Michael Wesch’s talk at the UofR

In response to Michael Wesch’s talk at the UofR. link

What a great talk. I really loved how he addressed the concept of our society ‘Amusing ourselves to death,’ drawing a parallel to Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World. While a BFA student we talked about this concept, and since then I haven’t questioned the idea that we are basically awash in a sea of information and we at large are impotent to make any major change that will leave a lasting effect. Wesch really helped me to see that through the advent of the internet we are now capable of breaking this bind, no longer passive but active.

Wesch provides the following list as to why this is now possible:
– Not controlled by few
– Not one way
– Created by, for, and around networks, not masses
– Transform individual pursuits into collective actions

The latter really has me excited because of my interest in the idea of authorship in art, as well as the relationship between artist and audience. While I lived in Japan I made art that only worked if others contributed. Like artists Sol LeWitt and Yoko Ono I would provide instructions that others could choose to interact with, only I was looking for others to create their own interpretation of what was being asked of them. As an example to illustrate this, I made a paper boat out of origami and took a picture of it in a water pail outside a residence. This photo was hung with the accompanying title/explanation “float a boat” and pieces of construction paper with folding instructions. It was amazing how many people chose to particpate, sending me their photos once they had floated their boat.

This came to mind because I was thinking of the potential the web can have on sharing and collaborating. Would I have used the net as a means of showing this artwork instead of a gallery in Kyoto, chances are the responses would have been much more varied and interesting than those that I received, adding additional layers to what would become the artwork.

I am a big fan of his teaching model and am wondering how it will work with a Grade 3/4 classroom. I am already a firm believer of working alongside the student as well as engaging in real problems relevant to both instructor and students. While on my internship we worked on SK hero projects, which among other things provided students with an opportunity to see that the internet is a tool, and that it can be used to both research and create. The majority of my students had little experience using a computer, so much of the research had been done prior by myself, but put onto websites I created. I did it in this fashion because I wanted them to find early success with this new technique called ‘research,’ and I knew that were I to give them free reign, many wouldn’t have been able to even start their project. Were I to have this class throughout the year, I would provide them many opportunities to learn skills such as these so they can “recognize and harness the existing media environment” and hopefully move towards becoming the ‘constructive’ thinkers Wesch believes can be made using this system.

This has really helped me to understand the need to provide students the opportunity to interact with the ‘media environment’ as early an age as possible as it allows the individual the motivation and opportunity to “create meaningful creations.”


3 thoughts on “Michael Wesch’s talk at the UofR

  1. Jeremy, I find it so intriguing to hear what you are saying about authorship in art and the relationship between artist and audience. It is a beautiful, vulnerable, and very constructive thing to invite people into your headspace and into the making of art alongside you. When I view art, often I don’t want to respond to it with words. It frustrates me when I cannot respond because I don’t have the words to do it…but inviting your audience to participate in a more constructive response I think you get feedback and connections that are more genuine.

    1. Wow thanks for the really thoughtful comment! This was especially true in order to make a connection with an audience that was primarily Japanese. I found the artwork that was the most success often had a very simple premise, but carried with it more universal underlying message. Long gone are the days when the artist personified himself/herself as the tortured individual. Making art as a group enables the artist to create art without ego or pretension, and often leaves a stronger impression on the audience than most post-modern artwork does anymore. Again, thanks for the comment.

  2. It’s really nice to see how you’ve treated the Wesch video guided with your own experience. Also, glad to see that you’re tagging. That, and your on-going Twitter profile has set you up for early success in the course. I’m looking forward to what you produce.

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