A New Pedagogy for the Artistic Freethinker

A few months ago I began reading Gaston Bachelard’s seminal book The Poetics of Space, and—for lack of a more eloquent expression—it felt like a slap to the face. I equate the delicate extravagance of Bachelard’s literature to the willfully physical gesture of a slap because it simultaneously inflicted a sting of humiliation and pain while also inciting a moment of hypersensitivity and awareness to the reality of my situation: that I have some bona fide self-inflicted barriers that are frustrating the potential of my own artistic practice and production.

In beginning just the introduction to the book, I encountered one of those surreal moments in literature in which feels almost as if an author clairvoyantly projected your most sacred of contemplations into written word for you alone to ponder. What I read was what Bachelard articulated in a deceptively casual tone:

“Academic psychology hardly deals with the subject of the poetic image, which is often mistaken for simple metaphor. Generally, in fact, the word image, in the works of psychologists, is surrounded with confusion: we see images, we reproduce images, we retain images in our memory. The image is everything except a direct product of the imagination.”[1]

I began to wonder: Have I been working backwards? Could my intuition to be a student of psychology actually be a hindrance to my practice of image-making, if not the ruin of it? Of course, the psychologizers of public interest during Bachelard’s prime were the disciples of pseudoscientific artifacts like psychosexual theory—“scientists” who quite literally endowed scientific authority upon legends and folklore. But temporal detachment from Bachelard’s own academic landscape did not excuse me personally from the likes of would-be scholars whose analytical mechanisms have conditioned a trained impulse to demand resolute meaning from imagery. Logically, such an impulse then disallows reception of the pure pleasure of phenomenological experience—much less the ability to generate that experience for others, as Bachelard insists great artists are compelled to do.

Outside of my individual readings in phenomenology, the unconventional trajectory of my art education has truly challenged my perception of myself as an artist and aesthete to the extent that I am recently beginning to feel that I identify more truthfully with the latter than the former. At least some extent of this awareness is owed to the conditions surrounding my introduction to the notion of art as a critical practice at all, which occurred only two years ago. At the time, my consistent restlessness and enthusiasm to spearhead any and all opportunities for creative direction in professional and extracurricular settings appeared to be an unequivocal indicator that I was patiently harboring some substantial creative instincts. I planned to appease these instincts through an eventual career in advertising, but as I was preparing to transfer into Cornell’s Applied Economics and Management program accordingly, I promptly discovered that I retained not only a disinterest in the curriculum, but an active repulsion towards it that I could not readily articulate.

Disappointed and defeated, I then deferred back to the liberal arts as a course of study. Based on a primarily intellectual rather than career-oriented impetus, I made definitive decision to study psychology. Although I had no forecasted interest in careers in psychiatry, neurological research, nor human resources, I was inexplicably captivated by my coursework in neuroscience and perception in a capacity that was so effortless that I felt obligated to engage that intuition. I soon realized that psychology’s hold on my intellectual cravings resided almost entirely within the poetic and philosophical implications nested quietly in the folds of the hard scientific literature—implications that reformed my own speculative approaches towards psychosomatic and existential concerns, such as perceptual relativity, the truly unfathomable capabilities of our brains for adaptation and plasticity, and the question of consciousness.

Whether it was this early fascination with the causal relationship between psychological and epistemological study, the social pressures from my best friends (all of whom were architecture students and would therefore be staying on for a fifth year at Cornell alongside me), or simply the exhilarating prospect of traveling to Rome for a semester, my decision to become a student of art emerged from a particularly sudden, unprecedented, and admittedly rash decision-making process. Yet somehow, the combinations of factors brewed a perfect storm that inspired an unprecedented resolve within me—one indomitable enough to prompt the hastened production of my required twenty-piece art portfolio exclusively within the span of two months, with absolutely no prior experience of producing a single finished piece before.

When I describe this pivotal yet almost entirely oblivious transition in my life, I describe the experience as “falling into art,” in order to accurately capture the spontaneous, intuitive, and admittedly inadvertent impulse that sponsored the decision. In considering the excessive demands of the transitional process yet my unwavering determination to complete it (and clear the myriad of bureaucratic hurdles enacted just for me, due to the relative tardiness of my application), it now seems somewhat ludicrous that the decision itself was essentially a mere product of circumstance, contingent on the specificity of my situation at the time (which I might dramatize as a state of existential limbo).

