the UK famously announcing that his
three main priorities as Prime Minister would be Œeducation, education,
educatiionı. Also, management consultants have had their own pedagogical
turn, using the techniques and settings of education to deliver more
complicity by workers and lower management.

One of the reasons for all of these pedagogical turns is that, as Althusser
argues in the late-60ıs, there are two key apparatuses in modern society
through which individuals are socialized (or interpellated) - the family and
school. It is one of the two dominant ways in which our subjectivity is
shaped on the terms of the State. If we understand how dominant the family
is in our psychological, cultural and social make-up ­ how it has become
almost impossible for us to imagine our individual identity without
reference to the family in some sense ­ then we might in fact be surprised
that the pedagogical turn has taken so long.

We can add an historical dimension to the pedagogical turn by relating it to
Weberıs account of the development of modern society as a bureaucratic,
rationalized one. Such a society puts experts where tradition and oral
history once were. The rise of the expert in modern culture includes the
common trust in professional experts on parenting, marriage, cookery and
other domestic concerns rather than turning to traditions within the family
and community. It is precisely with this in mind that Adorno and Horkheimer
developed the idea of the Œtotally administered societyı. Nowadays we can
see the rise of the expert linked to the rise of celebrity, with TV chefs,
TV gardeners, and so on.

It is important to note, however, that the pedagogical turn in art,
entertainment, politics and management coincides today with the Stateıs
attack on education, especially higher education, and especially art and the
humanities. Middlesex University has recently announced the closure of its
world leading philosophy department. This is part of a shift in the Stateıs
approach to education which includes privatization by stealth (increasing
the Universityıs dependence on commercial income streams, outsourcing food
and drink supplies, as well as cleaning, security etc); the enormous
increase in administration and bureaucracy (as if these activities would
make the University work more like a business and less like a seminar room);
and the globalization of the university (including charging international
students extortionate fees).

In short, it would be very naïve to think of the pedagogical turn in terms
of its formal or technical possibilities alone. If we follow Althusserıs
argument, the pedagogical turn is inevitably going to embed art more deeply
in the work of the State, either directly in cultural regeneration projects,
or indirecly in reinforcing the kinds of subjectivity that schools produce
to bind individuals to the State.

Thanks again
Dave

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