Koivurova, Anniina: DRAWING THE LINE. 
Accepted and rejected pictures in the social space of the art lesson, 2010.  Faculty of Art and Design. University of Lapland.

This thesis studies the explicit and implicit power, responsibility, restrictions and possibilities of Finnish comprehensive school art education as part of building up the identity and world view of young people. The 13–14-year-old student’s world, which is permeated by visual culture, is examined from the perspective of art education. The study is based on 111 stories and pictures by seventh-grade Finnish students. The material was collected during art lessons using a modified empathy-based method. The students were asked to continue a story about a student who noticed an eye-catching picture by another student during an art lesson.  Then the students were asked to draw or paint their own version of that conspicuous picture.

The study examines the students’ verbal and visual representations to see how they experience school and art lessons as a culturally, socially and normatively significant space. The thesis provides information about students’ conceptions of art and education and of art lessons as a learning situation.

The art lesson appears as a domain of possibilities defined by asymmetrical power relationships and socio-culturally internalized expectations. The study shows how Finnish students of today experience the prevailing conceptions of art and human life as conveyed to them – explicitly and implicitly – in their own learning environment and the way their experience is influenced by the expanding global visual culture.

The thesis develops a method of interpretation which combines word and picture, taking into account both content and the context of the school. The basic research approach is multidisciplinary. Art education and the students’ activities in art lessons are approached and analysed through psychology, social psychology, art and visual research, and narrative research. The general theoretical framework of this art education thesis is social constructionism; another over-arching concept of the thesis is narrativity.

The themes and basic characteristics of the stories used as material are analyzed and interpreted, and the narratives of the pictures are examined in relation to the stories. Young students deal with and define the aesthetic and ethical boundaries, attitudes, emotions, values, norms and social relationships of the art lesson in their stories and pictures. The stories are divided into four categories – norm-oriented, aesthetically influenced, emotive, and chaotic – according to the narrative attitude the students adopt towards the content of their stories.

The art lesson is examined as a social space where word and picture function as tools for role-taking and representing the self, and as a means of interaction (inter-subjective narratives). In this research, the students’ stories and pictures are seen as combining to form narrative acts which are context-bound. The art lesson, as a social situation, has a distinct effect on visual narration. Visual processes function as interactive strategies between students and between student and teacher. In this thesis these strategies are called picture negotiations.

The study points out the importance for students’ general learning and comfort in school of the social space created in the art lesson. The stories convey the students’ need to feel socially accepted and their fear of being marginalized or teased within a group. The need for and lack of empathy and the theme of jealousy are frequent. The art lessons described in the students' stories are characterised by punishments, rewards, and demands that the social order be upheld. For the students rules and social conventions appear as forms of adult power but also as secure limits for ordinary school days. The art teacher is perceived as a fair and safe authority and educator. At the same time the study shows that seventh graders do not recognize the goals of art education; neither do they fully understand why a specific task is done as part of the lesson.

One significant result of this research is related to students’ creativity. The stories are filled with a predominantly modernist view of what art is and a romantic-individual conception of the artist. Students share these strong normative ideas, an issue which easily becomes problematic when a student tries to fulfil these expectations. The students’ ideal is to draw correctly as well as individualistically. The attitude towards imitation is controversial. Even if the stories express negative attitudes towards it, the students do, in fact, copy each other’s pictures to a large extent. Imitation is not understood by the students as a learning process.

When conducting the assigned task, the students struggled with the pressure to make a good picture and, at the same time, the pressure of being evaluated by others.  Many of the students made various additional marks such as symbols, doodles, cartoon figures and sketches on the papers during the empathy-based task. The marks express defiance of the teacher as an authority figure, while at the same time testing and strengthening peer relationships. These visual representations, which were produced spontaneously along with the official stories and pictures, became a third important material used in the study.

The thesis takes part in the discourse concerning how art education can be developed in the continuously changing circumstances of the institution of the school and youth. The study opens new perspectives on the development of art education in basic education, curriculum development and teacher education. It also provides fresh viewpoints on youth research by developing new methods of studying and interpreting the lived world of young people.

Keywords: art education, visual art lesson, social space, social relationships, peer group, identity, norms, values, attitudes, aesthetic ideals, conception of art, conception of the artist, picture negotiation, narrative act, social constructionism, narrativity, empathy-based method

Mirja Hiltunen:
Through performativity in Northern Sociocultural Environments, Rovaniemi: The University of Lapland, 2009, 284 pp. + appendices. Acta Universitatis Lapponiensis (160)

Dissertation: University of Lapland

ISSN: 0788-7604, ISBN: 978-952-484-289-1

This study examines community-based art education in northern sociocultural environments.

