Ignorant Schoolmaster, Dead Hare

Daphna Ben-Shaul

Ignorant Schoolmaster, Dead Hare

 

The Pedagogical Antinomy of Performance Art

The paper was written following the Performance 0:4 – Pedagogy conference, held at the School of Visual Theatre in 2015. The article1 brings forth a process that is rooted in understanding the position of learning as a performance, in its cultural sense. It offers a concept that expands from the core teacher-student relationship, further towards the generic learning space known as school, and onwards – to the social setting and the concept of pedagogy as being a super-method that shapes bodies of knowledge. This comprehensive structure is being studied in the paper as an antinomy (a contradiction between valid stances that are simultaneously present or that are on the same continuity): The pedagogical performance is first of all linked with power relations (and not policing). Foucault's comparison between prison and educational institutions is one example. The article then discusses the complementary dimension of the antinomy: pedagogic performance encompasses an emancipative ethos – emancipation from pedagogy itself, from what it tends to represent and from the fixating significations of ignorance. In this context, the discussion mostly deals with “classic” reformers, in particular, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Paulo Freire – lingering on Jacques Rancière's book The Ignorant Schoolmaster, and on its development in the significant article “The Emancipated Spectator”, where a distinction between educational interaction and actor-spectator relationship is established. This is the process that leads to engaging with the pedagogy of performance art, also affiliated with a broader perception of pedagogy.

We chose to bring forth three Segments that are connected to performative interaction in general and to our interest in performance art as (an unraveled) aesthetic category. Segment #1 has to do with the emancipation project and Rancière. Segment #2 illustrates one of the pedagogical performance options: a lesson-on-a-lesson performance. Segment #3 discusses links between performance art and pedagogy and raises questions about instances of friction between them.

Segment #1
Emancipation Project

It is tempting to mark the quest for emancipation as a political exception from educational repression. However, what inspires and encourages the need for alternative and reformative pedagogy is that which is regulated, and vice versa. Subordination to an inherent social function that is backed by the system shall always produce the politics of disparity and a struggle for uniqueness. Even intrinsic hierarchical differences within the teacher-student role-playing shall always be a pattern prone to be dismantled. The pedagogical economy of power and related emancipation project on one side, and radical action on the other, are two modes of the same performance and an additional way of defining and experiencing interplay. Any performing interaction, in which a suppressive structure is distinctly activated, is a potential social emancipation project.

A resonating example for pursuing the pedagogical emancipation project is Jacques Rancière's Le Maître Ignorant (1987)2, in which he recounts the story of Jean Joseph Jacotot (1770-1840), a teacher who was required to teach at The University of Louvain in Flandria (now in Belgium), even though he did not speak Flemish and his students did not speak French. He resorted to a bilingual copy in his possession, of the utopian novel Télémaque (Telemachus) (1699) by Fénelon, and instructed the students to learn the French text by independently comparing the texts in both languages, to memorize the texts by rote, and then to relate, in French, their thoughts about the text. To his surprise, they fulfilled their tasks successfully, were able to express themselves in a level of French that was sufficient and up, and internalized the foreign language within short. The experiment, conducted in 1818, caused a significant shift in Jacotot's pedagogical view. Rancière described this revolution as a revelation, or “a grain of sand in the machinery.”

Jacotot's method remains attached to conventional ways – the teacher initiates the instruction and asserts authority. He relies on the old-fashioned practice of rote learning. However, the act of explaining which, in teaching is considered incontestably necessary is omitted from the interaction. As per Rancière, the conventional logic of “explication” brings forth an endless oscillating movement where explanation explains the explanation, etc. The method's new liberal and technological improvements still tend to perpetuate the opaque partition between teacher and “Taught-Learnee” and thus maintain the symbiosis created between “explicator” and those who don't-know, who are unable to understand, who are in a state of blindness and frustration. The educational act that is meant to extricate from ignorance works, in fact, as “stultification.” In Jacotot's experiment, the prevalent interplay is disassembled and replaced by a deliberate withdrawal and the transfer of ignorance into the field of the master-explicator. Like a pedagogical variation to Roland Barthes's Death of the Author, the author-teacher assigns a task, thus constantly remaining in a position of a kind of non-present obstetrician. Meanwhile, the antinomy sharpens: Ignorance is the lack of knowledge that allows for obtaining knowledge through actively refraining from transmitting it.

