Decompressing from the first projects we basically leave a day open to reflect on the experience. This was a wonderful conversation – lots of good ideas and connection emerged from the discussion. Bob and I had mapped out any number of approaches but what seemed to work best was to review the ideas we had already developed. Since the projects tend to produce new insights and ideas we added to our growing list of terms and techniques, leaning heavily on the idea of a phase change or phase shift and moving between the intentional and the accidental. This gave way to part two of the conversation the built on the two systems readings – Jack Burnham and Buckminster Fuller. To start the conversation we had students go outside and gather and assemble a structure right on the verge of collapse. This lead to a good discussion of liminality. Part of our questions revolved around what they learned from making the structures and what they might do differently and how they might aestheticize them more fully. These are the two basic questions we will return to again and again. We also discussed the notion of a paradigm shift in the sense that the triangular relationship between space, work, and viewer can be completely upended by changing all three elements.
It was here were we explored the continuum between life and art, the intentional and accidental, aesthetic and non-aesthetic, and product and process. I have been drawing these polarities for years with the intent of cracking open the binaries to suggest that there was a bit more room between them. One of the students pointed out that these ideas were presented in a purely linear way when the conversation has been about the non-linear. She was absolutely correct. My hope is that when we get to chaos theory we can reflect back on this and suggest a fractal mapping of these ideas rather than a continuum. The interesting thing here is that she asked about these two dimensional maps because she had been thinking about the subject in three (or more) dimensions. Much to think on with this.
The next class introduced the students to some basic Fluxus ideas – a conversation around event scores and the work of La Monte Young. Young’s various compositions 1960 and his dismissal of discussing “good” works of art lays a nice foundation for these ideas. We had the students interpret his Composition 1960 #9 (the straight line) as if it were a score for sound, movement, text and image. Some great results. We also had select students perform some of the Fluxus events. The intention behind this is to give them guidance to create their own Fluxus pieces to be performed the next class. Rather than make this one of the big projects, as we have done in the past, the cards and instruction were distributed on Tuesday with an intended performance on Thursday.
Fluxus day never fails to please. It generally takes some time for each class to find a vibe, but when they do the results are great. As in the past we collected and shuffled the cards and students performed the results. the rule is they have to perform first and then read the card after. It creates an interesting dynamic for the watching – not knowing what the instructions are or who’s card is being performed. As anticipated, the first section was a bit more playful in their explorations – with some of the cards casting out of the space via phone call or a visit to the downstairs classrooms. the second section tends to be a bit more introspective, but developed some really interesting pieces. Key to this were about a dozen lemons brought in by one student. Used and reused, they became a central image in quite a few of the performances. I love that these can go from loud and brash and in-your-face to quiet and contemplative within a heartbeat. As this was the last class before spring break I’m glad we ended on a high note with students bonding over bizarre performance material.
At this point in the term Bob and I have surveyed the students by asking questions about engagement and intrinsic motivation. It was no surprise that the numbers on the two sections would be different. Section 1 seems a bit more motivated to play where as section two digging in a bit deeper into the ideas. It was at this point we also had the students turn in their first major writing assignment. This gives us a good picture of where we are at this point in the term. Thankfully no one seems completely lost. As expected, some students used the essay as an opportunity to work out a few percolating ideas whereas others simply summarized where we are at this point. We are basically right where we want to be in the term with student development. They seem right on the edge of kicking this all up a notch and doing some remarkable work. A few more in-class pieces to explore and then we see what they can do with the fragmentation and reassembly process driven by an indeterminate system. Then Bob and I add a few more pieces, pose a few more questions and kind of fade away.