Alexandria Hovet SP

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Social Practices in Art Fall 12

Social Practices in Art class website


Midterm Group Collaboration

Skills, My Work Style, and Goals

I study video and photography and have access to excellent equipment through the school. I'm a good writer. I play the guitar. I am a great organizer and can manage time and tasks well.
In most situations, I'm an introvert, but I have no problem being engaged and working in a group in any type of leadership position. I'm a good compromiser and can take on any responsibility. I am open to learning new skills. I love punctuality and deadlines.
I really want to bring communities together. This includes us, Bennington the town, SVC, and the youth of Bennington. I want everyone to engage more in their surrounding communities and to feel accomplished in doing so. I hope that the kids of Bennington gain confidence and have an outlet for creativity, and I hope that the residents of Bennington are able to feel a greater sense of community and hospitality from us.

Four Conversations at Four Corners

During brainstorming for the project, I was either neutral about an idea and ready to implement it if the group came to a consensus, or I was opposed to an idea or certain aspect of an idea. I tried to address my concerns, but the construction of our meetings was less than ideal. We eventually came to an agreement on a project that I was happy and willing to participate in and help make successful. However, we overlooked many small details that would arise. There was a lot of trouble with communication and people not signing up for shifts at Four Corners and not letting other people know what tasks they were taking on. I'm not sure how this could be resolved with such a large group who are not committed full-time to one project. Nevertheless, we were able to set up in Four Corners and interact with lots of people in surprisingly different ways.
Several people were curious about our setup and engaged with me about the project. I explained that we had been talking to youth from the town about frustrations, bringing those recordings to older members of the town, and then back to the youth. I asked if they wanted to listen to the recordings, but many people didn't have time, although they were interested in the project. Someone from out of town thought it was a great initiative. The baked goods may have been a poor choice, because most people thought we were selling to raise money. I also think having the recordings play through headphones greatly limited how many connections you could make at a time. It might have been easier to engage people with the material if it was just playing out loud. I was not always able to get people to consent to being recorded or to write down their thoughts, but several people had lots of opinions. One woman wholeheartedly agreed that there should be a skate park. She also thought that the youth don't put in as much effort as they could and that they should be more active and use their surroundings positively. One man who came to me from Casey's table said that it was hard for him to get a job as a kid but that they should keep trying.
I received a lot of positive engagement and interest in the project, but it was clear that there were several limitations. If we were to do it again, there should be at least one personal whose only job is to document, or every person should have a working camera and/or recorder. I think it would also be better to use speakers rather than one pair of headphones. I would also eliminate the types of food we had, because they did not compliment each other and some were much too substantial to warrant more snacks. Maybe food is not the right accompaniment at all. I think we also need a tagline or phrase to engage people from a distance while also giving them a little bit of information about the project and making it clear that we are not a bake sale. Overall, however, I believe we had some great conversations and make good connections and were able to ignite a tiny spark in our very large goal.


Week 1 - Sept. 11, 2012

Grant Kester, Introduction, pages 1-13 from Conversation Pieces.

In his introduction, Kester presents that conversational art involves dialogue as an integral part of the work and raises questions that are more culturally and politically extensive than academic art. Must the intention to provoke dialogue among the public be apparent to the public? Can a work such as this succeed if the intention is hidden? Perhaps a factor in these works is that the public, the participating parties, or the intended audience is presented with the expectation to engage themselves. Why does most academic art not present the viewers with a compelling reason to engage with each other or the work in a socially or politically meaningful way? What is the specific factor which spurs the audience to begin an important dialogue? Is it the pressure, the confrontation?
The works presented by Kester seem to have this confrontational nature, almost tricking the public into participating. It transforms the capability of all art to inspire interaction from the typically passive to the shockingly active. The public is accustomed to seeing art behind barriers, on gallery or museum walls and in books. Performance and dialogical art, however, cannot be contained, and this is what is presented to the public. It is a new, even perplexing way of producing the aesthetic experience. It is clearly possible that in interacting with this work, something will change; something is already changing, just by happening. Everyone can take part in a conversation if the opportunity is ongoing and consistent rather than fleeting and forgettable. This orchestration, in and of itself, is a type of art, although, because it cannot be hung on a wall, it may not look like it.

Ted Purves, pages 27-44, Blows Against the Empire, from What We Want is Free.