Jacotot thought that self-acquisition of at least one thing is sufficient as a base for learning. He assumed the activation of independent will and desire are required, and that intelligences are fundamentally equal. Rancière stipulates that activating these motivations is outside the realm of semiotic deciphering of content markers such as, reading a foreign language and understanding it. Instead of a decoding that is focused on the sign – French signs for example – the self-teaching pedagogy tends to be interdisciplinary and compares the languages. This approach leads to finding common grounds that can eliminate or bridge differences and rely on the existence of a material dimension. According to Rancière, in this case, the third dimension is the book itself that serves as an island (similar to the Isle of Calypso that is mentioned in the book). This bilingual book was chosen by chance, simply because it was available to Jacotot, but it was also particularly suitable for creating a shared space. Telemachus's journey described in it, deals with the initiation of a teenager. The book also incorporates the Greek of Homer and Virgil's Latin and can be used as a center, connecting everything to everything with a totality that Jacotot identifies as Universal Pedagogy.

When the body of knowledge ceases to be the actual thing and turns into a comparative space, both knowledge and ignorance are no longer limited to a discipline in the sense of a profession and field of specialization. The meaning of discipline, as a regulative method and as a delimitation defining a field of knowledge becomes redundant in light of activated self-realization of the desire to learn. It can be added regarding Rancière's distinctions, that the specific goal of learning French – defined as the opposite of ignorance – is not the sole value of knowledge. Being present over time, and flickering between languages that create a linguistic fusion which makes the languages indistinguishable; the cruising between them and the material meeting point, being the book, which serves as the infrastructure for total, limitless and goalless knowledge; are ways of obtaining the antinomic knowledge: unknowing knowledge. Ignorance is not its antonym since unknowing is a form of knowing.

It is not a coincidence that Rancière approached the subject of the Ignorant Schoolmaster through an additional paradigm – that of the Actor-Spectator, which he discussed in a 2007 lecture included in the book The Emancipated Spectator (2009).3 The discussion's merit lies not in specific practices for emancipating the spectator, but rather in comparing the interactional core of paradigms, the pedagogical and the theatrical. Theatrical performance, according to Rancière, produces double ignorance. First, viewing is a condition contrary to knowing because of being ignorant regarding the production/creation process and the reality it conceals. The knowledge seems to be transmitted from the performer's/teacher's mind to the student's mind. Second, viewing is usually considered to be fixated, conventional, in the dark, looking up to the lit stage and it is the opposite of acting which is active and takes place on that stage.
This self-repression is derived from the unequal opposition of artistic performance, creating the regime of visibility distribution that is embedded in the spatial arrangement and is analogues to political and civil passiveness. The gaze of the spectator, who is accustomed to viewing the sufferings of others, perpetuates this ignorance once and again. Any active potential is defeated through the cultural and spatial-temporal organization of communities, who fail to use their common strength. As Rancière puts it, in more sharp words, the distance separating teachers from students, spectators from actors, is, in fact, a radical gulf of mutual disregard. The scope of the teacher's field of vision does not cover the student in a satisfactory manner. In the end, despite the efforts invested in developing and liberalizing pedagogy, the ignorant/passive spectator's position is expected to regard it with an uninterested glance from a position that generates ignoring (ignoramus ignores).

One would have expected Rancière to continue from there and consider active spectator's participation as an opposition to the radical gulf in both pedagogy and theatre but, he leaves this subject to others. Moreover, what he names hyper-theatre – where the distinction between aesthetic limits and life itself is erased, and representation becomes presence – is not what he aims for. He suggests a discourse, indistinguishable from his concern with aesthetic politics of “The Division of the Sensory,” that is conceptual and political guidance for methods of emancipating from division economy, and it's oppressive and fixating patterns.
The theatre needs a “non-explicatory” common-denominator which Rancière calls the mediation of the “third term.” Material meeting places, free of dictated loyalty to the terms of artistic discipline, are required; places that enable egalitarian cooperation among intelligences through active interpretation, where the actors and spectators are a community of storytellers and translators. Theatre is a space where power position of the stage is being dropped. Emancipation, it is important to note, is not only from spectator's or student's passive receptiveness. It is also from spectator's power, which is latent, yet enormous; from the symbiotic power position where the spectator's role validates the actor's role.

