On a Thursday afternoon earlier this summer, apprentice educator Tali Petschek and I rushed around the Education Center, heading up to the seventh floor to ferry down supplies to our classroom on the mezzanine level. It was the culminating session of Open Art Space, a new MoMA Teens drop-in program for LGBTQ high school students. For our 15th and final session of the season, we decided, in collaboration with some of our most devoted participants, to do an LGBTQ prom-themed photo shoot. Teens wanted at least a taste of a prom they couldn’t have in their own schools, where they could bring whomever they wanted, dress however they wanted, and explore whatever gender roles felt right to them at that moment.
Posts tagged ‘MoMA Teens’
Last fall I was invited back to MoMA for another unique opportunity to work with the Department of Education’s Teen Programs. Initially, I was shocked—after doing an In the Making class in the summer of 2014 and being part of the incredible Cross Museum Collective the following year, I figured I had reached the apex of my involvement here. But of course MoMA, in all its mystifying generosity, had something else to offer: a position on the Digital Advisory Board. I knew little about what I would be doing, but the chance to be part of MoMA Teens again was something I couldn’t resist. I eagerly accepted. Arriving at the first meeting, I was delighted to see the familiar faces of my friends from the past two years, and together we all jumped down the rabbit hole.
We learned we’d be taking over all of MoMA Teens’ social media pages, posting content to Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook to our heart’s content. It was exciting and new, being able to work on such a large platform and essentially represent the “Artistic Teen of the Modern Age,” and I was ecstatic. Yet, as the weeks carried on, there was something more hinted at by our MoMA leaders Calder and Ali, something that, as far as the history of the Digital Advisory Board went, hadn’t been done before. And then, we met Samantha Friedman, an assistant curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints, who introduced us to Dadaglobe.
Dadaglobe, in the simplest terms, was manqué: something that could have been, but never was. A scattered relic lost essentially forever in time, Dadaglobe was a failed attempt in 1921 to bring together the movement of Dada, an operation that was already global and disjointed, into a published anthology. The aim, however, was not to formalize and sanction Dada into concrete terms, but to coalesce and embody, to provide a glimpse of an explosive campaign at its peak. Its mastermind and architect was Tristan Tzara, a well-known poet and a co-founder of Dada. Through a series of solicitation letters, he garnered the attention of artists from 10 countries, instructing them to carry out four different requests: 1) “send a clear photo of your head (not body), which you can alter freely, although it should retain clarity” 2) send “2 or 3 photos of your works,” 3) send “3 or 4 black-and-white drawings. . . . one drawing can be colorful, but containing no more than 2 to 3 colors,” and 4) if not sending a drawing, then “design a book page with or without text.”
The responses were nothing short of extraordinary. Drawings, collages, and photographs poured in, all ranging from straightforward executions of the instructions to complete defiance (it was Dada, after all). Samantha told us of one self-portrait sent by Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg (in the guise of his alter ego I.K. Bonset), who instead of sending a distinct photograph of his face, sent an image of the back of his head, with an adorning halo of text reading Je suis contre tout et tous—”I am against everything and everyone.” It was utterly and entirely Dada, and I completely fell in love. Learning of Dadaglobe for the first time, discovering this trove of works belonging to a movement I was already thoroughly enamored with, made me feel like a kid in a candy store with an empty stomach and an endless budget. Putting all my childlike glee aside, I knew that we weren’t given a presentation of Dadaglobe simply because it was a neat piece of lost art history; our new roles as Digital Advisory Board members would finally be set in motion.
As MoMA prepared to open its exhibition Dadaglobe Reconstructed on June 12, which reunites over 100 works made for the publication, we discovered that those of us on the Digital Advisory Board would be working together to construct our own homage to Dadaglobe. Following Tzara’s original instructions, we were asked to create works of art in the unbridled spirit of Dada to be published in conjunction with the exhibition. It was exciting news, no doubt, but presented a challenge. How could we adapt and recreate something that was born and functioned to reject the specific principles of a society torn apart by war, under circumstances that no longer existed today? How could we faithfully translate the temperament of Dada to reflect the 21st century? There were no clear answers, but we approached it the only way we could: head on.