While it is difficult to retrospectively imagine exactly what my professional motivations may have been in making this decision (I mostly trivialized the gravity of the choice by characterizing it as a mere proclivity for my “creative itch”), the curriculum immediately began to transcend my expectations of how it would redefine my values and priorities—academically and professionally indeed, but more profoundly, ideologically. I became obsessed with the theory and criticism of post-war and contemporary art, and selfishly dragged anyone and everyone I could to museums and gallery shows in order to have even the most illiterate of listeners to endure my stream-of-consciousness interpretations of the exhibited works. In gaining this surveyed insight, however, I became increasingly more conscious of the inefficacies of my own instincts in being able to transcend pure visual gratification and reach a state of critical, poetic content. When I have tried, my pieces have been stiff, impersonal, and didactic, as if I have meant to reverse-engineer a specificity of interpretation—the very “psychologizing” that Bachelard situates as an enemy to the experience of art.

This instinct, which ultimately ails the production of almost every piece I have created (although admittedly it may be somewhat symptomatic of the lateness of my introduction into any kind of art-making practice), is counteractive to the phenomenology of imagery that inspired me to pursue art as a legitimate academic focus at all. Bachelard encapsulated the ideal art-making and -consuming paradigm best: “A man’s work stands out from life to such an extent that life cannot explain it… Art, then, is an increase of life, a sort of competition of surprises that stimulates our consciousness and keeps it from becoming somnolent.”[2]And although it remains far from slipping into somnolence, my consciousness stubbornly maintains its conditioned response to imagery by analytically charging it with psychosomatic allegations and implicating it towards its own precedent references. Despite honestly legitimate efforts to reverse this, I still consistently find myself guilty of reducing art spaces to semantic classrooms.

Although perhaps my energies may evidently not be best suited for an independent art practice, the sensitivities that my albeit recent introduction to an art education have bestowed upon my creativity and autonomy as a freethinker are immense: they have elucidated a critical dialogue for my own political, sociological, religious, and philosophical beliefs to the extent that I feel more confident and active as a socially engaged and socially aware member of our civil society. But such enrichment is not nearly particular to me: in fact, artistic engagement endows this cognitive restructuring universally, transcending even the most societally engrained disruptors of equality such as race and socio-economic status[3] (which perhaps foreshadows the promising sociological outcomes that could result from the systemic reformation and democratization of artistic programming). Most importantly, however, even my limited extent of an art education has nurtured an increasingly severe skepticism towards our societal dependency on institutional education as an agency of scholarship and career orientation—that is, a dependency on the assumption (or rather, expectation) that the astutely named system of “higher education” is directly causal to a “higher order” of prosocial performance or even civic obligation.[4]

Admittedly, confessing my inability to effectively “phenomenologize” my art work may be both harsh and reductive to my expressive instincts and intentions. In fact, it is precisely within these inefficacies that I have personally begun to delineate social issues about which I care most deeply, and thus attempt to share within an aesthetic forum (however straightforwardly didactic my methods may be thus far). To take the most obvious example from my work, my first real venture into making any sort of socially critical artwork was also my most intense and most personal. After a particularly distressing incident of sexual violence—towards which I felt overcome not just from the incident itself but by the all-too-palpable misunderstandings, miscommunications, and unresponsiveness on the part of people from whom I sought help—I reactively began to put pen to paper as if to express my anxieties in a medium beyond the pragmatics of verbal language, which was evidently not a sufficient means of expression for myself nor for others. In the process of creating the works (which eventually became a series entitledNoli Me Tangere [2013] [Appendix A]), I had no real knowledge or expectation of what product would surface, nor whom the audience would be, but I was somehow driven by more initiative and intentionality than I ever had been towards my schoolwork.