A community can use art to introduce and distribute meaningful, topical themes to itself and its surroundings. A community can also wake up to remember and notice marginal or unrecognized circumstances and groups. Artistic activity observes a community’s sociocultural environment and traditions, which can undergo transformations in artistic processes and affect the future.

The purpose of the study is to develop community-based art education theory and practice in northern sparsely populated areas. This is accomplished through interaction between multifield projects and visual arts teacher training.   Through its action research-based mode, the study is related to the socio-constructive and phenomenological-hermeneutic paradigms as well as pragmatic and critical research tradition.  

The operational environment of the study encompasses the Utsjoen Tulikettu project (2004 – 2006) and development work done in the context of the Tunturin taidepaja workshop in Pelkosenniemi (2000 – 2006). The concept of understanding community-based art education is constructed through project development, project participation, the researcher’s experiences based on the operation action and the collected material. Various voices and interpretations are presented through surveys and interviews, the students’ reports and practical training diaries, and official documents. The dissertation comprises a series of articles on community-based art education and the related theoretical examination and conclusions.

The study analyzes the construction of communality in the projects and the development of community-based art education practices in them. It examines especially the construction of meanings among the art education students involved. Participation in multifield projects constructs their role as future art educators within the realms of the general school system and informal art education, covering the areas of social services, healthcare, and tourism.

The study shows that community-based art education is an intentional and cumulative process in which art has a performative function.   The activities have brought together different age groups, sectors, and actors to develop their artistic learning and working culture, while expanding the domain of art education into different sectors of society.

The study shows that community-based art education can generate functional, reflexive-aesthetic communities. They are constructed through performativity in a continuous dialogue that may provide the community members with an awareness of oneself in relation to the community and environment. Artistic activity and learning construct functional community and symbolic communality that support individual and communal agency, empowerment, and emancipation.

Keywords: community-based art education, visual arts education, contemporary art, communality, performativity, reflexivity, northern, action research, teacher training

Keskitalo, Anne Katarina: ON THE ROAD AND IN CAMP: From the Experience of Travelling to a Work of Art.Rovaniemi: The University of Lapland , 2006

Dissertation:University of Lapland

ISBN: 951-634-957-9

This study analyses systems of representation that are used to turn the layered experience of travelling into a work of art. As expressions of the representation of travelling, the photographs and texts in Timo Vartiainen’s Kem’-Leka, Vienanmereltä Norjanmerelle (1993—1994) and the archives of the Romantic Geographic Society (1970—2006) collected by Jussi Kivi comprise the core data analysed in the study. Works of art are juxtaposed with modes of description employed by different cultural-historical types of traveller: the explorer, flaneur, tourist, artist and hiker. Another point of comparison with works of art is the experimental method of walking developed for this study. Travelling and its representations are thus articulated and analysed both from a constructionist perspective as cultural meanings, and phenomenologically as an interpretation of the nature of the work of art. The analysis focuses on the activities of walking and setting up camp the fundamental themes of travelling found in both the works of art and cultural-historical texts.

In the walking method, the phenomenological essence of walking combines with iconological interpretation and narrative and ethnographic applications. Corporeal close reading, the viewpoint used to analyse the data, was constructed by undertaking numerous walking tours. The study highlights the significance of the tradition of representation created by cultural travellers in art depicting walking and hiking. The narrative viewpoint of these travellers continues to live in the works of contemporary walkers and travellers, both as variations of hybrid narrative and as a playing with the gaze of the cultural walkers of history. In this respect, the study expands the discourse on the tourist’s gaze towards the gaze of contemporary walkers.

As modes of slow travelling, the rhythms of walking and hiking are discussed in this study above all as distinct sensory ways of seeing and thinking. Walking is also put forth as an application with potential value for research as well as educational use. Walking exercises that sensitise one towards a multisensory and bodily perspective can be used in art and cultural research as a foundation for a phenomenological-ethnographic method. Apart from their use in research, walking exercises can be used in the teaching of art education, in environmental art, environmental education and the cultural studies of tourism, as well as in everyday recreation. It is important in teaching to point out the significance of the gaze of earlier walkers and travellers to seeing and the presentation of perception, thus deepening the awareness of walking trainees about their own cultural gaze.

