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Between Practice and Theory

Dialogical Teaching and Art as Performative

Nathaniel Prottas

In this article, I consider the definition and use of the term dialogue in museum education, focusing on the work of Rika Burnham and Elliot Kai-Kee, whose ramifications for art itself have often been sidelined by educators. First, I examine the relationship between Burnham and Kai-Kee’s theory of education and Hans-Georg Gadamer’s and John Dewey’s writing on art, arguing that dialogical museum teaching implicitly relies on a definition of art as performative. Then, I explore the ramifications of Gadamer’s and Dewey’s definition of art as performative for the field of museum education. Finally, I argue that by understanding art as an active participant in our encounters with it—and by refocusing our attention on art’s role in museum educational practice—we create a radically new argument for museums as educational institutions that bring people and art into dialogue with each other.