The Art of Teaching Posted on 19 Aug 12:17 , 0 comments

Pedagogy has developed methods that have become classical. These methods can be recognized through the generations and sometimes by former students of different countries. But education also comprises rules, politics and aesthetics that can only belong to a specific moment in time and space and thus form a unique expierence for a particular group.  In Argentina’s complex history of education, the country has sacrificed autochthonous cultures in favor of national values while importing teachers from more developed nations. “Which were the first words by the teacher who opened the first National School in the Misiones’ jungle? Which information about their pupils have the teachers from Córdoba emphasized? Which role has the civil society accomplished during the building of schools in Río Negro? What was their outer appearance? Which celebrities would visit them?”

A photo from 1968 shows a row of soldier heads in front of endless rows of schoolchildren. In another one, a smart looking man is standing among a multitude of white pinafored kids and adults; beside them rolls a trolley loaded with milk glasses. The photo dates from 1949 when the Peronist government introduced the “glass of milk,” a symbol of public schools, because the sons and daughters of poor families could go to class to study and also get something to eat. The impeccable white pinafore has also become a symbol, one that covered clothing and thus erased social differences.

These pictures belong to the Archivo Láinez (1934-1968), the files that education historians Nicolás Arata and Luz Ayuso have researched and classified in detail and that has now resulted in an exhibition and a cycle of conferences at the Centro Cultural Rojas. The exhibition also includes paintings and sculptures displayed among reproductions of the photos and a recorded voice that floods the room reading the teachers’ reports and memories.  The artworks add their own perspective of ironic sentimentality. Daniel Santoro has been utilizing Peronist iconography for the past twenty five years. His landscapes and characters, usually accompanied by a line of text, recall symbols from that era. Watched by the giant bust of Evita’s head or tempted with her book by a coiled-up character bearing a malignant expression, the illusions of these children are doomed to fail: Teaching is deceit; propaganda wants to take the place of myth.

The image of Evita Perón comes back more than once:  Surrounded by devalued money against a golden background in a work by Marisa Domínguez and, by Omar Panosetti, in the series of pinafores decorated with school motifs that hang on the walls like paintings. In another one of Panosetti’s pictures, a school’s chimney pours out a cloud of smoke and suspiciously resembles a factory. Dominguez’s “Chalk Heart” (Corazón de Tiza, 2010), consists of a tower of chalk with the colours of the Argentine flag and the architecture of a wedding cake. Ariel Mlynarzewicz has based his painting  El Desayuno (Breakfast, 2010), on a black and white portrait of a student holding his cup, who becomes, in his version, a larger than life image of strange and colorful reflections.

The exhibit leaves didactic matters aside to show how the swings of politics have always been present in classrooms, in training pupils and their families to conform to the power of education, and in keeping the nostalgic and sentimental force of school-symbols, but displaying them as utterly devoid of innocence.

Centro Cultural Rojas

Av. Corrientes 2038, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Through October 2nd.Monday through Saturday 8am – 8pm.

Free seminar by Nicolás Aratta and Luz Ayuso about the use of school photography as a way of invoking memory on August 24th and 31st at 7pm.

More links:

Daniel Santoro

Ariel Mlynarzewicz

Marisa Domínguez: