Summer Session

Summer Session – Listen to the Teacher: A TA and Teacher Resource Manual

This Summer Session we’re going Back to School, and while we are exploring all forms of learning, we are also providing resources for those engaged in formal education. Today we bring you a guide for teaching from Karra Shimabukuro, the same professor who started the crowdsourced project How to Prep for Grad School If You’re Poor featured previously as part of this Summer Session. Shimabukuros TA and Teacher Resource Manual is not specific to teaching in the arts, but provides broad, structural advice for pedagogical strategies that recenter ones teaching approach on the students, encouraging a more successful semester for everyone involved. 

Suzanne Lacy, Maps, 1973. Happening at CalArts, Valencia, CA. Pictured, Left: Bia Lowe, Stanley Fried, Susan Mogul, Vanalyne Green and an unidentified student; Right, Detail of Maps. Photos: Suzanne Lacy. Courtesy of the Artist.

Suzanne Lacy, Maps, 1973. Happening at CalArts, Valencia, CA. Pictured, Left: Bia Lowe, Stanley Fried, Susan Mogul, Vanalyne Green and an unidentified student; right, Detail of Maps. Courtesy of East of Borneo and the Artist. Photos: Suzanne Lacy.

Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar: Your class was assigned a text to read for the day. You open class by asking what they thought. Blank faces and crickets greet your question. You spend the majority of class lecturing rather than eliciting responses. You end class early. You’re upset that these students aren’t “up to par,” didn’t do the reading, and can’t participate in a college-level course. This pattern continues the rest of the semester. You bemoan the multiple reasons why students aren’t what they used to be.

Now, imagine this. Let’s pick up the scenario with the crickets. You break students into small groups, assigning each group a small section of the reading, a close reading if you will, and give them a prompt/question to use a lens for breaking down that work. You ask the students to figure out what the text says, what it means, and why it matters. You give the groups time to work, and then, in order of how the passages appear in the text, you have the groups share out their findings. You encourage students to take notes on the presentations of others. You then finish the class by tying the different strands together.

The second scenario isn’t perfect. You’ll still have students who didn’t do the reading. The major difference is, the second scenario does not assume a failure on the part of the students. It considers the possibility that perhaps, your students don’t know how to approach and discuss a text. It does not get stuck on the idea that by the time a student reaches a 100 or 200 or 300 or 400 level course they should know. Instead, it teaches from where the students are, not where you think they should be.

No one ever sets out to have a bad class. No one WANTS a bad class. It’s a good thing that there are some easy ways to fix these common issues/problems and ensure they don’t happen (or at least happen less frequently) in the future.

Access the full guide here.


Summer Session

Summer Session – Help Desk: MFA vs. Residency

With Fall right around this corner, this Summer Session we’re taking some time to think about what it means to go Back to School, whether that has to do with self-directed learning, formal education, or pedagogical strategies. In that vein, today we bring you an article from our arts-advice column Help Desk addressing the differences between an MFA and a residency, and how that comparison reveals different sets of priorities and demands for one’s practice. This article was originally published November 25, 2013.

Pat O'Neill. Horizontal Boundaries, 2008; still from color film, sound, 23 mins.

Pat O’Neill. Horizontal Boundaries, 2008 (film still); color film, sound;

How valuable is an MFA these days and is it really worth the cost? I’ve spent the last two months researching schools and preparing applications for MFA programs in several different countries. (My partner’s job might require me to study abroad.) I would like the degree not because I am interested in teaching, but because I am interested in the intensity of a two-year program to cultivate solid research and focus on work amidst peers and access to faculty input. In some cases, however, the cost for international students is very high. I just took part in an artist residency that left me wondering: If I’m not that interested in teaching, is it really necessary to have the MFA, or could I have comparable experience with multiple residencies and save the money?

The answer to this question depends a lot on what kind of person you are. Do you like deadlines? Are you disciplined and self-motivated? If aliens were invading Earth in a month, would you voluntarily do hundreds of push-ups a day and build a tank out of junkyard cars in order to defeat them? Or are you like me, who would eat all the cookies I could put my hands on and then find a hole in which to quietly die? If your answer is the former, then perhaps you have the drive to create and execute an intense plan for self-education.

Here’s what the MFA is: two years of studio time interrupted by seminars, readings, papers, presentations, and bitch sessions with classmates over cheap drinks. It’s an artificial structure designed to cram as much as possible into your head in a very short time. Every day is intense, and even though it is (usually) a scaffolded ordeal, it is still much more self-directed than the typical undergraduate experience. In an MFA program, you have to create and think very deeply about creating at the same time, and this (plus all the hangovers you’ll suffer) is what makes it completely exhausting.

If you set out on your own, there are three main components to an MFA program that you’re going to have to try to replicate: studio time, coursework, and conversation.

Read the full article here.


