A summary of the most recent phase of my India project (see here for previous years)
NOV – DEC 2012 REPORT
Arts & Crafts and Multimedia Classes
The emphasis in all classes is to encourage imagination and independent, creative thought. The children are taught techniques as building blocks to further their own tools of expression and also heartily encouraged to share the new skills they learn and to pass them on to their friends, thus causing a ripple effect that can be felt beyond the class participants themselves. Apart from creative thought and expression the classes are also a chance to introduce vocational skills such as Photography and Photoshop as well as being an opportunity for cultural exchange and learning. As ever we worked on various projects together using materials that are readily available to the students at any time. Here are some projects we developed this year…
What’s in a Name?…
I always start my classes with a small drawing project revolving around the individual names of my students. This year I tried something a little different. The children were required to write their names and then create a mirror image of this. Then they had to cease to look at it as a name but instead as a drawing, they had to look at the lines and curves their names had formed and transform them into something else…the more fantastical the better. This is quite a hard exercise at first as it is an abstract concept that is highly subjective, relying purely on the vision of the artist and what he/she sees or perceives in the forms of his/her name. However, it is a great exercise for loosening up the imagination of the children and even they were surprised by the variety of fantastic, surreal images they produced from this project.
Group drawings were so successful the last time that I decided to do them again this year. They are important as they allow groups of boys and girls of mixed abilities and ages to work together. Working in groups on very large sheets of paper, the exercise encourages cooperation and negotiation – everyone must draw, no one is allowed to sit and watch – and I was very happy to observe that at times instead of asking me how to solve a drawing problem, they were able to work things out amongst themselves, thus enhancing their problem solving skills. Am very keen to instil ambition in the students regarding their work and with these group drawings they learn to be more ambitious as the power and capabilities of the group enables them to make beautiful, large scale drawings that they would not have attempted initially on their own.
Photography has many benefits for the students, for a start there are no gender preconceptions, everyone is the photographer and everyone is the subject and a lot of the theory of subject matter and composition can be applied to other art disciplines. It is also a lesson in trust and responsibility as the students are given the opportunity to go out into the field (within the school campus) to take pictures and they must look after the photographic equipment themselves. Photographic classes always take place after a few weeks of the syllabus and in this time they must demonstrates that they will be responsible as photographers in charge of a camera. It is a huge boost to the students when you put a camera into their hands and allow them to take some responsibility. As yet, no one has let me down and some fabulous shots were taken! We concentrated on the themes of Portraiture and Documentary, learning the difference between a snapshot and something that actually reflects the personality of the subject and also how photographs can document real life and tell stories. Here are some photographs taken by the students:
The Benefits of Origami:
The benefits of origami are many, not only is it a reasonably cheap and sustainable way of making decorations for Christmas and otherwise, much loved by my students of all ages…but origami is also a three dimensional mathematical problem that the children have to resolve through study, patience, precision and dexterity. It helps them understand spatial reasoning and gives them a small insight into another country’s culture. It is also a great lesson in sharing knowledge. I encouraged the students to teach their friends how to make the forms we learned in class: origami went through the orphanage like a paper folding virus…no sooner had I taught a shape, than my students would pass the knowledge on to their friends resulting in children I had never taught bringing me origami pieces they had made having learned them from my students.
Photoshop classes continue, as ever an important and useful discipline to learn in Andhra Pradesh with the IT capital of Hyderabad at its commercial centre. I taught beginners and advanced classes, teaching younger children with the hope of being able to trace and facilitate their advancement in the years to come. It is a vocational skill and while learning the technicalities of a computer programme it is also a tool that can help to unleash untapped artistic endeavours, as in Photoshop there literally are no limits to what you can achieve on the computer screen!
Michelangelo Pistoletto organised a large-scale international collaborative artwork called Rebirth-day centred on the date of the 21st December as a day for celebration, a kind of a rebirth and optimism for a new and better future. Many people and institutions worldwide collaborated with him to make art interventions and events on and around the 21st of December. As a contribution to this work, on the 21st December we held a small exhibition at the orphanage to celebrate Rebirth-day and mark the end of 2 months of art labs for the students, the idea being that Art is absolutely a celebration of unlimited possibilities and imaginations and we should celebrate this new generation of artists who will be the ones to illustrate our futures. See here for more