Teaching with Contemporary Art

Reflecting on Teaching with William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible

William Kentridge, "Felix in Exile," 1994. Production stills; 35mm animated film transferred to video. Copyright and courtesy of William Kentridge.

This past Saturday I sat down with a small group of wonderful teachers at the Jacob Burns Film Center’s Media Arts Lab for the second part of a two-part workshop on teaching with William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible (WKAIP). The group was composed of Art and English teachers who shared their successes and challenges working with the film in middle and high school settings, and I was thrilled to hear teachers reflect so honestly about what was inspiring (and difficult) about teaching with this film, particularly with regard to play and process. Below are some excerpts from the conversation:

“Usually when I prepare an assignment for my students I’m very goal-oriented. I know what the end product will be like. I give them a lot of rules and a framework for them to create. But after viewing this film, he (Kentridge) kept talking about process and how it was about the process, as if he wasn’t sure what the end product would be sometimes. So I tried to open myself up and not try to be Miss Art Dictator about what I wanted. I tried to get a feeling from them about what they wanted to create. That was a real challenge for me… to let go.” –Patty Tyrol, Newburgh High School

“Ultimately, the film was really inspiring to me and I created projects that I wouldn’t have had the nerve to try. The guide was really helpful and I really focused on play and process.”- Angela Langston, Sleepy Hollow High School

“I wanted them to see the transformation of the charcoal drawings… and the one thing that I wanted to share was the seriousness of play.”- Debra Tampone, Kingston High School

“I think it’s really interesting to hear about getting play into the classroom… so we do a lot of play, and experiment, and try to see what comes from it with the computer and the video camera.” –Brady Shoemaker, Media Arts Lab at Jacob Burns Film Center

“(Kentridge) is the anti-hero that Huck (Finn) is… I really like this to explain how the metaphor of movement is the journey itself and you really don’t know what the end is.”- Janet Matthews, Westlake High School

If you have taught with WKAIP, or have previewed the film for future units of study, what kinds of experiences can you share? Please post your comments.

To view the film simply click here. Many thanks!

Contributor
Joe Fusaro is the senior education advisor for Art21, and has written Art21’s “Teaching with Contemporary Art” column since 2008. He is an exhibiting artist and visual arts chair for the Nyack Public Schools in New York; and an adjunct instructor for New York University’s Graduate Program in Art and Arts Professions.
  1. S.P. Reid says:

    Good article. I like to hear that one teacher say that she is not going to be “miss art dictator” anymore. Art dictators are the reason that I always avoided local classes/schools and I just studied under some famous guy instead who let me find my own way but ‘with guidance’. What stands out for me in this video is that William says repeatedly in different ways, that his ‘work’ emerged in between what he was trying to do. Like it emerged itself, pushed itself into existence in between what William though he was trying to do. It reminds me that sometimes work alters itself along the way. Most times it does that.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

*