An Artist's Ignorant Turn


  • Malcolm Whittaker


In this paper I think through some of the pedagogical provocations of philosopher Jacques Rancière to offer an analysis of the intellectual emancipation of the public in my project Ignoramus Anonymous. Through experiences that the conversational meetings have generated, and my use of what critic Grant Kester terms “dialogical aesthetics,” I explore the potential for emancipation and transformation that resides in a personal focus on what one does not know and does not understand. The paper rests on my interpretation of Rancière’s argument in The Ignorant Schoolmaster (1991) that it is context that is more important than content when it comes to emancipation. As a consequence, I hope to contribute to a nuanced understanding of the place of ignorance in what curator and critical theorist Irit Rogoff terms the “pedagogical aesthetics” of the educational turn in contemporary art, and a new perspective on how this turn can be achieved through experimental performance practice.

Author Biography

Malcolm Whittaker

MALCOLM WHITTAKER is a young-ish man from Sydney who works as an interdisciplinary artist, writer, researcher and performer. He does this in solo pursuits, as a founding member of performance collective Team MESS and in collaborations with other artists and non-artists. His work is made and executed through the engagement of participants and collaborators in the framing of play spaces that adopt social forms and rituals of popular culture and the everyday. These works have been situated in theatre and gallery situations, site-specific and public interventions, performance lectures, film shoots, phone calls, support groups, walks in the park, letters in the mail and the borrowing of books from the library. He has made and presented work extensively across Australia, as well as in the UK and Finland.