[the following post is part of the Bilateral Kellerberrin project. For more on my Cunderdin workshops, see this link.]
cunderdin is 45 km from kellerberrin. As part of my residency at kellerberrin i am running some school workshops. Since i often do these kind of workshops (as a job) i thought it would be interesting to approach them as an experiment “in themselves” ie – something without a known outcome. That way the workshop process becomes as much a part of my ongoing project as any other aspect of the residency.
Felena found what could be the ideal class for such an experiment – the multimedia and information-communication technology (MM ICT) class at cunderdin high. The students are about 13-14 years old, there are about ten of them. Their teachers, Iain and Trevor, have a focus on film/video and computers, respectively. I think its an interesting class to be working with (as opposed to an “art” class) because there is already, i reckon, an openness to the idea of utilising whatever materials and processes happen to be in front of you, and are appropriate, for a given project.
Of course, the kind of art that i do was kinda unfamiliar to them. I ran them through a very rough powerpoint presentation of some of my projects, trying to draw the focus onto a careful consideration of the banal and everyday as an approach to art making. The “Cornflakes” performance and the orange juice installation were kind of confusing to them, I think. But I pressed on. The lecture theatre piece with cushions may have made an impact, I'm not sure. It's hard to tell when you are not only introducing them to your work, but also the the WHOLE IDEA of this kind of work. One bright spark kept asking “what's the point?” (something that Deakin students also asked a few weeks ago when i talked to them) and indeed that is perhaps the crucial question.
Trevor pointed out afterwards that it was potentially empowering for them to realise that they can make something out of what is in front of them – it is an honouring of the minor things that make up your life. I guess that's some kind of point. But anyway, a lack of point didnt seem to deter them from sitting with me, fairly undistracted, for an hour, which is an achievement with any kids of that age, i reckon, especially when i am not trying to seduce them with razzamatazz.
Before they ran off to little lunch I tried to squeeze out of them some of their interests, with a view to “doing something” together for the 4 weeks when they get back from their fortnight of holidays.
“What would you like to do with that period of time?”
Responses included :
-make something…a car? Drive it off a cliff – a destruction piece. (are there any cliffs around here?)
-make our own drugs (probably a bit out of our league in the time frame)
-create our own music, create our own games.
-design a hockey stick (i was impressed with this one, this project would involve carpentry, graphic design, engineering drawings, testing etc)
-make a cartoon character.
-a car racing or horse racing game
-something involving guitars.
It was good to gauge what they were into, and the idea of games and music popped up a bit, so maybe we can head off in that direction. I am aware that I need to structure, quite cleverly, the “freedom” which i intend to give them. It is probably most unproductive to let them loose and do “whatever they want” because (like improvised performance) they will most likely fall back on that which is familiar, behaviour wise, and i want to do the opposite. Probably I will begin each week with exposure to some particular items of art or media (either by me or by various luminaries i rustle up) and then get them to participate in a collaboration/play activity a la allan kaprow, something self-contained, so there is a “result” within the day. If these are adequately documented, it would be enough of an achievement to present the findings of four activities as a “workshop outcome”.