The project’s progression was painful, cathartic, and ultimately tremendously educational for me—more so than any other project I had produced throughout my academic career to that point. Perhaps I was not altogether aware at the time, but the fruition of the project was a personal moment of realization of the candid value of my art education. In no other field was I so blissfully blithe about my grades yet so personally invested in my peers’ and professors’ reception to the work, and in no other field was the resultant object of my work so intrinsically motivated and therefore so productive.[5] Most remarkably, in no other field could I receive opportunities (much less utter encouragement) to liberally research social issues that pertained to my own personal and social landscape, and accordingly articulate my understanding of that research in a medium that was simultaneously perceptible yet intangible, moralistic yet nuanced, and confrontational yet interrogative. To me, this experience epitomized what learning really is.

Of course, this paradigm shift in public pedagogy has not been systematically implemented for quite observable reasons. Namely, how would one begin to “fairly” affix a grade or normative judgment to a product that is not a self-justifying treatise in itself, but essentially an imprecise yet intentional appeal for critical deliberation and dialogue? How would practitioners of a centuries-old tradition of evaluating categorical procedures of research, analysis, and explication (and in plenty of cases, post-rationalization) even begin to arbitrate measurable data from a product that dissents from those procedures’ perpetuity? And if this pedagogy of experiential intrinsic learning by way of artistic engagement truly has the constructive merit I believe it to have, how then might we begin to stimulate a systemically reformed education that breeds critical dialectics as much as actionable decisions? And ultimately entangled in this upheaval, how do we mediate the material values of “free market” capital with the intangible values of self-actualization[6] and actual freethinking?

The most immediate and profound barrier that directly obstructs this paradigm shift is the paradox of education as an institution. Our current model treats education as a product of a system dependent on fundamentally (though tacitly) political Western methodologies, fraught with their own self-imposed and self-maintained ideological dualities for the sake of comfort, ease, and propriety. While my politicizing of these dualities may seem indulgent or even “radical” (which embarrassingly seems to be one of the most forbidden adjectives among the utter jargon of present-day politics), the phenomenon of constructing them with such moralizing conviction (consciously or not) to the extent that they become an instructional manual for social regulation is necessarily a political phenomenon.

It therefore seems rational to me that what follows is the essential gesture of historicism, in all its reductive seduction. Let us consider this gesture ascribing upon the most classic of dualities: Us and Them (which Bachelard also refers to as Here andThere, mentioned later). First, the most fundamental ideologies within the duality become detached from their pure semantics, and thus are reconceived as binary oppositions—that is, the Us and Them concept transcends from being a cognitive representation of the individual’s relationship to their externality and evolves into an antagonistic product of social identification, in which ingroups and outgroups are reduced to polarized beliefs. Second, the schism between those systems of beliefs becomes a matter of social competition, from which the system of beliefs belonging to the dominant party are those that become codified into complex, self-validating, and inherently artificial symbolic representations. Thus, moralistic judgments are imparted such that the set of values associated with the social identity of the ingroup is sermonized and the outgroup is demonized. As the dominant belief system is perpetuated throughout its historical trajectory as the ruling perspective, it becomes historicized—that is, represented as the historical reality: a truth truer than other histories; the proverbial Eye of Providence placed firmly atop the pyramidal hierarchy of literary and therefore cultural sanction). These particular artificial symbols (materialized as products of hierarchical order such as written law and organized classism) are indeed pragmatic in that they preserve the operational capacity to sustain the necessary social inequities erected into its own structure.

Those happenings that are considered evocative or provocative—as determined by the dedicated classifications of these historicized conventions—are then frozen in archival indices; those that are considered superfluous or counteractive to the narrative agendas are simply expunged from their ideological paradigms, and thus disallowed any acknowledgement of their incidence at all—neither contemporaneously nor among forthcoming generations of students and scholars—a true force of obsolescence. Subsequently, in the consistent repetition of this nearly algorithmic process, a palatable tessellation of narratives emerges—arranged in a configuration which occasionally bends and evolves, but never seems to truly rupture its original algorithm. To put it in Winston Churchill’s much simpler and more celebrated terms: “History is written by the victors.”

