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Educação & Realidade

versão impressa ISSN 0100-3143versão On-line ISSN 2175-6236

Educ. Real. vol.42 no.4 Porto Alegre out./dez. 2017  Epub 07-Ago-2017 

Other Themes

The Aesthetics of Existence and the Difference in the Encounter of Art and Education

Fernando Luiz ZanettiI 

IUniversidade de São Paulo (USP) - São Paulo/SP, Brazil


This article is part of a research that problematizes the encounter between art and education in Brazil in the last two decades. It sought to learn how the notions of aesthetics of existence and difference, coming respectively from Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze’s theories, became part of the art pedagogy in that period. This research was based on articles from academic journals that guide practical or theoretically the notions of aesthetics of existence and difference. It was noticed a recommendation of these concepts as tools for overcoming the educational crisis, but also a patent impossibility of establishing them as theoretical ballast of a project of social change.

Keywords: Art Education; Philosophy of Education; Pedagogization; Aesthetics of Existence; Difference


O presente artigo é parte de uma pesquisa que problematiza o encontro da arte com a educação, no Brasil, nas últimas duas décadas. Buscou-se apreender como as noções de estética da existência e diferença, oriundas respectivamente das teorizações de Michel Foucault e Gilles Deleuze, passaram a fazer parte da pedagogia da arte, no referido período. Trabalhou-se com artigos de revistas acadêmicas, que pautam de modo prático ou teórico as noções de estética da existência e de diferença. Notou-se tanto uma recomendação desses conceitos, como ferramentas de superação das crises educativas, como também uma patente impossibilidade de os estabelecer como lastro teórico de um projeto de mudança social.

Palavras-chave: Arte-Educação; Filosofia da Educação; Pedagogização; Estética da Existência; Diferença

This article intends to make public some results of a research aimed at understanding some effects of the encounter between art and education in Brazil in the last two decades (1995-2013).

It starts from the suspicion that there would be, at such encounter, evidence of a practice of art pedagogization. Pedagogization conceived as the dissemination of statements from certain fields of knowledge (art, philosophy, science, etc.) to other areas of human life, in order to improve the man or educate him, according to the imperatives of the social, economic and political agenda of the time. Thus, the research is justified as a critical cartography of the encounter between the knowledge of art and of education. However, during the research, it was noticed that psychological theories were constantly called upon to justify such an encounter. Therefore, in the case of this study, criticism entails a questioning look on the education/art device, which seems to avail the psychological discourse as one of the active knowledge in its circulation.

To accomplish this task, an archive of empirical sources was made and analyzed. The notion of archive in this work is affiliated to the theories of Michel Foucault (1979). This archive combines the two fields of Brazilian intellectual production previously alluded to: the art and education. In order to create it, it was elected a group of articles published in 19 Brazilian journals, ten in the education area and nine in the art one, classified as A1 and A2 in the period between 1995 and 2013, containing about 6,000 texts.

The journals are the following: in education - Cadernos Cedes, Cadernos de Pesquisa, Educação & Realidade, Educação & Sociedade, Educação e Pesquisa, Educação em Revista, Educação Temática Digital, Educar em Revista, Pró-Posições, Revista Brasileira de Educação. In art: Ars, ArtCultura, Percevejo, Porto Arte, Visualidades, Revista - ABEM - Associação Brasileira de Educação Musical, Revista Brasileira de Estudos da Presença, Urdimento, Sala Preta.

From this universe, 329 articles were selected based on the following criteria: texts in education journals that touched themes related to art and texts in art journals that addressed issues related to education. To analyze each article, the following organizational sieve was elected: year; area/subarea; subject; function of art and art education; art and art education characteristics; displacement; problematization or text general plan.

Through these broad categories it was possible to map the basic lines of the mentioned archive; disentangle their forward and retreat movement in relation to a given subject, function or feature; locate some of the positions in which researchers took part and, quite often, display their banners. However, one of the fruitful results of the research referred to certificated repetitions and shifts among the texts, which allowed to draw the argumentative lines operated by several researchers, and especially the problematizations they proposed.

The Core Concepts of Aesthetics of Existence and Difference

The empirical research corpus has its beginning in 1995. A broader look at the file as a whole would highlight two movements: in the articles from the first decade to 2006, there would be a speculative, but also critical, operation concerning the notions of aesthetization of existence and aesthetics of existence, mainly based on Foucault’s statements in the 1980s (Foucault, 1995; 2012a; 2012b) and concerning Gilles Deleuze’s concept of difference (1988). However, at the end of the first half of the 2000s, there is an intensification of the presence of these concepts in texts that purport the realization of new social practices in the various educational and paraeducational institutions (social, philanthropic, business, etc. projects) and the reduction of critical or speculative texts.

A germ of the dynamics of these two explicit movements can be observed in the excerpts below.

