Fluidity: Wet Media
Faculty: Sofiya Freyman, Masooma Khan, Dalila Perez
Spiral Director: Olivia Gude
Dripping, seeping, sopping, sinking, submerging, swirling, bleeding, bubbles, bloating, soaking, foaming, splashing, squirting, slipping, flowing, sparkling, sprinkling, saturating, spewing, drenching, drizzling, diving, dissolving, distorting, oozing, gushing, washing, diluting, chugging, salivating, slurping, sipping, urinating, floating, circulating, staining, eroding, freezing, boiling, enveloping, replenishing, refining, trickling, flooding, coating, liquefying, transforming, running, fluctuating, adapting, blanching, cruising, drifting, shifting, steaming, brewing, distilling, commuting, condensing, dribbling, sweating, cooling, precipitating, steaming, brimming, pouring, rippling, rushing, gurgling, gargling, spouting, slobbering, streaming, sweeping, weeping, rolling, drinking, washing, wasting, pumping, suctioning, polluting, leaking, freeing, destroying, wading, drowning, rising, lowering, transporting, containing, pooling, plunging, cleansing, purifying, baptizing, cleansing, infusing, humidifying, crystallizing, vaporizing, simmering, hydrating, drying, wetting, quenching, replenishing, reflecting.
The seemingly infinite stream of associations flowing from the original source – water – is only a rivulet of the torrent that is Fluidity. In this exploration of wet media and the natural element that gives it existence, the youth artists channeled the flow of the subconscious mind and the unstoppable, unpredictable, ever-changing, irreplaceable nature of water.
Once the youth artists were exposed to the course of experimentation, they plunged deeper still into the infinite realm of liquid possibility. Through embracing change and beautiful mistakes, releasing the need to control, or the desire to anticipate an end result, the students freed themselves from assumptions, expectations, and judgments. Pencils and erasers were strictly prohibited in the Fluidity Studio; surfaces of all shapes, sizes, and textures, became the bearers of watermarks born of brushes, inks, washes, and paint.
By invoking the elemental power of water, we set forth to melt the ice that far too often freezes creative minds into confined cubes.
Having drawn from the wells of inspiration, we are all thirsty for more.
Fluid Surrealism: Flow of the Unconscious Mind
Fluid Surrealism was the teen artists first immersive leap into the Fluidity studio. Our intent was to share with students the classic Surrealist method of bringing unconscious content to the surface. Fluid Surrealism introduced students to various artists associated with the Surrealist International, especially looking at the imagery of water in Surrealist work. Along with better-known Surrealists such as Salvador Dali and René Magritte, we shared work by Leonara Carrington, Leonor Fini, and Remedios Varo.
Youth artists were encouraged to access their subconscious minds by spontaneously finding images on ink-stained surfaces. Tapping into the subliminal psyche, the fluid artists began to push and pull illusive imagery from ambiguous blotted backgrounds by delineating details, adding highlights, and deepening shadows with ink and tempera paint. Students engulfed by waves of imagery submerged themselves in the process of fluidity.
The “Bleeding Flowers” project propelled teen artists into the untested test waters of combining observational skills with a looser approach to painting. By exposing students to (almost abstract) Abstract Expressionist painting—works by Cy Twombly and Jackson Pollock—the students learned that there is not a hard line between representational image and a painterly surface.
Transcending the often-dry routine in which students laboriously study and delineate academic mundane still-lifes, we made the decision to suspend flowers from the ceiling—over the course of two weeks allowing the students to dynamically embrace drying out and withering as aesthetic possibility. The youth painters became increasingly aware of the physical energy of their bodies in applying paint as well as the viscosity, fluidity, surface tension, and just plain gravity-driven drippiness of the paint.
The painters began by sullying and dripping ink on the pristine white paper, followed by establishing the basic forms of the flowers in quick gestural paintings. As the paintings progressed, each artist pushed and pulled the fluid surface of the painting—dripping
and layering—highlighting and defining—alternating obscuring and articulating—until the painting reached a state that could at least tentatively be described as finished.
Flawlessly Flawed: Self-Portrait
Following an image presentation and guided mediation that encouraged students to sink into a sense of themselves as gracefully aging, honored old women and old men, students began work on large-scale self-portraits.
To begin, the youth artists dove into investigating the complexities of mixing and matching flesh tones. Through demonstration and exercises in mixing and in applying flesh tones to drawings of faces from Hogarth’s Anatomy, the students learned to use tones, chroma, cool/warm contrasts, shadows and highlights to structure the planes of the human face.
The second week of the project encompassed the methods, techniques, and aesthetic challenges that come with creating a self-portrait that transcended the stereotypical perfections of youth glamour. Combining the practices of blocking in shapes with loose, gestural painting as learned in the Bleeding Flowers project with layering realistic flesh tones onto high chroma underpaintings, the students began manifesting their reflections on being an aging person.