We began with layouts for book pages. Naturally, there were no rules to what or how we could make, only to create how we saw fit. I have to admit I struggled at first; my mind was saturated with ideas and images, but materializing them with the clever subtleties that seemed to come naturally to the Dadaists was something I thought I wasn’t capable of. Looking back, I can say it never really mattered anyways. I wanted to introduce the tangible social elements of living in 2016, and bring attention to them through mockery and jest. For one collage, I decided to take a picture of Donald Trump with his wife, cover her with a picture of Hillary Clinton to pose them as a rather stylish couple, and replace their lower halves with poised, feminine legs. My motivation was not so much to demean or emasculate either presidential candidate, but really because the idea made me laugh. I tend to think that laughter is the best way to cope with the absurd current events of our time.
Self-portraits were next. There was lots of inspiration to draw from concerning the actual submissions for Dadaglobe: van Doesburg and the unapologetically defiant back of his head, artists like Johannes Theodor Baargeld and Max Ernst who pasted their own faces onto and next to other cut-out images, or Francis Picabia, who, for one part of his submission, simply signed his name on a piece of paper. I decided to keep my face unobscured, however. Under normal circumstances, the concept of my face being mass printed would have horrified me, but I saw the call for self-portraits as something more than a vehicle for identification. I wanted to recontextualize myself in a space where I could see myself objectively, as a collection of lines and arrangements of color rather than a person onto which judgements and prejudice could be cast.
We then moved onto original drawings, for which we limited ourselves to traditional dip pens and black ink. There was something kind of wholly organic about creating the drawings, composing scenes only through stretching black lines and blocks of ink. I think all of us approached the drawings with a sense of assured confidence and lack of restraint; we simply let our hands speak for us. The works we made during that period we all distinctly different, yet distinctly ours.
The only thing left was to create images of artworks, and here we were truly inspired by how playful the Dadaglobe artists were. The goal, it seemed, was not to capture an artwork accurately with a camera, but to explore how the photographic process and reproduction could manipulate how drawings, collages, or random objects were perceived. For example, one piece I especially enjoyed was a submission by Man Ray, who photographed a random and essentially meaningless concrete and wood structure in an empty lot, and called it La plus belle sculpture d’Amérique—the most beautiful sculpture in America. Using collage for this witty, almost mischievous purpose was a delight. Unlike our layouts for book pages, there wasn’t a particular or single message to convey, therefore we felt a kind of feeling of triumph in creating new works of art out of arbitrary images and fabricating meaning out of “nothing.”
But of course, it had to end. We had made dozens of Dada-esque works, consumed probably several pantry’s worth of snacks, and managed to bring what seemed like an impossible task into an awesome reality. It was hard, but incredibly rewarding work that allowed us to genuinely experience and partake in a small sliver of the art world. Dadaglobe Reconstructed is now open to the public, and for the first time the world will get to see Dada as the Dadaists sought to represent it.
I want to end on a quote expressed by Hugo Ball, a founding member of Dada: “For us, art is not an end in itself, but it is an opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in.” As the Digital Advisory Board, our objective was not to merely recreate Dadaglobe art for contemporary times, but to utilize the blunt, untainted lens of Dada to perceive those times—and perhaps even criticize them. For it seems as long as the Earth continues to turn, the timeless doctrine of Dada will always endure, illuminating our lives.
Dadaglobe Reconstructed is on view now through September 18, 2016. More info HERE. Special thanks to Jo-Anne Naarendorp and all of the 2016 Digital Advisory Board members: Jocelyn Aldaz, Ashley Aviles, Kevin Cruz, Cara Hernandez, Anatola Pabst, Oksana Pligina, and Yvonne Zagzag. Extra special thanks to Eva Kozanecka, Ali Santana, and Samantha Friedman. Follow @momateens on Instagram for more teen-created content.
