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Navigating Histories

Learning Contexts

Visual Arts: Photography, Printmaking, Design, Painting; Drama; Music; Media Studies

Artists

A painting workshop performance

 

Dr Victoria Edwards and Ina Johann (Collaborative Projects of Edwards and Johann )

School

Selwyn College

Duration of Project

5 weeks

Students involved

Over 100 students, years 9 - 13

Background

At Selwyn College a large number of students with an interest in visual and performing arts worked with the two artists, Dr Victoria Edwards and Ina Johann. The two artists have built a collaborative practice together and encouraged the students to explore a wide range of art forms. More traditional practices such as printmaking and photography were used in conjunction with performance and moving image, exposing students to a very contemporary way of working. Selwyn College's online gallery displays some of the final artworks.

The project encapsulated a student-centred collaborative and integrated way of working. Students through years 9 to 13 were involved in creating authentic outcomes, working across the arts disciplines where appropriate.

Hayley's performance art

 

A wide range of students were involved in the project including sixty senior photography, design and painting students, ten students from the special education department, year 13 drama students as well as year 11 art and photography students. In addition, the multi-level 'Art-X' extension art group worked continuously alongside the artists over the five-week period towards an exhibition.

The art practice of Edwards and Johann allowed the students an opportunity to explore a diverse use of materials and spontaneous ways to generate ideas. For the majority of the students this was a new way of feeding into the research process underpinning art-making, expanding and evolving concepts in more than one art field or arts discipline.

The theme "Navigating Histories" was selected to relate to the practice of Edwards and Johann, to utilise the local area (Ngati Whatua o Orakei site), and to engage with The New Zealand Curriculum.

Process

Weeks 1 - 2 The 'residency' began with a school visit by the Art-X group to MIC Toi Rerehiko (Media and Interdisciplinary Arts Centre). Students were given an introduction to the artists and discussed the processes involved in the installation of an exhibition.

A planning meeting was held with Art department staff. The artists then established a small shared studio space on site. An open lecture (PowerPoint presentation) on the artists' collaborative practice was a way to introduce themselves to staff and students. The focus for the week then turned to preparing and presenting workshops. This suite of workshops was specifically designed for the students to facilitate the development of ideas further in a variety of media.

The basic format for these workshops

Building meaning using art language

 

Each participant selected a piece of paper on which a word referencing generalised art making terminology was written, i.e. doing/undoing, tension, balance, surface, overlapping surfaces, concoction etc. Participants were divided into groups by word selection and were given approximately 30-45 minutes to activate some ideas in response to the theme. Urgency, action and spontaneity were of the essence at this stage.

Students were encouraged to do, rather than to sit and plan, and to work collectively. A show-and-tell followed the intense period of making as students shared their thoughts and feelings about the processes in which their group engaged. Sometimes this sharing was conceptual in nature and sometimes it shared ideas about processes used and the actual engagement. Other presentations were a combination of both. During the workshop, one student per group was given the role of note taker utilising various forms such as video recording, digital still documentation or drawing. It was suggested that the role could rotate so that each student experienced the activity from a record-taking perspective.

Students responded positively to the experience, energy was high and their ideas flowed freely. They worked together in producing something they could present and share with the larger group. Imagery developed in these intense workshops could potentially be further developed in any of the other modules, especially photography. The activities varied from making sculptural objects, sound and performative activities, to image-making processes. Students then prepared and shared a PowerPoint presentation made from the previous day's activity.

Weeks 3 - 4 During this phase, the artists prepared ideas, materials and costumes for workshops and performances. In addition, presentations by the artists were made at UNITEC to the Special Education unit of staff and students. The artists visited other practitioners and created solar plates off-site which they used for printmaking demonstrations with a number of classes at the school.

Joining classes in action through art and drama was an important part of establishing a presence at the school and ascertaining the needs for future workshops. The artists spent time talking with students about their work and video recorded an interview with two year 13 students who reflected on their experience of collaborative practice.

We spent a most engaging sharing session with students from the Special Education unit. They were very excited to be able to talk to us about their work and following the session we made a plan to do a workshop with them in the following week.

(Edwards and Johann)

The artists and Head of Art collectively agreed that the artists would: feed into the breadth of students experience; maintain a special focus on the school's Art-X group; and be accessible to students during school hours with an open door policy for the studio. A public performance in the school grounds took place with three students nominated to record it with video and digital still cameras.

The public performance was a very interesting experience for all of us. For the three participating students it was an invigorating and inspiring experience. They identified further potential in performance as a result of their participation in our project and suggested we do another performance the following week to which we agreed...Alix was delighted that students could gain first-hand experience of performance-based work whilst in a supportive learning environment.

(Edwards and Johann)

The week finished with a whole day workshop with the Art-X group who were very energised by this focus on their work. They benefitted from the weekend rest prior to the all day Monday workshop as this kind of intensity is particularly tiring when students are not used to full days spent on their art making.