Once again employing the effortless resolve of his prose, I defer to Bachelard’s writing in the context of confronting of the issue of artificial dualities:

“’This side’ and ‘beyond’ are faint repetitions of the dialectics of inside and outside: everything takes form, even infinity. We seek to determine being and, in so doing, transcend all situations, to give a situation of all situations. Man’s being is confronted with the world’s being, as though primitivity could be easily arrived at. The dialectics of here and there has been promoted to the rank of an absolutism according to which these unfortunate adverbs of place are endowed with unsupervised powers of ontological determination… But in philosophy, all short-cuts are costly, and philosophical knowledge cannot advance from schematized experiments.”[7]

While Bachelard is ultimately addressing his line of reasoning specifically towards the architectural experience, he approaches the subject of interiority and exteriority as the phenomenological human experience, thus granting its validity to permeate through the entirety of the knowledge acquisition process, in a gestaltian sense. The here versus there duality that Bachelard illuminates in this context is precisely the social mechanism that has projected into virtual existence some of the most basal dualities upon which the Western world has constructed its social convention. The dualities are politically repurposed into a standard of binary oppositions, such as those injected between nationalism versus exoticism, simulated borders between human civilization and “nature,” “hard sciences” versus the arts, among literally dozens of other major and minor examples.

What I allude to in the lattermost example is the direct consequence that politicized oppositions have on the industriousness of scholarship—for at this point, what began as my own supposition of historicism’s implied teleology progresses now to encapsulate the system of education as a whole. The conception of history as an entity detached from our state of presentism is in and of itself reductionist, as it is within the contours of our historical understanding that we navigate our current world—both on a sociological as well as an individual timescale. While the loose ontogenetic procedure that I have thus ascribed to the process of historicism is theoretical in nature, it actually exists as the current paradigm of educational convention thanks to the victors of our colonial history. Accordingly, the bias of the empowered entities has generated a ruling system of beliefs within our society that can broadly be characterized by the dominating moralized values of capitalism, patriarchy, and luxury.

So in summary, the entire problem of education lies in historical governing bodies being granted the authority of deciding upon a peoples’ conceptions of what is true and what can be dispensed from study, for which they employ historicism in order to enforce. Why is this a problem? Because the notion of knowledge—understandings that individuals hold to be accurate, objective, and therefore applicable to their schemas of their own existence—should absolutely be egalitarian. Because if a population is denied ownership of a history that in its mere occurrence is an object of public domain, what knowledge can they truly own? If an individual’s own consciousness cannot even be free from the politicized agendas of hierarchical authority, are they truly free? And in what world does this systematic denial equate to a society that prides itself on its values of freedom andpublic education?

Bahamian artist Tavares Strachan is both hypersensitive and confrontational towards this institutionalized inequity of knowledge. Many of his works directly address the issue by means of memorializing some of those marginalized individuals whose contemporaneous social circumstances prevented their legacies from reaching the point of archive or heroism. For example, hisPolar Eclipse exhibition at the inaugural Bahamian Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 2013 featured a video of Strachan trekking through a polar tundra (Appendix B) to pay homage to the voyage of Matthew Henson, an African-American who was one of the first individuals to successfully journey to the North Pole in 1909—a man whose accomplishments never before reached the pages of Western transcripts of our history. Not surprisingly, individuals of marginalized populations whose accomplishments arecelebrated in the books of our Western histories have their recognition quickly trivialized by the exoticism that is imparted to outweigh the merits of their contribution; take, for example, the Disney animated feature film Pocahontas, which transformed the historical figure into a sexualized cultural icon.

“With a collapsing educational system and the distraction of tourism,’’ Strachan once wrote in a letter to Jane Farver, “a focus on developing an agency that allows its citizens to expand beyond its waters seems appropriate.’’[8] This notion of goading the viewers’ consciousness beyond their predetermined expectations is crucial to Strachan’s work and philosophy: he is cognizant of tourism’s impending threat of not actually allowing for global dialogue, but rather reinforcing the stratification of social identity, nationalism, and therefore, cultural expectations.

