Problems of Art, Problems of Education
1. The crisis character of our Euro-American culture is so generally noticed that it needs no proofs. Among many different domains of human activity both the contemporary art and the theory of art are found in a hard situation; the marks of this plight are the more and more intensive questions about the end of art, anti-art, post-art on the one hand and about the post-aesthetics, anti-aesthetics and an-aesthtics on the other. In the theory of education we can find the same terminological symptoms which (like a rash) testify the same kind of impotence and illness also here the discussion about the end of pedagogy in the contemporary culture goes (Ricardo Massa) and the predictions of the birth of the new post-pedagogical epoch are made (Hubertus von Schoenbeck).
Shoud we, in such situation, following the past patterns like, for example, very valuable conception "education through art" (Herbert Read, Irena Wojnar), ask about the role of the post-art in the post-pedagogy? This way seems to be not especially fruitful.
Some think we can be more optimistic as regards the future of the theory of education because of the new, stimulating and refreshing ideas which come with postmodernity. Are they right? When the bold experiments, which introduce too enthusiastically the main postmodern ideas such as the decay of totality, the weakness of reason or the dispersion of subject to the processes of education can be risky, there are many other, although not so central, postmodern ideas, which are really able to inspire the processes of education.
The hero of our consideration will neither be a concepion nor an idea grasped in a short and accurate maxim, neither an instructive quotation nor even a chosen single word, but only the prefix "inter", which has nowadays reached the status of the philosophical idea, thanks to the postmodern thinkers.
We should still note that the philosophers from Paris were not the first ones to fill the prefixes with philosophical meaning. This procedure has its own, although not very long, history. Even though the convergences between French postmodernism and the original American pragmatism are rather superficial, sometimes even deceptive, we may not overlook (in the context of Derrida's, and Deleuze's achievements enhacing the significance of the prefixes "inter" or "transition") what was made in this field by American pragmatists like William James; words spoke by him at the begining of our century about the direct experiencing of the relations ("and", "outside", "in", "inter" and so on) as well as his words about the experiences spread on their fringes, sound very postmodern today.
2. Prefix "inter" has been gradually coming to its meaning in the shadow of the great, characteristic for the European way of thinking, metaphors; we will point out only three of them: the metaphor of place, the metaphor of time and the metaphor of conflict.
In the ancient and Middle Ages a man had his own place in the cosmic or divine order, meaning that he felt rooted and at home in the world. It changed later, mostly in the period of Romanticism, for the romantic geniuses voluntarily chose the fate of exiles but even they finally found their place in the worlds created by their power of fantasy and imagination. The sphere of "inter" seen from such point of view as in the metaphor "the own place" appears as the relational (derivative) space, indicated by the determinant place-points, so that the dwelling in it has always short duration and transitory character.
The expressions "short duration" and "transitory" show how the metaphor of time completes very spontaneously the metaphor of place in the process of determination of meaning in the sphere "inter". In the metaphor of time "inter" means the state between two important points of time filled with the proceeding from the starting point to the end, or what regards the so-called "meantime" the state of temporary suspension, of waiting for the end, of stillness and calm that will get broken with the first breath of air, with the first wind in the sails.
However, the state of being "inter" is best shown in the methapor of conflict. It is the very characteristic mark of the European way of thinking to see the world as a fighting arena of two opposing forces. A man, who was situated between these two forces, has to either choose one of them then he becomes a tragic hero, or to make only a little less dramatic (because appeased by the reconciliation) synthesis of both of them, as it was thought in Hegel's dialectics. To be "inter" in the conflict meant to be in the unbearable situation of such a degree that the man prefered rather to risk his life than to remain "inter" any longer. King Oedipus does not want to remain between knowledge and ignorance because the state "inter" means a pest; Antigone does not want to stay between the divine and the lay laws and, without consent to any compromise, to any reconcilation, she chooses the tragic death.
We are able to see as in this specific metaphysics of the prefix "inter", the sphere of "being between" exists as the secondary one, as originating from the more primordial points of place, time and conflict; then it is relational rather than autonomous, transitory rather than stable. It is a cross way between the points, a momentary suspension; but it is transitory also in this sense that even filled with wonderful adventures it still remains unbearable as the state of discomfort and pain. Homer's Odyssey takes place in the sphere "inter": between Troy and Ithaca (metaphor of place), between the end of the war and reaching the homeland (metaphor of time), between the passion to travel and the desire to dwell (metaphor of conflict).
We can observe today, in so called postmodern time, as this relational sphere "inter" becomes independent and autonomous. It loses its derivative character the starting point and the point of goal disappear, they do not participate any more in the determination of the meaning of the more and more autonomous sphere "inter". New metaphors of thinking are created to grasp the meaning of the self-existent sphere "inter": the metaphors of nomadism, internet navigation, transversal reason, rhisomatic net, intertextuality and the metaphor of odyssey at last but understood in the specific way, as deprived of the project to return to Ithaca.
The sphere "inter", "to be between" loses then its transitory character: if Odysseus does not come back to Ithaca he remains in the state of permanent travel. In this durable "being in travel" there are no more places of dwelling to which we sail and the time loses its direction it is neither a course (step by step forward) nor the temporary waiting, but the permanent drift. Instead of the former fundamental question "Quo vadis?" today we can only and at most ask "What's going on?".
