Art theory as taught in Australian higher education is still predominantly focused on Eurocentric artistic practices, methodologies and histories (Grant and Price 2020), with practices by First Nations artists and artists of colour, often relegated to tokenistic one-off lectures. This approach to syllabus not only fails to reflect the depth, breadth and diversity of contemporary artistic practices in this country and its neighbouring regions, but also creates an inherently imbalanced perspective of art. Disconnecting and disempowering diverse student cohorts, who increasingly demand a more critically reflexive approach to their arts education, including the types of works and artists they encounter, and how they position themselves in relation to such practices.
Using the undergraduate art theory course, Re-Shaping Worlds as a case study, this collaborative paper discusses the importance not only in developing a curriculum that gives students an expanded perspective on artistic and curatorial practices, by decentring dominant, Western and hegemonic art narratives. But also, our roles as arts educators in facilitating and supporting reflexive practice amid climates of political, social and ecological uncertainty.
Re-Shaping Worlds introduces students to a diverse range of contemporary art practices and curatorial approaches in the Asia Pacific region. Using critical-creative pedagogical methods, and focusing on themes including diasporic formations, decolonialism, ecological futures, and institutional racism, the course invites students to consider how their social identities shape the knowledge they produce through a situated approach (Ahmed 2012; Tuck & GaztambideFernández; 2013; Tuck & Yang 2013; Day 2012; Hamby 2018; Ennser-Kananen 2020). This approach emphasises how positionality can be acknowledged, brought into research, and influence how art is experienced and engaged with. This is particularly significant in a context where students are writing about the work of other artists and curators, as well as works by practitioners with shared lived experiences.
As we argue, this consideration of ontologies, epistemologies and methodologies not only brings to the foreground the situated position of the student (as emerging practitioner, researcher, writer). But can also provide opportunities to be critically reflexive on the idea of “expert knowledge” and what it may mean to research topics outside of lived experience or, alternatively, inside of lived experience; leading to a more critically engaged relationship with arts education, and cultivating shared relations, between and amongst students and educators.