Segment #2
Sample Lessons

One of the channels of the pedagogical performance is the ultimate and multi-faced expression that can be named a “lesson-on-a-lesson,” or the meta-pedagogical performance. It can be designed as a play, show, a variation on performance art, and any stage artwork. And it can also be realized in any pedagogical space and educational institutions.
It is only natural to consider the play The Lesson (La Leçon, 1950) by Eugène Ionesco as a paradigmatic starting point for the pedagogical suppression. A female student (i.e. pupil or disciple, élève) arrives at the home of the professor that is referred to only by his profession. She is welcomed by Marie, the maid, and is led, nameless, to the teacher. During the lesson, the teacher becomes impatient and irritated due to her ignorance. She contests but still becomes more and more passive, repeatedly complaining about a toothache that turns into total distress. Eventually, the teacher grasps an invisible knife. The student, further to his instruction, repeats the word knife, cou-teau, and finally asks: “does the knife kill?” 4 And the teacher performs a simulation around her as if in an Indian dance and murders her with what is described in the stage instructions: a spectacular stabbing. Marie, the maid, assertively takes control over the professor, who tries to attack her as well, and together they turn to solving the difficult problem of burying 40 bodies of female students that accumulated so far, while the next student rings the doorbell.

There is no fitting interpretation to this horror “sketch” other than a misogynic symbolic representation of gender and existential pedagogical oppression. After all, we are talking about serial murder that is at the same time also a man symbolically raping girls using a knife, at the orgiastic rage about ignorance. And yet, the emancipation project flickers through these horrific acts and creates a two-faced antinomy of the pedagogical performance in the play – an oppression model and emancipation, eradication of ignorance and perceiving it as an alternative knowledge channel. To reduce the interpersonal distance of pedagogical interplay, the setting is transferred from School to the teacher's private room. The spatial situation refines the power relations. In a one-on-one situation without the coverage of a witnessing group and with no institutional frame, the violence and underlying coercion, the sexual threat experience and lack of control over one's body, are introduced. The hierarchical structure and the teacher's quasi-dictatorial position in the face of a group become vaguer in this situation. The imaginary thrust of the knife that brings the lesson to an end and fulfills The Death of the Student (in analogy, it is also “The Death of the Spectator” who is ignorant and passive), as a ritualistic salvation. They get closer in a simultaneous cry of “Ahhhh” and that does not only hint to the linkage between stabbing and intercourse. It is also an unanticipated escape from the dichotomous symbiosis they are both in. To replace the distant “explication,” mediation of the material “third term” (such as Jacotot book that Rancière refers to), that is in this case, not a book but an invisible knife.

In addition, the pedagogical performance is literally full of transitions between disciplines and “Elementary linguistics and comparative philology” – a multitude lacking in any clear disciplinary boundaries that is in line with the “Total Doctorate” and the “supra-total Diploma” that the professor attributes to himself. Similar to cruising between Flemish and French in Jacotot's experiment and Rancière's description of it as a childish retreat into an intermediate playful space, the philological exercise is not a precise logic method but rather fleshy and tonal training that connects languages. A foreign language that was appropriated and disrupted, as per teacher's reservation, would be understood thanks to the rough empiricism of the ordinary people. That which separates languages is, in the end, “ineffable” (unpronounceable, inexpressible.) Despite his professed reservations regarding intuitive and non-scientific knowledge, formal philology (the study of language and its history) is converted, in the private lesson, into a tonal and physical space, where the teacher describes research and knowledge of the fields as the ignorance, embedded in instinctive communication among ignorant individuals. The murderous lesson, constructed as a macabre joke, both oppressive and liberating, is intended, nevertheless, for another dimension of “supra-total” understanding.

