Archive for June, 2018

CCO Creative Commons image from Pixabay

So, I’ve been thinking about my summer reading, making, and seeing plan. I have a tendency to imagine that there will be approximately 75 times as many hours in my day during any non-teaching days AND that I will also be 75 times more time-efficient, all while not taking into account my usual, extensive lounging time.

My reading plan

I have already reread most of the books I will be teaching in the fall. So, besides rereading a graphic novel and investigating some Neil Gaiman short stories, if I’m so inclined, I’m in good shape there. Here are a few titles I plan to read, or at least sit next to, over the next weeks.

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Dandicot.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. I have seen this mentioned in all sorts of “you must read this” articles and whatnot. My son inhaled it in two days.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I loved Everything I Never Told You and don’t know why I have not already read this book.

We Were Eight Year in Power by Ta-Nahisi Coates. I have read some of these pieces, but want to read them together.

The Glitch by Elizabeth Cohen. I know the author and am so excited for her.

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. I know nothing about this book, but was taken with it at the bookstore the other day and we were already buying something so…

The Atheist in the Attic by Samuel R. Delany. Also saw this at a local bookstore, read the back, and added it to the pile.

I would like to finish The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros and perhaps skim through a few other education books.

 

My Making Plan

I also plan to make things. I have recently been back to sewing in addition to my other crafty making. I’ve got a few projects in the works, no surprise there, and a few on the agenda. I have two sewing projects that are already cut out and just need sewing. However, my machine and I are currently not on good terms, perhaps I need a new needle, maybe we just need a break from each other. Also, I have a mostly finished project that just needs a little attention. I would love to finish those and one other.

I have two sets of taxonomy projects that are in process. Those can definitely get finished and posted on the blog. I’m sure I’ll get to another set as well. I have some partial ideas that just need a little more time to marinate.

I would also like to get to some e-textile or soft circuitry projects. I have one makespace type project in the works, although it does not incorporate any circuitry. And, I have a project I started a long time ago that I might finally be ready to tackle. It would mean I would really have to force myself to get a little better with both coding and circuitry– goals of mine for several years now. With the makerspace just sitting there in the summer, calling my name, it seems a shame not to answer.

 

My Seeing Plan

I also like to get out and about and see things. Sometimes I just need to fill up my visual library.

Rodeo–we haven’t been to the Cowtown Rodeo in a few summers. Time for a trip.

MASS MoCA. I love this place and hope we can find some way to make it part of a driving adventure. It’s fun to see images from exhibits I’ve seen there in the past on their Instagram.

Storm King Art Center. I can’t believe I have not been there yet, but it will happen this summer. They also have a great Instagram.

Also, I’m sure I will drag my family to other exhibits or festivals, or outdoor happenings here and there.

Ultimately, I will probably, read, make, and see all kinds of things that may or may not have anything to do with this list. However, I do love to make a list.

A very ambitious plan for an art experience based on Invisible Cities

So, I’ve been thinking about the installation art proposal project that I assigned for a last assessment in my senior English class. I wrote about how excited I was as the students got to work. (Check out the details of the assignment and whatnot). As I said before, I was nervous about the final projects. We are talking about second-semester senior year, last assignment, out of the box project that I thought was super cool. Sometimes I forget that not only am I still uncool, but I am also old now, and therefore what I think is a cool assignment does not always translate that way to my students. Sometimes my enthusiasm can bridge the gap, but not always.

Well, I am happy to report that the entire enterprise was a success. And not even just an end-of-the-year-they-turned-something-in success. It would be a success at any time of the year.

First, the students engaged in the kind of thinking I wanted them to do. In creating their proposals, they had to review some of the key thematic ideas of the course and one of the texts in particular. In addition, they had to consider how to transform ideas from one medium into another while thinking about what would make for an engaging and thoughtful art installation (thanks to @oneissilva I know this is called transmediation). As I walked around the room during the several class periods of work time, I loved what I heard. And, I wished that I had a group to work with too.

On the day of the presentations, we had some guests–two other teachers who are also department chairs. I like to have visitors for a couple of reasons. First, the students usually do better with an audience (the audience effect is real). I like to make the presentation a bit more of an event and visitors do that. Also, visitors keep me honest. I can get a little carried away when I think things are going well. I get too excited and think everything is awesome (is everyone singing the LEGO movie theme song now? Just me?) So, being able to check in later with another colleague who was a witness to the event is a good dose of reality. I take advantage of their feedback when I give final grades for the work too.

The actual proposals and posters worked in a lot of ways. First, the format allowed the students to focus on the idea and concept rather than the actual creation of an art piece, but at the same time, it was easy to imagine the exhibit. The structure and outline of the types of information that were required meant that if the group did each part, the audience had a good sense of the ideas and concept.

A note on grading. I considered this project a complete success and the grades ranged from B- to A. Every group tackled the work thoughtfully. Some groups ultimately were missing a few bits or had more straightforward ideas, but I consider every project to be a success. There were 6 proposals and each book that we read was chosen by some group.

Here are a few details from some of the proposals. Note: since this is a fantasy book class, so I did say that they could plan to have some things happen “automagically” in their exhibits.