The final stages of Flawlessly Flawed required students to make bold, visually dynamic decisions to complete their self-portrait studies. As youth artists were pressed to address composition and technique in ways that most significantly affected the efficacy of their pieces, they were confronted with key issues of achieving “beautifully unfinished” representations of self.
A Stain in the Membrane
Drawing inspiration from fresh contemporary artists such as Camille Rose Garcia, Baseman, and artist/director/animator Tim Burton, students developed paintings with personal plots, reflecting and elaborating on experiences with fluidity—bodies of water and bodily fluids. Finding inspiration in the stains found on the painting studio floor, each youth painter turned ambiguous forms into “splatter characters” to tell a story of watery, drippy dilemmas. Having surpassed stalemates of staring at blank surfaces, the youth artists knew that staining, dripping, and spraying the ground was a great way to begin developing a complex picture. Splashy characters created with a variety of wet media were layered onto hazy, indistinct grounds and then the artists worked to articulate character and space in support of a leaky legend.
Stream of Consciousness: Message in a Bottle
Throughout the first seven weeks of Spiral Workshop, Fluidity artists experimented with wet media, learning to surrender to surprise, while retaining the possibility of channeling the flows.
On the eighth week, the students’ immersion in personal narratives of wetness was deepened to make room for a broader conversation on the global water crises.
Just before an intense, fast-paced presentation on ways in which drought, flooding, water contamination and water-related disease plague our world today, the youth artists’ beverages were confiscated by the Water Police. During the presentation, the students munched on dry, salty snacks to enhance the sensation of craving water. This experience was concluded with personal reflections on thirst and group discussion on the global politics of water.
The following week, the youth artists were fluidly returned to examining their relationships with water during two additional presentations—the first dealing with the commodification of water into designer products and the second, with facts related to average daily water usage. After absorbing a series of enlightening and sometimes alarming facts, images and statistics, the youth artists used empty water bottles to serve as vessels for their own water-related messages.
We know that a single art piece can’t solve the world water crisis, but we also believe that art and art education must contribute to evolving new forms of thinking, feeling, and acting that support the creation of a just and joyous world culture.
World Water Issues in the Curriculum
From the inception of the Fluidity group, we imagined that we would combine joyous exploration of the flowing properties of wet media, personal narratives related to water, and consideration of the many contemporary issues related to water usage and availability.
As in many art classes, at Spiral we can face the problem that students sometimes don't like it when lots of art class time is taken up with teaching about "other" content. Spiral has begun using the pecha kucha format to present students with information in a clear and concise manner. This could be a great format for students to use when presenting research on a topic to each other.
How to Make a Pecha Kucha presentation
Here's a description of the pecha kucha format written by Dan Pink, published in Wired Magazine, Issue 15.09:
Let us now bullet-point our praise for Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein, two Tokyo-based architects who have turned PowerPoint, that fixture of cubicle life, into both art form and competitive sport. Their innovation, dubbed pecha-kucha (Japanese for "chatter"), applies a simple set of rules to presentations: exactly 20 slides displayed for 20 seconds each. That's it. Say what you need to say in six minutes and 40 seconds of exquisitely matched words and images and then sit the hell down. The result, in the hands of masters of the form, combines business meeting and poetry slam to transform corporate clich into surprisingly compelling beat-the-clock performance art. The duo — Dytham is British, Klein Italian — invented pecha-kucha four years ago to help revive a struggling performance space they owned. The first presentations were such a hit that they began hosting monthly pecha-kucha events, boozy affairs at which Tokyo architects and designers showcased their streamlined offerings to crowds of hundreds. Now there are pecha-nights in 80 cities, from Amsterdam and Atlanta to San Francisco and Shanghai. Why? Dytham believes that the rules have a liberating effect. "Suddenly," he says, "there's no preciousness in people's presentations." Just poetry.
3 Powerpoint presentations
about water issues:
Personal Water Use
The ‘water footprint’ is an indicator of water use that includes both direct and indirect water use of a consumer or producer. The water footprint of an individual, community or business is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business. The ‘water footprint’ of a country is defined as the volume of water needed for the production of goods and services consumed by the inhabitants of the country.
The average American lifestyle demands the most gallons of freshwater per day to support.
Global Water Crisis
As students entered the room after break, the “Water Police” confiscated all of their bottled drinks. The teachers also provided the students with bowls of salty snacks. During the presentation on global crises related to water the students started to experience thirst. Later we talked about places that lack safe drinking water as we experienced thirst without immediately quenching the sensation.
One of our inspirations
for the fluid blending of aesthetics and politics:
Noted art educator jan jagodzinski published a wonderful article about art education in a time of water crises in Studies in Art Education:
The E(thi)co-Political Aesthetics of Designer Water:
The Need for a Strategic Visual Pedagogy
Download this article: jagodzinski -eco.pdf