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9: Contemporary Art as Public Pedagogy Curricula – Performance Art Lesson Execution

May 1, 2011

The following clips were shown to the students on the Promethean Board.  The James Franco clip was shown during the warm up, and the Olivier de Sagazan was shown during the last few minutes of class.

In later classes as part of the warm ups, I showed the students the following clips:

Cirque du Soleil – a sort of circus mixed with performance art

Improv Everywhere – a performance art with many people

Student list of kinds of performances during introduction of the lesson

Next, the students were divided into groups that I selected.  I devised a way for each group to select an artwork to make into a performance piece.  Four days instead of the original three were given to the students to develop their ideas, bring in props, and practice their performance.  We had a surprise assembly from Justice Sonia Sotomayor that threw the schedule off a little bit.  Good surprise, but lengthened the lesson.

We talked about finding the meaning, mood, message, or idea of the artwork as a means of making it into a performance.  I encouraged bringing in props, changing the lights, using sounds and smells, using the Promethean Board, and finding objects/materials from around the room.

Here students are preparing a performance piece for a Jackson Pollock artwork

The students performing the Jackson Pollock work decided to take it a different direction.  They brought in silly string and sprayed one boy who was sprinning as they sprayed him.  It’s difficult to see, but he has silly sting on his shirt and in his hair.

Students in another class with the same Jackson Pollock artwork tried something else.  One boy walked around the room throwing torn up paper all around the room from his pockets.  Another boy raised and dimmed the existing spotlights in the room making a flashing effect, and the third boy made a multicolored mess on the Promethean Board.

Students discussing a Cezanne-based performance piece

The same students with their fruit, basket, and clothe preparing for the performance

Student Cezanne Still Life performance.  The students sat around a small table sitting very still and slowly ate the fruit.  There were no words, and they decided to display the work behind them on the Promthean Board.

Students performing Faith Ringgold’s Dancing at the Louvre in the hallway of the school.  It’s hard to see, but there’s a girl with dreadlocks dancing in front of the picture frames just like in the artwork below.

Two girls were the hole in the door for Magritte’s The Unexpected Answer.


I was surprised at all levels how well this lesson went.  The students were extremely responsive to performance art.  The clips and photo examples that were shown got them interested.  And I selected groups of people that I knew worked well together, so they were on board with performance art and on board with their groups.

We discussed that performance art should use the artist’s body, it should have a specific audience (in this case the classmates), it should be a specific amount of time, and it should have an intentional setting.  The students were allowed to use the classroom, hallways, or exterior of the building.  One group selected Monet’s Banks of the Seine, and tomorrow will take the class to a pond at the park that is next to my school for their performance.  Others used the hallway, and one group today performed outside the classroom in the grass.  The performances lasted anywhere from thirty seconds to four or five minutes.

For the most part, the students were respectful as the others were performing.  I had one questionable class that I will move seats before the performance if I have similar problem classes in the future.

The students brought in props, fruit, silly string, baskets, tissue paper flowers, hats, and more.  This surprised me because so often when homework is assigned the students do not do it.

I would absolutely do this lesson again.  The students were engaged and enthralled.  All but a very few participated with little prompting.  This may have been a good change from the usual assignments and lessons.

video clips


9 Contemporary Art as Public Pedagogy Curricula

April 10, 2011


Unit Title: Performance Art – Making a Classic Modern

Enduring Idea: Communication through Performance Art

Key Concepts about the Enduring Idea:

Using objects, actions, words, sounds, smells to communicate an idea.  List is not exclusive and can be used in combinations.

Key Concepts about Contemporary Art as Public Pedagogy:

1. Performance Art involves one (or more) artist’s body.

2. Art is performed over a specific amount of time.

3. Art is performed for an audience.

4. Art is performed in intentional setting(s).

Essential Questions:

1. What do I want the students to know about Performance Art?

2. What do I want the students to learn about the classic artworks?

3. What do I want the students to understand about this new means of communication?

4. How do I ensure that they have learned it?


The students will become familiar with classical artworks while discovering a new form of art and means of communication.

Unit Objectives:

1. Students will acquire key concepts of what performance art is.

2. Students will select and become familiar with a classic artwork.

3. As a group, students will create, develop, and execute a performance piece based on the selected work.

4. Students will reflect on their performance and other performances through verbal and written critique.


Perceiving and Responding: Aesthetic Education: Students will demonstrate the ability to perceive, interpret, and respond to ideas, experiences, and the environment through visual art.

Creative Expression and Production: Students will demonstrate the ability to organize knowledge and ideas for expression in the production of art.

