Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Days Five, Six, and Seven

As so often happens – I get way behind on blogging on the class. A good sweep of days here – moving from the first project through in-class work to the second project. Bob and I focused on the Zen and Thich Nhat Hahn material as a way of reviewing the first projects. The impulse was initially to call the first project “non-intention,” but it worked better to focus on juxtaposition with non-intention being a by-product of executing the projects. Through this conversation we developed a list of terms, ideas, techniques that we intend to circle back around to after the Reich and Eno material. A discussion of eastern and western approaches to art making was a good place to focus our energies. Control VS natural process. The discussion was OK – we are finding that the first class takes a bit more time to warm up to the conversation, whereas the second section dives in deeper sooner. So – there is a bit of a disconnect between the sections, but not by too much. We also find, which is no surprise, that we understand the material better in the second section and have streamlined the ideas. I do wonder how much this impacts the level of conversation.

The next class was focused on four in-class exercises that developed out of what I used to call “dadaday.” Tzara’s dadapoem, Burroughs’ cut-up, collage, and the surrealistic game exquisite corpse. Four stations – 10 minutes each – then share samples from each group. It is always interesting how this arcs – first quiet and focused – like good students – toward more cacophony – toward chaos – and then back to quiet. It was easier to share the textual material than the images – so we had the students post them on the wall and gathered at the end to discuss. As opposed to the last time Bob and I taught this class, we continually ask students about the use of these technique and process in their arts area. Looking at things like juxtaposition, chance, fragmentation, etc it is often a mindset or abstraction rather than a direct application. As was discussed – it would be easy to use the corpses and collages as inspiration for text, sound, character development etc. The suggestion that a collage could be used as a text for a piece of theatre, music, or screenplay was met with interest. Bob’s acknowledgment that the by-product of the process was to create some “interesting” images.

This has been an idea we have returned to a few times – largely through Nile’s questions about what “interesting” means. Bob and I keep wrestling with this notion as I don’t really feel comfortable with the “good” and “bad” designations for projects. I would prefer to discuss projects that are more interesting than others. By design, this has a vague definition since what is interesting to one person may be boring as hell to another. This fits right in to our discussion of how the viewer can contextualize a project in a number of different ways.

Next class was dedicated to presenting project #2 – one designed around detailing a process for an everyday activity and then creating a painting or sculpture using this process. Not a simple question, but one that yielded some great results. There were a number of students that interpreted this in a linear and literal way – marching though the steps one at a time or incorporating the steps into the piece itself. We started by just looking at the pieces without the process. Paused to ask questions about commonalities and difference between projects. The process pages were then set out, a second review of the projects, and then on to discussion about what we see. Here we noted direct applications as opposed to abstraction produced quite different responses. Abstraction took a bit more time to digest and often yielded more complex results. Although I should qualify that “complexity” was often contained in some of the simpler projects where simplicity created a greater need to dwell. We have the next round of project #2 tomorrow.

Part of what we are working to have the students focus on is process – the steps by which something is executed. Underneath this are two elements – we will eventually separate the students from the work, and there is probably some commentary built in to this about the process they are acquiring here at the school. The next project will move from identifying to creating one and then setting it in motion. Should be interesting.

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