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Spanish Artistic Baccalaureate Curriculum
Grade: 12
Time: 3 months project

Students from high-school addressed the questions of “What’s Globalization?” and “How did image and sound changed our perception of reality?” The central focus of this lesson is to encourage students to work as social researchers and artists using their own experiences and critical thinking skills, to create an animation project based on the data they collect from their social contexts. Students worked collaboratively to discuss the overarching questions. Later, each student developed an individual question addressing different themes such as consumerism, environment, social networks, modern slavery. Students collected information starting from their own personal experiences, as well as, their community members such as friends, family, students and teachers. As a result, students elaborated a script, a storyboard, a research artist-book and an animation project. They used chalk drawing techniques, photography and edition applications. This project has been presented to the school community using the art classroom as an open studio, in which, the Smart board functioned as a movie screen. The animations short films have also specific artists music such as “Society” (Eddie Vedder), “Of Monsters And Men” (Dirty Paws) among other musicians. Also, before showing the animations, each student presented their findings to the audience. (The music has been removed from this page to respect authorship copyright policies)

Students’ Animations (Selection)




Project Research

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Animation Backstage

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How appropriation and juxtaposition, when used responsibly and with clear intent, are powerful tools to employ in an effective critique of popular culture / society?

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Barbara Kruger and L.A. Teenagers Team Up to Ask, “Whose Values?”

Every day as a postmodern citizen in New York City, I have the impression I am packed and labeled at almost every place I go. Jumping into crowded trains, waiting on long lines, getting shop’s tickets, cards, receipts, free newspapers, being exposed to dazzling billboards and more. Even If I am walking across Central Park’s Strawberry fields, I have the feeling that in this global city, there’s too many people and brands trying to stand our from the crowd. It seems to me they are shouting its identity so I can spend money on them. But, as a graduate student I am spending my money on my master’s degree which keeps me safe from one of the most common verbs from the american-english language: shopping. Since I arrived here, I feel I am in a sort of sandwich culture but not sure of who’s gonna eat me, or who are the bread slices that are oppressing me in these social structure of the sandwich I am in. On the other hand, I love New York City because this amazing city is the home of many diverse cultures living all together. You can spend hours seated on a bench dissecting layers of information. So, as an artist and educator, this reality we are immersed in it is not just one single story, but a cumulative set of experiences we translate into our artworks when applying the postmodern principles of image appropriation and juxtaposition.

 

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Sex Pistols. Jim Draper.

When used purposefully, a clear intent of image appropriation and juxtaposition can create a sense of awareness about a social issue because a new space is framed and the significance of investigating and representing experience, creates a reflective practice through which people articulate new meanings (Gude). During the 70s, Jim Draper’s posters for Sex Pistols and Andy Warhol’s designs for The Velvet Underground as well as for The Rolling Stones album covers represent the postmodern principles of design author Olivia Gude talks about. Through these aesthetic choices, the unresolved world is being communicated. For example, music like art with its vibrant colors and collage, enhanced the message these artists were communicating to popular culture. They shaped a new identity as a response to the arising control and social decay they were experiencing.

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Barbara Kruger

Nowadays, in contemporary art, artists who use the aesthetic principles of juxtaposition and appropriation, enhance their message because the image is not just taken from popular culture but it’s reshaped generating a deeper inner engagement with feelings, stories, ideas, forms (Gude) that resonate in us because it represents an aspect of our lives and society. Following Sex Pistol’s aesthetic choices, conceptual artist Barbara Kruger produces powerful artworks addressing social problems such as gender inequality and economy unfair distribution, when she employs founded black and white photography from media and bold typefaces for her declarative captions. Another important example are the works of Robert Rauschenberg whose works represent popular culture and therefore his statements include critiques about power and politics.

In the case of art videos, I am still questioning about how effective a message is because often times I have seen many videos shown in Art Biennials such as Bruce Nauman’s, kept away from popular culture access. I believe that Galleries and Biennials are still minimalistic white cubes isolated from mass access. On the other hand, the works of Francis Alÿs are deeply rooted in a popular context where the appropriation and juxtaposition are used responsibly and with clear intent to communicate the idea of displacement. Examples of his works can be found in diverse media such as video, painting, photography and performances. Alÿs works have been shown in musmus such as MoMA, yet they have been made with real people in real contexts creating a bound which result is a strong critical message of popular culture and can be read by a wider audience. Examples of his works are “When Faith Moves Mountains” ( 2002. Color photograph. The Museum of Modern Art, New York) and “The Modern Procession” (Two-channel video color, sound. 12 min.).

Finally, I believe that appropriation and juxtaposition are powerful tools to employ in art as an effective critique of popular culture and society, because we live in a visual culture which creates a layered sense of reality.

Letizia Balzi

Lowenfeld, Viktor. 1952. Creative and Mental Growth, 2nd edition. New York: Macmillan.

Rogers, Carl R. 1961. Toward a Theory of Creativity in On Becoming a Person. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Postmodern Principles: In Search of a 21st Century Art Education Author(s): Olivia Gude Source: Art Education, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Jan., 2004), pp. 6-14 Published by: National Art Education Association

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Dante’s Hell Map

In “The Author” (Chapter published at Le Bulletin de la Société Française, 1969) philosopher Michael Foucalut dissects from an historical and contextual perspective what an author is and his functions are. He argues that the characteristics of a discourse are important to compare how the authors in the past were different from what we understood after XIX Century.

In the past, authors were subjected to legal regulations when its creation represented an action that Foucault describes as bipolar because it connected a sacred and profane sphere. As an example, elder christian traditions started to authenticate or/and reject discourses and this idea of authenticity that we later associated with the idea of author. Focault also mentions that individuals who wrote canonical texts were not considered as authors. Later, when a system of ownership known as the copyright was created, the author became part of the social sphere of accepted creators. Then, he describes authorship as creative power because an author is an architect who designs the intrinsic connections between context and concept.

What’s more interesting is Focault’s description of an author as a sort of interpreter of life, a mediator of death as a mean to express the creative power and its capacity to inspire individuals. For example authors such as Kafka, Homer, Dante and Whitman have inspired thousands when writing their works which functioned in human’s psychique as a protection against death. Their response pushes individuals to a space that represents one of human’s biggest quest in relation to our existence: Who are we? Why are we here? I believe that these epics, poems, or even a fragment, can also work like black holes in space. They attract, destroy and create life. In the same way, an author stands for a principle of unity and as a creator reactivates and rediscovers our understanding about the hidden layers of multiple discourses throughout human history. Focault also makes a point when he says that his analysis about what author means can also be applied to other areas such as painting, music and sciences. For example, Although Freud didn’t wrote literary works, he is considered an author because his discourse about psychoanalysis makes us go to a kind of empty space where we open our knowledge to another dimension. Ironically and in a similar case, when a nazi officer asks Picasso if he was the author of the Guernica; he denies it by stating that the nazis where the authors of it.

So, defining who the author is might be more than describing its functions in contexts but understanding how an individual can become the source of expression to produce a discourse. Among other important facts, Foucault also describes that there’s an order of things to be taken into account when understanding an author’s function. These elements are the location of rules, functional conditions, the author’s role, and the limits of the creational art. From a personal perspective I would add that when looking back on the etymology of the word, it can be found that for Middle English, an author is in the sense ‘a person who invents or causes something. Then, from Old French autor and from Latin auctor, and augere, connects to the action of increase, originate and promote. The spelling with th arose in the 15th century, and perhaps became established under the influence of authentic. So now, in the XXI century we are facing a crisis where everybody is in a desperate quest for authenticity, but to what extent is an author authentic if we consider that there was a previous discourse from where this individual nourished? What’s authenticity? Isn’t perhaps an author a mediator, an individual whose sparkle can lighten others? In any case, very few humans dare to face an empty space, and without an author descriptions, and therefore this world, would be meaningless.

Overall, I believe an author is a mediator whose creative power is to set bridges of wisdom and knowledge between ourselves and the world we live in.

Letizia Balzi

About Astra Taylor’s “People’s Platform”

In “People’s Platform”, author Astra Taylor suggests that corporate interests are distorting our culture which effect is eroding democracy as a social value because there’s a bigger quest for profit. More, the impact of technology makes culture consume trends, statuses which alter social identities feeding power and complicating even more the “complex cultural ecosystem”(Taylor). She also exposes the idea that we might not be living in such an openness and transparent participatory culture because there are power structures making restrictive policies behind virtual platforms. The author puts an alarm about the power of these corporations whose interests shakes the ground principles of democracy as people’s empowerment. This might be a time when we can ask ourselves: Who’s the “nobody” that controls people’s platforms?

Letizia Balzi

How does the effective juxtaposition of text and image further enhance the desired meaning?

 

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James Elder Christie (Scottish, 1847-1914), “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”, 1881

 

It is true that because of the freedom of expression we are experiencing today, the “web” as author Astra Taylor says (as cited in The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age), might look like Robin Hood. But, beside the fact that we can have merciful access to information and knowledge, so we can be heard, read and seen without barriers (Taylor), I believe the web looks much more like The Pied Piper of Hamelin (Rattenfänger von Hameln). The fairy tale tells that the successful Hamelin’s Rat-Catcher of Hamelin, enchants and takes away all the town’s children at the end of the story, because the major refuses to pay him the payment he owed for taking the rats out of the little town, at the beginning of it. In a similar way, I feel that the content in the cyberspace is like Hamelin, invaded by rats that look like some laws which created this “age of prohibitions” (as cited by Lawrence Lessig in “Laws that Choke Creativity”) where we live today. That is why as educators we need to create a spell to help pushing out the rats being careful so we do not lose the children after. In other words, we ought to create a more democratic and balance “Hamlinspace”.

