Towards a Performative Trans-Pedagogy: Critical Approaches for Learning and Teaching in Art and Performance


  • Vikki Chalklin Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Marianne Mulvey Tate London


This paper examines two short courses delivered by the authors through Tate’s public programme in 2014/15 as case studies through which to consider the possibilities of performative critical pedagogy for art and performance appreciation and criticism. The courses used Tate’s collections to introduce diverse adult learners to theoretical and aesthetic approaches to art history, criticism, and appreciation in order to enrich their own engagement with art.

Critical pedagogic models were enacted through three primary approaches: a broad selection of source material spanning art, popular culture, and academic theory, active engagement with the role of affect in pedagogic encounters, and the combination of performative, embodied modes of learning with more traditional pedagogic methods in the art museum.

Primary examples include a ‘touch tour’ in which participants were invited to touch a selection of sculptures, and a performative workshop where artist Harold Offeh taught participants how to ‘snap like a diva’. The ‘touch tour’, usually reserved for Tate visitors with visual impairments, framed a session challenging the ocular-centric paradigm of visual art and enabled a dynamic and performative pedagogic encounter. The ‘Snap Diva’ workshop, following a presentation on Offeh’s practice around identity and cultural appropriation, used the communicative body language of ‘snapping’ - allied to vogueing from 80s/90s Afro-American Gay subculture - to allow an embodied understanding of the subjects under discussion. These examples provided new insights not only regarding art practice, criticism and history, but also broad-ranging ethical and philosophical questions around dis/ability and access, performative identities, embodied modes of knowing and learning, the intellectual and institutional structures of the gallery.