Our teen programming is set up in a multi-tiered way: Open Art Space is a free drop-in program for LGBTQ-identified teens and their allies, with no application required, that people can visit as little or as much as they want. Our In the Making programs offer free studio art courses, introductory experiences that involve a structured amount of weekly on-site classes and culminate with a teen art show of participants’ work.
We first worked with Mary Mattingly in the summer of 2013, when she collaborated with us as one of the teaching artists for the Museum’s first ever 3-D printing course for teens, a program that was set up through our involvement with <a href="http://eyebeam.org/" target=_blank>Eyebeam</a>. When she approached us last fall with an idea for a new teen course, I was immediately intrigued
Creating spaces for free, hands-on art experiences is a cornerstone of the educational and artistic philosophies guiding our work within Teen and Community Partnerships here at MoMA. For far too many young people living in NYC, the idea of pursuing (or even exploring) a career in the arts can seem frivolous, intimidating, and, ultimately, unattainable. Add the high cost of undergraduate and graduate education to these gaps in basic accessibility and the difficulties young artists face are compounded exponentially. With these ideas in mind, this season saw MoMA Teens working with the staff and community of artists from Bruce High Quality Foundation University, or “New York’s freest art school,” as they aptly describe themselves. Set up as an introductory “art school for people who hate school,” the 10-week program they developed has taken the participating teens through the strange, scary, and oftentimes outlandish world of a college-level fine arts degree, as seen through the wonderfully distorted BHQFU lens. Below Andrea and Sean, our two BHQFU collaborators, share their experiences here so far.
—Calder Zwicky, Assistant Director for Teen and Community Partnerships, MoMA
For the past season, the Bruce High Quality Foundation University has had the pleasure of working with 25 incredibly sharp teenagers from across the five boroughs of New York City. In a world that has robbed many of them and their peers of a stable, prosperous future, we’re learning together about the social and political power of art.
And they’re all about it.
Each week, we invited a Bruce family member to lead a guest workshop outlining their studio working methods, political motivations, and cultural influences. This resulted in a crash course of sorts, a hyper-accelerated BFA experience that not only showed how art is made, but why art is made and for whom. The best part has been, our students got to experience all of this for free, thanks to this incredible program, MoMA’s In the Making teen art courses. At the end of each class, participants earned a merit badge celebrating the techniques and concepts they’d learned to add to their BHQFU camo vests. We’re earning them, too, and we’ll all have pretty killer art education maps on our backs at the exhibition opening on April 15.
We learned about Institutional Critique + Critical Pedagogy through a brief history of the Bruce High Quality Foundation and BHQFU that culminated in a group “sculpture tackle” of Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE work located a few blocks from MoMA. Rapper and visual artist James Allister Sprang (AKA GAZR), himself an alumnus of the MoMA Teens Apprentice Educator program, showed us the connection between Performance Art + Pop Art, challenging us to incorporate personal narrative and critiques of popular culture into our art. Queens-based sculptor Anne Wu encouraged us to see the human touch evident everywhere in the urban environment of New York, and how to translate sketches of the world around us into three-dimensional sculptural objects. Eamon Monaghan shared the secrets of his DIY Video + Set Design process as we learned how to construct miniature film sets and how to splice ourselves into them using the green-screen method. Continuing that DIY theme, the artist collective Packet Biweekly discussed the political value of Artist Books + Self-Publishing, working with us to knock out a brand new collaborative artist book in a single class session. We deconstructed, figuratively and literally, imagery from mass media, reconfiguring those images to reflect our individual perspectives through a Collage + Media Literacy workshop with artist Ariel Jackson. And we tapped into the other side with Orlando Estrada, whose Psychic Intuition + Alchemy class taught us relief mold sculpture techniques hinged on improvisation and drawing exercises encouraging us to find a sixth sense.