In his TED talk “Laws that Choke our Creativity”, lawyer Lawrence Lessig, shows us how content is used by popular culture to re-write meaning using technology as a tool. In his talk he shows an example of a video remix where George Bush and former British prime minister Tony Blair, sing in duet “My Endless Love”. This viral video is a response from a citizen to the secret alliance these politicians carried out when invading Iraq. The use of yuxtaposing text/sound and image produces a more than just funny content, it is a response to a deeper issue. Lessig also states that the youth uses cyberspace content to speak, understand and relate to other individuals, since the information is how kids are, it’s their culture. So, when thinking about the role of technology and how it is influencing kids, I feel that as educators, we need to put emphasis on teaching about democracy mainly. I mean, it is not a problem of what technology produces because we can’t stop that. It’s about distinguishing what is relevant from what it is not, and how the power structures that regulate a potential cultural trespassing in a non-existent space, manipulate us. By doing so, this fairy tale of creating and using content, remains as a fantasy land with fields of open sources for creativity. This will empower youth up to the point of finding a balance in an open space as a response to the lack of democracy we are experiencing today. But, what does “openness” mean?

After the Davo’s Manifesto “A Declaration of the independence of Cyberspace” (Barlow, P. 1996), “world leaders” were asked to freed the space from profit-driven content, yet, the lack of laws are still promoting an unclear image of “openness and connectivity”. My personal point of view is that being free is not just having an open space where to express our ideas. Freedom it’s having enough wisdom to distinguish between the corporation’s messages and what makes a human spirit free (Taylor). I would rather say then that we should picture Hamelin as ourselves, and start creating content that sounds like the Piper’s enchanting music to repel the rats that profit-driven digital culture has put on us. What’s more, the real problem is that while becoming “only readers” instead of re-writing culture, we might be losing our innocence, appetite for playing and laughing as well as, an open democratic spaces for interaction. Will we, artists, educators, youth and free spirits, enable digital culture through a neutral platform soon? If economy moves organically and shows our behavioral patterns as a global community where regions act as the body parts of an organism: Who’s the head? Where’s the heart? Who’s the Pied Piper?

Letizia Balzi

Sources:

TAYLOR, Astra. (2014). The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age. (Intro + Chapter 1). Random House Canada.

LESSIG, Larry. How Creativity is being Strangled by the Law.
as retrieved from internet: http://www.ted.com/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html

A response to Walid Raad’s artwork “Let’s be honest, the weather helped”, 1998-2006. New Photography Galleries at the MoMA, New York, 2016. 

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Waalid Raad. “Let’s be honest, the weather helped”(1998-2006). MoMA, New York. 2016.

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Waalid Raad. “Let’s be honest, the weather helped”(1998-2006). MoMA, New York. 2016. (detail)

After reading Lebanese artist Walid Raad’s general statement, I felt as if artists are like little Red Riding Hood and the message is subjected to a context where the artwork is often times “wolfed down” by private companies and government policies. I feel most of Raad’s artworks express a Lebanese scenery that functions as Russian roulette because life and culture as a theme are threatened at all moments by war. This stage, I believe is the response that human sensitivity in its quest for truth, reaches art as a tool to expose many years of violent oppression in Lebanon. By doing so, other individuals attracted by the beauty of forms and color, open their minds to contemplate while bearing the burden of the cruel reality. After seeing this exhibition, I have the sensation that the reason why humans need art, lies on the fact that there’s an unconscious force pushing us to comprehend while we digest questions that artworks arise. In Raad’s works, beauty is a veil that uncovers a cruel world. And if his art could sing, it would be ironically whispering Morrison’s voice to me: “You know that it would be untrue. You know that I would be a liar . If I was to say to you. Girl, we couldn’t get much higher… Come on baby, light my fire.”(MORRISON, J.).

Raad’s art is an invitation to decode who’s behind art and through his artwork “Let’s be honest, the weather helped” (RAAD, Walid), the artist confronts by collecting bullets and exposing where do they come from, the representations and limitations of news media as well as popular culture. These serie of photographies show ten different book pages where a black and white photo of a Beirut setting is intervened with many colored dots located in different forms. At a first sight, I thought about how news media might only inform us about street gunfires, yet, many ignore who makes a war gunfire possible by supplying the bullets. I believe, media representations are limited and Behind Raad’s conceptual choices there’s a thick thread exposing a shocking fact: How can european made bullets, among other countries, dig a hole in a wall in Beirut? Are these countries supporting conflict? Why? What’s more interesting is how our standardized view about Lebanon conflicts makes us blind about any possible connection to nations, whose reputation is hard to be questioned by its power. Up to what extent do we have to destroy the world in order to understand it? War is a finite game (KELLY, Kevin), yet, art is an infinite one worth playing because it keeps human sensitivity awake to bounce finite games. It took this artist ten years to understand and unveil the labyrinth of where these bullets were coming from, but the “aha” moment that this artworks produced, is instant.

