Sunday, April 18, 2010

so much thinking, so little posting!

i just had to pop by for a quick minute to let you know that:

a) i haven't forgotten about you, blog
b) i still totally care, a lot
c) i just attended 4 awesome days of the national art education association conference and have so many thoughts percolating in my brain (AND i met visual culture gurus/demi-gods kerry freedman and kevin tavin!)
d) i keep having to push those exciting thoughts to the back of my brain to tend to more pressing matters

i'll be back soon i swear (see above, re: so many things in the brain)! i'll leave you with this image and its multi-faceted implications as a piece of visual culture:
plus, it's funny.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

postmodern principles and newspaper blackouts.

appropriation. juxtaposition. recontextualization. layering. interaction of text & image. hybridity. gazing. representin'. 

these are olivia gude's postmodern principles (read the full article here), which she proposes as a re-orientation of the goals for 21st century art education. rather than focusing on the modernist superlatives of formality: rhythm, balance, contrast, etc., gude investigates content-based principles, rather than the aesthetic ones that have propelled art education standards for so long. 

convenient for me and the purposes of this blog, the giant field of visual culture addresses all of these in a remarkably direct way. perhaps because a) these principles are purposefully and thoughtfully designed to be accessible, thought-provoking, and broadly applicable to students/artists of all walks of life, and b) visual culture is a hugely inclusive and flexible term, these two fields collide in a messy and beautiful venn diagram that is ripe with potential for art-making and learning, thinking and doing.

particularly interesting and exciting to me at the moment is how a list of quotes on creativity, originality and authenticity by austin kleon (a self-proclaimed "writer who draws") folds into this mix. his work, constructing poetry by isolating words within newspaper articles, celebrates many of these principles (see below, "how it works" and "agoraphobia," via 20x200):

the list he published on his blog, cheekily titled "25 ways to steal like an artist" actually hosts some really interesting quotes from artists of all sorts that speak to many of olivia gude's principles, a great resource or starting place for classroom conversation. here is my favorite, from filmmaker (coffee & cigarettes, broken flowers) jim jarmusch:

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent.”

and this one, by musician (night falls over kortelada, oh you're so silent jens) jens lekman:

“The beauty of the collage technique is that you’re using sounds that have never met and were never supposed to meet. You introduce them to each other, at first they’re a bit shy, clumsy, staring at their shoes. But you can sense there’s something there. So you cut and paste a little bit and by the end of the song you can spot them in the corner, holding hands."

especially for students concerned with the validity of their ideas/intentions, there were so many salient bits of writing in that list to motivate and affirm. other more controversial/ opinionated quotes would make excellent starting points for dialogue about how we define and identify creativity. 

it was hard to choose just a couple, and i highly recommend further investigation into gude's article, kleon's work, and the rest of these quotes, to see what additional connections emerge. gude's principles function as colored lenses through which to examine visual culture from various perspectives. WOW so exciting!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

potential pitfalls of visual culture in the classroom: the oddly-specific reference

story time!:
there was a student in my sequential art class who, during every critique without fail, would grind the conversation to a screeching halt by comparing someone's comic to some hyper-specific, highly obtuse cultural reference, usually to an 80's video game or d-list superhero that next to no one in the class was familiar with. while the comment was meaningful and likely illuminated the comic under discussion to those in the know, everyone else was instantly excluded and disconnected from further dialogue about the work at hand.

and there it is! visual culture pitfall number one, "the oddly specific reference."
so, how can we use visual culture in the classroom, when each and every student will have a different frame of reference?
1. level the playing field: bring in and share content with your class (so everyone is informed!) as it relates to your lessons.
2. show and tell: have students bring in and share their own ideas about content that relates to classwork. you can expand your own frame of reference this way, too, and challenge students to think differently about the way they engage with and consume media culture.
3. visual culture as content: further ask students to explore the role visual culture plays in their lives by having them make art about visual culture, rather than using it as a lens through which to examine other content. consider olivia gude's principles of possibility and postmodern principles, both of which directly address many of the themes and issues that surround visual culture and its role in our contemporary lives. more on that later, since i, ahem, love olivia gude.

are there other practical ways you see visual culture playing nice with the whole class and leading to inclusive, informed dialogue?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

an awesome resource with an awesome (albeit not-so classroom-friendly) name:

while probably not something that you could pull up in your classroom to share with your students directly, fuck yeah, advertising! is an incredible resource for advertising that showcases traditional art-making techniques in real-life contexts:

(ad for the new google chrome browser)

...that ilustrates the relationship between form, function, and idea:

(ad for hair loss program)

...that can act as an introduction to other big ideas/questions:

(ad for the american red cross)

...that opens discussion about where the line between life and culture is (if there is one) and how/if we control our relationship with consumerism:

(ad for hp photo paper - what's real, what's not?)

