Understanding Art: The Play of Work and Spectator

Gadamer, H. Understanding Art: The Play of Work and Spectator  in Vilhauer, M. (2010) Gadamer’s Ethics of Play: Hermeneutics and the Other, Lexington Books

The text introduces the concept of ‘play’ in form of and ‘event’ and ‘experience’ of a work of art. Gademer describes finding the artwork in participation of spectator in some form of continuation ‘to-and-fro play’, the process in which meaning is communicated. He emphasises also how spectator play a crucial interpretative role, ‘creating’ the meaning of the artwork. He describes is as continuus activity.

Gademer also recognises the process of understanding which in his opinion ‘only takes place in a dynamic, interactive, interpretative process of working through meaning with others’. He emphasises the ‘back-and-forth movement as essential part of play, an event that ‘cannot be fully determined or mechanical’ but encourages ‘spontaneity and variety’. It relies on the individualism of ‘players’. This resonates with Munday’s approach to learning in less formal environment, without strict classroom management techniques. The idea of players being individual can be compared to the learning environment where each student varies, has individual approach and is different from one another. In analogy to a play-event,  the process of learning might occur in the interaction between learners ‘as a shared experience’ which depends of contribution of all players/learners. This could be experience by collaborative projects where all participants hold similar roles and responsibilities. Participation seems crucial to experiencing the play according to Gademer, however he stresses that the play is something happening to a participant rather than participant ‘doing’ it. Having said that the participants are not passive, they ‘become a part of an activity that is bigger than their own personal, active roles in it’.

The concept of play and the crucial participation is also emphasised by the commitment of the players, the total involvement. In relation to teaching environment, learners are encouraged to participate in the learning and their participation requires some form of letting self go and allowing to be ‘guided’ by the game/event/experience. Allowing to be ‘caught up’ by this experience. the interaction between each other can then influence/allow the transformation of knowledge/understanding.



The classroom: a problem or a mystery?

Dr Ian Munday

Munday begins his paper by recognising an element that classroom is perceived by researcher from different background in a common way – ‘a site for solving problems’. He stresses that despite teaching different disciplines, a teacher might question his/her working techniques in specific environment and therefore identifying potential problem. Furthermore, Munday considers the meaning of the classroom as ‘a space of “mystery” rather than a site for problem solving’ which he relates to Gabriel Marcel’s understanding of mystery as being and problem solving as having.

I found the paper very interesting and can relate to author’s considerations of various aspects in my own teaching practice. Problem solving in the classroom environment, for me, is linked with combination of teaching techniques (I like the analogy of the teacher as facilitator of the environment in which the knowledge is being ‘created’) that provide ‘scaffolding’ for the teaching/learning experience.  It is my preferable attitude to teaching/learning experience that gives more flexibility in the classroom environment while being responsive to this environment.  However, the concept  of ‘mystery’ seems also familiar with my teaching experience, especially the studio based activities that encourage ‘making’ as for of teaching and learning, and research, and responding creatively to a given problem (not a problem in the same way as Munday describes the classroom but more as something set by the particualar project brief, the spaces that students design, the solution they come up with for particular client etc.). This process of making could often be described as ‘mysterious’, it is individual, can rely on one’s intuition. The term itself,  ‘a mystery’ can be interpreted as something that we cannot fully know however it still encourages one to find ways (experiment, make, try) to unveil something, discover.

Munday reflects on his early career as a teacher in terms of ‘classroom management’  making him consider students as ‘obstacles to be overcome’. Only when he allowed  for the classroom to become ‘a living breathing organism’ he began to relax and stopped spending all day dealing with ‘problems’. I support this idea in my own teaching practice as I see it as reflection of the professional practice, where being open to opportunities that certain experiences provide and being able to response creatively and flexibly, is very common in creative industry. Having said that, some form of plan and management of the situation is required, to be able to facilitate the processes of teaching/learning in the specific environment (either a classroom or industry).

I also somehow relate to the description of the online environment and difficulties that Munday describes in posting and replying to questions on online platform as a form of engagement in learning. The issue with clarity and somehow intimidation in answering the question ‘in right way’ can stop one in truly engaging with the subject. The lack of interaction with others also might lead to engaging with ‘objects’ rather the human interaction/collaboration.

Munday’s also discusses the lack of opportunities for teachers to engage in deeper understanding of educational issues. I agree with the limitations that teachers have in terms of external research (this can also vary depending on the role). I found it particularly difficult as a Associate Lecturer to find time outside of my responsibilities as lecturer to engage in research even though I would love to that. I feel that the students don’t differentiate academic staff and expect the same level of understanding of the subject (practice/research) from all their lecturers. Having said that, not all the academic staff is encouraged/supported in engaging in research.  Munday suggests that the engagement in the research may bring the ‘vitalism’ to the classrooms.  The ‘vital’ experience is what he brings up as a memory of his school where ‘knowledge was creatively transformed within the “vital” experience of teaching and learning whereby the notion of “possession” somehow became redundant’. He does not explain in the paper  what the ‘vital’ experience might be though? ‘Mystery’?