In 1995, an intense discussion about the aesthetics of existence will begin with a flagship publication by Wolfgang Welsch in a Brazilian newspaper. The author highlights:

Michel Foucault, famous in the 1970s as a critic of modern education of the subject (he discovered this education as a strategy for social discipline), was made a prophet of the new aesthetic trends in the 1980s. He advocated a new kind of education, sharply aesthetics: we should shape our lives according to our own rules and standards, just as the artist does with their material. It is true that Foucault thought that through this path self-determined and tough subjects would arise, but I fear that this aesthetics of existence is largely only an appreciation, dependent on the time spirit, of an aesthetic self-aesthetization, and that the real subjects are but accommodated and conform to objective aesthetization as decorative dolls (Welsch, 1995, p. 12, author’s emphasis).

Eight years later, there is a text by Luciana Loponte which says:

From the definition of askesis brought by Foucault, I believe that there are at least two important elements to think teacher training and to support what I call the artist teaching: the idea of ​​an asceticism which fortunately is not achieved and the possibility of self-invention, not discovery. Teacher training, as the constitution of the subject, is a constant, permanent, uninterrupted process. [...] An artist teaching would be based on this characteristic of the artist who works in process, in going and coming, in giving a brushstroke and then erasing it and starting all over again, a constant dissatisfaction. [...] Therefore, I advocate an artist teaching, which end fortunately is not reached; a teaching based on self-invention and not on self-discovery; fueled by the relationship with others and lived as a practice of freedom. Ethics and aesthetics of self would then go through the reinvention of a political formation, for example, based on teacher training groups that, in this constant game of truth among subjects, could play with the minimum possible domination (Loponte, 2003, p. 79, author’s emphasis).

In the face of these two movements, it is here analyzed the process in which the concepts of difference and aesthetics of existence are summoned to participate in the construction of new school or educational models.

Aesthetization or Aesthetics of Existence

Following Welsch’s article in 1997, it is published a text by Marc Jimenez, who also criticizes the aesthetization. It indicates that art would have the mediating role of cultural differences, criticizing the place of art as a producer of cultural consensus at the expense of aesthetic differentiation. It states that this aestheticized and apparently unideologized way of life would be at the service of “[...] an economic, political and cultural model skilled at erecting the ‘liberal’ subject [...] as the one master and administrator of their pleasures” (Jimenez, 1997, p. 95).

In this same way, although closer to the historical materialism approach, there is also criticism as Rose Meri Trojan’s (2004), that discusses the ethical, aesthetic and political principle in the curriculum, based on Luc Ferry’s questions to postmodernism. The author tries to highlight the intentions sheltering around the aesthetics of sensitivity, revealing its functionality in capitalism and trying to understand what happened to the aesthetics, to be able to exit ostracism and become one of the principles in the National Curriculum Guidelines. These principles can be summed up, according to her, in the notions of creativity, diversity, uneasiness, grounded on intellectual appearance, superficiality, rationality and skills. Trojan’s criticism is guided in the allocation of the importance of aesthetics of sensitivity in capitalism development and capitalism’s current need to substitute standardization for innovation. The author argues that this proposition hides the exploitation of the worker by the capital, and that truth and goodness lose ground to an aesthetics of individual subjectivity, so that, in this place, art would become a mask of oppression.

However, the discussion takes its big breath at a later time, when, in the wake of Welsch, Nadja Hermann (2002) criticizes Foucault and the notion of aesthetics of existence, because it seemed detached from ethics. She reassesses the role of reason and aesthetics in the post-war, pointing out that, after two wars and the suspicion of modern reason as an ethical guide, it is witnessed the emergence of plurality and difference as production plans of collective life. Nevertheless, she considers that the aesthetics detached from ethical and moral foundations would create only accommodated subjects to conform to objective aesthetization.

Faced with this situation, Hermann advocates an education that not only provides a moral content, but also releases new forms of sensitivity and produces an aesthetic experience capable of causing intense emotion, new sensitivities and estrangement. In this place, art would have the function of defending the not identical that is oppressed and to make the different known by the sensitivity produced in artistic experience. Art would still be a way to understand the new ethical requirements in the face of plurality as well as to overcome the Enlightenment educational projects, while it might be a gateway to the moral life as education for otherness. Finally, the author suggests a reconciliation between ethics and aesthetics, in which, through education, man would constitute a second nature, which is not only ethical (creator of customs), but also aesthetic (reality producer), where their moral autonomy becomes a form of aesthetic creation.

The following year, there is Loponte’s text cited above, in which, besides the idea of artistic teaching, the author criticizes Welsch’s article. She argues that the invention of self proposed by Foucault is not an individualist or superficial act, as stated by Welsch and his commentators. To show it, she takes up the Greek ethics of care of self linked to the care for others, emphasizing that, for Foucault, the “[...] government of others is strictly related to learning about the government of oneself” (Loponte, 2003, p. 77).

In 2005, there is another text by Hermann, in which the author once again problematizes the possibility of the aesthetic experience act on moral sensitivity. In this work, she questions some assumptions of Kantian rationalism and the loss of sense of art in modernity. According to the author, the aestheticized ethics appear when we have the decline of traditional ethics guided by reason. For her, today, the term aesthetics leaves the exclusive field of art and turns to the sensitive one, while the theory of art goes to all fields of life. There it is the aesthetical phenomenon: everything becomes staged, accentuating the volatility, indeterminacy, imagination and difference. Art and its teaching now have the function of refuge to plurality, to difference, to what is strange, to the innovative and all that is irreducible to the rational, influencing the creation of new lifestyles and new action guidelines, which generate the aestheticized ethics. The way out, so this process does not become demeaning, would be to make the aesthetic experience bring new interpretations to ethical principles. The result of this process would have opened, according to Hermann, new possibilities for education, like multiculturalism, aesthetic education, the transgression between science and art, etc.

