Jan Jagodzinski


The Roman historian Pliny recounts a story that occurred during Periclean Athens. I will utilize this story, as a trope to undertake an interrogation of perception as it is commonly understood and currently practiced by art educators in schools. In order to deconstruct vision/blindness, or the perception/non-perception binary, I have examined the psychoanalytic paradigm of Jacques Lacan. His current interpreters provided the conceptual tools for such an undertaking. Given that the question of representation has become a key sign-post of postmodernism, art educators must conceptualize a trajectory for itself in the 21st century. Part One of such a trajectory questions the very foundations of the Western Eye. Its heyday of Cartesian perspectivism has now evolved into the postmodern simulacrum which purports to represent the phantasmagoric spectacle, that Jean Baudrillard called the “hyperreal” world of simulations where the sign of the image refers only to itself in a system of differences. Perception has been metaphorically characterized as a “corridor of mirrors,” a mise en abyme effect of endless reflection (Carroll, 1987). The claims to a multi-dimensional and multi-perspectival knowledge of all phenomenon paradoxically strengthens the status of an enucleated eye despite the waning of a transcendental gaze. In Part One, I question the validity of the enucleated eye by raising the “spectre” of desire which can’t be “seen.” I suggest that this “other” of vision is introduced into the field of vision by the function of the gaze as Lacan developed it in his XI Seminar (1979). He argued that the field of vision is essentially organized around what cannot be seen and what appears as a “screen” or a “stain,” a “spot.” Given such a stance, vision in the postmodern age now becomes complicated by an ethics of blindness (cf. Emmanuel Levinas) and sublimity (cf. Jean-François Lyotard). I will explore the implications of this “blind spot” for art education by introducing the question of “radical or diabolical evil;” i.e., the possibility that the human will is capable not simply of opposing the moral law, but making this opposition the very motive of human action. Such a possibility, for example, is paradigmatically illustrated by Oliver Stone’s film Natural Born Killers which specularizes its excesses (Hamsher, Murphy, Townstead, & Stone, 1994). Given the prevalence of this “dark God,” what are art educators to make of postmodern evil? Part One responds to this question through “five lessons” that are meant to lay the ground work for further analysis (i.e., a sequel—Part Two) which will extend this conversation to the simulacra world of electronic technology and the digitalized image in a more direct manner.


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