Encountering Through Classroom Activities

 

Encountering Through Classroom Activities

Although physical trips to a local sites were a major component of the class, we included examples of public art from other areas of the world, to acknowledge the similarities in our human and cultural histories. Some of these sites included Holocaust memorials in Berlin, war memorials in Washington DC, and Krystof Wodiczko’s Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection. For these sessions we used images and activities to cultivate dialogue about the function of memorials and the connection they provide between past and present. While there were traditional monuments discussed, many of the works we selected challenged the established notion of memorial.

 

This memorial session was the first of the content-based lessons in the students’ regular classroom setting. This lesson consisted of a few different examples of Holocaust memorials that transcend the established notion of a war memorials found in our local communities. One of the works we looked at closely was Christian Boltanski’s The Missing House. This work uses the empty space in between two apartment buildings in Berlin, and a series of plaques mounted on the exterior of the buildings. The apartments that once occupied the now vacant space were bombed and destroyed in 1945. In 1990, Boltanski honored the memory of the residents by creating plaques for each person who lived in the building. On these plaques he wrote the names of the residents, the date range that they lived there, and their occupation. Boltanski also researched where the tenants would have lived within the building, and places the plaques in accordance to this location of inhabitance. 

 

Using this site as a reference, the activity for this lesson asked student to write their name, the date range that they attended SciTech, and their dream occupation. Then students were instructed to think about where they would place their plaque, for example somewhere in the school or at their home. A simple activity like this one allows students to make the same type of artistic choices that Boltanski made, just on a smaller scale. Some students provided detailed descriptions of the location for their plaque. One student responded with “I would put my plaque on the outside of the international space station because I want my dreams and my goals to reach beyond the sky”. Some others wrote about a favorite park or place within their community. In this activity students thought about their academic or professional futures in relation to the places they want their voices to be heard or their presence to be felt. Site specificity is very important in public art, and although we did not use that term with the high school students we wanted them to think about location and why that location was significant to them.

 

Categories: 
  • Encounters
  • Undergraduate Work