For example, of his experience presenting his Polar Eclipse exhibition at the Bahamas Pavilion, Strachan shared his observations that the majority of viewers of his show had reactions varying from surprise and intrigue to even shock and anger. Their expectations of the work presented at the Bahamian Pavilion—which was the country’s inaugural presence at the Bienniale—were that it would be representative of the Bahamas’ “national identity.” This was the effect of “postcolonial nationalism” that was appended to the Bienniale, by which he refers to the dominant notion that attending an international event in which works are presented by their geographical classifications should fulfill the role of essentializing the international identities that are represented. Viewers anticipated bite-sized iconography (perhaps with a trendy contemporary “twist”) reminiscent of the exoticized illustrations of the Bahamas that Western forms of cultural consumption have introduced: Caribbean culture, tropical weather, and the likes. They were instead shown imagery that on a surface level appeared indifferent and extraneous (if not blatantly contradictory) to the viewers’ established knowledge of the Bahamas as a destination: Strachan trekking through a polar vortex in the North Pole, for example.

The definitive nature of these expectations (as well as the resultant sentiment of disappointment from the thwarting of those expectations) are symptoms of postcolonial historicism that pervade much of the literature and perpetuated criticisms of contemporary art: specifically, the essentialism of exoticized culture. By essentialism, I refer to the convention of automatically exhibiting and understanding the work of non-Western contemporary artists as representations of the “essence” of the artist’s cultural background or heritage. It is the mechanism by which the canon of Western consumerism wants to bottle the consumption of non-Western contemporary art into a knowable and homogenized representation of a nation’s social identity. It therefore prohibits the artwork from being an autonomous, phenomenological experience; it disallows and demeans the poetic experience; it marginalizes those who are already marginalized.

It is thus self-evident why the theorists and scholars most skeptical of the Western notions imposed into historical discourse might themselves be cultural products of those very impositions’ resultant inequities. Take for example Sarat Maharaj: a preeminent scholar and curator who obtained his primary and secondary education in Apartheid South Africa (undoubtedly among the most extreme and catastrophic cases of systematized inequality within our recent history). While Maharaj seems to be hyperaware of the incongruities of the familiar Eurocentric lineage of art historical criticism he also seems to be unabashedly optimistic. “The archaeology of the word ‘art’ as understood within the Western system is an extensive subject, but look how dramatically we are leaving that system!” Maharaj exclaims, referring to the active radicalization of interdisciplinary practice in regions historically marginalized by the art world such as India, China, and Africa. He expands:

“[This global activity] deterritorializes received concepts of art. Groups working on the Internet or with film, video, performance, and other practices are involved in modes of knowledge production that often have oblique relations to the visual. They amount to spasmodic events that are rather different from what passes as visual art in the museum-gallery system. Are such practices more like research machines through which social, political, visual, statistical, epidemiological data are telescoped? These are visual-intellectual evolutions that cannot be reduced to constructions of the art system. What we call art activity is expanding, extending, transmogrifying in the global contemporary setting.”[9]

What Maharaj begins to unravel here is what Claire Bishop characterizes as the condition of the dialectical contemporary—a proposal for the paradigm shift of artistic scholarship to accommodate for what is evidently a new and radicalized landscape of art-making. Bishop explains how the classification of an artistic genre by its temporality—as in, the phrase “contemporary art” itself—is clearly paradoxical: it is indicative of the extremity of our engrained impulse to historicize anything of discursive value. How do you historicize what is by definition a condition of our present? How can we encapsulate the exponentially expansive activity that Maharaj observes as the contemporaneous circumstances of artistic practice? The dialectical contemporary addresses this by essentially embodying dynamic and planetary discourse as the ruling authority of criticism. It is therefore a form of defiance against the current methodologies of critical discourse: it disallows the conventions chronology, historicism, and essentialism, and instead proposes a discursive model that readjusts to new understandings of geography and temporality. Essentially, it recognizes the arbitrariness of the systems of classification with which we have been piloting art historical research and reconstructs them to treat the study of contemporary art not as a historical temporality, but as a module for understanding and accepting presentism in all its spastic, multidisciplinary, and ephemeral mystery. It is thus the ideal educational apparatus for the pluralistic world.

In deconstructing the fundamental conventions upon which the education of our future generations is contingent, this is not to say that educational curricula is optimized for learning when it is completely liberated of any imposed structure. What is certainly evident, however, is that the principal assumptions upon which these existing structures are provsional truly implore a methodical reassessment, and eventually a fundamental overhaul.

