SITE-SPECIFIC: What does critical pedagogy mean to you? How has your art-making practice informed your approach to pedagogy? Conversely, how does your approach to pedagogy inform your art-making?
FATIMAH TUGGAR: At the heart of critical pedagogy is thinking. Learning to think critically, which should result in taking actions and responsibility for yourself and on behalf of others. In my classrooms, I encourage thinking on various levels; through production and a dynamic of constructive peer to peer exchange in order to create a community learning environment that is safe but honest. This can inspire students to view their peers and planet as evolving resources, and reinforces the skills of self-directed, life-long, independent, and collective learning. Through this students are empowered to challenge dogmas, including their own.
I am committed to teaching as a personal expression of my professional goals and values. These values include expanding the territories that art and artists explore. The goals include pushing back the boundaries of the studio and the classroom to include a greater global community. The system of mutual learning and teaching is synonymous, for me, with the creative action of taking responsibility. Creative action through teaching is my way of ensuring that there will be ongoing meaningful dialogues with other artists, and their work, throughout my own practice.
“Representation matters because meaning and interpretation depends on access to power and knowledge. Since, we don’t all have access to the same level of power and knowledge, we have to be mindful of the impact of our own bias and privileged accesses.”
S: Where do you begin when talking about the critical issues of representation in art? What about representation should artists and designers be mindful of in their practice, and why does this matter?
T: Representation is how human beings create and share meaning for both the imagined and tangible aspects of existence. It is therefore, critical to the production of all creative cultural workers including visual artist. Our relationship to meaning or cultural signification is an emotional one. There is a constant struggle for meaning and ownership of signifiers. Artist and designers have the responsibility of both using and creating cultural signification that is both effective in communicating intended meanings and at the same time being culturally sensitive enough so unintended meanings and readings do not get ascribed to their cultural productions.
Representation matters because meaning and interpretation depends on access to power and knowledge. Since, we don’t all have access to the same level of power and knowledge, we have to be mindful of the impact of our own bias and privileged accesses. We have to ask ourselves in the making process, who is being represented? How are they represented? Who is the interpreting audience and what are their biases? In other words, meaning matters in time, place, how and why. The artist has to be aware that life experiences; individual backgrounds, cultural context, beliefs, psychological states, social and economic status, etc. all affect meaning.