Thursday, April 21, 2016

Day out:

So, we have basically reached the end of what Bob and I can offer the students. This final week of us in charge ended with Bob presenting on East/West and some specific generative material focused on processing. Today we circled back to the destruction stuff via Metzger’s essay. The conversation today was a way of shaping the pieces a bit more – starting with the arbitrary Life/Art rift that dominates most traditional art forms. The point of the discussion was to acknowledge the shift with Generative Art away from the divide and dissolving or at least pushing on the slash. We then engaged in a conversation about the world today and how that can be reflected in generative and/or destructive process based art. The idea of “art,” of course, merely one of many possible forms of expression to wrestle with the question of society and the world around us. A good discussion in both sections.

We briefly reflected back on the class while cleaning up and I do feel we articulated this process much better this time than the first time we taught the class. As the ground zero for my development of project-based courses it was nice to revisit this model. I think I have learned a great deal about this process in the past 7-8 years. It is a sound one, one that allows students freedom to engage in answering the questions that play to their strengths, but also grounds those strengths in a common set of experiences and vocabulary. We ended up with quite an impressive list of terms and ideas generated over the semester. This then functions as the content of the course. The final project and final exam questions are a way for students to reflect on these ideas while also shaping them in the project. Can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Days – well – whatever – I have totally lost track.

 Coming off of the fragmentation projects it was interesting to see how students tackled this one. Some went straight to things like random number generators to create random pieces, others fragmented images or objects, and still others created their own random system. We saw grids, framing devices, cuts, reliance on technology, reliance on others to make decisions, etc. One of the main questions that arose from this discussion was how small do the pieces need to be in order not to recognize the original object. Images and sounds, of course, seemed to work differently. So – the original images could be obliterated with fairly sizable pieces, but sound would come down to micro-cuts that were still recognizable. Bob’s point about sensing the DNA of the original was a great point.

We also discussed if certain mediums lent themselves to fragmentation better than others. Students that worked with text ended up moving toward individual words or phrases, since the next step was just letters – which are designed to be rearranged all the time. What was really interesting to see is that just about everyone held on to some element of control in executing these pieces – either the control of chat type of chance to use, or of the final product – which completely fits with Cage’s point about not giving his choices up to chance, but choosing how to use it. Part of what we wrestled with was if we saw intention as part of the project – so do elements rearranged randomly reflect any kind of perceivable order. We found that they largely did.

As a follow up to all of this we felt it time to revisit the terms and ideas developed so far. I always find this process interesting in that it seems like we have only developed a few and then they sort of landslide into many. We seemed to have picked up a number with the last few projects. So – we split the students up in to groups and gave each group three terms to define and come up with an example. We wanted to make it extra hard so – one example had to be based in sound, one in movement, and one in image. The first class took significantly longer to develop and share these projects than we thought. They were great to see, but they kind of spun out into complex performance pieces. We minimized this in the second class by only passing out two terms to each group – sound and image as the resulting examples. This periodic review is quite useful, and allows students to build vocabulary as well as tools.

After that we presented a slide show and videos with some examples of Destructive Art pieces as a way to follow up the Destructive Art project assignment. This gave way to the next class where I discussed and showed examples of Glitch and Circuit Bending as a way to develop some more contemporary destructive examples. Some good discussion and questions – my favorite being – why would you do that to a CD?

The following class was another kind of review class in which we gave the students the SSC material and Present Moment material from the first class and then discussed how it tied into this class. We started with groups again and had students make connections between the SSC list of ideas and the Gen Art list of ideas – either evolution, affront, or something else. The conversation after that point was largely focused on the common P2P question – what has changed and what has stayed the same across this year of study.

Ah – that brings us to the Destructive Art projects. Always a bit unnerving since we have no idea what direction this will go. But all in all I would have to say that most of the projects were delightful – some challenging, others less so, some contemplative, some performative, many engaging. A number of the ideas we discussed surrounded how the spectator was implied – willingly or no – into the process – as voyeur, as witness, as accomplish. It’s an interesting position to help kill a plant or watch someone stuff food in themselves and either do or not do anything. This level of provocation was quite interesting. Totally shatters the white cube idea of the museum and begins to cross over into life. Real things in real time were happening – some pleasant and other not.

Once again, we notice a profound difference between classes. The first section is a bit more contemplative, focused more on objects and processes, whereas the second section leaned much more heavily toward the performative. Both engaging, but in different ways. But one other factor stands out. The first section seems much more engaged in developing a conversation about the work, where as the second section seems to burn up that energy in performance. With each class there are a few outlier students that cross the opposite direction. We wondered what would have happened if we had identified them early and swapped sections.

We discussed a number of ideas at work in these pieces – starting with what type of materials were involved (lots of water as a solvent, and ice melting, and gravity), but also the implication of the spectator and implied or enacted violence – which played out in a number of ways – physical, psychological, political, passive. Many of the pieces built on a sense of anticipation – a “what will happen next” or “when will this thing finally happen” vibe. True to form – the sections diverged in the presentation – one we moved station to station to see the pieces, the second seemed more like a set of sideshow acts presented simultaneously. May have something to do with the object VS performative nature of the two sections.

The last piece we tried to get the students to focus on was how these pieces functioned conceptually. So – after assessing what elements were involved – what ideas were animated, what kind of impact dis that make. We have decided to focus more specifically on that for the final project – designed by the students – but needing to be focused on a specific concept or idea. Some students have been doing that since the first class, but for others that may be a greater leap. How all of this leads us to today is always in the back somewhere – running noticed and unnoticed. Should be fun to see where this takes us.