Purves' writing describes the difference between gifts and monetary exchanges, highlighting the social nature of gifts. When a gift is given, it innately creates a social bond between giver and recipient. This bond can prompt either an intimate link for further interaction or the burden to acknowledge an undesired gift or giver. Are gifts desirable because they are surprising or seem to be extra meaningful? Or because they are proof that someone cares about you? A gift, small or grand, can have equal effect. If, according to Purves' assertion about gift economies, gifts are not free, and in fact require the recipient to think of the giver, to thank them, to create a bond with them, then is this the reason money won out as the primary means of exchange? Do people not want to create lasting social bonds if they don't have to, if they can just give a piece of paper with an agreed value to a stranger without pause or consideration? Is this easier? Of course, it does seem impractical as a retailer to give gifts to the public and receive thanks rather than tangible compensation. But perhaps it only seem so in light our economy, where it requires money in order to make products in order to sell products in order to make money in order to buy products required to live in order to make money...
Regardless of our capacity to live in a gift economy or not, the presence of gifts in art is clear. Although art is constantly produced and exchanged for money, the true point is (arguably) that art creates a bond with its audience, even on an individual basis. Art is a gift. Art is a gift that has been largely usurped by money, prompting awe or contempt in reaction to a famous piece's worth rather than to its content. But art does not benefit from money. Art gives its beauty, its controversy, everything it has to offer in exchange for nothing except a viewer. Just one. Gifts, especially in conversational art, function as a reminder about not only the true nature of art but the true nature of society. All we need are gifts to show us that all we need are gifts, and gifts show us that all we need is a social bond with each other.

Trebor Scholz, A History of the Social Web.

It was fascinating to see in this article the number of times something was referred to as altruistic. With the plethora of things I myself find disheartening or unseemly about the content of the internet, I sometimes forget the innumerable ways it helps societies and individuals. It is also reassuring to read the sheer number of names and entities that contributed to the internet as it is today. This revolutionary force was truly a collaboration. And, in a way, it almost seems like conversational art, wherein the many contributors worked to involve the public, some becoming contributors themselves and virtually all becoming participants in some capacity, advancing and changing what has become an integral part of today's global society. Those who contributed things altruistically to the advancement of the web truly did so for the greater good, for the public in need of an outlet and a resource, to involve them in the dialogue of the internet and with people around the globe. This dialogue, of course, does not consist only of benefits, but the deficiencies and problems of the internet are also argued on a daily basis. So, do the effects of a conversational art have to be entirely beneficial to society? What are the negative implications of such art? Because they seek to change something, do the positive effects always outweigh the negative or neutral/unchanged minds?

Week 2 - Sept. 18, 2012

Darren O’Donnell, Social Acupuncture, pages 11-95.

O’Donnell’s perspective on social practices as an artist who employs them was incredibly interesting, helpful, and, of course, provocative. His thesis seems to surround the importance of using “the institutions that form—at ground level—the fabric of the city,” in order to make “culture and creativity the central part of civic life” (24). The first part of the writing seems to summarize the antagonistic views toward theatre, socially relevant occupations, and even himself. He describes theater’s liability, the proximity of the creator and the consumer, and posits that perhaps it can be turned into an asset by creating “thoughtful, rigorous work while allowing for the unknown, the unexpected and the awkward—how to find meaning in qualities other than virtuosity and razzle-dazzle” (21). In the second part, he begins describing his own attempts.
“The realization that art can do very little to make the world a better place is a lot like the realization that the individual is relatively powerless. It may even be the same realization” (27). O’Donnell makes a strong case for the importance of socially relevant, public works that facilitate a relationship between artist and audience/participant. The emphasis is on artistic practices that bring people together, “replacing object-based art practice with one dedicated to generating relationships” (29). O’Donnell’s metaphor of social acupuncture is effective mostly because of its connection to the body, not just a singular one but entire social body, shared and occupied by everyone. It is also effective because it is medicinal and holistic and does not center around an object or material, only the natural body, riddled with pains caused by the outside world of our creation.
O’Donnell’s assertions about bringing art into life is stirring. It seems so natural for something that is rarely done, ensuring the divide between art and real life. Why should they be so disconnected? He harps on conventional art perhaps a bit too much, but I agree that more art should be brought into the public sphere to spur relationships and social change. What struck me the most is his statement that in truly effective pieces, “the artist is barely noticed, and instead of being a creator, is a conduit for already existing energies and resources, redirecting and tweaking them. […] The experience is being lived” (83).
What is necessary to enact social change in art is to bring attention to the new relationships created through social situations rather than to the art itself. The creator is inconsequential if the institutional materials and resulting social bonds are recognized, improved, created, or spread. The experience is the crucial element and creating this experience is incredibly difficult. I am left wondering why it is so difficult to create an experience, something so seemingly ordinary, under the right conditions. Have we become so resistant to true experiences, so distanced from art? So distanced from each other? The epitome of social practices in art would be to effect so much change that experiences are had freely, bonds created daily, and social barriers destroyed. Is this the goal of every social piece, to contribute every so slightly or largely to this goal?