Consistently, our students have expressed their discontent with the way things are in the world—justifiably so! It’s easy to get jaded, right? But the thing is: none of them are jaded. They’re fired up and they’re making plans. Collectively and individually, they’re beyond driven. They are demanding an alternative future. BHQFU is equally fired up as we see in action the inarguable value of accessible art education. Our students are unafraid of speaking truth to power, of dismantling structures designed to marginalize them. Each of them is in possession of a truly unique voice and perspective, and they’ve learned the skills to amplify that voice through creating art.
Join us on April 15 for the opening of the In the Making: Spring 2016 Teen Art Show. We’re so fortunate to have met the next generation of merry pranksters and political dissidents. We can’t wait to show you what each of them can do.
The first day of class is always the worst. This summer’s In the Making program was no different. At nearly 10:00 a.m. on a sunny Tuesday morning in July, our new group of teens shuffled into the Museum silently, diverting all eye contact and slouching in their seats as if it made them invisible. But I knew them more than they realized. I’d carefully read each of their applications and typed their first and last names onto the official MoMA Teens ID cards they would receive as a first day rite of passage. Beneath their apprehensive facades, I knew they had shown up longing for a creative experience unlike any they had participated in thus far.
Before beginning my role assisting with all of the different aspects of MoMA’s teen programming two years ago, I taught traditional oil painting and figure drawing workshops at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. There, I witnessed the ways learning technical skills can empower students through providing the tools and confidence to visually represent the world around them. In MoMA’s In the Making programs, I’m seeing how a menu of experimental and nontraditional courses empowers students in exciting and different ways. In the spirit of the modernist artists in MoMA’s collection, our teen programs challenge and deconstruct the academic and traditional values that many NYC youth (and people of all ages) still firmly cling to when analyzing artistic quality and intent. We shake up their world, and the shy adolescents from the first day emerge totally unrecognizable after six short, intense weeks in the Museum.
This summer’s course offerings included You Think This Is a Game?!, which tackled sculpture through the lens of physicality, competition, and the antihero; Jaimie Warren’s House of Horror, which made comically gory GIFs re-creating horror clips and an elaborate cardboard kitchen installation exploring DIY techniques and the boundaries of good taste; The Surreal World, in which students delved into the subconscious through automatic drawing, assemblage, dream journaling, and the absurd; and CLICK@MoMA: Sight + Sound Lab, which involved creating audio and video mash-ups and album covers, many influenced by the visual culture of 1990s hip-hop and political events of our time.
Some might question the value of “scribbling” all over the walls or making crude sculptures with cardboard and tape. “How does that sharpen their artistic skills?” they might ask, or, “How does that experience prepare them for the real world? Why should they spend their summer in a studio when they could be prepping for the SATs?”
Personally, I also became seriously involved in art as a teenager. Growing up in suburban Atlanta, I always did well in class but often felt like I was just going through the motions. Art class was the one place where things weren’t simply wrong or right. This created an exciting challenge that led me to new and less narrow modes of thinking. In art class, I was fortunate to find a community that introduced me to the beauty of subjectivity, expression, and interpretation. It was an eye-opening, liberating moment in my development, and facilitating similar experiences for our young participants is a constant aim of mine.
Many of the teens I encounter are so accustomed to measuring themselves against their peers in one way or another, and it can be difficult to move beyond the binaries of good/bad or skilled/unskilled that are already rooted in their minds. I can relate, as it can be easy for me to slip back into this prosaic mode of thinking if I don’t actively keep it in check. Something I frequently find myself telling students (and myself) is, “Don’t compare yourself to others.” As basic and obvious as this statement sounds, I’m discovering it’s one of the most effective and empowering.In the Making aims to nurture very different kinds of skills than AP Art History or some academic figure drawing course might provide. Not because one type of skill is better than the other, but because they are equally valid. Our students don’t receive a certificate or school credit for their time with us, but they continue to come to the studio day after day to make cool stuff. Our classes may appear messy, chaotic, and strange, but this is exactly what creates an open-ended and playful space, nurturing new and overlooked skills such as radical thinking, idea execution, collaboration, and more. I feel our efforts to distance the program from the realms of grades, status, and measurability is the key to creating the transformative experiences and tight-knit communities I’ve seen emerge season after season. This open-endedness is one of the true gifts of the program, especially considering NYC is a city where students begin standardized testing in early elementary school. Freedom to experiment is not simply a perk of In the Making, but its lifeblood.
