The ethically reflexive student and the study of visual culture
Art Education Australia
Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences
Western Australian School of Visual Arts
The re-organisation of the core theory course at the School of Visual Arts at Edith Cowan University was undertaken five years ago with the intention of developing a socially progressive study of visual culture 3 that reflected an Australia struggling to come to terms with the reality of multiculturallife. The program became less Eurocentric, less a history course, and focused instead on the theory of the production and consumption of visual culture for student practitioners. In the following discussion we 4 wish to argue that simply exposing students to basic access and equity paradigms is inadequate to the task of transforming the study of visual culture in an art school. We propose that the different lived experience of students must be located in their social, cultural and political context. We suggest this can best be achieved by encouraging students to become reflexive s as a way of avoiding the potentially excessive subjectivities legitimated by poststructuralism. We argue that concepts central to postcolonial theory (ideas about cultural contestation, the unequal nature of cultural exchange, and the difficulty of communication across cultures) can be the means by which students are introduced to the need for an ethical engagement with visual culture.