Week 5 Day 1 : Visiting Artist Benjamin Thorp

Visiting Artist Benjamin Joel Thorp is a multidisciplinary environmental artist who works primarily with sound. Most of his recent work has been public and site specific installations that engage multiple audiences in sensory experiences that both further an appreciation and challenges one’s understanding of their surroundings. His work has been shown widely in large scale public spaces in Hong Kong and Italy as well as galleries in the United States. He received a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute (2004) and recieved his MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago (2009).

Benjamin explored techniques for interventions and performance using responsive and sound art with the Youth Artists. He also had the Artists consider historical and contemporary contexts and conceptual art. He focused the Artists’ work on an exploration of the surrounding community and the potential of art and art practices to speak and challenge narratives that are connected to the neighborhood.

Benjamin started the first day off by introducing the Youth Artists to artist John Cage and his “Rules for Students and Teachers”. The rules are as follows…

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student – pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students

RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher – pull everything out of your students.

RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.

RULE FIVE: Be self-diciplined – this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-diciplined is to follow in a better way.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

RULE TEN: “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.”

HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything – it might come in handy later.

The Artists were then prompted to look through their writings in their journals and find moments in which they perceived change in themselves, of their surroundings, or colleagues. A discussion was created from their selections, which allowed the group to reflect on the activities done and work made thus far.

Benjamin then introduced the Youth Artists to a method of organizing thoughts called a Constellation. Constellations are a kind of word map or word web that allows one to record thoughts and ideas in a fluid and related manner even though the thoughts may be random, spontaneous, or seemingly unrelated. Benjamin gave an example of how to create a constellation using a partner to be the scribe of one’s thoughts. This technique allows the thinker to concentrate on reiterating their ideas, not on writing.

Benjamin saying his day's activities aloud while Maria records them

The Youth Artists were then prompted to relay the events of the previous night to the mornings arrival to the program to a partner. The Artists were to remember all of the elements in time that connected to past experiences, including all details even if they seem like tangents. This allowed the Youth Artists to analyze space in time in a manner that allowed connections to be made to all aspects of their surroundings.

Benjamin then had the Artists think of a site that they would pass by on a daily basis. It was to be a place that they wished to alter, change, or speak to in some way, as well as a space that they sensed an aesthetic, social, or political effect on the community. The Youth Artists then created a list of things that they wanted to change about the space and the community, and how they would do it. They then focused on an aspect of this list, and used lists, poetry, writing and prose to convey their wishes on seed paper. This paper was filled with seeds of different wild flowers and when buried, flowers would flourish where the seed paper was planted. Eventually, the seed paper would be planted in the spaces the Youth Artists chose earlier, and installations and sound art would be made in reference to their seed paper writings.

Seed paper writings along with Constellations


~ by cityassite on August 17, 2010.

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