Blog Entry 6: Critical Public Art Pedagogy

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Critical Public Art Pedagogy: Urban Omnibus "Geological City"

            I was very interested in the Urban Omnibus Geological City project found at, ,that I started to think how I could get my students involved in something artistic, yet good for the Earth as well.  I was reading the website's Geological City by Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse and was particularly interested in what they had to say about what happens to all the recycled materials that is not recycled and just put into landfills.  What would it look like after we as humans are all gone?  The thought of this struck me and I had the urge to become even "Greener" than I was yesterday when it came to recycling empty household containers. 

I was drawn to the following paragraphs in the REMIXED GEOLOGICAL STRATA OF THE FUTURE section of their explanation.

 Ellsworth and Kruse say, "In October, we took a public tour of the Fresh Kills landfill. We found ourselves standing on a grassy mound, elevated to almost 200 feet by the pile of trash beneath us. As long as funding continues, a park three times the size of Central Park will be completed there by 2036. The "hills" that create the foundation of the proposed recreation area stand in sharp contrast to the schist foundation of Central Park. Because Freshkills Park is being constructed on a foundation of garbage -- 53 years worth of city trash to be exact -- the site is unsuitable for heavy construction (such as that required for the once-considered wind farm). So, the park will offer light-use activities such as mountain biking and trail running.

Within the hills, one human-made "geologic stratum" enfolds another as the mounded garbage layer is capped and contained by a layer of impermeable plastic. Beneath the plastic cap, the environment is airless, or anaerobic. That means a discarded hot dog will remain preserved, as is, for decades beyond our individual lifetimes. Plastic garbage, which is inorganic, will never decompose here or anywhere. It will merely break down into smaller and smaller bits of itself. Which led us to think that, in 2,000 years, Freshkills Park might be known as a geologically rich site for discovering concentrations of plastic, not so dissimilar to today's concentrations of coal, uranium or oil (2010)."

I started thinking of how I could get my students to be more aware of what they don't recycle.  I thought about sharing this part of the article with them build a small sculptural piece that could then be put on display to encourage others to reuse or recycle material so that they could be turned into other things, even artwork.

Even though I teach elementary students, here's what I've come up with for upper middle school through high school student for an art project(s).  We'll focus on 3 contemporary art concepts such as appropriation, collaboration and public pedagogy as we make our sculptures with our recycled materials.


Objective: Students, in groups of 2 or 3, will be able to create a sculpture by using recycled materials such as cardboard, plastic bottles and paper products. 

 Art History:  For influence, students will look at several art sculptures from past and current artists that have done similar work in using recycled materials for making 3-D art.  Students may choose to replicate a sculpture using appropriation in art by perhaps choosing a famous 2-D artwork and making parts of it or certain focal points of the artwork into a 3-D sculpture. Appropriation will be used as a way to recreate a famous artwork using found objects.  An example of this could be using recycled cardboard to create a sculpture of a famous 2D artwork, thus, making the original artwork into something new.

Art Production:  Using collaboration, students will work in assigned groups of 2 or 3 to collect reusable plastic, cardboard or paper products to build and art sculpture.  Students will brainstorm ideas and get approval for the sculpture and submit a sketch prior to building and collecting the materials.  Students should collaborate on an idea so that there are similar interests for the group and should share the responsibilities of building the sculpture so that a common outcome for the project is reached.

Art Criticism: Students will engage in a critique once the sculptures are completed. Perhaps students could then take a shot at naming the sculpture and see which ones are the most popular of the groups.

Art Aesthetics:  How pleasing are the finished pieces and how can we display them to the public?  Where would be a good place to view them? Perhaps a good place to view them would be a place where the public could be educated about how important it is to recycle items when it is appropriate.  We'll use public pedagogy here to influence society and to educate them on ways and reasons to recycle. The sculptures could be showcased in front of large backdrop with  pictures of a landfill or polluted areas.  A statistics sheet showing how long it takes for items to decompose, if at all, could be available for people as well as tips for those who would want more information.


Some websites you may want to check out to get an idea of what I was thinking of as a way to influence my students:

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1 Comment

I think this is a great idea. My sister-in-law doesn't recycle and is always throwing away water bottles, cans and newspapers in our trash when she comes over to visit. She seems beyond repair in this aspect, but I'm trying to push her 12-year-old son in the right direction. We have a business here called the Scrap Exchange which employs a lot of the concepts you mentioned in doing artwork using recycled or scrap materials with local youth.

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