How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, that Joseph Beuys performed in 1965 at the Dusseldorf, Schemla Gallery, has long been considered an influential and most interpreted Sample Lesson, and it too can be seen as a variation of “The Death of the Student.” The interplay, we should mention, was mainly Beuys's – honey and gold leaves all over his head, felt wrapped around one of his legs, and an iron plate strapped to the sole of the shoe on his other leg – and he is holding a dead hare. After sitting on a stool, his back turned to the onlookers, he walked with the hare in the narrow gallery among his own drawings picture after picture. He talked to the hare, moved its legs using them as a pointing finger to touch pictures; he moved its chin towards pictures and eventually laid it on the stool. The audience watched the action, which lasted more than two hours, from behind the open curtains of the gallery window while the door remained closed. They could not hear the murmur, which was actually direct speech, describing and rationalizing the actual pedagogical performance to the hare. It is obvious that a hare better understands than humans who are in need of rational explanation, and one must look directly at the picture (a paraphrase of Beuys's words that was clarified in retrospect). The ignorance of the Student-Hare is an antinomy: it is the starting point for an explanation but is essential to experiencing the art and grasping it. 

 

 

The image of Beuys's performance goes on to be a material meeting place that is sufficiently spacious to represent art making again and again. Much has been said about the hare taking part in Beuys's self-mythology. According to the story, told and retold, his plane was shot down in 1944 in the Crimea, and locals healed him by wrapping him with animal fat and felt – materials that constantly appeared in his artworks being related to his liminal life-altering event between near-death and rebirth through healing. In this context, as well as through the influence of anthroposophy and Rudolf Steiner on Beuys, art and creation are being forged as forms of redemption where the art teacher has a role of a life-giver, a shaman, a healer. Emancipation is, according to him, that of the incomprehensible power that opens the channels of imagination, inspiration, intuition and passion.

The proximal relationship – the rate and the measure (which in Hebrew is also the word for lesson, Shi'ur) or assessed distance relations between bodies – remains the lesson's core: proximity to the body of the dead animal that is being animated as a marionette and cradled. The distance between professor and student is not intended to be reduced through stabbing. The core of the alleged-explicatory teaching process is enveloped by the showroom setting and the outer shell of the viewing community on the other side of the glass. However, this framing emphasizes, by contrast, the ritual, and spiritual connection, created in the gallery, where teaching in front of the material object (pictures on the wall) is self-revival in action. The student died, because she is, to begin with, an extension of the artist (and art students). The artist is, therefore, the hare, artist and hare are one. The Artist-Hare places himself in the death and resurrection motion, starting with his sitting on the stool, and on to him laying the hare in the same place. The artist is subjected to the circular power and passion of the creative action and is therefore emancipated from "explication," or from the act of "Taught-Learning" and its products. But no less, he sets himself between nature and the cultural action that would inevitably interpret nature, chain it, and cover it in a web of explanations. In fact, he is both the act of creating or manufacturing art and the tale it tells. And thus, he offers his story and his action as an explanation.

An additional sample lesson is Form & Content – Dramatic Lesson #1, by Yonatan Levy, included in his book Malkitawus, Poetic Drama & Dramatic Poetry (2015).5 I took part in performing it at the Under the Mountain, New Public Art School event, curated by Omer Krieger. The performance was held in a theatre class at the Experimental School in Jerusalem city center during the 2013 Season of Culture. It was also performed as the opening act for an event called The Schoolmaster is Ignorant, The Hare is Dead, which I curated at the conference Performance 0:4 Pedagogy held at the School of Visual Theatre in 2015.

In this case, the lesson was based on a site-specific participatory model. The Teacher (Yonatan Levy) sat on a slightly distinct chair in a circle of chairs, wearing a hat full of ice cream. Fifteen of the spectators sat in the circle; each received a spoon attached to a stick and a copy of the play, their role highlighted, for the participatory reading. The rest of the audience stood or sat outside the circle. The Lesson-on-a-lesson started with uncovering the ice-cream in the hat and presenting it invitingly. Whoever were brave enough, scooped some ice-cream using the long spoon (too long to feed oneself), and fed it to another person in the circle. The interplay generated random networks of gestures, crossed sticks, gaping mouths, and of course disruptions and laughter that was experienced as taking part, also by external viewers. Analogies include fusion or paralleling of the students and the external theatre audience. The parallel and spreading structure of reciprocal actions involves students and teacher in the fictional pedagogical performance, spectators-students interacting within the circle of action, as well as the simultaneous peripheral viewing and the reactions related to it.

