Our latest Exclusive video short is now live! Click to watch El Anatsui: Studio Process on Art21.org.
Filmed at his Nsukka, Nigeria studio in 2011, artist El Anatsui describes the collaborative and contemplative setting where his artworks are made. Anatsui employs a team of assistants to construct “blocks” of joined bottle caps that are then shifted around on the studio’s floor. In looking at the patterns and textures created by this process, often through his digital photographs, Anatsui is able to form ideas for new work.
El Anatsui is featured in the Season 6 (2012) episode “Change,” of the Art in the Twenty-First Century program on PBS. Watch full episodes online for free via Art21.org, PBS Video or Hulu, as a paid download via iTunes, or as part of a Netflix streaming subscription.
CREDITS: Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Calistus Eziokwu. Sound: Ian Forster. Editor: Morgan Riles. Artwork Courtesy: El Anatsui. Special Thanks: Jack Shainman Gallery. Theme Music: Peter Foley.
Time just feels like it moves a hell of a lot faster than it used to. This past Art21 Educators summer institute, which was recently held from July 2-10 here in NYC, just FLEW.
Sixteen art, science, Spanish, English, special education, language arts and social studies teachers came together with us for eight days of workshops, conversations, artist visits, studio visits and museum visits (not to mention front row seats to the July 4th fireworks at 601 Artspace and a wonderful dinner together to top it off) in order to explore ways of utilizing contemporary art to foster student learning. This is a term we all want to hear nowadays but is often tied to some horrific standardized test, assessment or evaluation. The fact remains that students learn when they have meaningful experiences, not tidy tests. Unfortunately, data is a lot easier to report than the qualities of people, things and moments in time.
But I digress!
Our summer institute, which started with Oliver Herring and a stripped down TASK party at Luhring Augustine Gallery, moved between experiences where teachers had the opportunity to learn from each other, five of our Art21 artists (Oliver, Charles Atlas, Allan McCollum, Mary Reid Kelley and New York Close Up’s Diana Al-Hadid), the superheroes at Dieu Donne Papermill and MoMA, as well as our team here at Art21.
It’s hard to explain how excited I am to work with our current group. The fact that big, important questions drove not only the units of study teachers began to develop, but also much of our time together, really is inspiring. And here are just a few of them:
- What is beauty?
- What is cool?
- What is the role of the media in an election year?
- How do we construct and express identity singularly and collectively?
- What stories can art tell?
- What is the nature of creativity and why is it important to use our creativity responsibly?
- How does the media define gender?
- Can we find beauty in the ordinary?
- What makes a global citizen?
As you can probably tell, this was no ordinary summer workshop series, and the possibilities for teaching across disciplines in the coming year as we work with these sixteen energetic and passionate educators are, to say the least, exciting.
Very much looking forward to our first monthly online meeting next month. Love to all!
Below are a few more snapshots taken during the institute… Continue reading »
Our latest Exclusive video is now live! Click here to watch “Ai Weiwei: New Communication” on Art21.org!
In one of his first on-camera interviews following his release from detention in 2011, Ai Weiwei discusses the potential for artists to express themselves online and encourages artists to be more aware of shifts in social media. This episode is filmed in Ai’s Beijing studio—where the artist uses Twitter on a daily basis to share ideas, question authority, and create dialogue—with Mandarin Chinese tweets translated into English.
Ai Weiwei on Twitter: @aiww.
Ai Weiwei is featured in the Season 6 (2012) episode “Change“ of the Art in the Twenty-First Century series on PBS. Watch full episodes online for free via Art21.org, PBS Video or Hulu, as a paid download via iTunes, or as part of a Netflix streaming subscription.
CREDITS: Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Phil Tinari. Camera: Takahisa Araki. Sound: Lin Hau. Editor: Morgan Riles. Artwork Courtesy: Ai Weiwei. Tweet Translation: @aiwwenglish & @hlkalin. Additional Translation: Amy Qing Lin. Theme Music: Peter Foley.
This is part two of a three part series that will share the experiences of three Art21 Education staff members (Jessica Hamlin, Joe Fusaro, and Flossie Chua) after spending a year with a group of 16 incredible teachers. Each of us has a unique perspective on the past twelve months and this series will ruminate on what it means to teach with contemporary art, specifically contextualized by our experiences this year working with the Art21 Educators program.
When I think back on the past year with Art21 Educators my mind goes to three places: the summer institute itself one year ago, the one-on-one conversations I have had with a small group of teachers I worked closely with this year, and my hopes for the entire group going forward. Since Jessica packaged her post into four neat bites last week I think I’ll stick with these three and follow suit…
Thinking Back on Last Year’s Institute
Last summer’s institute was literally another hot one in NYC. The days were steamy and the group we gathered for year three had an infectious energy and calm confidence that each of us was (and continue to be) inspired by. Workshops and working sessions with artists such as Oliver Herring and Shahzia Sikander, opportunities to share student work and plans for upcoming units of study, as well as an inspiring day at the Museum of Art and Design were just a few highlights that really kicked off quite a year. I so fondly remember standing outside Alias restaurant on the eighth and final day, blissfully exhausted, and bringing teachers onto the sidewalk to film their reactions to the institute. While I’m not sure to what degree that food and drink fueled the interviews, I definitely knew we were dealing with some special educators who were going to do big things. And I was right. See below.
