I find comparisons useful. Not in a judgmental way, but as a way of tracking progress or direction or evolution. I do compare this time through the gen art material to the last time through (and the last time was compared to the time before that). It is also interesting that, as we saw the previous time through, the two sections could not be more different. We see this not just in the questions they ask, or how they position themselves in the room – section one doesn’t seem to have a problem sitting on the lovely new gym floor close in, a bit like story time – where as section two seems to want to keep a bit of distance and also seems to prefer chairs. At least that is how it seems after three days.
The presentation of the Juxtaposition Projects allows reveals more than the students often see. It is an opened ended project with simple instructions - Place two or more pieces in close proximity in such a way that the pieces offer comment on each other. It’s also fairly easy to accomplish. That’s why it’s the first project (although in this iteration we didn’t make is one of the main three “Projects” that the students will execute throughout the term). It’s a way to get started and create a ton of things to discuss. Lots of good material – some of which was overthought, some perhaps under-thought – the results don’t really mater either way. Rather than slowly move around the room chatting about each piece Bob and I put a project together ourselves that we used as an example of observation. Start as far removed as possible – what do you see, stay away from collapsing into meaning. Just observe. Its something we saw Lois Hetland do – and I greatly admired her patience. But observation does give way to connections and patterns and finally meaning.
It was with this frame we sent everyone out into the room to look – really look at each of the projects. They were told we would ask them to write on three of them – so circle back for more information. It is always fascinating to me to see the connections between projects – how do they unintentionally qualify or augment or rub up against other projects? In about 20 minutes at the end of class we chatted about what specific ideas students saw in the projects. What techniques, what ideas, what patterns. I’m not sure we got quite as many terms as the last time through – but a good start to creating a list of techniques for the class.
The follow up class we gave each student about 30 seconds to describe their project. It was a good way to review and also start the conversation about intention VS reception. So rather than spend two full class periods on this project it came down to one and about 30 minutes – and developed about the same level of information. Having the student write about three of the projects was useful in that they had already done some thinking about them and processed at least a few. Then we sent the class off into their groups to distill the essence of the White Cube essay due for that day. This worked really well and we will probably lean on this again and again to get the conversation started about readings. Safety in numbers and the hope is at least someone in each group read the essay.
This essay proved to be a key one last time and it allowed for an equally deep and rich conversation this time around. Between the five groups they hit on all the major points we were interested in discussing, but also framed the conversation in ways we didn’t see. For me the key was one of the first comments in the first section about the dynamic interaction between space, the work, and the viewer. This maps really well on the whole Prague School triad and Peircian triad – I suspect we will push on this idea as we go forward. The realization is that you can push on one of these, possibly two, but if you take on all three simultaneously you have completely severed yourself from the past. Not a bad thing, but many of the artists we will discuss build off of and challenge these ideas – therefore need something to challenge. On to DadaDay next – where we stop taking and put these ideas into action.