University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Philosophical Approaches to Education seminar series > Willed Forgetfulness: The Arts, Education and the Case for Unlearning

Willed Forgetfulness: The Arts, Education and the Case for Unlearning

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Abstract: Established scholarship in arts education is invariably related to theories of development founded on notions of multiple intelligence and experiential learning. Yet when contemporary arts practice is retraced on a philosophical horizon, one begins to engage with other cases for learning. As artists take intelligence beyond the matrix of development or progression, one’s sense of experience becomes anticipatory, dispositional and scopic. This is specifically contextualized in what one could call art’s inherent paradox. Rather than explain, reflect or simply express a form of learning, the contemporary artist invites us to critique and reject the developmental notion of learning by directing us (as participants in art’s event) towards a case for unlearning. This paper begins to approach unlearning by initially exploring the anticipatory nature of experience as an act of scoping. It will revisit the notion of anamnesis—recollection—by exploring how experiential anticipation is a form of recollection, and how experiencing art’s events opens the ground for a series of negations, paradoxes and contradictions. Here, arts practice becomes a form of mimetic scoping whose pedagogical trajectory is that of unlearning. In this respect recollection turns into its opposite: it becomes a form of willed forgetfulness. This peculiar form of ‘movement’ from a state of learning to that of unlearning constitutes the basis for a special kind of pedagogical aesthetics where the challenges of criticality and laterality are considered as special ‘worlds’ where learning works backwards.

Brief Bio: Dr John Baldacchino specializes in art, philosophy and education. He is currently Associate Dean of Teaching, Learning and the Student Experience and Associate Professor of Arts Pedagogy at the School of Art & Design, University College Falmouth, in England. Prior to his current position, he was Associate Professor of Art & Art Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York; before which he held academic positions at Gray’s School of Art in Scotland as Reader in Critical Theory; and at the University of Warwick in England as Lecturer of Arts Education and Cultural Studies. He is the sole author of six books, the most recent being Education Beyond Education. Self and the Imaginary in Maxine Greene’s Philosophy (Peter Lang 2009); Makings of the Sea: Journey, Doubt and Nostalgia (Gorgias 2010); and Art’s Way Out: Exit Pedagogy and the Cultural Condition (Sense 2012). He is currently completing a co-authored book with the philosopher of education Kenneth Wain, and is embarking on a new book project on John Dewey, which will be published by Springer at the end of this year. His longer term Mediterranean aesthetics trilogy, of which Makings of the Sea is the first volume, is on course and progressing well.

This talk is part of the Philosophical Approaches to Education seminar series series.

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