The sticks, separating and at the same time connecting, are extended during the lesson, scooping the ice cream brain. Not only do they depict direct extracting of knowledge from the brain (as per Rancière's observation in The Ignorant Schoolmaster). They even literally assess the distance between students and teacher and estimate its extent, while the etymological connection between the Hebrew words for both gate and rate (Sha'ar) and lesson (Shi'ur) actually came up in the dialogue. They are part of the circular network in which the rate of distance (the distance becomes more and less), is present and abolished within the same action, without the need for the thrust of a knife. The teacher starts by saying: "Hello. If we look at the setting of the class / as an artistic expression of the teaching and learning manner / we can come to a variety of interesting thoughts.”6 The Death of the Professor and The Death of the (Female) Student are unnecessary since the nascent connection between words, action, and action's accessories, relate all of the elements to the encompassing form of pedagogical interplay, and to the extensions of one charging and discharging consciousness.

YonatanDaphna Ben Shaul

Form & Content – Dramatic Lesson #1, at the conference Performance 0:4 Pedagogy. Photograph: Daphna Ben-Shaul

Those associated with the circle are the content that generates the art and the setting of the class. The material ice cream is the substance of the content, the metaphorical and material meeting place of that same art. The dialogue, breeding the seeds of knowledge while serving ice cream to others – in which the teacher repeats his question: "What am I thinking?" – creates "a guarantee" (or "cross-undertaking") for understandability,"7 shared individual knowledge. This ritual emancipation project, where bureaucratic trivia of the education system flickers (the teacher asks, "who among us is getting a teaching certificate?"),8 turns the lesson into an assessment that is being turned back towards the students – back to the other side of the stick: "To what extent has the consciousness assessed and taught itself during the event?" He asks. And the answers split between himself and different students in a quick sequence (Stichomythia): "It is the deepest responsibility / of the learner / and the place / where ends the role / of the teacher.”9

Towards the end, it appeared for a moment that the role-playing turns into an exchange – into a certification that shifts the authority to the students who are in the circle (and then onwards). But the main development is the prevailing insight, embedded in the dialogue, about them being left to their own devices. At least after putting the stick down at the end of the performance, a symbolic mutual release from being a teacher and a student will take place; a release from scooping ice cream and passing it forward, as well as from the bilateral dependence on the gaze. Getting off duty is still a variation on "The Death of the Teacher" and "The Death of the Student.” However, it is hard not to see this release (when the performance is over, the sticks returned and the circle of chairs dismantled) as an expression for the threshold of dropping the pedagogical relationship that connects all the roles rather than "the death" of all roles through canceling or ending the performance. In other words, the undoing of the interplay takes a break, goes home, but in practice, it exists in a present progressive.

The sample lessons remained here within the distinctive realm of a representation of a lesson, some of which are subject to being located as site-dependent in the school building. I could at least highlight a broader concept of the pedagogical performance related to the development of the "pedagogical turn" (one more Turn added to the cumulative collection of cultural twists, among them the performative turn and the social turn.) This concept reflects the search for new affinities and models for the curating and multidisciplinary creation of research and knowledge institutions. In broad terms, the pedagogical turn is the contemporary artistic consciousness that engenders the production of "Academies.” Exploration and knowledge spaces can be set into art world events and their practices, and be formed as institutional projects and collaborations. They can also rely, for example, on urban and community partnerships and on placemaking in collaborative projects where knowledge is shared, and questions are being raised through uniting around an idea that finds material and discursive footing within a dynamic active space.