Resuming the criticism to the ethics of self-creation of self, Hermann highlights that the tension between ethics and aesthetics, between the self-creation and inherited moral rules, should not be reduced to each other, and a gap should not be built between them, since “[...] the aesthetic experience that leads to uniqueness presupposes the existence of the other and otherness as a complementary relationship” (Hermann, 2005, p. 45). In addition to this idea, she claims that the privileged conditions of aesthetic experience bring into play “[...] the difference, the singular and the strange, they open up possibilities for a more finely tuned moral judgment with the historicity and contingency”. Assuming this discussion within the education, Hermann points out that ethics in education requires a “[...] reflective reconstruction [...] that allows to consider the theoretical, practical and aesthetic elements of moral judgment” (Hermann, 2005, p. 45).

There is, in 2008, Hermann’s final text (2008), in which it is questioned the idea of art as a model for life and as the foundation of the moral subject, from the perspective of a relationship between ethics and aesthetics, in which the private and universal do not exclude each other and can make universal morality more palatable. In this line, the art would have the function of forming sharp sensitivities and contributing to the creation of an art of living, in order to enable the game of Kantian practical reason, of exercising universal judgment, to be put into practice.

Although differently, the author tries, as does Foucault, to think of an art of living. Hermann bets on a relationship between morality and aesthetics, on the creation of an art of living in which the universal and the particular produce together the shared world. In this sense, there would be both an aesthetics of self, yet limited by general principles, and an approximation of the universal and abstract rules to the individual’s life, as well as their possibility to realize the particularity of a situation and be able to criticize it. This game between the particular and the universal is what would allow mankind to decide and lead their life. The tension on only one side of this game could lead not only to an instrumental rationality, but also to an aesthetic self-stylization which, in the fight against the production of objectified subject or mass-produced subjects, would never be able to create a common ethos.

In support of this view, the author criticizes Foucault, when he states that “[...] the search for a form of morality that would be acceptable throughout the world - in the sense that everyone should submit to it - seems catastrophic to me” (Foucault 1984, p. 137), opposing to the French thinker, stating that “[...] there is certainly a minimum of moral standards, validated intersubjectively, which constitute our ethos and without which it becomes very difficult to build the human formation” (Hermann, 2008, p. 26). It is clear Foucault’s rejection to common morals, which Hermann sees as a problem because she believes it is necessary to produce an overall ethos for building collective universe.

In response to this problematization, Loponte (2003), Foucault’s reader and encourager of an aesthetics of existence, operates a resumption of the Greek gesture of governing oneself to govern the city, so as to justify that the aesthetics of existence in our days would carry a collective concern and a major presence in the construction of a democratic education.

Many authors accept that justification, even if in a tinted way, to think the relationship between ethics, aesthetics and education. It proceeds as follows:

I propose to discuss here the issue of ethical-aesthetical teacher training having Michel Foucault and his hermeneutics of the subject as the main theoretical tool, and using as an empirical material, some cinema and television audiovisual narratives. I suppose it could make an important part of teacher training the education of the look, sensitivity education, ethics education, whose source could be, among many other possibilities, some immersion exercises in audiovisual languages: immersion exercises to sounds, movements, dialogues and film and television color images; immersion exercises to narratives that are beyond the conventional schemes of the so-called consolation structures (Fischer, 2009, p. 94, author’s emphasis).

The text above is interesting because the author shows how she makes Foucault’s concepts circulate to think about the present and education, indicating that the area of ​​philosophy of education has used the instruments of philosophy and art, in order to create new training practices. Thus, she proposes to do readings on Foucault to contribute to the teachers training by using films that “[...] somehow play as little as possible with the language of domination” ((Fischer, 2009, p. 101). To achieve this goal, she mobilizes notions such as care of the self and genealogy in order to understand what we are and how we can differ it. The author is also cautious not to do what she calls “[...] tout court transposition of concepts and notions of classical antiquity to post-modern times”, but she intended to create a plan of thought from the reading of ancient texts and Foucault’s lessons of 1982. With this, she tried to produce, not a concrete proposal, but she “[...] suggests a kind of program of self and for self with regard to teacher training” (Fischer, 2009, p. 101), which seeks to escape the typical consolation structures of both teacher training and permanent teacher training.

In addition, this author points out something massively repeated by the authors of the corpus: the issue of the crisis of traditional, modern, technicist education, etc.

Most authors part from the concept of crisis or that we would be facing a change of the traditional and the modern paradigm for contemporary ways of education. Such ways will be proposed by various strategies, as shown below, each of which suggesting several functions and features to the art and its teaching. In this context, art is often stated as an aesthetic phenomenon and the engine for the creation of the new in education (Costa, 2011).