Summer Session

Summer Session – Joanne Greenbaum by Jeremy Sigler

For this Summer Session we’re thinking about going Back to School, and today from our friends at BOMB Magazine we bring you Jeremy Siglers interview with Joanne Greenbaum. In it, Greenbaum and Sigler talk about the problem with teaching as an artist, the value (or lack thereof) of crits, and their ongoing love affair with academically out-of-vogue modernism and its tenets of originality, authenticity, and revelation. This interview was originally published in BOMB Issue 124, Summer 2013.

Untitled, 2012, oil and ink on canvas, 90×70 inches. Images courtesy of the artist; Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago; greengrassi, London; and Nicolas Krupp Gallery, Basel.

Joanne Greenbaum. Untitled, 2012; oil and ink on canvas; 90 x 70 in. Courtesy of the Artist; Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago; greengrassi, London; and Nicolas Krupp Gallery, Basel.

Joanne Greenbaum: As artists we fantasize about interviews. For instance I’m working and I think, If someone were interviewing me right now, this is what I would say—and it’s really eloquent and perfect and beautiful. But then you’re never able to say those things.

Jeremy Sigler: But the things that come out in a conversation are often more accurate. Maybe they’re not the fantasy, but they’re more useful.

JG: We think we’re better in fantasy than we are in real life, but maybe in real life we’re better.

JS: I’m really down on critique right now. I’ve turned the corner and it’s gone from pure love to pure rage. Why should I teach like a real teacher when the students are not learning like real students?

JG: I’m teaching one day a week in Philadelphia to grad students this term. The first day I got in there I realized I have nothing to say to these students at all! I have nothing to give them. I don’t even really have an opinion about their work. And, I still get home at the end of the day totally exhausted. I’ve been giving them something, but it isn’t critiques.

Lately, more and more people have asked to come to my studio, but I don’t want anyone else in my studio. Because, number one, I ultimately don’t care what people think about what I make and, number two, I’m tired of explaining it. I’m tired of talking about my process. I want to keep everything inward and reverential. Sometimes all I want to do is sit here at this desk and make watercolors—here’s the pile—and just be private and kind of not thinking at all.

Read the full interview here.


Summer Session

Summer Session – Suzanne Lacy on the Feminist Program at Fresno State and CalArts

Back to School is the focus of this month’s Summer Session, and today we bring you an interview from our friends at East of Borneo between Moira Roth and Suzanne Lacy, illustrating the ways in which Lacys graduate experience shaped her as an artist. Here, Lacy describes how feminism as part of her formal education was inextricably linked to her nascent art practice, and how the Feminist Art Program she helped develop at CalArts in the early 70s influenced the Los Angeles art scene. This article was originally published on December 15, 2011.

CalArts students at Klubnikin Packing Co., downtown Los Angeles, in Maps, 1973. Happening in Los Angeles, CA. Photo: Susan Mogul. Courtesy of Suzanne Lacy.

CalArts students at Klubnikin Packing Co., downtown Los Angeles, in Maps, 1973. Happening in Los Angeles, CA. Courtesy of Suzanne Lacy. Photo: Susan Mogul.

In this interview Suzanne Lacy offers a thorough discussion of the development of feminism in California and the California art world in the early 1970s. She describes her introduction to Judy Chicago and her subsequent involvement in the Feminist Art Program at Fresno State and later at CalArts. She describes the development of her own performance-based work and discusses the influence of other artists such as Faith Wilding and Allan Kaprow.

SUZANNE LACY: I discovered feminism in ’69. I then applied to graduate school at Fresno State and—

MOIRA ROTH: Why did you single out Fresno State?

SL: I think I had a boyfriend going there. [laughs] Some real profound reason. Fresno had a fairly decent grad program in psychology, and I got right in. At that point, feminist organizing was beginning in psychology. I went to the founding meeting of the Women’s Psychology Associates at an American Psychological Association annual conference in Washington, D.C. I met a lot of women psychologists who were just starting to ask questions about Freud’s attitudes toward women, etc. In graduate school, I taught a course in feminist psychology, which was very new then, for my graduate peers, and rabble-roused as much as I could every time Freud came up in a class, and I was known as “that angry woman.” 
At Fresno, I ran into Faith Wilding, who was there as a graduate in English literature. Her husband was a teacher. She was probably the only other person at Fresno that knew anything about feminism. We proceeded one day to stick up signs all over campus saying, “Feminist meeting tonight.” There must have been over thirty or forty women who showed up. Faith and I sat there dumbfounded and looked at each other and said, “What do we do now?” We did what has become, I think, a kind of strategy. We began talking about sex.

Read the full interview here.


Summer Session

Summer Session – On Kawara: Pure Consciousness at 19 Kindergartens

This month, our Back to School session addresses topics ranging from self-directed learning to formal pedagogy to the intersections of art and academics. Today from our sister publication Art Practical we bring you a review by Jessica Brier of On Kawaras project Pure Consciousness. Brier draws connections between the malleability of Kawaras conceptualist exploration of time and how the placing of his works within kindergartens across the globe challenges the standardization of education. This review was originally published on June 30, 2010.