I deliberately target the educational system as a potential medium for the critical repair of our Western value systems for several reasons: certainly for the clichéd but valid truism that younger generations are indeed the leaders of our future societies, but also for the relatively cloudless tabula rasa that young minds are sensibly apt to retain. (Indeed, I anticipate that a radical reconstruction of traditionalized pedagogies—especially as a deliberate means of undermining the capitalistic values upon which the entirety of our populous has adaptively invested so much—would invoke indignant defensiveness and cognitive dissonance at a critical mass. Revolution, it seems, is a young person’s game.) However, the most critical role that institutionalized education plays within the theatrics of revolution is that in its ideological inception, it represents the romantic universal desire to “seek truth” among the chaos of existence, such that it might inform our constructive decision-making. (So ironically, the idealistic educational system is actually directly opposed to the existing educational system that obscures “truth” through a political lens, as I have thus thoroughly discussed.) So if the problem of our civil society lies within its barriers to free thought and proprietary consciousness, what better system to reimagine than that whose teleogical purpose is to foster an expanded awareness—a “higher education”?

So via what channels of outreach can we begin to mobilize a true critical dialogue? How can we engage a nervous public in the unfamiliar territory of the dialectical contemporary? How can we disengage the Western world from its post-colonial lens? How can we take advantage of the tendencies of civil behavior in order to optimize a system of social engagement and criticality—one that breeds freethinking as a civic duty?

These questions are quite obviously utopian in nature, but the one solution I can intuitively propose in order to begin to invite answers to them is exactly what this autobiography-turned-diatribe-turned-personal statement has thus far meant to assert: that the bounty of an individual’s egalitarian thought can be excavated by a practice in poeisis—which, as the foundation for art-making, I consider as the practice being a vessel for the creation of phenomenological experiences that transcend the material comforts of our constructed society, of spatial and temporal rationalizations, and of historicism: an experience of the aesthetic sublime. The aspect of removal from societal obligations is key, as Paul Chan emphasizes: “By not obeying the law of any system or authority external to the process of its own making, a work emphatically expresses its own right to exist for itself and in itself, and questions—by merely existing—the rule of law that works to bind all to a semblance of the common good,” he writes. “Art is a lawless proposition.”[10]

What the practice of poiesis teaches us is exactly this resistance that Chan describes: a resistance to reductionism in all its ease of articulation and self-justification; a resistance which engenders the straightforward unknowingness of our perceptual experiences, rather than fears it. As the social beings that our current state of civic engagements have bred, we are immensely fearful of confessing our inabilities to understand and articulate, to which our instinctive reaction is to over-articulate—either with semantic emphasis, repetition, or intellectualization—as a means of demonstrating the impression of understanding. We thus encounter a paradox: over-articulation as a medium for reductionism. But the institutionalized application of this paradox is the very phenomenon of cognitive dissonance that spawns historicism, essentialism, and my own inability to dissociate premeditated meaning from the creation of an art experience—it classifies threats of the unknown into categorical systems of the known.

Artistic practice—in all its creativity, relativity, and constant elusiveness from institutional definition (especially in the context of the dialectical contemporary)—resists such categorization. It epitomizes the practice of experiential learning in the mere fact that when implemented properly, the experience of engaging with art is exactly the experience of learning how to be free. In creating art, we release ourselves from the assumptions of value that are in actuality merely reflections of a post-colonial social order, and instead bravely attributing value to the intangible experience of the poetic form. And evidently, in our contemporary state of affairs, we crave this renewal of consciousness: as Bishop observes, “The idea that artists might help us glimpse the contours of a project for rethinking our world is surely one of the reasons why contemporary art, despite its near total imbrication in the market, continues to rouse such passionate interest and concern.”[11]

As a theoretical practice, artistic engagement exists in opposition to the constructs of our societal biases. But much more importantly, in engendering a sustainable model for freethinking, it actively resists acquiescence to the current state of affairs, elucidating a higher-order understanding of the systematic inequality and indifference that has been erected by those very constructs. In other words, freethinking enlightens the oppressed of the nature of their oppression. It is therefore a prerequisite for revolution, since ultimately, what will hopefully ensue from this critical understanding via poiesis is the mobilization of poiesis’ Aristotelian cousin praxis—the compulsion for social engagement, critical dialogue, and an honest form of freedom.

