Blog 8: Performance Art & Performed Networks of Relations

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The following ideas were developed to be taught in an upper elementary art room for grades 3-5.

Using March's story as a springboard for an idea, I took her approach of having 2 different people describe what they see at the same time from different points of view.   I thought about how much my students like to draw self portraits. They are comfortable with drawing themselves because if they "mess up" it's no big deal usually.   They look at themselves in individual mirrors and draw what they see.  At that time they are only concentrating on their own features.  But, how often do they get to draw other students? Students will work in groups of 2 and sit directly across from each other.  A list of interview questions will be given to each student.  Students will find out about each other with questions such as their favorite food, place to visit, sports team, color, animal and future career.  Once this information is collected, students will begin to draw each with as much detail as possible at the same time.  They can approach this like a caricature in that students can exaggerate features in a polite way.  As they draw each other, they are not to share any ideas with one another. Students will add several items gathered from the interview to incorporate into the drawing. An example of this would be a portrait of a student with added features such as making the person have on a Mickey Mouse ears hat (for their favorite place),  while also wearing a football jersey of their favorite team (Steelers), with a police badge pinned to their shirt (future career).  Students will share their "view" of the other person and will discuss how accurate the drawing is as well as explain to each other why they chose the added features.

Using Rodney's story of the unpleasant view of the dead squirrel in a public place, I thought about how students would view this if they came across it themselves.  What expression would be on their faces?  Perhaps a scream?  Students will use Edvard Munch's painting of "The Scream" as a way to show this expression.  Students will recreate the painting's background with the appropriate colors. They will also draw in the bridge but will leave out the area of the person screaming as well as the background figures.  Students will then pose for the digital camera and pictures will be printed out in a smaller scale so that their pictures can be cut out and glued down in the area of the person screaming.  Students will try out their best scream or surprised expression for the photo.   The background figures will be replaced with their own object (perhaps a dead squirrel, pollution/environmental issues, an alien, a monster, etc).  Students will then write a short paragraph describing what it was that made them feel uncomfortable enough to "scream" in their picture.

Using Stephanie's story of the ways that her life was interrupted by "lanterns in a bedroom, a maze on a floor, and a brick wall in a hallway", I will have my students use the school hallways in an art scavenger hunt using art history clues.  Students in other classes will create the "clues" for some examples so that other students can find their way through the "maze" created by obstacles in our hallways.  For example, to replace the lanterns suggested by Stephanie, students will create mobiles that will hang from the ceiling or doorways throughout the school.   The brick wall in the hallways will be replaced with large abstract paper sculptures.  Also, several hints could be left on large painted murals on paper that are hanging on walls.  Perhaps one item from a famous artwork could be a clue that would the lead to the next item. (Like a Van Gogh Sunflower, or a Matisse paper cut-out collage).  Students would start with a clue in the art room that will lead them to another somewhere in the school.  Students will use the clues in the mobiles, murals and paper sculptures to navigate through the maze of the hallways.  Students can work in teams and could be timed or could collect certain clues at each artwork to bring back with them to the finish line.  In the end, whichever team did it the fastest or collected the most clues in a set amount of time would get the prize.  It would be a neat way to review some art history that was taught during the year.

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1. Your idea inspired from March’s story does not accomplish the goal of multiple perspectives since the products produced are still one person’s view of another. Caricatures are stereotypes, which simplifies rather than complicates or conveys complexity of humans. If you ask students’ to create caricatures of another it is important to discuss problems with visual stereotyping. You can begin by having the students define stereotype and look for stereotypes in popular media they are familiar. Here are some places to get ideas:

Jim Crow Lesson Plans
This Web site was originally created in support of the PBS series THE RISE AND FALL OF JIM CROW, produced by Thirteen/WNET New York and sponsored by the New York Life Insurance Company. The series aired in 2002.

Representation in Art and Film: Identity and Stereotype by Martha Savage

Understanding Stereotypes (Discovery Education)

Art21 on PBS

2. Your idea for a lesson inspired from Rodney’s story assumes a particular emotional response and composition to express that response. I have seen some youth with photographs of dead animals on their cell phone from their walk home. Students may have different emotional responses, or could respond to Munch’s artwork in discussing what it means to scream (inside or visibly). This could be the topic of their painting. Or, as you suggest, to make visible what they scream about to another. To broaden their approach to the concept and way of expression they could search for works that scream about something, or appear to scream and share what they found with each other, thereby, peer teaching. This would provide material for inspiration, rather than fitting their expression of a scream into a uniform compositional device. Munch’s composition is powerful because it was a heartful unique expression, so replication of the composition does not get at the meaning or value of the painting. If you do introduce Munch to students present a body of his work with stories that contextualizes them in his life. I visited the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway and came out of the museum feeling depressed—his work is powerful indeed!

3. There is potential with the scavenger hunt idea inspired from Stephanie’s story. It could reinforce learning taught in a unit of study. I hope you develop this in your unit for exploration 9. Creating clues is where much of the learning will happen. How will this part of the lesson be assessed or evaluated, i.e., value will be given to the process and/or outcome? Consider whose art history is taught. Whose art history is not taught? You might learn about what they found important from a unit in art in their selection of something they learned that they feel (or a team feels) is important for their classmates to know, and then the project is to build visual clues to that knowledge that can be collected in hallway spaces of the school.

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