Pure Consciousness booklet image of kindergarteners in Bethlehem, Palestine, with seven Kawara date paintings from the Today series in background, laid over other booklets. Image courtesy of Walter and McBean Galleries, San Francisco Art Institute.

Pure Consciousness booklet image of kindergarteners in Bethlehem, Palestine, with seven Kawara date paintings from the Today series in background, laid over other booklets. Courtesy of Walter and McBean Galleries, San Francisco Art Institute.

It’s pretty safe to say that Conceptual Art’s moment has come and gone. Now that we are living in a period in which virtually all art is expected to be “conceptual” in some way or another, it’s refreshing to look back at the origins of Conceptual practice. On Kawara is one of the leading figures of this movement; he is particularly known for his ongoing Today series―iconic canvases painted black, each bearing the date of its own particular creation in bold white block letters. In 1997, Kawara recontextualized seven of these austere works by placing them in kindergarten classrooms across the globe, a social project he titled Pure Consciousness. Since this project existed strictly as a social experiment, the current exhibition in the small overlook gallery of San Francisco Art Institute’s Walter and McBean Galleries modestly showcases the project’s associated ephemera, including a collection of booklets created to document it and the seven paintings themselves.

Kawara is largely known for his sweeping but understated gestures that mark the passage of time. Sometimes these marks are diaristic, other times matter-of-fact. The Today paintings strike me as both―they are personal, in the sense that each is reminiscent of the artist’s hand and reflective of the way he spent a particular day of his life (following his own self-imposed requirement that each one be finished on that given day). But they are also universal, in the sense that anyone can imbue them with his or her own personal associations with that particular date. Aesthetically, they are stark and exact, appearing more like prints than paintings. In this way, Kawara flirts with Minimalism, as well as with the basic principles of graphic design.

Read the full review here.


Summer Session

Summer Session – #Hashtags: Education on Contingency

For this months Summer Session were going Back to School, and today we bring you Anuradha Vikrams #Hashtags column addressing adjunct labor. Higher education in the United States has become increasingly dependent upon this contingent and precarious workforce, and Vikram argues that its inherent instability is particularly jarring given the Marxian configuration of labor that underpins much of contemporary art rhetoric. This article was originally published on May 5, 2014.

Christian Nagler. Yoga for Adjuncts, 2014. Workshop at  Valuing Labor in the Arts: A Practicum. Photo by Joanna Fuller. Courtesy of Arts Research Center, UC Berkeley.

Christian Nagler. Yoga for Adjuncts, 2014. Workshop at Valuing Labor in the Arts: A Practicum. Courtesy of Arts Research Center, UC Berkeley. Photo by Joanna Fuller.

This past May Day week, there has been much chatter about the decision by adjunct faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute to file for a union election. This comes on the heels of a similar decision to file for union election by Mills College adjuncts and the formation of a union to represent adjuncts at the Maryland Institute College of Art. The ubiquity of adjuncts in college teaching is not new, but the conversation around unions for part-time faculty has emerged more recently. Meanwhile, tensions regarding low pay and lack of job security and benefits for instructors, and rising tuition costs for students, are finally converging to invigorate a public conversation about the substandard working conditions of the majority of American college faculty.

In the arts, this overreliance on a precarious labor force is doubly appalling, given that much contemporary art rhetoric draws heavily on a Marxist construction of labor that resists and opposes alienation of workers in the interests of capital. For such intellectual constructs to be transmitted to new generations of artists and students by a fundamentally alienated workforce of adjuncts is a genuine scandal. The renewed emphasis on collectivity in art that coincides with the emergence of social and pedagogical post-conceptual practices seems not to be reflected in the values of academic institutions such as SFAI. This is evident in President Charles Desmarais’ appeal to adjunct faculty to reject SEIU’s efforts to unionize them, which was criticized by longtime Visiting Faculty (aka adjunct) Dale Carrico in a cogent blog post that called out the school for touting its Diego Rivera mural while discouraging contingent employees from organizing. Rivera’s famously working-class politics may seem a historical footnote to administrators, but for faculty and students, they are again relevant. Consider, after all, that the newly minted MFAs graduating from these non-unionized, adjunct-heavy art schools will face the same enormous pressure to comply with an unfair system that the adjuncts who teach them contend with currently.

Read the full article here.


Summer Session

Summer Session – The Rülek Scrolls

This Summer Session we’re going Back to School, and thinking as much about learning in the arts as the codification of certain types of learning; this includes learned expectations about the proper forms of engagement with artworks. Today we bring you a piece from the collaboration between artist Sal Randolph and historian D. Graham Burnett, The Esthetical Society for Transcendental & Applied Realization (Society for Esthetic Realizers), or ESTAR(SER), a fictional historical society that frames aesthetic appreciation as a form of ritual. Below is one page of the Rülek Scrolls from ESTAR(SER)’s archives, which “outline a remarkable and exigent technique for attaining psychosomatic/metempsychotic union with a material, human-made object.”

from The Rülek Scrolls.

From the Rülek Scrolls.

Download the Rülek Scrolls here.