The One-On-One Conversations
Jessica, Flossie and I get the opportunity to work a little more often with a few separate teachers from the group that each of us, well, sort of watches over. I guess that’s the best way to put it. We coach. We facilitate. We encourage and try as often as possible to inspire, but we watch over these people in order to make the yearlong experience as productive and enjoyable as possible. My group included Jack Watson, Julia CopperSmith, Maureen Hergott and Todd Elkin, and it was my job to help them not only write a unit of study they began in the institute, but also provide feedback as they taught it. Jack and Todd teach high school art classes while Julia and Maureen teach elementary school art. The balance over the course of the year was really perfect. In Jack’s unit, which focused on “Borders and Boundaries”, he wished to explore the role that geography plays in cultural identity and conflict. Maureen and Julia investigated, over the course of an entire school year, how transformation can make its way into art making and how young artists can play a role transforming themselves, their environment and their perception of what art can be. Todd taught students to follow their interests, discover what is “grabby” to them, and find ways to work in some of the same ways artists actually work vs. being recipients of “project assignments”.
In each of our new season 6 episodes, not to mention throughout the entire Art21 series, there are superb quotes to share with students, colleagues and friends as kickstarters for discussions, assignments- even as a way to challenge assumptions we make in our work as artists and educators. This week I want to highlight a few quotes from the Balance episode and reflect on some of what each quote can inspire or teach, even across disciplines. During the summer I will then revisit the “Kickstarters” posts to focus on other quotes from the remaining episodes.
I don’t think of myself as being a landscape painter. In the popular envisioning of that term, a landscape consists of a painting with a field and a pond and a tree and a mountain in the distance, etc. It’s a sort of recipe thing. I hope very much that my paintings don’t look like recipe paintings, that I’ve gone to other places and seen something different. – Rackstraw Downes
What I like most about this quote is that Downes reminds us that he goes to “other” places for inspiration, which is essentially what we ask of our students on a regular basis. He makes clear that he has seen “something different” and wants to share this vision. He also gets to remove the box that a description like “landscape painter” may very well put him in. As teachers, we want our students to look beyond the obvious and at details in order to make sense of the complexity that comes with seeing a bigger picture. We want them to cultivate an individuality that steers clear of most labels.
I like setting up problems for the viewer and that viewer isn’t someone detached from me. I’m the viewer. I’m the first viewer. – Robert Mangold
The power of using this quote by Robert Mangold comes from re-visioning who the “viewer” actually is. If the artist is the first viewer then the effect a work has on the artist can inform how to shape the work for others to experience. Mangold also emphasizes “setting up” problems and intentionally giving himself something to figure out in order to learn something new. Think about how different some assignments would be if we simply asked, “So what kind of problem are you setting up for yourself here?”
My whole body of work has this kind of flexible, mutable quality. It has the rawness of a studio, or the rawness of a laboratory where things could happen, where things could fall apart. – Sarah Sze
As Sarah Sze discusses her work, she spotlights how many artists today are making art that is elastic in some way. But she is also talking about taking risks, which we emphasize is a big part of learning in all disciplines. Taking a chance where in fact things CAN fall apart simultaneously holds the promise of, “What can we learn if it doesn’t?”
Until next week…
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Eli Sudbrack of artist collective, assume vivid astro focus (featured in the Season 6 episode, Boundaries, as well as in the recent Exclusive episode, Masks), describes their collection of ‘avaf’ word combinations as “pretty much the ultimate realization of our projects, the simplest, most playful and one of the most successful ways to set our beliefs in motion.” (Source: V Magazine, November 2010).
Phrases using the ‘avaf’ acronym, created by both the artists and friends of the artists, have become titles for works and exhibitions, and often appear as email signatures in the artists’ own correspondence.
Today, the ‘avaf’ acronym enters a new era of participation with the launch of avaf + art21 comboworks, an interactive and collaborative online artist project.
With avaf + art21 comboworks, anyone can contribute an ‘avaf’ phrase—or “combo”—of their own, collaborating with the artists and other participants on this unique online project.
During the television broadcast of Art in the Twenty-First Century, Season 6—Art21′s latest PBS-broadcast season of the Peabody Award-winning series—we invited viewers to submit questions for a few of the season’s featured artists. Published here are responses from artists Catherine Opie, El Anatsui, and Marina Abramović.
Q&A #2 with Mary Reid Kelley and assume vivid astro focus: Viewers are invited to submit questions for Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley and Eli Sudbrack of assume vivid astro focus. Watch videos featuring each of the artists and submit your questions on PBS.org. The artists will respond to select questions, which will be posted here later in the month.