Segment #3
Performance Art is a pedagogical antinomy because

Performance Art – and the art of performing in general – is pedagogy no less than it is aesthetics. Performance Art is not required to be performed as a lesson-on-a-lesson, since it is, by itself, a form of knowledge, recognition, and understanding, a form of epistemology. Although it is not committed to any specific educational theory, its growth can be seen as an essential part of the gradual emergence of a pedagogical approach. Its modes of realization attest to its self-perception as a project of emancipation, as alternatives for hierarchical structures that operated in its unbound boundaries, such as the theatrical tradition of bestowing primary and authoritarian virtues upon the written text, or attributing overall control to the director. It is possible to realize these alternatives through any activity that a performance artist or an original actress-creator-researcher initiates; through expression channels that blur the difference between directing, acting and design; through co-directing and collaborative group work; through any practice of Devised Performance, based on initiative, often collective, and creating in lab conditions or community-based co-creation.
A major and rooted dimension of the emancipation project, which takes place through these channels, is the replacement of distinct artistic mediums and subjects, by interdisciplinarity. As if interdisciplinarity is the discipline of connecting disciplines or schools (an additional meaning of school). This concept is not separate from teacher-student interplay, even if not as a direct representation because it undermines the authoritarian power relation related to it, as well as the discipline, as a form of an educational corrective method. The concept does not look down on professionalism and the ability to possess knowledge as a skill and expertise (though one should consider the issues of dilettantism and lack of professionalism in performance art), it rather questions isolation within the boundaries of the medium and its practices as a ruling principle for any particular action.

Charles Garoian develops this dimension in Performing Pedagogy,10 in the chapter titled "The Emancipatory Pedagogy of Performance" in particular. According to Garoian, it was performance art that ventured, in recent decades, to rethink the separation and hierarchical organization of disciplines. He considers it the actual implementation of postmodern ideas to progressive education. The field has been connected with some transgressive properties such as pushing boundaries and artistic queerness, as well as interdisciplinary, cross-cultural pluralism and replacing watching with participation. Transgressive performance, notes Garoian, tend to confront cultural dominance – nation and military, or school culture for example – and to provoke controversy or exist in controversial areas. Performers, who are located in between categories, are, as per his definition, the "liminal-servants," those who are active right on the threshold. Performance art is in search of desires, opportunities, and ways for liminal activity, between different levels and concepts of existence and perception. Following Garoian it can be said that performance art, being an emancipation project, possesses the potential to perform knowledge that disrupts pedagogical power structures and their concentric setting – knowledge that exists in core manifestations (such as educational interplay and actor-spectator interplay) in institutional locations (school, theatre) and their position in the social organization.

Garoian's perception expresses “the birth of performance art from the spirit of post-moderna.” Performative arts such as dance, theatre and live music, are not set apart from performance art or one another. They are connected with all forms of visual, screen, sound, and digital arts and spread to any practice, theory, research and ideology that deal with life itself. Their space is that of activity and discourse that is both convincing and necessary as well as playfully fascinating which makes it continuous self-reviving through action. It is easy to understand, therefore, our tendency to produce a flow of words about properties of performance art such as its being indefinable, positioned betwixt and between, imprinting knowledge in the active body, and questioning structures of power, knowledge, and regimes of senses and consciousness. Indeed, in the rationale for the conference Performance 0:4 – Pedagogy, we wrote that artistic performance and the widespread concern with performativity provide an arena for questioning the customary separations and their hierarchical and power oriented structure.

According to this perception, performance art must also negotiate the ideology of any institutional learning it is connected to as such. Performance art can open prospects for knowledge that is not subject to the school's culture or, it can generate both "the death of the teacher" and "the death of the student.” What should a young individual learn, when accompanied by the Paidagogos (the person escorting the Pais, or Paidos in the construct state) to a School of Performance Art? Should she learn to free herself from the accompanier? Should he linger on, and never arrive at the school? Convert learning time into vacation and thus bring the school back to its etymological origin of scholè which in Greek means free time and leisure? And what if he finds what he is looking for, not in a generic educational space but rather on the street or square or with an independent artistic initiative? As perhaps there is no need for the institutional demarcation, and we can go back to Ivan Illich's idea in his book Deschooling Society (1971) in its performance art version. Are we not supposed to change our destiny as "Taught-Learnee" performers? And what if that individual does arrive? Is it possible to learn in this school how to position oneself on a threshold? In other words, is the probability of pedagogical-threshold-positioning being taught at a school of performance art larger than / or equal to the probability of a dead hare understanding pictures?

