Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Fine Art Year One Collaborative Module

Tuesday was again working with Fine Art year one and getting students ready for collaborative practice. We now have the groups finalised so have to make it clear as to what they need to do. Part of this is delivering a short presentation on the use of gantt charts and how to develop and use project management skills. Students actually seem to be interested in this, the chart I started with them is now posted onto the ‘EStudio’ site. See below.

We also showed examples of last year’s collaborative module, this all being possible because video inductions and introductions to how to use video editing software are done in parallel with the project. Click below to see an example from last year:
Video has become one of those tools that have become almost mandatory for student artists to understand. It is used to make practice, as well as to document practice and because we are surrounded by a media soaked world, without an understanding of how the language is constructed, you are in risk of being cut loose from your culture.  Every group will have to make and screen a video as part of the module and they only have two weeks within which to get this done. This will force group interaction and they will quickly learn to have to manage group dynamics, which is another area we have to introduce.  Tuckman’s "forming, storming, norming, and performing" being another 1960s concept they are being introduced to.
These are half day sessions and we are working with groups of approximately 25. The First year has 50 students on it this year, (planned for 85 next year due to changes in funding and other issues), on Tuesdays the group is split in half to enable more theoretical issues to be introduced within a question and answer framework. While one half of the group is getting gantt charts and group psychology, the other half is getting a more detailed look at the history of collaborative practice.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Collaboration day one

Monday and it’s snowing heavily. I have to deliver a lecture on Collaborative Practice as it’s a briefing day for the new module. I concentrate on how every artist is and always has been linked to other people. I used this diagram below as a key image, each line drawn figure being directly connected to each other and relative sizes can be changed easily according to focus.

The main historical reference I use though is Colab and 1980s post-punk practice, students seem to find the 1980s very like the present climate and I can make lots of references to both art and politics.
The afternoon is mainly spent trying to get the students into groups of 6, the following day will be working with these groups to establish what it is they can achieve in the time allocated for the module. The snow kept up and college closed early, so we all had to be out by 4.00pm.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Back to Work: Fine Art Year One

It has been a slow start back to work this New Year. I have been back for two weeks but week one consisted of pastoral tutorials with the first year and Monday week two was about catching up with those who weren’t spoken to the week before. On the Tuesday we took the students on a tour of local galleries. Most of this was to do with making sure students are well on with their modules and that they understand what to do for each one. Not my most favorite aspect of the job but it is now a technical requirement that students understand module outcomes; they will be asked directly whether or not they were helped understand how they would be assessed and answers go into the student survey, which will at some point be published. Students are working on three modules. The first of these, ‘Individual and Social’ will need to be handed in during week three of the new term. This is the module most of us would have in the past thought of as ‘studio practice’ or ‘the student’s work’.  Alongside this module they are also developing evidence for ‘Materials and Processes’, which is essentially a record of every technical process they come across. It mainly consists of documenting inductions into workshops, and the other module is ‘PPP1’ a professional development module whereby everything from visits to art galleries, transcriptions of artists talks, and reviews of art magazines is done. This can also be a blog, so some students will just have to tell me they are ongoing with this as there is no computer terminal available where I’m working. Both these modules will be handed in later on nearer the end of the term. The rest of my time has been spent doing dissertation tutorials. On Wednesday I sat from 9.00am till 7.45pm doing these one after the other. The writing is now getting to the point that I can see what is emerging and on the whole students are coping well with something that can be an onerous task. The hand-in is mid February and once that date passes I might reflect on the process.
Probably the most interesting session last week was the galleries visit. We started with our own gallery that is showing a curated response to the Brontes, a very Yorkshire show, but one whereby I could explain how sometimes galleries will work to a theme. In this case the work ranged from projection, via intricate paper-cutting to weather records of the Yorkshire Moors. It was put on in conjunction with a conference over at the university and curated by an ex-member of staff, Nick Cass.  This was totally different to the show over at the Burton Gallery which was hosting Christopher Wood an ex student from the 1980s. Chris has been painting for some time now and has a solid reputation. This was his first one-man show in Leeds, which surprised me. He was showing a lot of his prints, mono and etching in particular. We also looked at how this was hung. The prints were all different sizes and Chris had had them all hung to an invisible horizontal at an eye level of about 4 feet from the floor. Students were asked to check fittings and to think why each exhibition was hung differently. After looking at the permanent collection we went on to the Henry Moore institute. The 1913 show is very good, but I’m aware most students are not aware of how important some of these pieces are. In particular I wonder how long it will be before we see a classic Metaphysical De Chirico, Duchamp’s ‘Standard Stoppages’ and a Picasso cubist still-life together on show again in Leeds. There is also an excellent Helen Chadwick show on which details how she put together her light-boxes. Colour tests, technical drawings, mock-ups etc. were all used to help get a picture of how she went about thinking through the process, this was excellent material for the PPP1 module. Hopefully it was also a useful experience for any student thinking about what it is to be an artist. Before we left to go for dinner all the students were inducted into the Henry Moore library, again a fantastic resource.
The afternoon was spent initially at the Leeds City Art Gallery  Nike Savvas exhibition and students were taken into the accompanying installation by Amanda Phillips the education officer. Whether or not they liked the work, the control required to get all the coloured tapes in place was a useful lesson, together of course with an understanding of how the artist sent the work, (rolls of coloured plastic tapes with instructions) an aspect of sending work off to exhibitions that is so often forgotten about.
Finally we went to ‘Mexico’ (an independent art space) and another ex-student, James Maxfield gave a presentation as to how the space had developed. I could tell this was where most of the students were at last taking an interest.  The fact that the curators were young and not long out of college obviously ticked their boxes and this was the first time students asked questions all day. Fair enough I thought. This was something they could relate to and James was able to explain to present students how his second year cohort developed a gallery in a basement and that the experience had been invaluable. Making links and networking as always seem to be the key elements to getting off to a successful career. If only I had been better at it.