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CRACKER AESTHETICS

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DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Divide participants into small groups. Five to six participants per group is optimal.

 

Groups should be separated from each other. Each group is gathered around a table.

Participants are instructed not to communicate with other groups. Participants are told to follow the instructions given to them.

 

Each group receives a bag with 9 crackers and a brief instruction.

 

 

Group 1

Please assign a notetaker to document your discussion.

 

There are nine crackers in this bag. Please lay these out on the table.

 

Decide with your group which cracker is the most beautiful.

 

You have 10 minutes to complete this activity.

 

 

Group 2

Please assign a notetaker to document your discussion.

 

There are nine crackers in this bag. Please lay these out on the table.

 

Decide with your group which cracker is the most aesthetically pleasing.

 

You have 10 minutes to complete this activity.

 

 

Group 3

Please assign a notetaker to document your discussion.

 

There are nine crackers in this bag. Please lay these out on the table.

 

Decide with your group which cracker is the most aesthetically significant.

 

You have 10 minutes to complete this activity.

 

 

After 10 minutes all participants gather around Group 1. Assisted by the recorded discussion by the notetaker, the group explains the judgment process, articulating the values by which it identified the most beautiful (or most aesthetically pleasing or aesthetically significant) cracker.


The group spokesperson is then given a large wooden mallet and asked to execute the judgment of the group, “Identify the most beautiful cracker. Smash all the others.”

 

Repeat for each group.

 

Open-ended follow up discussion often focuses on how the activity is similar to art world and art school activities. 

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DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

This exercise is based on a Fluxus performance instruction

created by Davi Det Hompson.

 

A Virginia Commonwealth University faculty member, the former David E. Thompson reconfigured the spacing of the letters of his name in 1966 to create his artistic signature, Davi Det Hompson. In addition to his national prominence as a book artist and early ties to the Fluxus artists’ association, Hompson experimented with various media, including installation, painting, performance and video.

 

Lessons

Arrange nine crackers on a table. Ask someone to choose the most beautiful cracker from the grouping. Smash the remaining crackers with your fist.

Davi Det Hompson, 1969

 

This activity was used with Contemporary Art, Theory, and Pedagogy, a seminar for MFA students at the University of Illinois at Chicago. It was interesting to observe the commonalities and differences in how students of graphic design, moving image, photography, and studio arts articulated aesthetic values and categories of meaning making as learned through study in their respective disciplines. For younger students, the original Fluxus  direction to “Choose the most beautiful cracker” is probably most appropriate as the success of this lesson as a pedagogical exercise depends on students having a command of an aesthetic concept of viewing/valuing.

 

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Here is a wonderful resource for more Fluxus activities:

 

The Fluxus Performance Workbook 

edited by Ken Friedman, Owen Smith, and Lauren Sawchyn

This is available for free on-line at:

 www.thing.net...~grist/ld/fluxus.htm

 

 

 

Thanks to colleagues who have suggested the relevance of Fluxus practice to art education practice:

Jessica Poser, now an Assistant Professor of Art Education at SUNY New Paltz  

Hannah Higgins, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Illinois at Chicago

See Higgins's book Fluxus Experience.

 


More about Fluxus Experience

"In this groundbreaking work of incisive scholarship and analysis, Hannah Higgins explores the influential art movement Fluxus. Daring, disparate, contentious--Fluxus artists worked with minimal and prosaic materials now familiar in post-World War II art. Higgins describes the experience of Fluxus for viewers, even experiences resembling sensory assaults, as affirming transactions between self and world.


Fluxus began in the 1950s with artists from around the world who favored no single style or medium but displayed an inclination to experiment. Two formats are unique to Fluxus: a type of performance art called the Event, and the Fluxkit multiple, a collection of everyday objects or inexpensive printed cards collected in a box that viewers explore privately. Higgins examines these two setups to bring to life the Fluxus experience, how it works, and how and why it's important. She does so by moving out from the art itself in what she describes as a series of concentric circles: to the artists who create Fluxus, to the creative movements related to Fluxus (and critics' and curators' perceptions and reception of them), to the lessons of Fluxus art for pedagogy in general."

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DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.