Excavating the ‘Critique’: an investigation into disjunctions between the espoused and the practiced within a Fine Art Studio Practice curriculum

by Belluigi, D.Z.

Abstract (Summary)
This report presents the findings of a case study excavating the event of the ‘Critique’ (crit), the formative assessment method within a Fine Art Studio Practice curriculum. Arguments informed by critical postmodernism, education theories and contemporary art criticism are utilised to construct a dialectic of higher education, contemporary art and fine art studio practice. An emphasis is placed on the importance of agency, expressed through intentionality and critical thinking, with a recognition of the relationship between ‘the self’ and ‘the other’.

Using critical discourse analysis, the disjunctions between the espoused and practiced curriculum are explored. The researcher analyses how the assessment practices of the case studied are influenced by unexamined agentic factors, such as inter-departmental relations, lecturers’ assumptions and prior learning, and structural determinants, such as the medium-specific Bachelor of Fine Art degree structure and prevailing artistic traditions. The research findings indicate that these are underpinned by tensions between two orientations, the espoused curriculum’s discourse-interest informed by critical theory, and the theory-in-use. The latter is shown to have unexamined modernist leanings towards formalism and a master-apprentice relationship between lecturer and students, which encourages reproduction rather than critical, creative thinking. The dominant discourses in the case studied construct a negative dialectic of the artist-student that can be seen to deny student agency and authorial responsibility. Findings suggest that students experience this as alienating, to the extent that to preserve their sense of self, they adopted surface and strategic approaches to learning.

An argument is made for lecturers’ critically reflexive engagement with their teaching practice, and thereby to model ethical relationships between ‘self’ and ‘other’ during ‘crits’. In addition, emphasis is placed on how assessment practices should be more aligned with the espoused curriculum, so that the importance of a reflexive relationship between form and content, process and product, intentionality and interpretation is acknowledged.

Bibliographical Information:


School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:fine art


Date of Publication:01/01/2008

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