Identity installations using old microscope boxes - a student work

 

Week 5 An exhibition was planned for the end of the week. Students completed work for this exhibition and artists met a number of the Art-X students on an individual basis to support and guide their work production. The artists worked across a number of departments including media studies, drama, visual arts and music.

A second performance involved the three original students and a second tier of student volunteers who were keen to join the activity. Their task was to record the event in whatever way they felt was appropriate which included digital stills and drawings.

The meeting was lively and energised, as the students shared with the art advisor the impact the residency has had on their perception and prior experience of art.

(Edwards and Johann)

In addition the artists worked with year 10 design students on a collage/idea development for a T-shirt design, based on "New Zealand - a Wonderland". They discussed their visual diaries and portrait photographs relating to identity with drama students as drama students were in the process of developing an individual monologue. Students and artists felt that there were similarities between processes in the two disciplines.

A Special Education workshop session was a great success. Students enjoyed collage drawing using oil sticks and wet paper dying techniques. Work from five of the students in this group was included in the final exhibition and some of the students proudly attended the exhibition opening.

The remainder of the week focussed on the completion of work and the installation of the student work in various media for the virtual exhibition.

Student learning

Fergus' music performance inspired by his three art works

 

Students built networks across year levels, which created a strong sense of community and willingness to help each other in their learning.

The professionals gave students experience of what learning pathways through tertiary studies in the arts could be like. They received some quality mentoring and creative input into their art making.

Working on the project, students developed a sense of pride in their creative capacity and realised the innate value of their abilities and skills. The collaborative and contemporary practices students developed freed up their expectations of 'what is art?' and how art is made or viewed. Students also learned to value moving image as an art form.

This collaborative project has helped me with generation of my ideas, lots of ideas and I have felt supported in feeling free to put them forward.

(Year 13 Art-X student)

Higher level thinking skills were applied in the process of students developing their ideas and problem-solving around the processes they would need to employ.

Curriculum links

All four strands of Visual Arts were integrated: Understanding the Arts in Context, by studying the artists ways of working and how these are located within contemporary art practice; Developing Ideas, through the generation and development of their own body of work; Developing Practical Knowledge, learning about new art forms such as moving image and how work can be created using a collaborative approach; Communicating and Interpreting, not only about the artworks but also as an intrinsic part of the collaborative approach to making art works.

Learning in Drama, Music - Sound Arts, and Media Studies were encompassed to varying degrees in this cross discipline project, depending on the interests and strengths of individual students.

Related learning

Students gained increased confidence from this project, which transfers to other areas of their lives and assists them to be actively involved learners.

The connections from students' current courses to tertiary studies were emphasised providing a clearer idea of learning pathways .

Students were encouraged to demonstrate innovation , inquiry, and curiosity in the pursuit of excellence.

The key competencies , in particular thinking critically and creatively to problem-solve were also integrated throughout the project.

Impact on school community

We are bringing all the experiences and learning (from Artists in Schools) to the work we are producing for the exhibition where our families and friends will come and celebrate with us at the school.

(Student)

A student's performance in the field at school was recorded by fellow students and watched by staff and students. The East and Bays Courier reporter and photographer spent an eventful afternoon talking to a number of the students and staff as well as the artists about the benefits of having not only one artist working with them at their school, but two, and in a collaboration. This visit was followed with an article in the local newspaper.

The project resulted in an abundance of eye-catching art works for placement around the school. The Art department subsequently was more 'visible' and more highly valued and praised by staff, students, media and community.

Comments

Collaborative work by Dr Victoria Edwards and Ina Johann (artists)

 

The residency provided an opportunity for the artists to conduct two public performances with student collaboration and involvement. Additional research was undertaken through engagement with the school environment. At a later stage, a small amount of personal/collaborative work for production was initiated.

Engagement with school staff and facilities opened up some new possibilities which the artists may follow up in the future. The use of equipment (photographic studio and printmaking facilities) at the College was advantageous, allowing the artists to continue to create their own work.

Our cross-cultural collaboration enjoyed the rich diversity of cultural mix at Selwyn.

(Edwards and Johann)

The project allowed the teacher to build relationships with a wider group of arts students in other teachers' classes. It stimulated ideas about ways in which to involve students in 'making and doing' rather than 'thinking and planning' outcomes. A framework was also discovered in which collaboration can work for the students in this area. Plans to 'showcase' more of the students' art have become important due to the motivation they had to exhibit their work.

The project provided inspiration to start making my own art again.

(Alix Coleman - teacher)

Where to next

The artists collaborative approach, combined with their diverse, contemporary practice - not being pinned down to one discipline - had filtered through to the students. This had been a major strength and focus of the project. The fact that the artists also had an extensive education and teaching background was instrumental in the project being the success it was. The creation of the extension art group as part of the project can continue to be developed and filter through to other year groups.

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