Sleigh 04:14, 24 September 2012 (UTC)"Is this the goal of every social piece..."
Not all social art pieces are aiming to heal social issues. Some pieces are focused on environmentalism or medicine-the 'social' aspect is collaborative thinking or acting. This article is a good example of what I'm talking about. It's about how gamers were brought together and collaboratively decoded part of the AIDS protein, when researchers couldn't. They were brought together, to participate in a project, to socialize and solve a problem.

Week 3 - Sept. 25, 2012

Joseph Beuys, pages 125-126, I Am Searching for Field Character, from Participation.

Beuys' statement that social art "will only reach fruition when every living person becomes a creator, a sculptor, or architect of the social organism" is compelling. Certainly anything believed and practiced by the entire world is powerful, especially if it is a force for good. As much as Beuys' belief seems productive, it is hard to believe that everyone in the world can come to agree on one major and fairly radical principle. Even if the majority of the world believes in something in common, there are always dissenters and there are always those who believe it is not enough. It is especially difficult to have faith in Beuys' thoughts about humans experiencing themselves as spiritual beings who shape the world through art. Although I do believe that this is a beautiful potential way of life and that people could be truly happy this way, it is hard to imagine everyone coming to share this feeling. People's minds are the hardest things to change next to social structure. Effecting social change through art as Beuys describes it is a monumental task. Will chipping away at it, changing minds and social practices a little at a time be enough to enact such a radical shift in the way humans act and interact? Or does this require a bigger movement, an upsurge of action? Is such a movement happening? Has it happened? Goldberg's descriptions of Beuys' pieces gave a clearer picture of his intent and how he communicated his beliefs to the public. "Carried out by artists, 'social sculpture' would mobilize every individual's latent creativity, ultimately moulding the society of the future." It is certainly a dictum to believe in, but it requires action more than anything.

Vito Acconci, pages 900-918 Public Space in a Private Time from Critical Inquiry Vol. 16, No. 4. (Summer, 1990).

Acconci's article is an interesting supplement to learning about social practices. He describes public and private spaces in terms of social structure and interactions, and how these spaces and places are changed through art. The proposals and outlines of Acconci's own works interspersed with the vignettes become more and more significant and inform the reading; they clarify and embody what he speaks about. Acconci also describes how in a public space, filled with people, "can no longer function as a container, it has to become something else. This type of public space is, potentially, a politically active space" (905). The space makes the people and the people make the space, just as time makes a place. His thoughts on music are interesting, too, pointing out that music has no place, only time. It has the ability to bring people together, to inspire them. Music is a public art, too. The road to successful public art begins with small parts built upon each other; people interacting with people. "The end is public, but the means of public art might be private. The end is people, but the means might be individual persons. The end is space, but the means might be fragments and bits" (915).

Week 4 - Oct. 2, 2012

“Design Thinking”, by Tim Brown, Harvard Business Review, June 2008.

Tim Brown's description of design thinking was incredibly eye-opening. It is a fairly new concept for me, but his description and examples of the process were very clear and interesting. The notion of creating a human-centered design which emotionally engages consumers in order to innovate and build value seems like a no-brainer. But now it is interesting to think about design models that I can identify as using design thinking methods and those that do not. Tapping in to the emotional connections and human needs which surround a product or service create a much more successful product, which can be applied to many other aspects of life. Art does this. Art which emotionally engages the audience, which connects to something personal in life, creates more appealing or engaging work, which can then be implemented to spur social change. It is "strategic [and can] lead to dramatic new forms of value" (2). It is also inspiring to know that successful design thinking encourages, if not requires, empathetic, optimistic, collaborative, experimental, and multi-disciplinary participants. It even includes making nondesigners into designers and design thinkers during the process. Design thinking gives me a much clearer picture and inspirational model for future design projects, particularly in art, but also in other aspects of innovation.

D.School Bootcamp Bootleg, Institute of Design Stanford.

