04 Dec American Guernica Used as A Class Project
Illustration by Blackboard Design Buenos Aires
The following entry and comments are excerpted (a little bit) from a post at Oedipa’s blog. I’m reproducing it below because it just totally made my day to read about how American Guernica had been used in the classroom, especially the student’s and observer’s positive reactions to the idea.
So today I had another observer come in to take notes and evaluate my skills. This went really, really well. After the sting of yesterday’s news (that I’m too nice to my students), I went for broke. I crafted a lesson plan around “Reading Images as Text” and brought in several books. A few of them were Paul Klee, some Giacometti, some photos of New Orleans spiritual communities, and so forth. If anyone of them even so much as whispered out of turn during class, I stopped everything and let my narrow eyes settle on them until they really got the message. I’m mean. Cut the shit. Watch the hell out.
Then I had them split up into groups of three and each group had to work with the images in the book they had to find one that they would put on a billboard on a highway to send a message about something. I got this idea from John T. Unger who is proposing a simple open-source street art project, American Guernica. He wants people all over the country to put up billboard-sized reproductions of Picasso’s famous painting of the carpet bombing of Guernica. He says, “[I]f the painting is all that’s seen, it forces the viewer to make an interpretation instead of being told what to think. Being told what to think is exactly what got Americans in trouble in the first place, no?”
Anyway, I was impressed with this and I hope it catches on. In the meantime, it made for a GREAT excercise for the class. Each one got up and gave a presentation on the painting or photo they selected and went into great detail about how they thought it supported a theme or a message in a similar vein to the above project.
The observer approached me after class and told me how impressed he was. This made me feel much, much better after my slight tailspin yesterday.
Comments from Oedipa’s entry:
I totally understand the stress of observation days…I hate them. But this exercise sounds wonderful–I may have to try it myself soon!