New Kentridge Resources for Educators
With the release of our new film, William Kentridge: Anything is Possible, those of us involved in developing the educational resources presented in tandem with our films suddenly had a new kind of resource with which to work. This hour-long study of Kentridge’s work provided an opportunity to delve deeper into the motivations, intentions, considerations, and machinations of an artist working in many media, with many collaborators, and on a wide range of visual and performance-based projects. We spent some time thinking about the most suggestive and useful ways to inspire teachers to use the film.
In addition to producing the Educators’ Guide and Screening Companion that looks at the 10 individual chapters of the film as unique opportunities for dialogue and exploration, we wanted to utilize the amazing collection of related media being presented on the companion website. We wanted to capitalize on the unique opportunity to connect video, images, and quotes with compelling questions and projects that would help teachers explore some of the themes that are central to Kentridge’s work with students.
Embarrassing as it is, this is the first video I’ve ever made. I am immersed in the world of film production each day, yet focused on the Education side of Art21. It’s been a long journey to connect the two.
Where does an idea start? I don’t think it was just mine, but I was interested in some way to better articulate and share what was happening out there in the world when people actually saw and used Art21. How does one go about making a film of that moment when teachers, students, artists, and the casual viewer are confronted with artists talking about their work, the ideas behind it, and then attempt to DO something with that experience?
We needed a willing guinea pig for our first attempt to capture one of these stories. Joe Fusaro, Senior Education Advisor and weekly contributor to the Teaching with Contemporary Art Column, proved willing and more than able.
Joe told us about a unit he was teaching his 9th grade studio art classes at Nyack High School on the theme of Power. We jumped at the chance to be flies on the wall, with very large cameras and sound equipment. And it was not easy. We stumbled through interviews, and many of them. We awkwardly wrangled equipment while trying to remain unobtrusive and unintimidating. Room schedules were changed. Much paperwork was signed. We drove over the Tappan Zee Bridge countless times.
But the process was part of the journey and well worth the results. We are eternally grateful to Joe, his students, and his colleagues at Nyack High School for their patience, their generosity, and their continual support of this fledgling idea. We’ve gotten the production bug and we’re itching to make more. And on these next ones, we’ll be a little less nervous. We’ll keep it conversational. We’ll enjoy the process even more.
I’m interested in the idea of self-consciousness when it comes to contemporary art—around the controversial issues and artworks that we know are important to talk about and discuss with others, that we think are critical to talk about with students, but that we are terrified of dealing with poorly, worried that we may overstep boundaries, our own comfort levels, or worse—someone else’s. As John T. says in his comment on the Flash Points introductory post…
Another issue was my incredible and obvious sense of trepidation, on so many levels. Scared of getting fired. Scared of being considered racist. Filled with white guilt and pathetically trying to get some kind of pass. Feeling some guilt about “Michael Mooreing” my own class for my own personal artistic desire to make a film.
What are the boundaries that we create for ourselves around initiating these kinds of conversations? What responsibilities do we have in discussing these works of art? How have others—teachers, parents, curators—opened up discourse around controversial topics using works of art?