The Crisis in Education

Some authors - for example, Pellanda (2004) - discuss the disenchantment of life and education, in modernity, on the assumption that emotion and imagination would have been relegated to the background and therefore art would be divorced from life, as well as imagination and emotion denied as cognitive tools.

It is also indicated, when it comes to the role of the University in the arts teacher training, the need to take the crisis of the field of art and education in a pedagogical way, as a stimulus to the teachers’ practice (Guimarães, 2005). Pressing issues, such as high culture versus popular culture, education versus work, the crisis in higher education, the art of ethnic groups taken as folklore, the fact that feminism has not influenced the visual arts courses and the not overcoming of the exclusionary University, would demonstrate, according to the researchers, the power relations that sustain the university and would need to be surpassed, and that should be considered as stimulating elements for overcoming the crisis.

It is also often argued that, today, teachers would face new paradigms, making it necessary to understand how art practices can become an instrument of resistance able to give voice to the student against the hegemony of bourgeois culture. This paradigm shift would be sustained in authors as Foucault, Jorge Larossa, Henri Giroux, Stuart Hall, and Tomaz Tadeu (Guerra, 2012), as well as in the last century changes, including the Nietzschean thought, criticism of rationalism and changes in science highlighted by Humbert Maturana and Ilya Prigogine. Similarly, it is stated that transformations in history and anthropology produced the change of the root scheme, according to the Deleuzian rhizome metaphor, asserting that “[...] cultural studies, feminist studies, post-colonialist studies, among many others that embrace the multiple, the ‘difference’ and ‘the other’, bring to the educational field multicultural approaches and, more recently, the discussion about visual culture and art teaching” (Guimarães, 2005, p. 121). These changes would produce new relationships between science, life and art, and we would live the end of certainties, in which everything becomes becoming, so it would be necessary to invent life at every moment and take life as a work of art (Pellanda, 2004).

The Production of Interventions

Around 2005 and 2006, there is, along with the theoretical discussions to overcome the crisis in education, an incentive to produce practical interventions, based on the philosophical concepts. Therefore, it is possible to cite authors who work in the production of a Dionysian pedagogy, which “[...] does not bother to make value judgments, separate art from worldly production, point out what is divine and what is demonic, say that art is this and not that” (Zordan, 2005, p. 261).

There are texts that take certain art practices, such as the clown, for production and reinvention of self, which seek art as an ally in the process of inventing lines of flight in life (Kasper, 2009). This practice proposes to carry out a variation of self, able to escape the patterns of a biopolitics logic - which would imply powers over the bodies -, in favor of the affirmation of a biopotency - which is about a potency of the body.

Similarly, there are texts that intend to cinematize education, as did Deleuze to Philosophy (Fantin, 2009). In such a proposal on cinema and imagination or on the different ways to watch a movie, it is asserted that more important than the film itself is the relationship established with it. Thus, cinema is seen as a stimulator of the child’s imagination, as a content, as a pedagogical tool and as a contemporary story teller, which would allow the interaction, the experience of emotions and the experience building.

There is still a text that discusses the mandatory teaching of music in school and the frequent confusion between the work features aimed at producing professional musicians and the work aimed at music education (Brito, 2010). It is indicated by the author, that music in school should not bind to usefulness, be a living art as part of everyday life and of life itself. The argument would be processed based on humanizing functions of art, on the discussion about the relationship between art as game and play, on reflections about the different art uses, and on the relationship between art, everyday life and becoming. Therefore, some of Deleuze’s concepts are adopted, such as singularity, way of resistance, line of flight, which would seek the repetition of the different, as well as Rubem Alves’s, as the idea that “[...] music, in the territories of music education, should turn into a box mixing tools with toys” (Brito, 2010, p. 92).

Corroborating with this proposal, it is suggested by another author (Guimarães, 2005) a reading of art through philosophy, able to perform the interaction in plural contexts, to recognize ideological domination instances, proposing that the artist have a rhizomatic formation with hybrid fields, of which the difference and otherness can be part.

As an example of this type of reading, there is the text of two psychologists (Oliveira; Fonseca, 2006), in which a practical intervention from Deleuze’s concepts is proposed. Electing the school as something productive, creative and machinic as a problem, the authors aim to analyze the school in its singularity, glimpsing an education that goes beyond the outline of the shape, definition, training and body, and that is able to open to the body transmutation, to disease, to contamination as composition; that is, a school as a work of art, available to the becomings of education.

There are also certain art practices recommended by the Education Visual Culture (ECV), which takes them as a new way to view image in the classroom, questioning notions such as the universal, the hegemonic, the formal, noting that today there is the prevalence of image over language. The texts about this subject (Martins; Pereira; Valencia, 2008) suggest, based on Foucault, the discussion on the effects of power to seek other more democratic alternatives, legitimated by the images. Thus, they perceive interpretation and image understanding as a repertoire of life and subjectivity, which makes it possible to legitimize the marginal speeches. They deny the formal, objective, universal and representational approaches as the embodiment of truth and bet on an education able to understand that it is about mediated and socially constructed ways of seeing. Their method consists in distrusting the dominant images that expel the different and use the image as an effect of truth. They see contemporary art as a plurality of opinions. In this perspective, the image serves to deconstruct the hegemonic models of normality, allowing an approach without the exclusion of differences, identities and otherness. With regard to education, the researchers argue that the ECV would be important for the development of critical thinking in order to live in the society of the spectacle and consumption. As a teaching tool, image and art have their importance associated with the dissolution of prejudice, by giving voice to the subjectivity of the student.

