I went to see “Days of Endless Time,” an exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum, and continue to ponder the influence, inspiration and innovation the content of this show could provide to K-12 art education.
This show is made up of video and moving images, but the images included below are just stills. While they are beautiful in their own right, there is no substitute for experiencing these works in full. I encourage you to visit the museum before the show ends at the beginning of April.
I have borrowed heavily from the Hirshhorn Museum website to share tidbits, image and text, of what this incredible show has to offer. In fact, let me start by sharing the exhibition introduction straight from the Hirshhorn:
October 16, 2014 to April 6, 2015 (Second Level)
In a world conditioned by the frantic, 24/7 flow of information and the ephemerality of digital media, many moving-image artists are countering these tendencies with works that emphasize slower, more meditative forms of perception. Days of Endless Time presents fourteen installations that offer prismatic vantage points into the suspension and attenuation of time or that create a sense of timelessness. Themes include escape, solitude, enchantment, and the thrall of nature.
This description alone offers much to be contemplated for art education. Of note from my own experience is the meditative nature of the work. As I watched the artwork play out before me, I admit that I found myself waiting for something to happen — expecting it — anticipating. But these videos are not the videos of television and the internet. They do not offer a surprise event, climax, or conclusion.
There is a distinct contrast between these videos and the video we are exposed to endlessly online and on television. This contrast is even more pronounced for our students who are increasingly exposed to super-short video (and GIFs) that provide instant entertainment and story telling not to be found in this exhibition. These artworks offer a different way for our students to think about video, how the medium can be used to communicate meaningful ideas, and how they can stretch their thinking about art forms to do so.
COMMUNICATE MEANINGFUL IDEAS
As we, art educators, design curriculum and instruction for our students we must always consider how we are going to guide them explore and communicate ideas. The themes in this exhibition offer inspiration to that end. Themes identified in the exhibition intro for Days of Endless Time include “escape, solitude, enchantment, and the thrall of nature.” I would expand this list, especially for K-12 students to include Time and Sense of Place.
Perhaps it is a given that artists working in video are well versed in concepts of time, but for our students it is valid to explore this foundational concept. Works in this show include examples of a number of concepts related to time relevant to K-12 students:
- Stopping or freezing time (despite being in video format)
- Manipulating perceptions of time
- Passage of time
- Real Time
A Sense of Place is explored in a variety of ways including:
- Constructing or removing a sense of place
- Manipulating perceptions of place
- Sensory experiences of place
- Time passing in a place (note the overlap)
- Relationship between humans and nature
- History and politics of a place
- The nature of location in digital age
These examples of Big Ideas and Key Concepts are a powerful way to connect classroom curriculum with this exhibition even if the art form your students are dealing with is significantly different.
As a whole, art educators are not allowing exploration of the full range of art forms, and it is unfortunate. To often (and you see this in the whole population) art is thought of as drawings, paintings, and sculptures, but in modern times… in this world we are living in, here and now, there are so many other art forms, many of which are not being explored in the K-12 art room. This exhibition of only 14 works explores:
- performance art
- endurance art
- digital art
- and some unique combinations of these
There is a place for these art forms in K-12 art education, and I think we need to begin to explore them. Students connect so naturally to video. It is part of their every day life. Let’s show them how to be creators, not just consumers of moving images, and continue to develop their abilities to communicate in our visual culture.