End of Unit Assessment:


Students will have created/executed a performance art piece in a group based on a classical artwork.

Students will orally reflect on others’ performances as a class and reflect on their own project through written questioning.


A rubric will be discussed and hung on the back wall of my room.


1. How will you help students connect the enduring idea/theme to the students’ lives? 

Television, movies, and concerts will be discussed as a sense of performance art. 

2. How will you build the students’ knowledge base about enduring idea/them as it relates to life?

The ideas of circus, sports, air shows, mimes, gymnasts, live theater, and poetry slams as performance art will be discussed on top of television, movies, and concerts.

3. How will you build the students’ knowledge base about the enduring idea/theme as it occurs in art (art criticism, art history, aesthetics)? 

I will show the students examples of performance art.  (Dan Dunn, James Franco on Display)

4. How will you engage students with exploring, questioning, and problematizing the enduring idea/theme through artmaking?

I will pose the following questions:

a) How will you make sure that your artwork is unique and memorable?

b) How will you ensure that you are successfully portraying the classic artwork?

c) How will you communicate what the artwork is saying/showing?

LESSON 1: Selecting an artwork

What will students DO?  In a group, the students will agree on an artwork to creat into a performance piece.  They will search for the meaning of the piece.

What will students LEARN from this? They will learn that artwork has value and there are multiple ways of showing that value.

LESSON 2: Creating the Performance Piece

What will students DO? The students will collaborate to create a performance that shows the meaning of their selected work.

What will students LEARN from this? Anything from an artwork to another idea can be transmitted through art-based action.

LESSON 3: Performing the piece

What will students DO? The groups will display their performance piece for the class in the selected location.

What will students LEARN from this? The students will learn what a performance piece entails from start to finish.  They will learn what it is like to perform in the piece.  They will learn what it is like to observe a performance piece.


What is the classic artwork trying to say?  What is it showing?  How can that be shown through using your body over time?  With the addition of props?  Think about location.

How will these things express the idea behind the classic artwork?


The performance piece must be done inside the school.  No school or personal property can be irreversibly damaged or altered.  The piece must fit within a 45 minute time limit.


Use of the Promethean Board (I will help them)


 Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse, O’Keeffe, Rivera, Magritte, Monet, Cassatt, Seurat, Khalo, Munch


How can artwork show the history and what is important in different cultures?  How is this different than telling us in a history book?


Stack of classic artworks (Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse, O’Keeffe, Rivera, Magritte, Monet, Cassatt, Seurat)

The students will bring in props, objects, and costumes as homework.  I will provide them with art supplies and still life props that are already present.  (papers, glue, scissors, yarns/strings, wire, tools, tape, boards, clay)

Promethean Board to display internet clips/slides clip “James Franco on Display”


UNIT TITLE: Making a Classic Modern

ENDURING IDEA/THEME: Communication through Performance Art


LESSON TITLE: Selecting a Classic Artwork

GRADE OR CLASS: Foundations of Art

TIME ALLOTMENT: 45 minutes


1. “James Franco on Display” clip shown

2. Performance art discussion with examples discussed

3. Explanation of assignment

4. My demonstration of a performance piece based on Picasso’s Harlequin

5. Students are assigned groups

6. Groups select an artwork

7. Groups search for meaning within the work

8. Groups begin discussing what their performance piece will look like


James Franco on display clip, Picasso’s Harlequin, stack of classic artworks

Key Concepts Addressed in this lesson:

1. Performance Art involves one (or more) artist’s body.

2. Art is performed over a specific amount of time.

3. Art is performed for an audience.

4. Art is performed in intentional setting(s).

Essential Questions Addressed in this lesson:

1. I would like students to understand that performance art involves the artist’s body, a time allotment, an audience, and an intentional setting for the piece.

2. I would like the students to search for meaning within their selected artwork.



Drama class, History (depending on the work)


1. Students will understand what performance art is.

2. Students will select, become familiar, and search for meaning in a classic artwork.

3. As a group, students will develop a performance piece based on the selected work.

How will students demonstrate:

  • · Knowledge? As the students work in their groups, they will discuss the four key concepts as they relate to their performance piece.
  • · Skills? Students will begin to prepare who will do what for their performance.  Those with different skills will contribute what they are good and be successful.
  • · Dispositions? Leaders will emerge in the group if jobs are not assigned.  The group will have to find a way to work together to complete the task.


  • · What objects or performances will count as evidence of student learning as stated in your objectives for this lesson?

The students will perform their performance pieces for the class based on a classic artwork.

  • · How will you measure student achievement?