The D.School reading is an excellent follow-up to Brown's introduction to design thinking. This manual breaks down design thinking and implementation in a user-friendly, easily understood manner that gives clarity to the design thinking strategy. All of the strategies seem helpful in many fields of action. They encourage group work and personal contact with many people in order to successfully implement a design. "The best solutions come out of the best insights into human behavior," they say, and the focus on human behavior is clear. Although I can see the usefulness in such an interactive methodology, at times, as someone new to this manner of thinking, it seems incredibly intense, and perhaps manipulative. It requires making generalizations at times and creating profiles of nonexistent people's thoughts and desires. Of course, this kind of thing occurs al the time in the business world, among others, but this particular strategy seems so much friendlier, so much more honest. I can look past my reservations and see the value of such a process, which engages people through personal interaction, collaboration, strategizing, empathizing, and experimentation. It seems a lot like art.

IDEO, “Human Centered Design Field Guide”.

The IDEO reading is another interesting follow-up to the design thinking methodology, but it is a much more clinical approach than the previous readings. It uses phrases like "make your interviewee feel like they are being heard" and "make the interviewee feel that the conversation is about them, not about the product, service, or organization you are representing." These put me at unease, as though the people carrying out this strategy are not actually invested in the participants personally and must manipulate them into thinking that they are. It is almost a guide to acting naturally, breaking down, into specific categories and actions, what a person must do in order to understand another person through a personal conversation. It simply seems less open and experimental than the D.School method. Even the graphic nature of this manual is cold and corporate, even though the format and process is quite similar to the D.School design. This goes to show that the design of a design thinking instruction manual is also important in conveying a message and engaging the participant.

Week 5 - Oct. 9, 2012

Allan Kaprow, pages 102-104, The Elimination of the Audience from Participation.

Allan Kaprow's definition of a Happening emphasizes the elimination of an audience from a piece. I find this element exciting, especially because the participants are willing, committed, and knowledgeable of the event to create a collaborative, collective work. "While knowledge of the scheme is necessary, professional talent is not" (103). This is a bit different from other social art, in which there is an audience, although they are being engaged. Some social art, however, does seek to eliminate an audience and replace it with willing participants. Can some social art be defined as new Happenings? The restrictive presence of the room, theatre, or gallery space spurred the inception of the Happenings, because "the immemorial history of cultural expectations attached to theatrical productions crippled them" (102). Can any Happenings or social art focused in eliminating an audience be held in a room or a gallery space? Perhaps a work that pointed out and challenged the expectations and restrictions of the space could be successful if it consisted of willing participants. I think it is possible for successful social art and works such as the Happenings to subvert the space of a room, turning the space itself into a knowledgable participant.

Lucy Lippard, pages 408-421, Time Capsule, from Art and Social Change, A Critical Reader.

The distinction between community-based art and activist art was the first thing that struck me in Lippard's article. "Whereas community-based art is grounded in communication and exchange, activist art is based on creative dissent and confrontation" (409). Do they overlap? Does activist art not require communication or exchange and does community-based art not often require confrontation? It is interesting, too, her stance on art and artists. "While artists are never the vanguard of political movements, once they are swept into action they can be valuable allies" (409). Are they only ever allies? Furthermore, she describes that "for all the extraordinary images created in studio solitude, communal work has consistently been more effective in the social realm, where rugged egos are a disadvantage" (415). Although I agree that collaboration is often successful in the social sphere, I also believe much individual work has flourished. Not every individual artist has a rugged ego--or am I being naive? "An individual artist," she states "no matter how much of a genius--can rarely present concerted visual opposition as effectively as a group" (415). I suppose I can see how this would be true, being the result of many points of view and many talents. However, it is a bit stunning that she goes on to say that "art alone cannot change the world [...] no matter how many people are out in the streets" (420). Does social art alone change the world? This seems like a rather dissenting view on the art world, which is subject to the economic power reign of a select few. What can change the world?

Jay Rosen, The People Formerly Known as the Audience

Rosen's piece is an interesting perspective on the audience. He speaks about the former audience seeking to become active participants in the media. Whereas Kaprow's piece consisted of artists engaging and eliminating the audience, this speaks about the audience eliminating media conglomeration. However, "Big Media pleasures will not be denied us. You provide them, we’ll consume them and you can have yourselves a nice little business." In social art, the creators seek to eliminate the audience, and in Rosen's article, the audience seeks to alleviate the power of the creator. Of course these are different in that one creator is an artist and another is a media conglomeration, but it is an interesting and insightful perspective to have when considering the persona of the audience. Tom Curley explained that "The users are deciding what the point of their engagement will be — what application, what device, what time, what place." The audience can think for themselves, create for themselves, which is what social art seeks to highlight. However, the audience will not always be willing to become active participants. There will be those content with passivity, but there will be those will also become champions of social art and change through their evolving role. Communication among the audience is as important as communication with the artist. In social art, the audience must openly communicate and create among themselves in order to contemplate the questions being posed by the piece so that they are then willing to contribute to the piece directly. The artwork does not have to engage with the audience through pieces such as the Happenings, but if a situation is created by an artist which then allows the audience to interact and engage with it, they will become active participants in not only that element of social art, but in social art in general, and, in a greater position, society itself.