So where am I currently situated within this master plan? As with any radical deconstruction of established social orders, professional opportunities to engage with revolutionary ideals are not made easily accessible while also allowing navigation and survival in the capitalistic landscape in which we exist. Furthermore, it is only retrospectively that I realize that the pragmatic ideals that I have been progressively cultivating since my foray into critical artistic theory and practice have been aligned with Marxist ideals—given the taboo prescribed upon Marxism itself, the potential that these ideals might spontaneously be invoked amongst a critical mass of Americans is quite slim.

In the a Marxist account of my ideological saga, I might illustrate my present condition as a loyal and patient consumer of Cornell as a “higher education” institution: a centuries-old service-based establishment that apprehensively teeters between functioning to its societal expectations (as a productive asset to what is presently the accepted model of epistemology) and functioning as a nucleus for the very dialectical engagement that could begin to collapse those expectations. And in the most practical account, I still cling to idealism: I am simply a student whose accidentally auspicious academic path has engendered a faith in art—a vessel for the constructed experience of experience itself—as a force of educational reform. Above all, I am an individual (of hopefully many) who is patiently exploring opportunities to crack at the threshold of an intellectual revolution.

[1] Bachelard, Gaston, M. Jolas, and John R. Stilgoe. The Poetics of Space. Print.

[2] Ibid.

[3] A 2012 study by the National Endowment for the Arts noted significantly higher rates of prosocial behaviors such as civic engagement, academic performance, and career goals among students that were engaged heavily in arts curricula. See “New NEA Research Report Shows Potential Benefits of Arts Education for At-Risk Youth.” National Endowment for the Arts. National Endowment for the Arts, 30 Mar. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <http://arts.gov/news/2012/new-nea-research-report-shows-potential-benefits-arts-education-risk-youth>.

[4] At this point, I feel obligated to interject with the disclaimer that from now on (unless otherwise indicated) I will be referring only to the Western canons of societal and educational order ( even more specifically, to those of America); although I have been educated in other international school systems, I regretfully admit that I do not feel as though I have sufficient insight nor criticisms towards those systems to formulate a substantial argument for reformation. Presently, the term “we” will refer to the proverbial “we” synonymous with the current American populace.

[5] Behavioral research in the field soundly indicates “a synergistic interaction of prosocial and intrinsic motivations in predicting higher levels of persistence, performance, and productivity”; see Grant, Adam M. “Does Intrinsic Motivation Fuel the Prosocial Fire? Motivational Synergy in Predicting Persistence, Performance, and Productivity.” Journal of Applied Psychology 93.1 (2008): 48-58. Web.

[6] In situating the issue of self-actualization within this argument, I refer specifically to the provocative psychologizings of Abraham Maslow in which he describes self-actualization as the ultimate “need” of the human psyche within his famous Hierarchy of Needs. Although the legitimacy of the hierarchical model has since been widely agreed upon as heavily reductive (and perhaps even a case of pseudoscience), I believe his theories maintain sociological significance in that they provide a rough skeleton for a global reconsideration of our motivations: atop which self-actualization humbly resides, encompassing . See Maslow, Abraham H. On Dominance, Self Esteem, and Self-Actualization. Ed. Richard J. Lowry. Boston: Thomson Brooks/Cole, 1974. Print.

[7] Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space.

[8] Meier, Allison. “Overlooked African-American Explorer at Center of Bahamian Venice Pavilion.” Hyperallergic. Hyperallergic, 12 June 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <https://hyperallergic.com/73215/overlooked-african-american-explorer-at-center-of-bahamian-venice-pavilion/>.

[9] Birnbaum, Daniel. “Temporal Spasms, Or, See You Tomorrow in Kiribati!” E-flux (2007). Print.

[10] Chan, Paul. “A Lawless Proposition.” E-flux. E-flux, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <http://www.e-flux.com/journal/a-lawless-proposition/>.

[11] Bishop, Claire, and Dan Perjovschi. Radical Museology: Or, What’s ‘contemporary’ in Museums of Contemporary Art? London: Koenig, 2014. Print.