Thursday, February 25, 2016

Teaching as Social Practice

The process we embarked on last week was rich, tumultuous and a little jarring.  We collected, assembled and used data as an arts-informed process. Cynthia Gehrie led us through an experience of making to demonstrate that we are always in the midst of using and collecting data as artists and teachers.

I'll speak in first person to bring us back into the experience. We start the workshop by looking at the work of Mary Mattingly to see how social practice can bring others into the process of generating and collecting. In the video clip below Mattingly so eloquently packed up her belongings, rolled them into an enormous bundle and contemplated how much stuff she owns.

 Mary Mattingly Owns Up | "New York Close Up" | Art21 from ART21 on Vimeo.

We look to Mattingly's Flock House project as an example of a social practice. Cynthia worked with Mattingly on her Flock House Project in Omaha several years ago and shares how we might consider teaching as a social practice as a way to advocate for arts education.  Cynthia demonstrates how she used data collection within the development of a Flock House. Cynthia helps us understand that data collection is an on-going process that invites us to hear from participants and make choices about where we are going next within our various practices.

Mary Mattingly's Waterfront Development | "New York Close Up" | Art21 from ART21 on Vimeo.

As part of the work we do with Cynthia, we are asked to bring a variety of objects and memories to the workshop.

• a book that is important to you
• an image that interests you
• a memory
• a piece of fabric
• a ball of string
• a roll of tape
• a powerful idea
• a portable light source (flash light)
• and recyclables that interest you

 As people pull objects out of mysterious bags and assemble them into mini installations I am delighted and surprised by the beauty and fragility of what appears - an old and slightly torn American flag, a shiny knife wedged into a piece of wood, a photo of the Dali Lama on a treadmill, steel wool, a string of lights, etc. These fragmented pieces become parts of wholes in the chair assemblages. I can't tell who belongs to which installation.

After we arrange our mini installations, we move to a mini installation that speaks to us and assemble in groups to construct larger group installations around a theme or powerful idea. The ride gets a bit bumpy at this point. Joining and conjoining can be tricky. How do we fold our individual parts into a whole without losing what we have and who we are? For me this is an essential question behind our social practice project. We know how to direct students but do we know how to work together as an assemblage to bring about greater joint capacities and properties within our own group? 
Feel free to comment on this.

Talking amongst group members about the theme of vulnerability and protection

Everyone wants more time to build their installations but we need to move on to data collection and analysis.

One group is instructed to conduct interviews with the artists involved in making the installation. The other group is instructed to work on a study involving creating drawings and observations of the installations. 

We lay out drawings of the installation and begin to create categories
Organizing data within a group allows us to see with other sets of eyes.

Interviewing each other

Cynthia talks to us about creating categories and how there can be outliers (data that doesn't fit into a category), It's
very important to keep the outliers within a qualitative study so that you can speak to the entirety of the  project. We don't want to cherry pick just the good stuff. We have to hear and see it all. Once we've collected enough data we can start to see trends emerge and see where we can turn our attention.

When we are analyzing data we need to triangulate (look at three sources - interviews, studies/drawings and the artwork). For the data to have any reliability we need to have multiple sources to draw from. 

Sorting data

Allowing the data to speak to us once we have organized it.

Looking for the reveal - what's there that we couldn't see otherwise? This process takes time. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Sowing seeds for future generations - Spontaneous generosity

When I feel discouraged about the restrictions placed on teachers within our current situations I look to various artists, teachers, philosophers, and activists for inspiration. Amy Franceschini is an artist/designer working with the social practice group Future Farmers. They have created many wonderful projects that address various design and food cultivation issues. In this interview she talks about the concept of "Tzedakah" which is a hebrew word for obligation to give. Amy Franceshini has collected heirloom seeds for an exhibition to make public the efforts of Vavilov, a Russian seed preservation collector, who started the first seed research institute in Russia in the 1930s.

Why write about seed preservation for future generations? Well, I think this is precisely the place where were are at as educators now. We need to store some heirloom seeds (coronals of wisdom) for future generations before we become too tainted with GMOs or GMT (genetically modified teachers). We are seeing some valued wisdom go by the way side in teaching now. I wonder how can we still evolve but not get rid of the enormous reservoirs of knowledge and wisdom within our teachers now? Hmm. Check out this interview with Amy.  I think she's inspiring. Think metaphorically. Sometimes this is the only way to transcend the ordinary.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Hello Everyone,

The new year is upon us. We are fortunate to have another workshop with Olivia Gude next week on Wednesday January 13th. This workshop, as outlined below in the flyer, is titled the Self as Subject. We will have time to think about the production of images and narratives within mainstream media, specifically Disney and create some of our own images too. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone.

Arturo Herrera, Untitled. 1997 1998