Week 6 - Oct. 16, 2012

Robert Ransick and Blake Goble, A Manifesto for the Present, Urban Future Manifestos. Edited by Peter Noever, MAK Vienna and Kimberli Meyer, MAK Center Los Angeles, 2010.

A Manifesto For the Present is an excellent compilation of tenets from great thinkers. When combined and ordered together into a manifesto, these precepts become more powerful. This manifesto functions like a group of people. Each numbered statement brings its own ideas and strengths with it, and when collected and organized into a group, it can create a new, meaningful change. I appreciated this manifesto especially because of the presence of the environment in its statements. William Cronon's statement in number 2, that "The flight from history...represents the false hope of an escape from responsibility, the illusion that we can somehow wipe clean the slate of our past and return to the tabula rasa that supposedly existed before we began to leave our marks on the world" (Ransick 1), is of particular interest to me. Recently I have been thinking about how to change our future in relation to our past. How can we start completely anew if we remain emotionally and psychologically entangled in the past? But can we forget the past? We need to remember our past every day of our future, otherwise we may just make the same mistakes again. At the same time, "nostalgia for our past and utopian dreams for our future prevent us from looking at our present" (1), and so the future relies not on our work towards it, but on our work in the present. This manifesto was able to put many large ideas into relational perspective and to help me incorporate them into a condensed but enlightening view.

Erving Goffman, pages 3-27, The Individual as a Unit from Relations in Public.

In reading Erving Goffman's paper, I found it difficult to relate to a great deal of the descriptions of vehicular units. There was a certain familiarity with the situations described, but I found much of it to be vague and (or too specific) and a bit of a stretch. However, his logic became clearer in his talk of participation units. I found his deconstruction of singles and withs to be fascinating. Much of what he discusses are aspects of social interaction I had never before considered. There is so much more performance and following of unspoken rules than I had thought of before, but all of his descriptions of actions are familiar. It is interesting to think about how performed our simple, daily interactions are, and how versed in them everyone is. What happens when these rules of interaction are broken? How can these rules be used in social art to enact change? I would like to see a piece that addresses these simple, unconscious interactions with strangers. Singles and withs are interesting categories. Having these definitions, I can now examine how I myself act as a single and as a member of a with. Just reading this article is effecting change in myself and how I will perform social interactions. I would like to use Goffman's definitions and theories next time I find myself in a single or a with.

Week 7 - Oct. 23, 2012

Nicolas Bourriaud, pages 161-171,Relational Aesthetics from Participation.

The first thing that struck me was the explanation that the spread of urbanization brought about greater social exchange and greater individual mobility. Urbanization, of course, has many pitfalls, but it is interesting that it facilitated the start of contemporary art and freer social exchange. This has never occurred to me. It does seem ironic, though, that a lot of contemporary and relational art seeks to point out, engage, and change things in society that were likely only brought about by the period of urbanization, the industrial age, and the times before it. With every significant change of the times, there is a change in art in response to it. What does art become if society changes in response to relational and social art?
"Relational art is neither a 'revival' of some movement nor the return of a style. It is born of the observation of the present and of a reflection on the destiny of artistic activity" (Bourriaud 165). Bourriaud goes on to say that it is also, retrospectively, the obvious influence to every aesthetic practice and modernist theme of note. I'm not sure that I know enough to argue or agree, but it inspires me to learn. "[...] art no longer tries to represent utopias; it is trying to construct concrete spaces [...]" (167).
"For art does not transcend our day to day preoccupations; it brings us face to face with reality through the singularity of a relationship with the world, through a fiction" (168). This is my favorite quotation from the reading. Using fiction to tell a truth is a common theme in the mediums I have been studying, particularly film. And it is interesting, too, that a singular relationship with the entire world allows for reality. And why can't art transcend our day to day preoccupations? Can art, if not transcend them, reduce them to the more basic necessities rather than the stresses of the modern world? This is something I am very interested in exploring further.