As the students are working, I will take note of who is working and who is not.  During the performance, I will do the same thing.  I will also ask them to write down who did what.

  • · How will you sequence instruction to facilitate learning?

The unit will be broken up into small sections.  First I will discuss, then demonstrate.  They will create their performance piece; then they will perform their piece.


1. Teacher Research and Preparation: 

Search the internet for examples of performance artworks.  Select an artwork, and prepare a performance piece of my own for an example.  Find papers, adhesives, materials that I will use for my example.

2. Teaching Resources:

Classic artworks, internet clips, art supplies, props

3. Student Supplies:

Classic artworks, art supplies, props/materials brought in as a homework assignment

8 Performance Art & Performed Networks of Relations

April 3, 2011

For the following activities, I will be gearing them toward my Foundations of Art classes which are introductory high school art classes of 32 students.

Based on Steve’s story:

A multi-perspective view of the same object over a single day.
For this assignment, I will produce an image or an object (like a wrench) and have the students describe how various people/objects would view the object.  I would ask them how a baby, an adult, the blind, a plumber, an astronaut, a nut, a piece of piping, a cat, a shark, a tree, planet earth, an alien.  And finally, I would have them list four of their own. 
After seeing how this activity progressed, I would potentially have the students find their own object or picture and repeat the process creating their own list of people, creatures, and objects.
After seeing how this activity progressed, I would have the students take a new object and tell the object’s story from several different people, creatures, and objects’ points of view during the duration of a day, a month, a year, a century.

Based on March’s story:

Two (or more) specific people’s view of the same instant in time with explored cultural presuppositions.
For this activity, I will show my students an artwork with at least two people present in the work.  I will have the students create the view of each person in the work with possible stereotypes and preconceived notions about the other person in the work.
For example, I would show them George Bellow’s Cliff Dwellers and have the students describe the woman on the balcony’s point of view, the little boy in the center’s point of view, and the bald man’s point of view.  I would have them describe each of their days, and what events led them to this point in the day.  I would have them describe their thoughts as they see the others.  Finally, I would ask the students how each person feels about the other in regards to gender, age, race, living environment, and situation.
George Bellow’s Cliff Dwellers

Based on Rodney’s story:

Bringing something real and unpleasant to the public’s eye.
I will have the students think about something in their school environment, in their neighborhood, their home, their workplace, or the place where they spend their free time.  I will have them find something that the majority of society would like to keep hidden because maybe it’s not aesthetically pleasing or it’s something that most people don’t like to think about and find some creative way to bring it to the attention of many people in that space.  They could think of some kind of mural, poster, sculpture, or performance piece that will be put into the space to bring this unpleasantry to light.
For my example, I thought of having a “live” screen of what moves through the sewer pipes under the city.  I would display this screen in the town center where all people could see what they’ve contributed to the sewer system.
Images from:

7 Making Visible

March 20, 2011

Relationship to this instance in time by way of:

the Tree, Air, the Rock, the Root, an Ant, Leaves, the Sun, Wind, Water, Time, Humans, Mushrooms, the Red Locust, Cynthia Larson Bennett, Milk Duds, Cherubim, Guy de Maupassant


The tree forces its way into the air’s space, gradually, hoping the air won’t notice.  The more the sun beats down on the tree and water siphons through its roots up into the trunk, the more the air is displaced.


The air must find a new space to occupy…perhaps lungs, which interestingly seems to work because when the lunged-creatures exhale, they’re feeding the tree.  It’s alright though; the tree repays them with fresh oxygen. 


The rock is tired.  Through will and insistence, toil and bruising it’s supported this tree.  What a good friend!  Imagine that companionship.  Or is it vanity?  To stand strong against wind, water, and warmth for its crown the tree is a mighty feat.  While parts of the rock have given way, the base stays strong for the tree’s victory stance.


The root.  The trees lifeline.  This thin fiber reaches far bringing the tree life.  The top of the rock has long since lost all nutrients that the tree would require.   The rock has eroded.  This single root brings the tree’s lifeblood from the rest of the world.  The tree can only watch from a distance, waiting hopefully for something helpful from the root.  The root searches, ever strengthening, successfully bringing back water and soily benefits.


The ant has noticed the root bridge, and frequents it while searching for food.  It doesn’t know that it’s traversed it twice already searching.  Sadly, when the winds off Lake Superior accelerate, the ant finds its untimely end 100 feet below in the rocks.


During the leaves’ short lives, they force their way out of the twigs and branches disrupting the air.  They collect all the energy from the sun that they can.  Meanwhile, they will flail about and have spasm after spasm in response to the wind’s torment.  This wild ride sends some of them hurtling through the air, to the ground, or into the water where they will die, turn brown, and eventually become nutrients for future trees.