Art’s Functions and Features

These forms of art, as evidenced by the readings of Foucault and Deleuzian philosophy, would allow a reconfiguration of art’s functions and features and its teaching.

Art would have the function to re-enchant education, due to its potential to trigger cognitive-ontological processes, to rescue the emotions and build a better world, to make students aesthetically build the school and, therefore, unsettle it and open it to the becomings. This would be done by attributing expressiveness to the quality of matter and providing aesthetic experiences of worlds inventions, deconstruction of cliché-looks and propositions of compositions of other spaces-times. Art would propose new experiences and other ways of living, and would free us from the present, creating other different worlds (Oliveira, Fonseca, 2006).

In such context, in which art relates to educational practices, it should not express transcendent essences nor externalize ways of seeing the world. It proposes an art as learning events or the class as a work of art (Zordan, 2005).

Moreover, it is stressed, based on Nietzsche and Deleuze, the notion of art as pure indeterminacy, as an inopportune and untimely entity, or as a line of flight that breaks up with what is called good education (Costa, 2011). It would be able to produce a destabilization of education, to make the curriculum seductive and to keep the art alive as an inventive spirit. It is also proposed a practical educational art in the order of the desire, of the machinic, of the free expression, of the event, which is called Curricularte. It would be characterized by the artistic spirit averse to traditional rigidity of ways to learn, to teach and evaluate, signaling a “[...] bodily dimension of knowing-flavor [saber-sabor], cannibalistic art brought by the new creation of desire in education” (Costa, 2011, p. 279). In this school type, art would not be in the curriculum, but would be part of a set of “[...] vibrations centers, each in itself and in relation to the others [...] that will resonate the desiring voices for a curriculum and another education” (Costa, 2011, p. 281, author’s emphasis). To this a few recommendations to the artist-teacher is added: instigate students’ curiosity, promote openness to transdisciplinary and, above all, keep alive the inventive spirit.

Another Education and Another Student

This context of a new education proposal is intensified toward the affirmation of a non-school education subject. There are authors who question, with the readings of the works of Foucault and Derrida, the economic education of young people at the expense of comprehensive training, suggesting the resumption of libertarian pedagogy and queer theory to think of education, as well as associate these pedagogies to Visual Culture as a way of overcoming art education3. In this context, Visual Culture would crave to encourage the production of a student to see the world and themselves in a less predetermined way, expanding the content of possibilities in the classroom and dissolving hierarchies and prejudice of origin of the objects. For Visual Culture, school should be transformed into a space that respects the individuality of students in such a way that the choices and individual development processes should not be lost through the dictatorship of the majority. This pedagogy is characterized by valuing freedom, autonomy, creativity, adventure, unsuitability, “[...] experimentation of new situations, respect for the subjects met along the way, with many stories and teachings, self-reflection and deconstruction/construction, a permanent mutability of all subjects involved in the educational process” (Rodrigues, 2010, p. 744). Thus, it aims to produce “[...] changing individuals who subvert fixed positions, regulated thoughts, paralyzing rules and predictable practices” (Rodrigues, 2010, p. 744). As we can see, it is present the idea to propose or build lines of flight, through a pedagogy based on philosophical concepts. Or, as an author emphasizes, “[...] it is up to each of us invent their lines of flight and for that, we need to trace them ‘effectively in life’. Art [...] can be a powerful ally for such layout” (Kasper 2009, p. 202). The result of this process was the bulky production of reflections on pedagogy and proposition of other ways of education, supported by concepts of Deleuze and Foucault’s philosophy.

In this line of thought, there are texts that seek to analyze the knowledge-power device of didactics and propose the epistemological basis to build a didactic of the work of art. This would be based on a decreased use of language in agency, territorial and rhizomatic dispossession processes as well as in the acts of resistance to doxa, communication and representation (Pougy, 2007). It is believed that the poetic and the creation, in the classroom, are born out of the noisy moments of miscommunication, that is, resistance. And that the thought would not be a servile activity related to solutions with already given condition. Therefore, art, as a prospect of creation in Deleuzian sense, would be the best guide to the didactics of the work of art able to see with other eyes the school failures.

There are also authors (Brito, 2009, p. 31) who claim that Deleuze allowed to transform the musical art education for children in a happening place, being able to “[...] create a smaller musical education that is resistance, which is thought and evokes singularities; a mode that is a line of flight and that resists the control mechanisms of the media, which emphasizes the final product and never encourages the process”. It is important to emphasize that, in this text, in order to refer to the lower education, the author reports to the notion of Deleuze-becoming in Silvio Gallo’s education. This lower education would be characterized as a search for changes, being committed to libertarian values.

In short, we would have as a starting point of most authors a sense of crisis and the proposition of ways to overcome it, from the materialization of philosophical concepts to the educational reality. In this context, art would play a role in overcoming it, to which functions and features combined with certain philosophy of education are assigned. Also, an educational subject would be proposed for both art education and for education in general, which would be designed in the midst of seeking to overcome a purely academic education, as well as the effervescence of new educational forms and lines of flight of inventions.

