That's the question I asked my students this past Wednesday on their first day of summer Art Lab at PlatteForum. Twice a week all summer I'll be working with fourteen high school students from various Denver Public schools, exploring subversive art through the lens of language. Using a combination of verbal and visual messaging, installation art, and improvisation, the students will experiment with creative ways to express ideas that are antiestablishment but prosocial.
So what do artists and terrorists have in common? Well, both groups are very emotional. They operate from the belief that their emotions are important enough to act on. They believe that their actions can impact others. Finally, they are willing to put it all on the line in order to execute their ideas. Artists and terrorists are the polarized ends of society -- the freaks and the geeks whose ideas are typically too radical for the mainstream.
The primary difference, of course, is that most artists choose to be prosocial in their approach instead of antisocial. As artists we believe we have a responsibility to manifest the world of our dreams, but most of us aren't willing to push our agendas at the expense of the wellbeing of others. My challenge to the students this summer as we explore subversive art forms is to find interesting and innovative ways to challenge the status quo while still being pro-people, pro-society, and proactive.
Every Thursday until August from 2pm - 3:30pm we'll be hosting an open studio, and the public is welcome to come check out our progress. You can usually find us in the Riverfront / Commons Park area, stirring up some kind of subversive trouble.
OPEN STUDIO DAY ONE: One-Word Challenge
I divided the class into two groups. Each group was charged with choosing one word that represented an idea around which they wanted to raise awareness. The first group chose the word "Lies," and the second group chose the word "Manic." Using only found materials, the students had 30 minutes to create a temporary installation to raise awareness about their theme.
They nailed it. Riverfront community residents beware... we'll be here all summer.
As the installation develops, the students add arrows. Around this time, some residents started getting a little hostile, asking if the students lived nearby and who would be "cleaning up the mess." Other pedestrians were more openminded, asking questions as they walked by or simply slowing down to take it all in. The postman and a delivery driver were both very conscientious, driving around the installation instead of over it.
This part of the installation was made out of dirt. It's actually much larger than the picture suggests. Very impactful!
The Manic group created a sculpture of a person suffering from a manic attack. Their installation was on a rock outcropping hidden by high willow bushes; an unsuspecting explorer would definitely be unnerved by this discovery!
The group reported no problems at all finding all these materials in the bushes near the river in their allotted time frame of 30 minutes. Socks, shoes, a backpack, a man's shirt, deodorant, an empty pill bottle, beer cans, cigarettes, a hat, and other refuse littered the banks.
Team Manic describes their work to Team Lies.
I am so proud of all the students for their hard work this week. I look forward to sharing more of our work here as the summer progresses!