Thursday, February 19, 2009

Art Attack!!

The Unit of Inquiry (UOI) towards the end of 2008 in Brian's class was "Art Attack". There was the usual field trips to art museums, exposure to works of art by famous artists, and they learnt to criticize art (it's about what feelings the artists wanted to express and whether they succeeded in expressing those feelings) and that art comes in different forms (drama, visual art, poems, music, ie any way of expressing your feelings). There were also a few lessons conducted by the High School drama teacher on acting (eye contact, voice projection, how to stand on stage etc).

At the end of the Unit, the kids were to either produce 2 different pieces of artwork which conveyed the same feelings, or present a different art form. Brian's Korean classmate performed a dance on stage for the entire grade. Brian chose Drama, acting in a comedy skit with 2 of his friends. The skit was really successful and he had such a fun time working on it.

But I think the most important thing that he got out of the unit came from the class discussion on what constituted Art. Opinions differed about what Art was and there was lively debate, so lively in fact, that one day class ended more than 10 minutes after school had ended, cos the kids couldn't stop talking.

These are some of the scenarios given to the kids to think about:

1) Can anything be art?
You are the owner of a museum. You see a well-known artist near the river. You tell him he'll get a lot of attention if he gives you a good piece of art. The artist picks up a piece of driftwood and said, "Take this, call it Driftwood." Do you take it or not?

2) Same things, can one be art and the other not?
In a museum in Chicago, an artist who is a Minimalist arranges a pile of bricks so that it's 2 bricks high, 6 bricks wide and 10 bricks long. He calls it "Pile of Bricks". Across the street, a bricklayer does the exact same thing, unaware of what just happened in the museum. Can one be art while the other isn't?

3) Can something be art just because someone says it is?
In France, a man sits on the street with a sign that says, "Look at me, I'm art, that's all it takes." Can that person be art?

4) Erased De Kooning: Art or Vandalism?
A person called Robert Rauschenberg asked a famous artist named William De Kooning to lend him a piece of art for an art project. De Kooning gives Rauschenberg a drawing that he worked hard on. Rauschenberg erases the drawing completely, puts it in a museum and labels it "Erased De Kooning" (see picture at the top). Did Rauschenberg create a work of art, destroy one or both?

More Philosophy than Art maybe, but it got the kids thinking and talking...and just like how Brian began looking at TV/Movie Ads more critically after last year's UOI on advertising called "Made You Look!", I expect he'll be more open-minded about Art after this "Art Attack" UOI.

So open-minded in fact that when I asked him just now what he thought art was, he said, "Anything that expresses the artist's feelings."

Hmmm, to which I said, "Does that mean Sean's crying and whining can be Art?"

Brian grinned and said, "Well, it expresses his feelings..."

Sean disagreed, "When I'm crying, it's not art, it'll just wash away the painting on the easel."

Aaaah, but that could be another Erased de Kooning in the making. How much do you reckon Sean's art piece Erased de Krying will fetch in Sotheby's? :P


monlim said...

Actually, I don't know myself! Sometimes, I think what people call art is just baloney. Seems like a convenient way to invite attention, make something silly or controversial and call it art.

btw, was this the project that made you so mad cos you weren't able to stay here for CNY?? :P

Lilian said...

Ha, you're sharp. Yes, I was so mad at him for not choosing a solo project which he could have handed up before winter break. He was pretty adamant about working with his friends, which meant I had to find a way to bring him back to Moscow after winter was still fine cos I thought we could fly back for CNY after the project was done.

Suddenly, something I hadn't anticipated about our visa meant if we returned to Moscow, we would only get our passport back in a month, ie cannot fly out for CNY. I was soooooo gerammmm, shouted at him for being selfish and not thinking of others. My mind was working overtime thinking of all the ways to make it back for CNY. Suggested that we could just tell the teacher we couldn't go back to Moscow due to visa problems (not entirely untrue), but since that would mean leaving HIS friends in a lurch, he refused, so friends over mummy lor. He did apologise profusely to me for being "selfish and thoughtless" (my description of him) :)

I felt really sore for weeks.

Domestic Goddess said...

Wow thanks Lilian for sharing this UOI. This is so interesting.

I find it hard to answer some of the questions raised.
I do agree with Monlim. There is a lot of the so-called artwork which I have seen that makes me think is just BS. :P

Lilian said...

Haha, I'm cynical by nature so definitely agree with you two about some of the BS out there disguised as art. When Brian posed some of these questions to me, I didn't even pause, just said, Of course it's not art! He tried to get philosophical with me, saying, well, it could be, to the artist it is, but I just said, "Rubbishlah."

bACk in GERMANY said...

Oh... Kristin's crying is definitely art. It will express true anguish and distress so much so that tears will roll down her cheeks as and when they are called for the big drama!

I'd like to have UOI for my schooldays too...
Nothing beats self-motivation and the thirst for knowledge. Kids will naturally develop a passion to learn and think... really need a revamp in our education system here!

Mon, you gotta be writing something on that topic quick!

Lilian said...

Kristin IS art! Gorgeous work of art. With dollops of tears rolling down her huge eyes along her chubby rosy cheeks, even more gorgeous haha!

I think UOI is great, BUT the lesson plans aren't rigid/fixed (a good thing of course) and how the class flows depends a lot on the direction chosen by the teacher. They may be in the same grade, but what Class A gets from the same UOI may be very different, not better or worse, just different, from Class B.

Definitely need creative teachers to get discussions moving along. And of course parents need to trust that teachers can do a good job lah.