The sun could not care less about this specific tree.  The tree is a single insignificant entity living in the upper peninsula of Michigan.  The sun barely cares about earth.  If something were to happen to earth, it would be alright because there are other planets in its solar system.  Maybe it will ditch these planets and go find some others.  Possibly later, right now it’s going to heat the planets some more.


The cold air is rushing in to fill the gap left by the warm air that has risen.  The wind is worming its way through all the nooks of what’s left of rock under the tree, chipping away bits of it with each gust.  It’s been successful with all the land under the root.  Perhaps a few more attempts will finish the job.


The water and wind have combined forces to successfully erode much of the land under the tree.  They’re doing their best and with more time, the land and tree will completely fall.  The rain water is snatched from the earth by the root ends, sent across the root bridge, and filtered up into the tree as nourishment.


It’s not bored.  It knows patience by this time.  This tree is nothing.  The sun is nothing.  When this species of tree goes extinct, when earth can no longer support life, when the sun burns out, when there’s no such thing as memory, time will not care.  When the plastic of this computer has decomposed and the energy holding these words on the page no longer exists, time will still exist.  Because the Law of Conservation of Energy is after all a human-made law.  Time does not care about laws made by humans.  Time is an invention of humans.  Time is above that.


The human above all else want to be important.  To time they are not.  To the sun they are not.  To the tree, the rock, and the wind they are not.  But humans are unique, and they do have value or they would not be.  Humans stop at this tree on their hikes and travels and marvel at its beauty and wonder as it clings to life via the root.  They wonder if they too aren’t putting on a façade of grandeur but really are only holding on by a thread.  They wonder what will be their tipping point before they go over the edge.  They wonder how this plays into their importance.  They wonder how to proceed and for how long they can proceed.


The mushrooms that live in the forest near the tree sometimes send their spores to the rock island.  They do not find anything to take hold of.  Only the tree can survive with its outstretched root.

Red Locust

The Red Locust is unaware of this specific tree.  It will never see this tree, but if it did survive the trip and the climate change, it would not know it as ‘tree’.  It would know it as the idea of food.

Cynthia Larson Bennett

Cynthia Larson is a fifteen year old taking an advanced writing class at Forsythe Middle School in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Years from now, she will author a children’s book about a young girl trapped on an island with a single tree who is forced to eat Red Locusts and mushrooms.  The story will be inspired by a location she will see while on a backpacking trip with her husband on their first anniversary through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. 

Milk Dud

The Milk Dud comes to life at a Milk Dud factory.  Its relationship to the tree is a unique one.  On May 14, 1948, two weekend lovers were camping a few miles off the road on Lake Superior’s coast.  Among their camp foods were frankfurters, peanuts, baked beans, dried fruit, and Milk Duds.  Unfortunately after an early dinner under a young tree, the couple noticed a squirrel scurrying by.  With the couple’s peanut supply exhausted, the couple began offering Milk Duds to the squirrel.  The squirrel acquiesced, preferring the nuts.  Tragically, on the third Milk Dud, giving in to all the years of erosion, the ground gave way under the squirrel sending it to its demise and trapping the couple on the island under the tree. 


The Cherubim took the Milk Dud couple to heaven in 1948 after the man and woman attempted unsuccessfully to climb down the sides of the cliff.  The Cherubim went to work again in June of 2006 when a woman named Juanita Richardson was pushed off the cliff by her husband.  The Cherubim wait eagerly for other hikers and campers.

Guy de Maupassant

Guy de Maupassant never made it to Michigan.  But in his later years while penning Notre Cœur he dreamt of a place so elusively quiet as this rock and this tree.  He eventually went mad, and the same Cherubim took him to heaven in 1893.

6 Critical Public Art Pedagogy

February 28, 2011


Based on Urban Omnibus’ “Modern life and deep geologic time are profoundly embedded within one another, with great consequence for both the present and the future” quote, I am thinking of having students bring in an everyday object from their homes that are manmade. i.e. a hammer, a shoe, a cheese grater, a calendar, a bicycle helmet. 