Two Dissenting Voices

As we can see, these authors bet on the proposition of an aesthetics of existence founded on guided justifications for collective or political nature causes, as well as on proposing actions projects from the conceptual framework of the philosophy of difference.

However, there are two authors that contrast from this manner to see the Foucault’s aesthetics of existence and Deleuze’s difference.

Jardel Sander (2011) problematizes the body and its relation to the subjectification, culture and artistic creation processes. The author declares he recognizes the relationship between art, creation and capitalism; however, he highlights that certain arts work as new possibilities that escape the capital, because they deny permanence. Stressing the idea of art as an alternative to instrumental rationality, he questions, based on Nietzsche, whether today the body would not be a major reason or the final resting place of the subject, indicating the body-invention that would oppose to the entity body. However, the most important idea for this study, in his text, deals with the interpretation woven by the author of the concept of aesthetics of existence:

Interestingly, Foucault will seek in an artist, Baudelaire, and his acute awareness of time, subsidies to feature a ‘modern attitude’. This is not for Foucault an opposition, but a reading, even ironic, that Baudelaire offers in the wake of Aufklärung, characterizing it through the attitude of his protagonists. However, there is a nuance in perspective the poet offers of his time, embodied in the dandy attitude, ‘[...] which makes of his body, his behavior, his feelings and passions of his existence, a work of art’, which is of the order of creation and artistic invention, and that even not away from voluntarism, establishes other conditions of possibility for the present: ‘This ironic heroification of the present, this game of freedom with the real to its transfiguration, this ascetic elaboration of self, Baudelaire does not conceive they may occur in society or in the political body. They can only be produced in another place which Baudelaire calls art’ (Sander, 2011, p. 138).

This excerpt refers to the central discussion undertaken by Hermann and Loponte, presented at the beginning. Contradicting Loponte but also his opponent, Sander states that the aesthetics of existence could not occur in the political body, but only in art, thus indicating that there would be a third way of thinking about the aesthetics of existence, for Foucault.

These clues lead to a famous passage from an interview repeatedly cited in the analyzed articles. It is a meeting in 1983, in which Foucault was interviewed by Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow. The excerpt continually reminded by Foucault authors is as follows:

What surprises me is the fact that in our society, art has turned into something related only to objects and not to individuals or to life; that art is something specialized or produced by experts who are artists. However, could not everyone’s life become a work of art? Why should a lamp or a house be an object of art, but not our life? (Foucault, 1995, p. 261).

In a segment before this one above, Foucault presents something surprising. The author states that, over the centuries, we would be convinced that the way one conducts his personal life, the everyday household, the sexual acts, etc. could not be changed without promoting a harmful effect on social life. However, given the patent artificiality that accompany the forge of this link between the political and social life and our personal life, Foucault suggests that it is abandoned.

When asked whether life as a work of art is not a form of aesthetization, the same one Welsch criticizes or that has been disseminated in societies like the North American, Foucault replied negatively, arguing that the existential aesthetization is not accompanied by a questioning of how this way of life is produced, “[...] we live as we actually live, for knowing the truth about desire, life, nature, body, etc.” (p. 261). That is, when acting in a certain way, would the subject question how this way to behave was forged? By claiming an alleged volition, or shape, or corporeality, would the subject know the source of them? And at knowing that this volition or that body could be just ghosts produced socially, but not necessarily, would the subject still be able to be beyond the realm of social rules?

Further, his interviewers questioned whether the subject should be constituted without using knowledge or universal rules, as does Sartrean existentialism. Foucault argues that, despite some convolutions, Sartre ends by claiming that the artist in their creative work, should turn themselves to create something authentic, but their way of understanding the creative work would be something quite different: for Foucault, one should not “[...] refer to somebody’s creative activity according to the kind of relationship one has with oneself”, as Sartre does, but “[...] relate the form of relationship one has with oneself to creative activity” (Foucault, 1995, p. 262). Thus, it would not be about emphasizing the relationship of a man to himself, but involving the kind of relationship that one has with oneself with a creative activity as a practice in which one can create a unique way of life, which, when experienced, can be accepted, or not, in the social field.

Therefore, for Foucault, the power struggle between morality and aesthetics would not be on the agenda. It would not be based on ethical or moral principles that the aesthetics of existence would be defined. As emphasized above, it is not an act of our personal lives that would be able to promote public ruin. The beautiful life should not deal directly in confrontation with society, with morality or ethics; however, it would be a strategic area in which the individual would continuously create a way of life and of constitution of a subject form in daily acts. Also, it would not be about making new interpretations of ethical principles, and even these could continue to exist. They would integrate the social field, and would not matter to the individual field of who experiences a form of life.

It seems, therefore, that what Foucault and previously Nietzsche had put into question is the idea of a self-centered subject or simply the very notion of the subject. By devoting to historical (genealogical) study of ethics, Foucault shows that teleology would be something changing, which would have undergone profound changes over the centuries, and that modern man would already be able to deny that only transcendence could guarantee an existential sense.

