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At the center of your work this quarter is a group project that you will complete together with other students. This project gives you a lot of leeway to use your intellectual creativity, while also requiring that you meet certain core goals. This is a historical project in which you will work with other group members to uncover, interpret, and share information about participatory and collaborative art practices of the 20th or 21st centuries. Questions to ask yourself as you begin to shape your project are the following: what questions and topics connected to this course do you find the most exciting? What specifically about them would you like to share with a broader reading public? How do you want to communicate about these questions, and why? What do you want your readers’/viewers’ experiences to be like, and how will that impact the way they absorb the material?
This open-ended project format takes inspiration both from some of the art practices that we address this quarter that are pedagogical in nature, and also from projects in the digital humanities projects which use words, images, and creative forms of visualization to help share information about histories and ideas. You can view a selection of digital humanities projects here: https://digitalhumanities.stanford.edu/projects
Groups can be between three and six people. You may choose your own group but cannot work only with people from your major (i.e. there must be more than one major represented in each group).
With your group you will decide on a focus for the project. It could be an artist (e.g. Tania Bruguera), a group of artists (e.g. Fluxus), or a certain type of practice (e.g. collaborative art that engages children, or that blurs the lines between art making and political activism). You can also decide to do original research on something closer to home, for example by creating a digital archive of oral history interviews with Seattle artists who work in a participatory way or uncovering histories of artistic collaboration that have unfolded here. You might, for example, examine archives at the SAM or the Burke Museum, or talk with people about how public art has shaped life in our city spaces, or analyze the presence of participatory pedagogy at UW and neighboring college campuses. You might make an exhibition, in digital or in real space, about practices that you think constitute a compelling intellectual whole. Whatever you pick, you will need to arrive at a clear definition of the artists, communities, and artworks involved. It is also important that you not just repeat material we covered in class. Projects that don’t bring substantial new insight and material to share with the class will not receive strong grades.
Once you have picked a topic, begin building a project that involves the following:
A written component, supported by adequate research and a list of works cited (minimum 15-20 individual sources including books, articles, journalism, and reputable websites). The form this written component takes will vary depending on your project and must be tailored towards a readership of interested non-specialists. For some projects this might consist in a long-form essay, whereas for others it could be in the form of shorter entries embedded into the digital component of your project, which provide context and analysis of images and documentation. I am also open to other formats. There is no strict word count for this but if the total writing in your project is getting below 2000 words you may need to ask yourself if you are being thorough enough. Note that transcriptions of interviews or citations from other people’s works should be in addition to that minimum threshold for your own writing.
A digitally sharable component. A key part of the work you will do in this project consists in creating a digitally sharable component of your project with which you can communicate to a broad audience about the histories and ideas with which you’re working. As part of the course we will have instruction from Learning Technologies staff on how to use Microsoft Sway. You’re able to use that program or any other platform if you have another preference and the knowledge to make it happen. I encourage you to think carefully and creatively about how and why readers might want to engage with your resource, and how to make it useful and interesting to them. Is the goal of sharing this material to let people into a forgotten history? To make conceptual connections between art practices in different parts of the world? To help people engage with this kind of art in their own community? You will need to think through questions such as these to be specific about how to design your sharable component.
A live component. Like the other requirements above, the live part of this project is flexible and depends on your goals. It could consist in an effective and convincing presentation of your project during our final week of class, during the project showcase on December 4th and 6th. However, building on the literature in contemporary art that questions how we defined the “live” in live art, you might also incorporate liveness at a different moment: in a performance or video you create, and bring to the final showcase in documentation form. Whatever you choose to do, the goal should be in communicating the historical and conceptual content of your research to the audience.
For clarification: is this an art project? No. I am enthusiastic about the possibility of having students make use of skills drawn from majors other than Art History. However, this is an art historical project which is geared towards researching and communication information about participatory and collaborative art practices. It is not intended as an artistic project, and I am not asking you to create art or write artists’ statements about your own work. Feel free to discuss this me with me at any point if you have questions.
The strongest projects will:
Select a compelling focus for investigation and consult an appropriate number and breadth of sources
Show intellectual curiosity and a desire to go beyond the path of what we’ve covered to address a creative or underexposed topic
Provide texts which are clear, well argued, grammatically correct, and pleasurable to read
Have a thesis or if not appropriate to the form of the project, a clear structure or explanation through which people are able to understand the stakes and goals of the project
Make extensive and effective use of audiovisual materials, which can include but are not limited to photographs, video, illustration, charts, and maps
Present a digital component which is easy to navigate and in which the form supports efficient access to the material
Display strong and thoughtful coordination between the components of the project, so that they work together to create an effective educational experience for readers
At the center of your work this quarter is a group project that you will complete together with other students. This project gives you a lot of leeway to use your intellectual creativity, while also requiring that you meet certain core goals.