“Let’s be honest, the weather helped” aesthetic choice works as a graphic mapping of his findings. At a first sight, the color codes that bullet manufacturers used to identify their cartridges, looks like a pop intervention public art project on some old house photo. However, when getting closer we understand that beauty is just a hook to decode a deeper message. Also, presenting the artwork as a photo of a book, enhances the significance of what is being told and its context. I really felt like a spy looking into files of “The Atlas Group” (RAAD, W.), or in the artist’s words (as cited in the exhibit front page flyer) “Scratching on things I could disavow: Walkthrough”. Everything in this exhibition is carefully selected, even the message he wants us to understand about the veracity of the information given in museums, since none of these facts that Raad presents are true.

Source: Walid Raad and New Photography Galleries at the MoMA. http://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1493

Setting the stage: How do we acquire a Critical Lens through which to examine Contemporary Art and Media Messages. How do we create a platform from where to share ideas / participate?

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Dina Goldstein. “Fallen Princesses: Snowy”.

Children cannot develop and reflect by their own about ethical norms and that is why as educators we need to provide meaningful media education. A sense of media literacy awakes ethical values and when using media as a tool to create content, society can be empowered because all individuals are media creators and meaningful content can makes us grow. Now, cyberspace ethical norms are shaping the physical world behavior since it articulates our practices. The problem here is that because everything is connected: How are we constructing these content through which the world is perceived? Is discovering the same as observing? Are we passive consumers? I believe that learning to decode, deconstruct, “find secrets” (QUIJADA, A.) is perhaps the most accurate definition I have found to describe what it means to be a media literate.

We are all citizens and that means we have civilian ethical duties, so we have to teach our students to learn to read between the lines of the consumption industry messages. For example, author Jaron Lanier (as cited in his book “Who Owns the Future?”) warns us that if we keep on moving as if this is the one-way direction, advertising can lead to a dead-end. Therefore, media literacy is in my opinion, an educational priority since our society is struggling against a massive standardization of our beautiful existence as individuals. Another example is the erosion of the meaning that words such as freedom, love, wisdom, art, fun, uniqueness suffered because of how advertising have altered them through media campaigns. So, teaching about what makes humans unique by encouraging the youngers to become critical consumers of media, will shift the society towards a positive social change. Enabling this learning without it seeming like counter manipulation is not an easy task, yet, it is the challenge that teachers ought to face when creating lesson plans and putting them into practice. For instance, teaching how to acquire a critical lens through which examine contemporary art and media messages, can set the stage in the classroom to dismantle the content of what media is really communicating. Questions such as: Who decides the message? How is advertising educating our behavior? I believe, have the potential to ignite the individual’s critical lens.

On the other hand, after seeing many art exhibitions, and educational art programs, I feel there’s still a tremendous confusion and misconception in education about art itself being used as a social communication tool. Art should shift people’s minds, help them to understand the world, not consume it by making nice empty objects. At the same time, the relation between technology and youth seems to be more open and millennials who are media creators are enabling participation through projects which many of them set the stage for participatory culture (JENKINS, H.). This is an example of how art is positively used to share low barriers and high support for artistic expression and civic engagement. Art functions as an effective resistance because it has the power to critique the mass media and trace a bridge between popular culture and philosophical questions. What’s more encouraging, according to author Henry Jenkins, when creating platforms, we create a sense of these participatory culture forms where ethnicity, class and gender seems not to affect the development of media projects. Another important fact is that more than one-half of all teens have created media content (Pew Internet & American Life Project). So, I feel hopeful because as educators, we can host a democratic classroom that can work as a lab for new identities by developing collaborative problem solving and producing many forms of art expressions. And, if we can be our students mediators by teaching the guidelines to create meaningful content, students will no longer be isolated at school. They will be heard, listened and seen, because we are teaching them to become active participants of contemporary culture. At the end, globalization made us feel that indeed when connected through media, “it is a small world after all”. Let’s take advantage in education of it.

Letizia Balzi

Sources:

JENKINS, Henry. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture; Media Education in the 21st. Century. (pp. 1-27)

LANIER, Jaron. Who Owns the Future? Motivation (Chapter 1)

QUIJADA, Andrea. Creating Critical Thinkers Through Media Literacy. TEDxABQED
as retrieved from internet: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Creating-Critical-Thinkers-Thro