Learning outside the classroom
James Turrell exhibition
@ The Long Museum…
On the 3rd of May Fudan International School was delighted to work in partnership with the Long Museum’s education department on the very first IB DP practical art workshop.
As part of the International baccalaureate students learn to respond and interpret ideas from other artists. In many western countries this is done through learning inside museums and galleries. Previously within Shanghai there have not yet been any such workshops developed for IB students.
Ms. Laura Madsen used her experience of gallery education and worked with the Long Museum education departments Amber Cao to develop Shanghai’s first in gallery IB workshops where students made practical responses to the exhibition on show. The students got to see the work of the international light installation artist James Turrell, and received a tour of the exhibition, before taking part in a practical workshop to support their IB DP course.
Student’s were introduced to Plato’s allegory of the cave which introduces notions of human perception and is an inspiration for James Turrell:
Platos allegory of the cave:
Plato has Socrates describe a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of a fire behind them, and give names to these shadows. The shadows are the prisoners' reality. Socrates explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not reality at all, for he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the manufactured reality that is the shadows seen by the prisoners. The inmates of this place do not even desire to leave their prison; for they know no better life. The prisoners manage to break their bonds one day, and discover that their reality was not what they thought it was. They discovered the sun, which Plato uses as an analogy for the fire that man cannot see behind. Like the fire that cast light on the walls of the cave, the human condition is forever bound to the impressions that are received through thesenses.
Next students had to create a response to the exhibition within the gallery. They considered ideas of illusion, perception and immersion in the context of art installations. They were given minimal materials of card, scissors, and an iPhone torch with which to create their work. To make it even more challenging they only had thirty minutes to create their response!
Here are some of the student’s art works and comments about their experience of learning outside the classroom, within the context of the gallery.
"I saw the exhibition and saw the brilliant ideas about the use of lights. The most astonishing artwork is the room with 'no border', where light filled everywhere in the room and made us immersed in the mysterious atmosphere. So I made my work into the shape of a box with nearly no sides but several arcs. Shapes projected on the walls also created ideas for my own work. I observed that the hole for light to pass thorough was not a triangle while the shape projected was, so I made my work with a trapezoid shaped hole on one side and tried to project a triangle on the other side. I think visiting gallery exhibitions like this can make us think more deeply and learn more ways to make art, and we can try to make these fantastic work of our own, that is truly meaningful and useful."
Sylvia, Grade 11
"Illusion, immersion and a strong sense of visual impact is the theme of this exhibition. Some of the art required me to be at peace, and not rush while I viewed them.”
Kane, Grade 11 IB student
"The world is like a seesaw. What I see at this particular moment is different from what I saw a second before. A flat red alter a glaring empty confessional. And life gets tilted as well."
Tony, Grade 11 IB student
"This exhibition of James Turrells work really impressed me. James Turrell used light to create a mysterious space and let the audience be immersed in the atmosphere he created. When I was in the space I thought I was a part of the space. This exhibition gave me an idea of how to use light and illusion in my IB work.
It’s important for us to consider the 4D factors like how viewers can actually be a part of your artwork and immerse themselves in it. Let them embrace the atmosphere and it is a more effective way to understand the artwork rather than just looking at a 2D or 3D artwork and thinking about the meaning”
“After visiting the museum I realized the importance of light and perception. The fist room we went in, linked directly to Plato’s theory and I felt amazed. The use of light created an illusion amount of space which immersed us within the structure of the room. At the end, I noticed how the use of light affects viewers creating a different world in reality.”
Interpreting abstract art can be challenging for students and even for adults, leading to some discounting it. Linking the artwork to other areas of knowledge such as TOK and also letting student experience the work allows them to have a ’way in’.
Students created some highly academic artworks in a short space of time exploring the idea of immersion and perception, They were able to link areas of knowledge which encouraged them to extend their ideas and produce art works that showed experimentation and critical and contextual reference points.
We hope to build on this partnership with the Long museum so that other IB students in Shanghai can benefit from learning in the gallery
Written by Laura Madsen, IB Arts teacher
Photos by IB Visual Arts students