Keywords: travelling, walking, hiking, camping, experience, story, description, system of representation, gaze, explorer, tourist, artist, flaneur, senses, environmental relation, site-specific art, ethnographic turn, cultural history of tourism

Ulkuniemi, Seija Maarit: EXPOSED LIVES:
Dialogues between Viewers and Installations Examining the Genre of Family Photography.Rovaniemi: The University of Lapland , 2005, 289 pp. + appendices. Acta Universitatis Lapponiensis (80)

Dissertation:University  of Lapland

ISSN: 0788-7604, ISBN: 951-634-957-9

The present study is basic research on visual communication in art education. On the theoretical level, it examines the typical features and use of the genre of family photography as well as the origins and development of the genre in light of earlier research and other literature. Data collection uses an experimental method that draws on four installations, or visual-pedagogical productions, designed on the basis of the theoretical framework. This approach set up a dialogue between the productions and the viewers, whose open responses were then studied to ascertain the kind of dialogue produced in the encounters. The dialogues were also examined using a model I have developed for analysing the genre of family photography.

I define family photographs as personal photographs that are usually kept in the home and have been taken for ordinary private use. These may be taken by professional photographers, snapped by family members themselves or received from others, the last two categories being known as vernacular photographs. I subdivide the genre into professional photographs and amateur snapshots. The former normally idealise their subject, while the latter may also represent the person realistically or demystify him/her. The subjects are generally people that have a close relationship to the photographer, particularly children. The settings in which family photographs are taken centre on children’s development, achievements, important family events, holidays and celebrations.

Three crucial events can be identified in the development of the family photograph as a genre. The first was the introduction of visit card photography in 1854, the second the invention of the box camera in 1888, and the third the advent of mass photography after the Second World War. The latest turning point – the rise of digital photography – falls outside the scope of the present study.

The analysis proceeds from the communication event as the crucial element of the genre. Other powerful influences are the camera and the mechanically generated essence of photographic reality. The development of technology and economic factors have had a strong influence on who has been able to afford photographs and/or a camera, as well as on where, how and what kinds of photographs can be produced. Other factors affecting the genre are social norms, such as learned models, laws and other restrictions on photography; social or personal reasons for obtaining photographs, i.e., the need to take pictures; the visual culture, in particular advertising and photography conventions; and the contemporary concept of the photographed subject.

Both professional photographs and amateur snapshots strive for unity, interaction, identity-building or documentation. The genre is also used and constructed in public: in photographic therapy, as a tool in scientific research, and in education. Magazine pictures, especially in advertising, benefit from the aesthetics of snapshots and family idylls. In art photography, countercultural appeal comes into play when conventions of the genre are challenged.

My installations brought the private photographs into public places, which evoked a positive response. This was considered a brave approach; it showed people the things we have in common and made the invisible daily life of women visible. The installations awakened viewers’ memories and helped them to empathise with the works. Some disapproved of the works, as the experience was perplexing and made them feel like they were peeping in on others’ lives. In particular, my showing photographs of nude people was considered arrogant.

The dialogues between the viewers and the themes of the works included many ideas concerning family photographs. The ability of photographs to halt time and document important moments was mentioned. Photographs were said to make changes visible, but the changes in people were questioned. The importance of childhood for people’s lives was stressed. Many viewers said that photographs help in keeping dead people present and (even a stranger’s) photographs brought back memories. Attention was often directed to my making daily life visible, which was considered important: one should value daily life and stop photographing only life’s best moments.

The installations stimulated some viewers to consider their photographic habits or inspired them to use their photographs in a new way. Some people started to ponder the truth of a photograph or the theme of happiness in family photography. Many viewers focused their responses on the course of their lives, their values or other fundamental questions. People appreciated the people close to them as well as feelings and emotions. The viewers identified with some of the themes of the installations: difficulties in growing up, the everyday life of a mother and her multiple roles, and building one’s identity. Photographs were seen as a tool in uniting one’s identity/memories, but memory work was also regarded as something potentially traumatising.

The research yields tools for using family photographs in art education. Drawing on the factors identified as influencing family photography, I have designed a model to guide future research on the genre. 

Keywords: visual communication, photography, family, home, genre, private, public, identity, visual-pedagogical production, dialogue, response, folk tradition, popular culture