CATHERINE OPIE Q&A RESPONSES
From Leungs via PBS.org: What influenced/inspired you to photograph in a minimalist theme in the Surfer/Ice fisherman series? How did you come up with the idea to use the bodies of people as pieces of landscape themselves?
Catherine Opie: I think the stillness for me comes with the sense of waiting for such great length[s] of time in both places to accomplish the photographs. I am using an 8×10 format to photograph with and there is much patience that comes with shooting in this format, which [is] translated to the work.
Our latest Exclusive video is now live! Watch assume vivid astro focus: Masks on Art21.org!
Filmed in his Brooklyn studio, Eli Sudbrack—founding member of assume vivid astro focus—discusses the motivations behind the collective’s use of masks during public events and installations. Originally created to enjoy personal anonymity at openings, avaf have continued to use masks in their work as a way to create equality between itself and the audience and to encourage free personal expression. Masks have had an important role in avaf’s numerous projects including “assume vivid astro focus XI” at the Rosa and Carlos de la Cruz Private Collection, Miami (2004), “homocrap#1″ at MOCA, Los Angeles (2005), “Super #3″ at Maison des Arts de Créteil, Paris (2008), “absolutely venomous accurately fallacious (naturally delicious)” at Deitch Projects, Long Island City (2008), and “antonella varicella arabella fiorella” at Enel Contemporanea, Rome (2008).
assume vivid astro focus is featured in the Season 6 (2012) episode “Boundaries” of the Art in the Twenty-First Century series on PBS. Watch full episodes online for free via Art21.org, PBS Video or Hulu, as a paid download via iTunes, or as part of a Netflix streaming subscription.
CREDITS: Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Joel Shapiro. Sound: Roger Phenix. Editor: Morgan Riles & Mark Sutton. Artwork Courtesy: assume vivid astro focus. Additional Photography Courtesy: Rick Castro, Rodrigo Garcia Dutra, Steph Goralnick, Kristy Leibowitz, Yves Malenfer, Kat Mareck, Kleber Matheus, Marino Paoloni, Alfredo Piola, Tom Powel, Bec Stupak & Josh White. Theme Music: Peter Foley.
Last week I presented a Season 6 Access screening of the Change episode featuring Catherine Opie, El Anatsui and Ai Weiwei. During the screening I made some notes to share when it comes to ideas for teaching with this particular hour…
First, what kinds of change are illustrated in this episode? Some of the art featured calls for different kinds of change and other works shed a light on changes occurring around us. Which works in this episode specifically engage with the theme? Which works ask the viewer to consider a specific kind of change?
Second, how does each of the three artists document the transformation and change of physical materials, places, and even ways of thinking? How does each artist work with transformation and change in multiple ways and how does collaboration affect the art created?
Finally, what kinds of things can students experience and learn from working with this episode? Possibilities include:
- Investigating how different artists document and perhaps provoke change.
- Exploring a single theme by engaging with diverse media and materials (and this goes for each Art21 episode- all twenty four of them).
- Engaging communities-small and large- as collaborators and subjects.
- Experiencing diverse approaches to storytelling.
- Enabling conversations that include topics we sometimes avoid talking about, such as how we perceive (not to mention treat) people who don’t look like we do or the role of surveillance in our lives.
Until next week. Spring is here.
The new Season 6 educators’ guide is now available as a quick and easy downloadable PDF. As we celebrate the broadcast of our new season, I thought this week might be a good time to highlight some of what the new guide has to offer educators interested in teaching with contemporary art.
First, the new guide has a lot of the same great introductory features from previous seasons. You get to learn about Art21 and the philosophy behind the organization of the guide in the first three pages. Simple, straight up and to the point.
Also within the introduction, on pages 4 and 5, there is a short description titled “What Is Contemporary Art?” and ideas for utilizing contemporary art in the classroom and community.
Each of the Season 6 programs is organized around a theme and all four themes, along with the artists featured, are described in the thematic introductions. A broad overview of the theme is presented in addition to introducing the artists with some foundational discussion questions.
Then, beginning with Marina Abramović’s page, each artist is given the star treatment complete with information about the artist, questions to share before, while, and after viewing, along with suggestions for creating different kinds of work in response to the segment.
It’s hard for me to have “favorites” because I wrote our new educator guide with the blessed help of my colleagues Jessica Hamlin and Flossie Chua. But when I reflect on the artists featured this season I just know I’ll be using artists like Ai Weiwei, El Anatsui, David Altmejd, Glenn Ligon, Catherine Opie, Rackstraw Downes, Tabaimo and Sarah Sze in the classroom… probably sooner than later. I think about how artists like Ai Weiwei and Tabaimo can broaden student understanding of what an artist does. I think about sharing the passion David Altmejd and Rackstraw Downes have for their work. I think about the way Catherine Opie and Sarah Sze speak to what students already know about their world.
I sincerely hope you get the chance to spend some time with the new guide and episodes from our new season. Once you have, please let me know your thoughts here on the blog or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks! See you next week.