Friday, February 20, 2009

Item replaced by photograph

I wonder how the phrase “item replaced by photograph” could simplify my life. What would be left? One of the things (of the many things) I have enjoyed about teaching this Gen Art class is the element of surprise. Bob and I create these assignments and then we wait, not knowing what solutions will arise. As we have suggested – this is our generative art – setting the students on a specific course. I have constantly been surprised. This is not always the case in a more traditional class. I give an assignment – an essay, a set of questions, a project, and nine times out of ten I can predict the outcome. There are responses that catch me off guard, that provide a unique way into the questions, but they are rare. With this class this is happening with nearly every project and every student.

What struck me about this third round of projects is also what struck me about the first two. Despite the fact that we have about 20 people laboring – alone or in teams – creating any number of solutions to the assignments – there is a core set of ideas that draw the projects together. In the first project it had to do with volume – most, though not all, of the projects were loud. So much so that the students who had quieter projects seemed to feel compelled to apologize or at least explain the quietness. Project two appeared to point toward paint – or substances that created a mess. It was interesting that “mark” was interpreted by so many in this way.

The third project turned much much darker. Themes of surveillance, violence, authority, transgression seemed to be at the core of the explorations. Not all projects fit this description, but a majority of them operated on this level. Fascinating. I am not sure why this is. Perhaps the shift from “machine” to “system” indicated this focus. Perhaps we have reached the point in the term where students are more comfortable exploring such material. Maybe everyone is just exhausted and violence is just a natural response to stress.

What else struck me about these projects is that so many of the students employed technology – at a level that we have not yet seen. Computers, video cameras, sound recording, etc. Initially Bob and I had decided to move the class in this direction, with the final project being an assignment to work with digital media. It is fascinating that the class just seemed to naturally move in this direction. Again, it could have been the change in terminology from “machine” to “system,” but I think something else may have been at work. Sustainability – for at least an hour – seems to suggest the use of this type of media. Where we go next, I have no idea. I am certainly looking forward to the fourth projects.

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