Is eradicating ignorance through systematic teaching of bodies of disciplinary knowledge the job of the teacher? Can performance art be presented as a profession, subject or, genre and is it possible to designate a lesson to teach it? Can artwork created in the School of Performance Art celebrate the privilege of being free from any pragmatic, commercial and economic considerations as if it were a laboratory experiment? Or maybe it is a reproduction of the system? And maybe it is chaos, realigning time and again in a stylish order of mutual influences, as some entropy or a student cohort's second law of thermodynamics? Hooray, I deserve a diploma; I am as original and transgressive as the rest of them! And perhaps the holiest aspiration is to work in the relatively protected laboratory and practice terms of CO, consortium, ensemble, group, collective, cross-fertilization and solidarity, that would provide the prospects for empowering the ideological, perform, productive, and socio-political force even outside the institution?

We are at the saturated stage where the pedagogical quandary needs to graduate and move up to the next grade, to redefine school's shape, avoid expiration of the emancipatory self-search, to find again reasons for creating and operating, bonding and joining forces. The pedagogical-spatial demarcation of the school allows for these privileges. This was the spirit when we prepare the conference rationale for Performance 0:4 Pedagogy where, in pretending or appropriate naivety we wrote: "The pedagogy of performance is dialogic, exchanging roles, improvising, experimenting, resisting, inventing, intervening space, creating a twist in the mechanism, self-searching, establishing a school on Jupiter. The pedagogy of performance is establishing a school for _______ in _______ (define, specify, explain.)" 11

The need to create a pedagogical demarcation that is connected to the world relates not only to the spatial and behavioral differentiation of performance art but also to its ontological differentiation. The cultural mindset, associated with abundance and multiplicity of intermediate movements, can be anchored in the radical encounter between the aesthetic form and actual conditions. The ontology that can bestow singularity on performance art and its epistemic function (its role as a body of knowledge an expression of consciousness) is an aesthetic realization of being-in-the-world while representing it.

The creative conditions of performance art allow for the embodiment of fictionalization and the symbolization of reality while being subject to extreme friction with a perceived and experienced reality. The terminology of physical presence that is prevalent in performance art – joined by the prolific (if not exceeding) terminology of interdisciplinary – can be misleading if we see it as the complete opposite to aesthetic differentiation and as a negation of representation. Performance art differs from aspiring for pure form, which characterizes some of the modernist ideologies. However, when it embodies knowledge, it also creates an aesthetic domain, no matter how frayed and porous it may be, where a playful order exists.

Performance art toys with an interplay that brings together teacher and student as well as actor and spectator, on both sides of the threshold. For this purpose it operates patterns of distance and proximity, reduction and enlargement. Thus, its action creates a lessening of the distance or announces the abolition of the lesson.


This is an abbreviated version of the original article. The full article can be read in its Hebrew version here.


Dr. Daphna Ben-shaul is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of the Theatre Arts, Tel Aviv University, the head of the Actor-Creator-Researcher Program, and teaches at the School of Visual Theatre in Jerusalem. Her research deals with aesthetics of performance and political thought, spatial thought, reflexive performance, voiding as a performative phenomenon, and contemporary performance and theatre groups. Her research on site-specific performance is funded by a grant from the Israel Science Foundation.


 

1 This is an abbreviated version of the original article. The full article can be read in its Hebrew version here.

2 Jacques Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation, trans. Kristin Ross, Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1991.

3 Jacques Rancière, The Emancipated Spectator, London and New York: Verso, 2009.

4 All quotations are translated from the original French.

5 Yonatan Levy, Form & Content - Dramatic Lesson #1, in Malkitawus, Poetic Drama & Dramatic Poetry, Israel: Dchak, 2015, pp. 101-108. (Hebrew).

6 Yonatan Levy, Form & Content - Dramatic Lesson # 1, p. 101.

7 Ibid. p. 102.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid. p. 108.

10 Charles Garoian, Performing Pedagogy: Toward an Art of Politics, Albany, NY, SUNY Press, 1999.

11 The rationale was co-written with Guy Gutman, director of the School of Visual Theatre.