Ben Davis: What Occupy Wall Street Can Learn From the Situationists (A Cautionary Tale)

Something that stood out in this article was the explanation that once an artist in the Situationists became successful, they would have been alienated. This rule, of rooting out those allegedly caught up in the spectacle--whatever that may be--seems impossible. Is it different if the entire group or movement is successful? Davis consideres the Situationist movement unsuccessful, so does that mean that they actually were successful? This writer also considers the Occupy Wall Street movement successful, at least more so than the Situationists. But this definition is the Stituationists' and not his. It seems that one of the downfalls of the Situationists was that it was controlled by a small group of like-minded people, whereas Occupy Wall Street attempts to include 99 percent of America. There are no leaders. If "a truly radical art had to go hand-in-hand with a radical transformation of society," Occupy Wall Street is certainly at attempt at this. But when does a radical change occur, exactly? How long will Occupy sustain itself? Will it come under the leadership of a smaller group of people or will it remain in the hands of the majority of the people? If the public rejected the small Situationist movement, can the public of the Occupy Movement succeed in rejecting the 1 percent? If a movement itself is successful without any one person involved being singled out, does it spur the essential social change?

Week 8 - Oct. 30, 2012

Elizabeth Ellsworth, pages 15-36, The Materiality of Pedagogy from Places of Learning

I can say with certainty that I learned more from Harrel Fletcher's brief excerpt about learning than from this entire piece. A great deal of it went completely over my head. This piece is clearly for readers with a greater background in pedagogy, so it was a bit dense for me. I found the majority of it interesting, particularly the quotation "We must be able to access something external to our own projections and identifications; otherwise, our entire reality would consist of our own dreams or individual delusion" (30). This idea puts very elegantly a theme present in many writings about art and learning. It begs the question of how, precisely, one can access these external elements. The answers may be buried in this piece, but I can already guess some of the methods as a result of reading Fletcher's article and the others from Latent Learning Curriculums. This piece about pedagogy was a bit too convoluted for me to learn very much.
After the class discussion and reading more from Ellsworth, this first reading has become a bit clearer. Her quotation above fits with her use of the pedagogical hinge. We must be able (and open) to move away from our individual dreams and delusions so that we are able to swing back with more perspective.

Christopher Lee Kennedy, Latent Learning Curriculums, Institute for Applied Aesthetics

I found Harrell Fletcher's 2007 piece "Some Thoughts on Art and Education" to be very moving. Something he succeeds very well at in his piece is to take two such broad ideas as art and education, condense them into easier examples to think about, and explain quite simply his personal views and experiences. His story about his Experiential Education class is insightful and communicates more to the reader than some longer, more involved, more impersonal pieces of writing. Fletcher's piece does not preach, but it succeeds in communicating the central theme of keeping art and education open and public and accessible to more and more people. Many of the ideas raised in this article are things I would never have connected to art and education previously. I might have been interested in them but would have had less to connect to, whereas now I can fully appreciate his views and am motivated to implement them in my own educational and artistic endeavors. I was also struck by his description of collective learning environments in schools and by his description of artist in relation to other, more restrictive job titles. Why wouldn't everyone want to be an artist? Can a dentist be an artist who specializes in dentistry but is not restricted by the rigid constraints of a singular professional title. "Let me define art as anything that anyone calls art. That can be maker or viewer. By calling something art it doesn't make it art forever just during the time that it is beng appreciated as art" (26). Anything that makes a difference or inspires or helps or provokes in any field can and should be appreciated as art at some time. Otherwise, it seems, what is the point?

Week 9 - Nov. 6, 2012

Elizabeth Ellsworth, pages 37-56, Pedagogy’s HInge from Places of Learning.

In this reading, I find that Ellsworth makes many accessible points and metaphors to emphasize that pedagogy must "create places in which to think without already knowing what we should think" (54). Her use of the hinge as one such metaphor evokes movement and a potential plane of mutual existence between inside and outside. With each movement, it pivots, moving apart and returning again, different than before as a result of each part's time alone in different parts of the world. Her concrete examples, particularly that of the Holocaust Museum, aid us in transforming ourselves in relation to our outer and inner realities, "those spaces of difference between self and other that we internalize and make necessary to our personal senses of self and identity" (51). The imagery that allows me to understand her text as a whole is that, particularly, of the Holocaust Museum. Although I can understand the other works she mentions in relation to a pedagogical hinge, the Holocaust Museum is a place I have been and learned from, without understanding how. Her description of how the museum was designed to evoke physical movement and cognitive engagement caused a shift in my perception of past learning and present consideration. I now dwell on my interactions with the museum and how they relate to my experience of learning. How much was my education aided by the design of the museum itself? Likely a great deal, especially as a young child, who, although she cannot intellectually process the architectural and pedagogical design of the building, is more open to physical habitation of a space, moving and learning more experientially than people of other ages might.