In this direction, in an aesthetics of existence, which presupposes the subject’s relation to life as something of the order of creation and in which the very notion of self-centeredness would be denied, authenticity could emerge from the result of the relationship that the subject establishes with existence in their daily actions. Therefore, the authenticity of a work or a life would come from the relationships that the subject establishes with the existence and the living and not of a supposed authenticity of the subject. At that point, it makes perfect sense the idea, which surrounds the work of Nietzsche, about the essential dose of chance of a world without previous meaning.

Besides Sander there is another author of our corpus that incites some questions about how some concepts of Deleuze are worked in most of the texts that were analyzed in this research. Jorge Vasconcelos (2005, p. 1224) emphasizes that, in all “[...] Deleuze’s intercessions with extra philosophical domains, what fundamentally matters is not the analysis that the philosopher undertook on the works or the arts in question, but the concepts that these same works and arts release into philosophy”. In this way, what would be important to philosophy, in its relation to art, or mathematics, or literature is what they give to think, the concepts that they force thought to forge. Therefore, it is the problems of philosophy that would be in question, not of an intercessor domain. According to this assertion, for Deleuze, a concept would not be a tool to change the present of an area contiguous to philosophy, but only a way of thinking and producing concepts in the philosophical field.

This reflection is consistent with Zourabichvili’s vision (2000), when he points out that Deleuze did not create a voluntarist philosophy, but a thought that would affirm becoming and chance, denying every kind of project that aims at transforming the world according to a goal or a plan. In this place, the intellectual’s role, according to Deleuze, would not be as indicator or awareness producer, in the manner of an organic intellectual - present in the left wing’s revolutionary practices -; to the author, the intellectual should neither take a purposeful nor a leadership position, but their demand and attention should refer to “[...] the involuntary, or to the emergence of new fields of possibilities4” (Zourabichvili, 2000 p. 354).

Such problematizations show that there can be different readings on the notions of aesthetics of existence, regarding the need for a social and collective sense for their presence in educational practices. Analogously, it is also questioned the need for a social meaning or purpose to the concepts of the philosophy of difference.

As outlined at the beginning of this text, it started from the suspicion that in the encounter between art and education there would be evidence of a practice of art pedagogization. If pedagogization is conceived as the dissemination of statements from certain fields of knowledge (art, philosophy, science, etc.) to other areas of human life, aiming to improve the man or educate him, according to the imperatives of the social, economic and politics agenda of the time, would the flow of the notions of aesthetics of existence and difference of form, as they have been exposed in the educational literature here presented, be a way of pedagogization these concepts? If the readings taken from Vasconcelos’s (2005) and Sander’s (2011) indications are correct and there is a presence of aesthetics of existence and philosophy of difference with political or social proposals - made of projects for subject modification - could it be inferred that the proposals presented by the scholars of education, listed here, would be a kind of art pedagogization process?

However, the pedagogization notion of educational processes is already something relatively discussed among educators. Loponte (2008, p. 115) points out the following issues: “One needs to think about how childhood and art have been ‘pedagogized’, ‘didactized’, ‘controlled’ by teaching and schools”. And, therefore, she advocates a philosophical incursion based on Foucault and Deleuze to “[...] think of the not yet thought of childhood in the most traditional educational theories” (p. 115) and contemporary art. She also sees childhood as an event that would not be “[...] subject to prescriptive speeches or control, imprisoned in a linear and progressive time. A childhood that has creation, invention, discontinuity, subversion as keywords” (p. 115). And a notion of art which is characterized by discontinuity, unpredictability, “[...] ruptures of space and time, questioning truths, imbalance, the new, the unexpected” (p. 115), that is, an art made of irruption of events, a childhood notion out of the conceptions of traditional theories and a pedagogy able to encompass these forms of art and childhood.

Nevertheless, in a different perspective of Loponte, Hermann (2008, p. 27) would also have waged a fight against art pedagogization. The author affirms:

A moral action only focused on the self-creation of the self, though it may be attractive to the pedagogical discourse, that fights against leveling forms and against what Nietzsche called herd morality, runs the risk of falling into an impossibility to constitute a common ethos.

Hermann, under the auspices of Welsch and the author’s critique of the aesthetics of existence, stresses a compromise between aesthetics and morality, to create a new common ethos and a new education, which combats the formation of empty and aestheticized subjects, produced under the sign of aesthetics of existence.

However, when pairing again these perspectives with the problematizations brought up by Sander (2011) and Vasconcelos (2005), we are facing propositions that give rise to some questions.

Starting from the premise that the concepts of aesthetics of existence and difference are already products of the intercessory relationship between art and philosophy, with a purpose to formulate philosophical problems and not a relationship between art and education, firstly, when Loponte (2008) proposes the adoption of these concepts to think education in another manner, would the author not be using a tool created for philosophy, in order to analyze and solve a problem in the educational field? In this case, could a project for education change, based on a voluntarist philosophical proposition that aims at transforming the world according to a goal or a plan, be a result of this act?

Secondly, by suggesting the creation of a new conception of childhood and art, as irruption of events that seek the new, the unexpected, the discontinuous, etc., would a conception of childhood and education that is consistent with the notion of young entrepreneur, already well rooted by Sylvio Gadelha’s criticism (2009) to the neoliberal man, not have been prepared?

