The Structure of Open Dialogue
* This post is about a note after reading a book, chapter 2: "The Structure of Open Dialogue"
As art educator Terry Barrett puts it, “A work of art is always about something, unlike a tree, rock, or other simple object, because it is an expressive, man-made object. Thus, unlike trees and rocks, works of art require interpretation.”
Seekers seeking to form interpretations approach works of art through (often implicit) open-ended questions. What is this piece about? What is its significance (to us, in this or that situation)?
For example, students read magic rings in relation to danger and safety, the nature of life, and human character, among other interpretations. . Despite these differences, however, both conversations involved some of the same behaviors: asking questions, observing, guessing, incorporating prior knowledge, and forming actionable conclusions.
This flexibility in the sequence of actions would be unlikely in a conversation about shadows, where each step is intended to move the reasoning process closer to an answer to a specific question. This is not to say that the investigation into the Magic Ring was random or disorganized, with no direction or goal. Rather, the point is that the quest for sculpture has evolved into a spider-web-like rhizome structure with increasingly complex webs of ideas and connections. Viewers explored paths that diverged from common interests and eventually returned back, enriching their understanding of the whole at every step (besides, the exploration of the sculptures was full of analogies and metaphors).
For example, Noguchi's work reminded teenagers of snakes and puzzles. The snake metaphor emphasized the shape and position of the long, slender, spiral, organic Magic Ring on the floor, while the puzzle metaphor emphasized the overall structure with many parts that could only be in one position in relation to each other. Thus, these analogies worked to raise awareness of certain aspects of sculpture. In addition, the metaphors constructed by the students—sculpture as the embodiment of human life, becoming, and the finite—speak directly to the meaning young viewers found in the work. Conversely, investigations of shading required only the information necessary to answer the initial question, so there was no need to go deeper into specific observations or identify metaphors and analogies. For example, I observed Hubard, O. (2015), who judged that gray lines on vinyl were a sign of wear and tear.
Art Museum Education Characteristics and Meanings of Interpretive Dialogue The distinction between the two types of dialogue helps to clarify some key characteristics of interpretive dialogue when it is conducted as an open task. • Interpretive dialogue shares behavior with other kinds of dialogue. These behaviors include questioning, observing, associating, guessing, inferring evidence, and forming conclusions. • Interpretive dialogue tends to develop through a flexible, cobweb-like (or rhizome-like) sequence of actions. • In interpretive dialogue, each insight or discovery requires deep consideration. • Interpretive conversations are full of useful analogies and metaphors. • Interpretive dialogue welcomes uncertainty and contradiction as meaning. • In interpretive dialogue, goals are achieved at every step, and paradoxically, goals are never fully achieved.
Interpretive conversation, like any other kind of conversation, involves asking questions, observing, making connections, guessing, inferring evidence, and forming conclusions, so students are encouraged to engage in these processes. • Interpretive dialogue relinquishes control over the order of investigations, as it tends to evolve through a flexible, spider-web-like sequence of actions. As the viewer interacts with the subject, it allows a way for them to investigate to emerge organically. In light of the new findings, we revisit aspects that may have surfaced earlier in our investigation, and we welcome fresh insights into previously mentioned aspects of our work. Given the non-linear nature of interpretive dialogue, it is a model for making connections. Highlight how different comments can be related, how comments can be related to each other, or how they can conflict. This will help give persuasiveness to diverse and multidimensional investigations.
Interpretive dialogue invites viewers to explore in depth the different directions of investigation that emerge through the dialogue, as each insight or discovery requires deep consideration. Take your time. Interpretive conversations are multidimensional and each insight demands attention, so the process demands a long time on the task front. • Pay attention to this form of meaning-making, as interpretative conversations are full of useful analogies and metaphors. Consider how certain analogies and metaphors can contribute to the overall process of exploration and meaning-making. • Be careful not to lead students to one specific conclusion or interpretation, since interpretative conversations take meaning in uncertainty and contradiction. Various perspectives and reading comprehensions, and even contradictions, can speak together of the multi-layered meaning of the work. Acknowledge the importance of every possible insight, whether foreseen or not. Remember that each (actionable) opinion reflects the meaning of the work to some extent. • In interpretive dialogue, goals are achieved at every step, and paradoxically, the group work on a specific target and your work is never complete, because the goals are never fully met. • Finally, since the purpose of interpretive dialogue is to discover and construct meaning, be careful in determining what your visitors will get from a particular piece in advance.
It has to do with the openness of interpretive dialogue. As already mentioned, in an open interpretive dialogue, the educator does not identify a specific understanding that the visitor will acquire beforehand. Rather, viewers trust that they can develop their own feasible readings while interacting with the work. As a result, the educational benefits of these interactions (beyond the development of reasoning skills) cannot be easily assessed. When under pressure to "show results", it's not just the easily measurable, but the learner's mind that is. "Not everything that is important can be calculated, and not everything that can be calculated is important."
But in an educational environment where there is little room for the arts and where assessment is paramount, interactions with the arts must find stronger and more engaging ways to express educational rewards that evade standardization and measurement.
Myungja Anna Koh