...and that can be used/taught in countless other ways. advertising is a rich and relevant (and often controversial) area of visual culture that is really accessible, often self-referential, and endlessly applicable in the classroom. also take a look at the slightly less profane but still worthwhile creative criminals - both blogs are excellent, frequently updated resources (that are really great about citing their sources and creative/art directors as well).

making art about material culture: obsessive consumption

i recently purchased (hey, irony) a print from kate bingamin-burt, who maintains the blog "obsessive consumption," where she draws the things she buys on a daily basis. kate is another artist whose work directly addresses issues of our material-based culture:

while visual culture is a teaching tool that can be used to engage with countless big ideas, it can also be the very content being explored.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"why can't we be friends?" - traditional art and visual culture exemplars.

i recently read julia marshall's essay in contemporary issues in art education titled "exploring culture and identity through artifacts" which examines how contemporary art practices can shape and inform art lessons, rather than relying on traditional art-making habits that may not reflect our modern ways of thinking, working, and living.

her investigation of contemporary art practices, which included art as research, art as cultural lens, and art as purposeful critical inquiry also highlighted the role of visual culture (or specifically, non-art visual culture, if such a clear line can be drawn) in modern artmaking processes and lessons surrounding these new practices. she further explored the idea that visual culture exemplars of in some cases have a stronger and more authentic conceptual relationship to art lessons around these ideas than the tried and true fine art exemplars. especially in examples of research-based artmaking exploration, the resources that students are inundated with are visual culture examples, which can include the work of fine artists, but shouldn't be limited to it.

couldn't both ingres' odalisque and contemporary magazine covers be used side by side to examine the standards of beauty at various point in history?

couldn't robert and shana parkeharrison's photographs coexist alongside "reality" television to flesh out the idea of constructed realities?

what other connections do you see between contemporary culture and fine artists' big ideas that could together support lesson plans more meaningful to students?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

childish behavior.

i recently read a short article by paul duncum regarding the nature of childhood in contemporary issues in art education, a collection of essays edited by yvonne gaudelius and peg speirs. in "children never were what they were: perspectives on childhood," duncum actually discusses the child almost not at all, instead focusing on the adult definition of childhood. this seemed like a peculiar angle to approach this topic from, and ultimately he ended up illuminating more about the nature of adults than of children.

an interesting question he did raise compared the imagery our culture creates (and propagates) of children and its multiple audiences. images of children created by children as compared to images of children created by adults (and furthermore, for a child audience or an adult audience) are vastly different. consider historically, the egyptian representation of children as tiny versions of adults with thin elongated limbs (because it was thought to be more beautiful, seen here in akhenaten and nefertiti):
alternatively, consider now how children are depicted in shows geared toward adults, versus how children are depicted in shows geared toward children, especially in interactions/situations with adults as well. when the lovely ms. jean marie blogged about modern family, a new abc sitcom examining various family formats and dynamics, my curiosity got the best of me and i watched the first few episodes. they do a fair job of staying true to contemporary child behavior, actually. they still have the prima donna teenage daughter, the misfit middle child, the dennis the menace younger brother, and even a "wise beyond his years" son, ever the voice of reason. the characters are reasonable, though, not over-simplified parodies of humanity: consider then in comparison, iCarly, a nickelodeon kids show about a 14 year-old girl who lives with her wacky older brother and runs a wildly popular web show from her house. here, the youth are essentially tiny adults. there are no parents in the picture (they are conveniently overseas somehow), carly is the creator and host of a web show, and the three friends have a weirdly casual relationship with the school principal. the show has many subtle ways of elevating the "children" (really teenagers) to an adult/independent status, to appeal to the child's sensibility of mimicking adult behavior (as christine marme thompson discussed in her article that i posted about a few weeks ago). this show is also aimed at an even younger audience (think 9-12 year olds) than the characters in it, furthering the disparity between child and adult behavior. duncum's point seemed to be that our adult definition of childhood is really a manifestation of our own need to assert our adulthood, and that the childhood innocence is virtually non-existent. based on the promotional strategies for toys, television shows, and products for children that are all about appearing/acting more grown-up, i'd say that this definition has to be only part of the equation. clearly the folks in the marketing departments have a pretty clear grasp on what children want out of childhood, for better or worse.