Thirdly, when Hermann (2008) states the vehement need for a moral and aesthetic component in the production of ethics, would there not be in this indication the inoculation of a pedagogized practice of art, in the constitution of the subject of education?


This text started from the observation of the occurrence of different time periods, with respect to the treatment of the concepts of aesthetics of existence and difference. Firstly, it was denoted a movement in which these concepts would circulate in a theoretical and speculative discussions, and subsequently a dynamic in which these concepts were thought as tools to think and explain other modes of producing educational practices. In the meantime, there would be a strong confrontation between authors who defend the presence of a minimum moral plan as the possibility to create the common good, who, in their turn, would take the aesthetics of existence by an aesthetics of existence that would not guarantee such moral plane, and authors who bet on the aesthetics of existence as a possibility to establish a minimum of collective interests.

At focusing the analysis on the second set of authors, it was possible to perceive that the treatment given to the relationship between art and education was perhaps due to the modes of a philosophy of praxis, as a possibility to appeal to the need to overcome the educational crisis that is evident to all researched authors.

Nevertheless, among the authors of the corpus that supported the movement of the concepts of aesthetics of existence and difference, in an attempt to overcome the crisis in education, some clatter came up when two researchers would also affirm the impossibility of establishing the relationship between the aesthetics of existence with any political or social practice, and the impropriety of associating Deleuze’s thought on difference as theoretical ballast of a social change project.

A deeper analysis of these contradictions revealed that a specific way of interpreting the philosophical concepts, as they leave the speculative philosophy and critical field, would possibly be developed with some frequency. In the specific case of Foucault, Deleuze and Nietzsche’s philosophy, as the concepts are thought within contiguous areas, they tend to go into a field of production of possibilities of personal conduct management tools, but always postulating positions open to the becoming and encouraging singularizing measures. Thus, it is clear the real risk of these authors being adopted as a technology of a device or a mode of existence that they themselves denounced - a controlled mode of existence (Foucault), a form of capitalistic life (Deleuze) and a slave morality (Nietzsche).

Guided by these readings, it would be necessary to register another way to think about the concepts of aesthetics of existence and difference. We believe that to interpret these concepts, it would be necessary to look them through Foucault, Deleuze and Nietzsche’s perspective in which they would be referring to a desubjectivation and denaturalization of the Self, which allude to a non-subject, a non-self, and to how the notion of self was forged. Therefore, a de-psychologized man. However, the interpretations promoted by the area of education, which we have analyzed, focus precisely on a self-centered subject, who is often looking to an increase in productivity of modes of lives, of consumption, etc. Similarly, we denote that the interpretation present at the corpus of this research often ends up turning what Deleuze calls involuntary, in the field of possibilities (Zourabichvili, 2000), into programmatic actions.

However, it suits us ask: what are the possibilities of thinking the relationship between philosophy with art and education disengaged from this psychologized man and this project man, or promise (Nietzsche, 1998)? How to establish a relationship with art that can be accepted as a part of life able to create frames of reference, that can be independent and able to think of things that this psychologized man cannot think?

Perhaps obscenely reaffirming life as a work of art. Of an art that does not relate to this psychologized man, this man who has value as an individual or part of a population, in which his value is in the existence itself, and not only in the things that he can produce and that over time become autonomous and free from their creator, as for example, art. Therefore, we would speak of an autonomous art able to create its own frames of reference, that is, a dehumanized art. A life produced as such art would be forged without a self, or when needed to act as a subject, the latter should know that such a condition is dramatized. Finally, a life that would get rid of the notions of naturality, individuality and humanity, thus reigning the gesture of creation and of chance.


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3Throughout the twentieth century and early twenty-first century, art education has witnessed a wide range of names, demonstrating a constant process of evaluation, both theoretical and practical: artistic education; education through art; art education; art/education; teaching of art; visual education; education of visual culture; education of aesthetic practices. In this text, we will opt for the term art education simply because it is most frequently used.

4According to Zourabichvili (2000), for Deleuze, the possible does not concern the possibilities given in a historical moment and thus could be realized, but what was realized or made possible in an event which breaks up with rules or with what is expected; the possible would be the potency that is realized and not a conglomeration of possibilities given beforehand that elects one of them.

Received: February 26, 2016; Accepted: May 09, 2016

Fernando Luiz Zanetti holds a PhD, a Master’s and a Bachelor’s degree, is licensed and graduated in psychology from Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) in Assis. Did his post-doctorate studies in the Education School of Universidade de São Paulo - FEUSP (2013-2015). Associate founder and diretor of the NGO CIRCUS - Circuito de Interação de Redes Sociais since 2001. Former Manager of CRP SP Assis sub-center between 2009 and 2012. Former professor of Unesp Assis in 2007 and 2008, Faculdade da Alta Paulista - FAP, 2008 - 2013 and Faculdades Integradas de Ourinhos - FIO 2012-2013. Professor of Fundação Educacional of Assis - FEMA since 2012 and Faculdades Integradas de Ourinhos - FIO. E-mail:

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