Angela Nikolai’s talk took place on October 13 2020 in the framework of 4A_Lab Online Seminars.
Drawings, casts, naturalia or photographs are ranked among the standard repertoire of artistic training. While their didactic effectiveness – learning to see, to draw and to compose in a predetermined manner – is widely premised, decisive aspects like materiality and media specificity, discursive contexts and networks of production and above all the relation of factuality, intended function and usage of teaching material have only recently been attracting attention.
Following this interest in the media culture and practices of art education, the presentation contrasts the predominant functionalist reading of didactic aids by emphasizing their material, technical, aesthetic and semantic properties as exemplified by the teaching collection for comparative plant studies, which was conceived and produced by the artisan teacher Moritz Meurer and his workshop between 1891 and 1910. Starting with a short tour of the mixed media ensemble containing preserved specimens, casts, bronze models, prints, electroplating and photographs the presentation will then focus on the methodological problem of historizing the practices of working with these teaching aids. By discussing measures as well as institutional and structural framings of the objects, that seem to have been crucial for ensuring their envisioned purpose, the presentation not only hints at the “Eigensinn” (H. P. Hahn) of pedagogic objects and thus counters their assumed a priori functionality and self-evidence. The talk also attempts to develop an approach to gain insight into the black box as which the object-based social and epistemic practices and processes of arts and crafts education are still being described.