Interpreting Contemporary Art in Art Education

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It appears that the distinctive fate of contemporary art is to be confronted with indignation or mockery. Nathalie Heinich (1998) analyzed, amongst other features, the reactions of the public faced with works such as the Pont Neuf wrapped by Christo and Buren’s columns in the Palais Royal. All these cases bear witness to differences of opinion—irremediable—in terms of aesthetic values (between specialists and non-specialists). Of course, contemporary art seeks to deconstruct the framework of artistic creation, to subvert the codes and practices to such a degree that the interpretation of works becomes sometimes uncertain. Nevertheless, what comprised “the crisis of contemporary art” in France attests to a real controversy and reveals that denunciations are increasingly overt. Furthermore, in this case, this was not merely a popular and spontaneous reaction; the debate was one of ideas and, at certain points, reached a philosophical level. From this debate, first and foremost, on the criteria of aesthetic judgment and notions of taste, then on the role of the state in questions of culture, some recurrent reproaches emerge, in particular, aesthetic futility and the absence of content in an official art that is reserved for the initiated. Yet, the centres of contemporary art are not merely marginal, relegated to alternative galleries. This is a form of art that is supported, promoted by museums (and governmental bodies) (Heinich, 1999) —such as the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art. Therefore, one might expect that non-specialist visitors who venture into the museum would display a generally dissonant reaction. Still, contrary to expectations, Anne-Marie Émond’s work (2002-2006) shows the opposite we propose to explore this element of aesthetic experience in the current context of artistic education.


Keywords: Art Education, Aesthetic Experience, Museum, Contemporary Art
Stream: Creative Arts and Learning
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Anne-Marie Emond

Professor, Faculte des sciences de l'education, Universite de Montreal
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Dr. Anne-Marie Émond has training in both art education and museology as well as extensive work experience in the educational service of the National Gallery of Canada where she was an art educator for ten years. Dr. Émond completed her doctoral studies on the phenomenon of cognitive consonance and dissonance expressed by frequent museum visitors (more than five visits per year to a museum) as the latter interacted with traditional and contemporary works of art. She became a member of the Research group on museum education and adults at the Université de Montréal upon enrolling for her doctoral studies and continued her membership when she began teaching at the University of Sherbrooke. Dr. Émond’s subsequent engagement by the Université de Montréal in 2004 enabled her significantly to increase her participation in the activities of this group. Dr. Émond’s research focuses on adult responses to contemporary art in a museum setting, and investigation into degrees of consonance and dissonance that viewers report. A key contribution of Dr. Émond is her extensive experience of working in a museum setting, and her focus on what it is that subjects find inviting or alienating.

Ref: L09P0694