One group planned a multi-room experience inspired by Bailey, from The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

 

The exhibit itself is designed to have viewers initially interact with a series of touch screens arranged in a circle, like a clock (the clock is important in the book and the group made a strong case for the clock’s connection to Bailey). Then viewers go through another room with many varied settings to wander through and finally end up in a space where each person sees a personalized video that is created based on what the person did on the screens in the first room and where they wandered in the second space. The idea was that viewers would get insight into their own dreams and desires and therefore be more able to take action to make them real, like Bailey. (I am not doing their ideas justice here, by the way.) The group also described the experience of walking through their space in the style of a particular part of the book (the interludes that describe how “you” experience the circus, for those who have read the book).

This group also commented on the way their ideas changed over the course of their brainstorming. I love seeing this, and the success I have had this year in asking for some amount of process commentary on assignments has totally convinced me to include this type of commentary on pretty much everything next year.

 

Another group planned a heart exhibit for the Tin Man from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. As they were planning, I was concerned that their idea was quite literal. Oh, how wrong I was. Visitors move through 4 metal rooms (the chambers of the heart) while wearing a heart monitor that allows sounds and lights to match the heart rate of the viewer, among other things. It is a dark, conceptual plan.

Below is their description of what happens in the first chamber of the heart. They were super serious about their idea, even though they had a grand time in the planning.

Two groups planned exhibits based in some way on Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. One dealt with the journey aspect of the book and tried to tackle each type of city, creating something more concrete from the very abstract ideas of the book. They were an idea factory! (The image at the beginning of the post is their plan.) My favorite part of this plan was the fact that on the way out visitors walked a kind of ring road that circumnavigated all the previous rooms and allowed them to look back in on the other spaces and reflect. Here is some of what this group said about their work:

Artist Statement: We want the audience to go through our installation and get a view into the mind of Marco Polo, while making their own connections and redefining what it means to know a place. Marco Polo stated he connected every city he visited to his own, Venice, which is why each room, or set of rooms in the case of hidden cities and cities and the dead, is accessible only through Venice. As each room represents a grouping of cities from Hidden Cities, we also want the audience to see that each grouping is applicable to all cities, though in different ways.
Process Commentary: The eyes room was inspired by Ai Weiwei’s installation piece entitled “Hansel and Gretel,” in which the audience is tracked by cameras in the first space, then is later able to find themselves in past footage and pictures in a second space using face recognition. We originally thought we would have one room with maps of different cities everywhere and strings connecting each one to Venice and the other cities in its category, but we ended up deciding individual rooms all leading back to Venice would work nicely. As we did not want to lose the connection between cities, we made continuous cities a loop where each person can look into the rooms previously visited, and reflect on how everything comes together. We also made some interesting new connections from the book, and after the floor plan poster idea was set started trying to figure out the big picture of each grouping. During brainstorming, we decided cities and the sky, cities of the dead, and hidden cities could all be in one close to one another, with hidden cities literally being embedded in the city of the dead.

The other took a more conceptual approach to the same text and proposed a two-room installation that spoke to the idea that even those far away from a city can have power over it and impact how it changes. Visitors in the first room interact with a seemingly random group of objects. As they do this, a city changes in the next room. When the visitors enter the next room, they see the city but also two side by side videos of their actions in the earlier room and what happened in the city room.

Each group had some sort of visual, but it was secondary, as was planned. The driving force was the idea.

I really cannot wait to use this project idea again.

So, I’m continuing on my taxonomy project where I make sets of 5 works and share them.

Text shows up in a lot of these sets of works. Many of them have had a blackout poetry component to them or some sort of found text as part of the final piece. I really like the idea of taking some sort of text and turning it into something else, either by choosing to use only some of the words or inserting the text into a new context. Both options appeal to me in that they combine or remix in an unexpected way.

Sewing of some is also showing up a lot. Stitching is an easy way to add some color and another layer, to break out of boundaries, but subtle ways. It’s also something that is a bit of a lost art and therefore creates an interesting contrast sometimes.

For these works, I started with a book I got at a used bookstore called The Way of Enterprise, not my usual genre, but the paper is nice. I thought it would be a challenge to try to turn this writing about business and case studies into poetry that is not about business. And, then sewing the words together rather than blacking out all the extra words made for a more unexpected combination. Rather than just having one poem on each page, I went for two overlapping poems. You can tell them apart by following the sewing lines. I tried one with two different colors of thread but then decided that it was better to have two very similar colors instead. As I did more of the sewing, I also started to think more about the shapes of the connecting lines and be more intentional about the paths rather than just going from one word to the next.

Here they are in the order they appear in the book, not necessarily in the order completed. Follow the thread to find the poem, some of them are much more successful as a group of words or ideas than others.

This poem is in 2 stanzas, hence the 2 at the bottom.

 

I like the fact that both poems end with the same phrase. Somehow the thread colors seem to change on the way down the page. Not sure what happened there.

 

So, there you have it. I also have a series of contour line drawings in the book. Nothing that needs sharing, but I have not decided whether to take the pages out of the book or just keep altering in the book and see how many different ways I can mess with the pages. As I said, this book has good paper; that’s mostly why I bought it.