Urban Omnibus Possibilities:

– the students would research from what materials these objects were derived and through remix, the students would repurpose existing images of the raw materials needed to create the household object and decoupage them to the object itself making a sort of collage   …  Instead of decoupage or collage, they could also collect objects that are made of the same material and glue them to the object to show a kind of juxtaposition.  (sticks glued to the hammer handle, paperclips glued to the head of the hammer)

– leaving the old materials behind and using new materials to create a sort of paradox that defeats the purpose of the object (bicycle helmet made of broken glass, hammer made of a glass bottle and a balloon)

– the students should discover the intended/ideal audience/buyer for their object and then using double-coding recreate the object for that buyer and another unspecified artist-determined buyer using juxtaposition (hammer for a carpenter and a chef – made from a foot-long hot dog and an actual hammer head, OR a running shoe for an athlete and a honeybee – shoe in a giant bowl of honey) Possibilities:

– as a group, have the students take a popular story (fable, fairy tale, Disney story, etc.) enter it into, discover the turning point of the story with the new gender reversal, and depict the scene in some way using performance art

– still using the turning point of the story, have the students show subversion of the story by depicting the characters in their new regendered roles in an illustration to be shared/displayed with/for the rest of the class

OR they could do both

– as the students are performing or explaining their displayed work, the other students will look for patterns and take notes on what gender roles/stereotypes are present.  We will then discuss whether the new regendered roles make sense (why or why not?), if they seem absurd (why/why not?), and what the natural differences are between men and women and which are human-made.

5 Politicizing the Personal

February 15, 2011

4 Contemporary Art Concepts

February 9, 2011

Meshes of the Afternoon

I saw what I believe is the use of many metaphors in Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon.  At the beginning of the film, when the young woman and protagonist is seen walking up stairs to a door, a key (a prediction and indication of where one is going) falls down the stairs showing where the woman’s alternate path could take her instead of inside the house into a warped mockery of events that ultimately leads to her demise. 

Another metaphor presented is the flower being extended to the participants of the experiment by a long and ownerless arm.  The flower represents that catalyst causing all following events to unfold which leads to the recurring torment and death of the protagonist.

The knife makes several code-switches.  Beginning as having the purpose to cut bread, the knife switches purposes later to indicate urgency as the woman runs up the stairs, and later dilemma, as she goes into a fit of gravitationless vertigo.  Eventually, the knife changes to a key and each doppelgänger takes one as a ticket to experience the house.  Finally, the knife becomes a tool of death as the woman’s throat is slit.

Both the black mirror-faced phantasm and the man at the end replicate many of the woman’s actions several times creating a sort of palimpsest or shadow of the woman’s movements.

TV as Contemporary Art

My contemporary art of choice, the one that I am exposed to the most often, is the television.  I believe most of the contemporary art concepts from the glossary of A ED 813 can be seen through viewing TV.  I will highlight some of them below.

  • Intertextuality – can be seen through story retelling in cinema or on TV.  An example of this would be Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories of Sherlock Holmes that were recently made into a move under the same name.  Many of the characters, Holmes, his partner James Watson , Inspector Lestrade, Mary Morstan and others are included in the film adaptation; however, new characters are introduced by the screenwriter such as the villain Lord Henry Blackwood.
  • Another example of Intertextuality on TV would be Patricia Highsmith’s book The Talented Mr. Ripley, which was also converted into a movieWhile the primary characters (Tom Ripley, Dickie Greenleaf, and Marge Sherwood) and basic storyline remained, several new characters (Meredith Logue and Peter Smith-Kingsley) were introduced solely for the film and resulted in changes to the story. (wikipedia)


  • Palimpsest – occurs anytime a filmmaking technique (camera angle, zoom effects, camera follow, establishing shot, voice-over, close-up, sound effect) is borrowed from a previously-made film or show.  The original movie-maker invented the technique, and the duplication, reversion, reference, or permutation is a glimpse at the former piece of a film.


  • Code-switching – can be seen in the television’s many uses.  At times, as while watching the news, the TV is an informer.  During a sporting event, movie, or sit-com, it can be an entertainer.  Many times without the viewer knowing, it is a social commentator.  During advertisements, it becomes a seductor.


  • Double-coding – happens any time a newer TV show or film is being watched on an older TV set, or any time an episode of ‘I Love Lucy’ or a silent film or viewed on an iPhone.


  • Subversion – The TV’s different uses becomes the perfect tool for subversion.  Showing what’s happening through documentaries or the news can be cause for action to take place that upsets the status quo.


  • Installation – Rooms in many houses have the furniture arranged around the central TV.  Sofas and chairs are sometimes aimed toward the fireplace or windows, but most of the time… the TV.  This room becomes an installation to stare at the magical picture box.


  • Liminality – The viewer finds themselves removed from the situation (drama, action, problem, mystery, etc.) physically, yet their emotions are being toyed with.  They feel for the characters.  They desire resolution, bringing them between the reality of life and the fictitious story being relayed on screen.