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?