What is more, we are not able as Jean F. Lyotard maintains in his conception of sublimity to go beyond the conflict, we always remain "between" the forces which we can neither reconcile nor through the tragic choice annihilate. There is nothing left for us to do but to become familiar with the thought that we have to be permanently in the situation of conflict between heterogeneous powers, which do not necessarily put themselves in the oder of binary (making a choice easier) oppositons.
The autonomous domain "inter" appears as a suitable metaphor of human condition in the end of the 20th century. Although we can be, of course, a little sceptical in regard to the antifundamental speech about the end of the great narrations, the experience of the world without the footing, i.e., foundations becomes more and more universal. Therefore being in the sphere "inter" for good, where we find no certainty, no security, no rootedness and even no possibility to make goals and projects, takes the character of challenge. Also for pedagogy.
3. The best teacher in the process of education, sensitive to all changes in the human condition in the postmodern world, could be art for it always was, in every form of its development, very sensitive to the sphere "inter". Here are some examples:
a. between the concrete and abstraction, detail and generality;
It is an old and very well known truth that each really great work of art is a sole and unique piece and, at the same time, it is in its peculiarity and concreteness a manifestation of the abstract and universal idea. A poem praising the poet's love speaks of it not only in its individual aspect but also in its general form, for art and probably art only has this mysterious power to act quite free in the paradoxical sphere "inter". This ability of art to unite detail and generality is worthy of attending it especially at this time, for the first half of our century has leant out too much towards abstraction not only (what is understandable) in the science but in the predominant (analytical, lingusitic or semiotic) streams of philosophy and even in art itself; the names of the main trends in art like "abstraction" or "conceptualism" speak for themselves. Therefore we should not forget what John Dewey called once "quality thinking" and what Wolfgang Welsch develops today in his conception "aesthtic thinking"; this regards such thinking which would unite the sensual perception with an idea, the concrete with generality and which would be in this way a remedy giving back the world its richness which had been reduced through the long domination of abstraction.
b. between freedom and a rule; spontaneity and discipline;
This dilemma is known very well to the European art which permamently swings between mimesis, i. e., imitation according to the rules on the one hand and the total free and unrestricted creatio in the best example of the romantic genius on the other. This dilemma is known very well also to the theories of education, which are unsure whether to found the process of upbringing on a system of rules or rather to opt for laxity of discipline because only in this way an individuality can be developed.
Also in this case the konwledge which art has obtained from its own history can be very illuminating, because it shows how the sphere "inter" exists in each great work of art; and each artist knows wery well that the true freedom of creation opens only on top of the craft. It is not the matter of compromise, consensus, reconciliation or synthesis but the consent to the durable difficulty, to the discomfort of the oscilation "between". But only in this way all forms of one-sided compulsion in the sphere "inter" can be avoided.
The examples mentioned in this paper are so widely known that we could be tempted to hastily apply one of the traditional interpretations (Hegel, existentialism) to explain them and, doing this, miss the problem. But there are other examples; the artists currently try to show the necessity of being "between" the high and pop culture, "between" the growing process of complexity in all domains and the need for simplicity as a condition of communication. They seem to be doomed to balance in the sphere "inter".
Richard Rorty in his conception of the aesthetic thinking speaks of two seemingly different figures: "the ironist" (or "curious intellectual") who desires "to embrace more and more possibilities" for self-enlargement and self-enrichment and whose life is "the life that seeks to extend its own bound rather than to find its center"; "the strong poet" who desires in the first place to create himself as a distinctive individual. In his discussion with Rorty, Richard Shusterman writes:
"Yet he wants to assimilate the two as essentially the same in their ethico-aesthetic quest, as both adventurously aiming at self-enrichment and self-creation through the use of novel language to redescribe the self. But the aims of self-creation and of enrichment through endlessly curious self-redescription are not at all identical. Not only can we achieve one without the other, but the two goals can be in deep tension. (...) The curious ironist and the self-creating strong poet can represent, in fact, two quite different forms of aesthetic life that Rorty unfortunately runs together as the aesthetic life he advocates." (Pragmatist Aesthetics p. 247)
I believe both, Rorty and Shusterman, are right and, at the same time, they are not. The first one because of his attempt to assimilate two different forms of aesthetic life and the other for he makes too sharp a distinction (which is probably not of binary character) suggesting the necessity to choose one of them. However, the man who desires self-enlargement and self-creation still has to oscillate between being "the ironist" and "the strong poet" (and somebody else), namely to remain "in the tension", in the discomfort of the difficult sphere "inter", where neither the synthesis of both nor the choice of one option is possible.
As the French philosophers teach and as we experience on our own we now live in a world without the belief in the myth of the beginning and the myth of the end, without the idea of history and the idea of progress, without the vision of the lost paradise and without the vision of apocalypse. No wonder that we the nomads, internauts, vagabonds of the decadent time feel to be "inter", "between", "in transition".
But the man without roots and without foundations needs no criticism; he has to be very strong and very brave to live under such circumstances. He needs rather somebody to help him to recognize his bravery and to realize his dignity. It is a task for art as well as for pedagogy.