Week 1 - Dérive

I go the only direction where I know I would encounter something I hadn't before. These past years, I have become very familiar with the main and side streets of Bennington, frequently driving friends places or going on aimless drives myself, seeking subjects for photography assignments. Sort of a vehicular derive. Now I want to see if I can find something new while I walk, so I go straight at the intersection of Benmont and Main and quickly enter a residential area. It's still early, so I encounter few people besides morning power-walkers and employees arriving at work. There are a surprising number of health care offices: dental, family practice, oral and facial surgery, and a large health complex I've never seen before. I reach an intersection that I recognize, and knowing that it is a long, forested road unfit for walking, I turn back. I stay on the warm, early-morning sun-soaked side of the street. The cold air is on my face and in my throat, making me cough. A man walks into the large health services building smoking a cigarette. I don't pass anyone else on the street until I get to the Old First Church of Bennington, where the groundskeeper gathers leaves. The Old First Church is without a doubt my favorite place in Bennington. It's familiar, but not at this time of day, so I take a walk around the church before finishing my derive. I realize that I had encountered the church first on what I didn't know was a derive at the time. I've gone on many dervies, unknowingly, but what I have felt and learned while doing so consciously, is entirely new. I am more aware of my decisions and instincts about where to go to find something new. Maybe now I need to take a derive in the places of Bennington I think I already know.

Week 2 - Conversation with a Stranger

Tom came in to the Bennington Book Store downtown and asked for an unillustrated edition of Machiavelli's The Prince. They didn't have one, so he hunkered down in the History section. I watched him for a while and then approached him, asking what his favorite books was because I was looking for recommendations. I could tell that he had aspergers syndrome, but he was incredibly eager to talk with me. He rapidly began describing his favorite books and how he is a staunch feminist but that the book over there on that shelf wasn't very good. He told me he is a freshman at Southern Vermont College and is from Connecticut and asked my why I chose Bennington rather than SVC. I told him what I liked about Bennington and what I study. He perked up at the mention of film studies, asking if I was a cinephile. His favorite movie is the Sunset Limited, even though it is very depressing, and he loves the book, too. I talked about David Lynch and suggested some movies. He kept apologizing for boring me but I enjoyed talking to him. When I first approached him I thought he might be a resident of the town, but talking to another student from another college in Bennington was great and I hope to run into Tom again soon. I had originally gone into the bookstore for a birthday card and thought I might talk to the owner of the store, so meeting Tom was a pleasant surprise, which made my end of the conversation much more unexpected and unhindered by preconception.

Week 3 - Collaboration #1

Hannah and I had some troubles. We began in the old book store in town but the only person there was a Bennington student. We moved on to the library, where the quiet intimidated us more than we expected. We then went to Bennington Potters with the intent of engaging someone while browsing. It took us a long time to begin talking to anyone. We had no idea how to start a conversation here. Should we ask them a random question right away? Talk about the pottery? Hannah started to talk about the damaged and discounted pottery with an older woman. I jumped in and we discussed the merits of the damaged plates. Hannah asked if this was the first time she'd been here, which is was not, and if she lived here, which she did not. We talked about where she was actually from, Connecticut, and she inquired about where we were from. She said we looked like college students, so we asked if she could guess what we are studying if she could tell we were college students. She figured that if we went to Bennington we must study some kind of art. This was true, unfortunately, because the cliche is often right. I told her I study film and she asked, quite surprised, why I didn't go to NYU. We talked more about the college and why she is here. She spends the winters in Vermont and the summer at home because of the proximity to the beach. She went to college in Philadelphia and she was adamant about the unsafe area of Philadelphia. We agreed that Bennington is much safer, but, she said, "this isn't the real world." She told us we had a lot to experience in the real world. The entire time the woman had been a little skeptical, it seemed to me, about why we were talking to her and she continually took a step away, poised to leave, until we engaged her further. The conversation ended and we regretted not getting her name. We wondered if having a question or plan of action before approaching someone would have been better, and why was it that we felt to awkward under the pressure of having to engage someone with a specific goal in mind.

