Emily and Gabby
Exploring the Uncomfortable
Contemporary art can, and often does, encompass a multi-sensory experience. From the visual to the smell, to the auditory to the taste. Mixing the senses can create an explosion of emotion, however what happens when we take these senses away? What happens when our senses become confused? What art can we create?
In this class we will explore the different bodily senses and what happens when they are muddled and/or taken away. This will expose students to different ways that art can be made, that are not just in a visual approach. Students will learn of artists and works that incorporate the different senses including Charlotte Moorman who works with sound, Sissel Tolaas who works with smell and Andrew Myers who works with touch. Other artists that we will look at include Sarah Roizon, Jennifer Rubell and cartoonists who worked during the 1940s.
Students will create both an autobiographical and a collaborative work that look into the limitations of the senses, and the possibilities that arise when we confuse them.
This will be a good sequence of lessons for high school students as high school is a time where students are very self-aware. It is common for students to feel self-conscious about themselves and their artwork. This class will help students come out of their comfort zone. The work will teach students that it is ok to not be perfect all the time, and that it is ok that their work is not perfect all the time; it will also teach them that they are adaptable. This sequence of lessons will broaden the students’ knowledge of what art can be. Art does not always have to be visual but can evoke all of the senses including the bodily aspect of performance. We will also look at a reading from Eating as Experience: Connecting Gastronomy to Visual Art Through the Philosophy of John Dewey by Elizabeth Cutler Rubin.
Warm Up Activity
For the warm up, the students will be split into two groups, the first group will be blindfolded and then led to different sides of the room. The second group will be assigned a partner to then guide to the other side of the room. The blindfolded students at the other side of the room must be guided verbally without bumping into anybody else or being touched by their partner. If they bump into anybody or anything they are out.
The autobiographical project will involve students creating a series of self-portraits with a variety of sensory confusing tactics in place. Students first will be given a think sheet in which they will write down a confusing story that happened to them. They will then also be asked to draw a self-portrait using only their non-dominant hand. In the second activity, students’ sense of sight will be impaired once again. The activity will involve students drawing a self-portrait from memory in a pitch black room.
Other activities may include:
- Drawing with another person’s hand
- Drawing with other parts of the body (other than hand)
- Blind Contour Drawings
The students will also be tasked with creating a wearable art piece that takes away or limits the wearers senses. The student must distort or take away one of the bodily senses. They will be given a multitude of materials to work with.
- Students will experiment with different techniques of creating self-portraits.
- Students will learn the vocabulary: impaired, dominate and distort.
- Students will experience new ways of ‘seeing’ whilst creating art.
Exemplar of drawing with right hand (left handed)
Self-portrait blind folded
Exemplar for Wearable Art
For the autobiographical portion of the sequence, we will look at the work by Sarah Roizon and the work that was done for Life Magazine by cartoonists. Sarah Roizon created her work Overlapping after she had surgery in 2012. She is interested in working with the non-dominant hand as it feels empowering to adapt. About working with the non-dominant hand, she has also said that “Many believe that non-dominant hand writing/art helps to bypass the conscious/logical side of our brain and help us to access the unconscious.”
In 1947, Life Magazine challenged 10 famous comic book artists to draw their characters from memory. They were blindfolded and the results were not what they thought they would be. The artists thought that because they know their characters so well they would be easily able to draw them blindfolded. However, this was not the case. The characters that were drawn while blindfolded were a lot more distorted than their predecessors. This Life Magazine project will be a good thing for students to look at to show that even professionals have difficulty with this task, that even if you could draw it normally, you might not be able to draw it blindfolded!
- Materials for wearable art
Students, after completing the autobiographical project, will be guided through a series of exercises that will confuse the rest of their senses. Students will be working together in pairs to create an exploration of culinary and performance art where one of the student’s taste has been confused. In this activity one student will be the participant and the other will feed them their food. The other will feed the participant their food because they will be blindfolded. In the first stage of the activity, the student will be fed ingredients to make a salsa, they most confirm or deny any ingredients that should be or should not be in the salsa. They must do this by taste alone. For the second stage of the lesson, the participant will be given a Miracle Berry tablet. The Miracle Berry tablet will confuse the taste buds by making them think that sour foods are sweet and vice versa. They will now make a new salsa with their new tastes. This will not only confuse their senses, but there will be an element of trust between partners. The blind-folded participant will completely trust their partner with the food.
Other activities may include:
- A performative event where certain students will be listening to music, while wearing noise cancelling headphones, and unable to hear anyone. In this event students will once again be split into groups, one in which they can hear, and will be reading instructions, and the other in which they will be given instructions despite not being able to hear/being distracted by the music.
- An explorative event, where one’s sense of smell and taste will be confused. Students will have an upside down visor placed under their nose. This will allow for certain “smells” to be placed in front of their nose, while at the same time blocking their line of view from what is going to be fed to them. (Side note: Teacher should get a list of student allergies before this activity to avoid exposing students to their allergens. A release form would also probably be useful). Students will then be asked to guess what it is they are eating, and what they are smelling.
- Another exercise that the students will be lead through is yet another explorative event. This event will confuse at least three senses, Sight, Smell, Touch. Students will be blindfolded and once again the visor will be placed under their nose. They will be lead to an area in which they will be asked to touch things and guess what they are. Each time they smell something new, they will also touch something new, much like in the previous event involving smell and taste.
- Conceptual - Student will explore new ways of experiencing and creating art.
- Students will create and perform while one or more senses are impaired/confused.
- Students will experience what happens when more than one sense is taken away or confused.
Salsa ingredients sorted without the Miracle Berry (the image on the right is from a video)
Salsa ingredients sorted with the Miracle Berry (image on the right is from a video)
- Miracle Berry Tablets
- Camera or phone
- Salsa ingredients: Lemon, Tomatoes, Onion, Peppers, Strawberries and pears
My name is emily....