Defence in the field of Art Education: MA Elina Heikkilä

Taidekasvatuksellinen toiminta ja sen kuvaukset ovat tuttuja, mutta mikä on taiteen ja kasvatuksen suhde? Väitöstutkimuksessa tarkastellaan taiteen ja kasvatuksen suhdetta, erityisesti kasvatuksen vallan kysymyksiä, nykytaiteen toimintatapojen valossa.
ehkä taide ehkä kasvatus kansi

TaM Elina Heikkilä will defend the dissertation Maybe-Art Maybe-Education – Education and Potential Power in the Light of the Strategies of Contemporary Art on Friday on Friday 14 June 2019.

Opponent: DA, Prof. Jaana Erkkilä-Hill, University of the Arts Helsinki 

Custos: Prof. Helena Sederholm 

More information: 

Art education is an activity the depictions of which are familiar to us but what is not so clear is the relationship between art and education. Heikkilä’s research offers one representation of this relationship, the aim being to illuminate questions of upbringing and education and especially questions of power in education by elaborating the strategies of contemporary art. 

Finnish philosopher and educational thinker Juho Hollo (1885–1967) serves as guidance into questions of education. His reflections on educational activity as a way of nurturing an individual’s growth and on the importance of imagination create ground for the understanding of education (upbringing). Hannah Arendt describes the significance of activity for humankind and the potential power: power can be understood as an opportunity when equals are acting together. Strategies of contemporary art are analysed by means of written data of two successive Documentas (major contemporary art exhibition held in Kassel, Germany every five years).

Curator Chus Martinez´s thoughts about non-concept, artistic research, vacillation and the importance of maybe accompany to the potential and possible. So contemporary art vacillates: fiction, imagination and the need to understand are central. The premise of the worlds of education/upbringing and art are in pluralism and diversity, in the vastness and abundance of possibilities, and neither of them should be adopted as an instrument the goals of which are defined from outside. The context of art is therefore a natural companion to education, especially if education is defined in Hollo´s terms.

This research indicates that art education can have a significant role in offering a specific and open space for action that is free from other expectations or ambitions of society. In these spaces of appearance an individual can act, learn to ask his or her own questions and become visible as a unique human being. Because this space vacillates (space of appearance will not emerge automatically when people gather together, according to Arendt), it is essential to be aware of the objectives of action, to verbalize these objectives, to stay humble as an educator and to incessantly ask: does art or education serve in this very moment the whole vastness of life or is it narrowed down as an instrument? It is also important to read deeds and actions through art: this is how vacillation and multiplicity will persist.

Heikkilä’s research offers concepts and aspects to consider art education (in its different fields) as action that should be allowed to stay free from instrumentalization and concentrate on serving humanity.


The dissertation notice and the published dissertation are placed for public display at Väre (Otanimementie 14), at least 10 days before the defence date.


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The dissertation is available for purchase, and as a free PDF download from the Aalto ARTS Books online shop. The downloadable PDF will be made available online one day before the defense.


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