Liminality: Alternative Media
2010 Liminality faculty: Robert Anderson, Bridget Morawski, Alex Sutphen
with Spiral Director Olivia Gude
“Seeing Into” Pangea
As students entered the classroom for the first day, they were treated to this brief project allowing them to practice the act of “seeing into” and to consider the possibility of a world that has no borders or limits. The students were given a small map of Pangea and to “draw out” with colored pencils whatever they saw. When a student would ask just what the image was, the teachers would discuss the geographical history or the Earth and how, at one time, all the continents were connected and there were no socio-political borders on the planet. This project was an introduction to the concept of “liminality”.
“Seeing Into” Footprints
As an icebreaker for the students on the first day, the students were engaged in a game about the idea of “positioning”. In the game, students were asked a range of questions such as, “How long did it take you to get here?” and “How much freedom do you feel you have?” After each question, the students aligned themselves based on their responses atop a “game board” of black and brown paper on the floor. The game area was edged with powered blue line chalk so that as the game was played, the students would leave footprints as they positioned themselves on the board.
After the game was over, each student chose a black or brown piece of paper to create a “seeing into” project. Each student looked at the mess of footprints that covered his/her paper and “drew out”, with chalk pastels, whatever the student happened to see in the chaos. This activity, variously called “Seeing Into” by Max Ernst or the “Paranoiac Critical Method” by Salvador Dali enables artists to access content from the unconscious mind.
Poem of Opposites
Remember the Surrealist artists we talked about last week? Last week we used the Surrealist “Paranoiac Critical Method” or “Seeing Into” practice to create our “Seeing Into” Footprints pieces. Today we are going to look at another practice the Surrealists used to create – the “Poem of Opposites”.
Other than Beautiful
For this project we used chalk pastels on black paper to create a faux chalkboard look. We created a word bank to start thinking of things as “other than beautiful” not just in the sense of antonyms but synonyms as well. We discussed who creates the standards of beauty in society today. This project prepared us for our Making Faces, the manipulation and distortion of our own faces to create “other than beautiful” images.
The Most Beautiful Cracker
As a way of introducing the students to some of the principles of Fluxus art, the students engaged in a variation of a classic Fluxus score. The Liminality youth artists formed four groups and each group received a different prompt as to what to do. One group was asked to find the “most beautiful cracker”, another the “most artistic cracker”, another the “most inspiring cracker”, and another the “cracker that they appreciate the most”. Each group discussed their prompt, taking notes, and ultimately decided which cracker fulfilled their category of the “most.” Each group was then asked to present their crackers and their case for why one particular cracker was the “most…”.
After removing the “most…” cracker for safekeeping, the students were instructed to smash their other crackers fulfilling the Fluxus dictum “Choose the most beautiful cracker. Smash all the rest.”
We began with the idea of “Other Than Beautiful,” using a word web the class elaborated on the phrase and mapped out the vast vocabulary under the umbrella of “Other Than Beautiful” with terminology ranging from “hawt” to “grotesque”, “handsome” to “imperfect”.
Accompanying the word web was a lesson on the photographic practice of “beauty lighting” compared to the style of “Film Noir” lighting. Using all of the above as tools and a worksheet prompting different facial exercises, the students lit, modeled, and photographed their own “Other Than Beautiful” images.
Mirroring historic photographic practice, the images were made into a contact sheet displaying all of their images. With a red grease pencil in hand, the students selected one photograph to be printed and marked up their contact sheet with their own comments and notes as they saw fit.
Following the experimentation with facial expressions from the “Making Faces”, we move on to thinking about how the entire body can be used to express meanings and emotions. Each student was given two words to express via body language. With their classmates as coaches and directors, each student was pushed to further explore their word.
A photograph was taken of each pose and printed out which was used transferred to a sheet of acetate for projecting and enlarging. Traced with Silver Sharpie on Black paper, the body language is emphasized even further.
The students furthered their investigation of their chosen word and pose through the Surrealist practice of “Automatic Writing”; a process by which the act of writing is intended to come from the author’s unconscious in a trance like state of being.
We began by discussing the concept of rules and considered how rules shape the social spaces within which we live our lives. On a worksheet, students listed rules they have been given by elders in order to “survive and prosper”, rules they feel should not exist, and rules they would write for a new society. Based on individual responses and group discussion, each student created a final text that would be projected onto his or her own body, expressing how social regulation shapes experiences of self.
For this project we used worksheets to recall and plan out a series of social situations. Characters, emotions and motive were all scripted out before the students were placed in front of a camera. A social situation is an interaction between one our more people in a social setting. We used clothing, body language and facial expression to create a narrative in a still image. Each student took turns directing their individual social situation as well as acted as characters in each other’s images. After reading a number of excerpt from a few famous plays, the students readdressed their social situations by writing dialogue in the form of a film or play script to accompany the still images.
For this project we created a work that was constructed of cut paper. No pencils were allowed. We looked at the work of Molly Bang for guidance in color and composition. We started with three pieces of colored paper and students were added an accent color (a small amount of color to add emphasis). With this project we learned about immigration and identity. We used personal and family histories to influence our paper cut project.
For this project the students unpacked the unimaginable amount of images and advertising that is surrounding our everyday life. We looked at both the Woman’s Rights Movement and the Gay Rights Movement to begin our discussion of “subject positioning” and what subject positions are allotted to each of us as individuals and as members of our respective genders and societal roles.
Détournement was a practice that originated from the artists’ group the “Situationist International”. The idea being that we as artists can repurpose previous media work to make new meaning. In a society swarmed with advertisements, the students selected magazine ads and with scissors and oil pastels made their own work commenting on what they felt was really being sold in the image of their choosing.
For the final project, students created a project proposal, and designed and created their own final project. Building up to the final project we explored the themes of immigration, identity, gender, sexuality, rules and laws. Mini lectures, discussion and projects facilitated our learning in preparation for our final project. Personal interest and talents fueled each final project.