Raising $20 - Postcard Delivery Service

I was inspired in part by Ted Purves' thoughts on gift-giving, and I wanted to facilitate gift-giving in order to raise the twenty dollars. Obviously, money had to be exchanged at some point in the process, but I figured that if a person gave me a dollar, I would facilitate a gift for them. For one dollar, I would write something on a postcard and mail it or put it in someone's Bennington mailbox anonymously or in the buyer's name. The buyer would not know what I wrote to their recipient. I liked the idea of facilitating an anonymous or random gift between people, and so did my friends. I raised the money and have quite a few postcards to send out!

Artist Presentation: Suzanne Lacy


Suzanne Lacy has been working as a collaborative artist since the 1970s. She is also a writer and video artist, working mainly on large-scale installations and performances that dwell on urban themes and spur community development. Lacy's work involves media coverage and the continual involvement of public participants. In 1991, she, photographer Chris Johnson, and Annice Jacoby founded TEAM (Teens + Educators + Artists + Media Makers), which directly engages young people. Their mission is to 'produce socially oriented public performance and multimedia installation art that develops inner-city youth participation in public policy, has a direct and positive impact on mass media images of urban young people, and promotes theory and practice demonstrating how art affects social change (Lacy).

Notable Works

Three Weeks In May, 1977

This three-week performance uncovered the number of reported rapes in the city of Los Angeles. Confronting the silence from society about sexual violence, the large-scale performance collaborated with artists, writers, and advocates and included speeches by politicians, interviews with activists, media coverage, self-defense demonstrations, and artworks. The public was engaged with these activities and through extensive media coverage, bringing these issues to light for a wide audience. "The project was revolutionary for employing social media platforms, which enabled residents from all corners of the city to participate" ("Suzanne Lacy").

Video documentation

In Mourning and In Rage, 1977

In the wake of the Hillside Strangler murders, Lacy sought to highlight a feminist analysis of violence. The Woman’s Building, the Rape Hotline Alliance, and City Council joined in participation "with the feminist community and family of the victims in creating a public ritual of rage as well as grief" (Keegan). A group of robed women rode a hearse to City Hall and spoke about violence against women. The event was covered extensively by the news and City Hall was prompted to pledge the initiation of self-defense classes.

The Crystal Quilt, 1987

The Crystal Quilt was a three-year project focused on community organization, talks, and exhibitions, including a leadership seminar for older women. The project sought to explore the media's portrayal of aging and to examine the role of older people in the public. The Crystal Quilt culminated in a performance on Mother's Day that brought together 430 women, all over the age of 60, in a piece broadcast live on public television. For an hour, the women talked with each other about aging while seated in a formation of a quilt pattern. 3,000 people attended the performance, which featured a soundtrack of women talking about aging, while the performers themselves discussed the same topics. In intervals, the women would reposition their hands, shifting the design of the quilt. At the end, the audience, with colorful scarves, entered the quilt space to create a unique and colorful new quilt.

The Roof Is On Fire, 1993-4

The first large-scale performance of the group TEAM, The Roof Is On Fire involved 220 students from public high schools in Oakland, California engaging in conversation. While sitting in parked cars on a rooftop garage, the students freely discussed topics as cameras filmed them and an audience was able to walk from car to car and listen in. The imagery evoked that of teens being interrogated by police in their cars on the nightly news. The footage was aired as an hour-long documentary on the local Bay Area news and received coverage by national and local news organizations. The work also included a media literacy program and youth leadership training involving local teachers and students in Oakland.

Creative Time Summit

Revolutions in Public Practice

Suzanne Lacy gave a talk at the Creative Time Summit on October 4, 2009 entitled Revolutions in Public Practice.


Keegan, Brenda. "Suzanne Lacy." Suzanne Lacy Artist Resource Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. <>.

-Maintained by Brenda Keegan with funding from Creative Capitol, this website details Suzanne Lacy's work, specifically designed for research purposes.

Lacy, Suzanne, and Terri Cohn. "Nature, Culture, Public Space." Purdue University Women Artists of the American West. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. ::

-In association with Purdue University, Suzanne Lacy and Terri Cohn describe Lacy's work in an artist statement and biography.

"Suzanne Lacy." Creative Time. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. <>.

-Creative Time's summary of Lacy's influential works, including a video of her speech at a 2009 summit.

Current Influential Works

Harrell Fletcher

William Cronon

Danny Lyon

Jill Magid

Mary Ellen Mark

Maya Deren

Ruth Orkin

Suzanne Lacy