And just as the first day of class is the worst, the last week of classes is almost always the best, as the profound shift that took place over the past 18 sessions of studio time becomes intensely palpable. On the final day of class this summer, teen artists confidently occupied MoMA’s studio spaces, grabbing supplies and claiming whatever corner of the room they needed to frantically hammer the last nails into their sculptures or make the final edits on their video mash-ups. Playlists boomed out of the speakers, surrounding the buzzing chitchat of a focused and lively group. Some were having an intense critique in the mezzanine, while others decided to trash a piece they’d worked on for hours because they just weren’t feeling it anymore. When class time was up, no one wanted to leave.At our Teen Art Show opening two days later, one of our exceptionally thoughtful In the Making and Cross-Museum Collective alumni, Priya, gave us a handwritten thank-you note. Part of it read:
Before I left for school, I just wanted to let you guys know how thankful I am for the MoMA Teens education program. I truly do mean it when I say that being a MoMA Teen has changed my life. I don’t know if I’d even be studying art in college if it wasn’t for the confidence that MoMA Teen programming has given me…. Since my In the Making class last summer, I found my passion for art, discovered the teen art community in NYC & all the events available to me, learned more that I could ever imagine about the MoMA (aka my favorite museum in the universe), made friends who share the same passion as me & gained the confidence to pursue a career in the art field.
Beyond being rewarding and heartwarming to read, Priya’s note sums up the experience we hope to create for all of our participants. It is not our goal to have every student we work with go on to study art in college. But instilling confidence, rethinking possibilities, nurturing skills to execute ideas, and building communities will enrich any young person’s life, regardless of the path they pursue.
Extra special thanks to Calder Zwicky, Ali Santana, Zephyr Doles, Jaimie Warren, Sofia Dixon, Keith Mendak, Ray Ferreira, Leah Wolff, Esteban Jefferson, Guy Ben-Ari, Matt Roche, Adam Tetzloff, Chris Annibell, and OP Miller.
Jaimie Warren is the creative force behind some of today’s most playful, beautiful, and viscerally beguiling video, performance, and photography projects. When Adam Parker Smith and I reached out to her last year to come in as a guest artist for our I Am a God: Artists, Obsession & the Cult of Celebrity Culture course, we immediately saw that she was the perfect collaborator and mentor for our community of young artists.
Where do you start when describing this past season of MoMA’s In the Making program, offering free art and technology courses to an ever-evolving community of NYC high school students each spring and summer? We could begin with the first day of classes, perhaps, when the hundred or so new participants make their way to the Museum for the first studio session, many walking through our doors for the first time ever. The young artists in Destroy Everything: Tearing Things Down & Building Things Up began the season with a very appropriate introduction to their theme.
As the person who oversees the creation of MoMA’s teen-created, teen-directed online art courses, I have always been interested in the visual language of contemporary short-form videos—the look and feel of the TV shows and Web series that our audiences are looking at and talking about on their own time. When we work with our teens to create their videos, we almost invariably end up making comedic pieces—not straightforward sitcom-styled comedy but a more complicated, deliberately awkward, absurdist kind of abstract humor.
This summer’s In the Making program brought an incredibly diverse group of over 85 NYC teens into contact with a range of artists and arts organizations, for a series of six-week intensive art programs. Perhaps our most ambitious project ever, this summer’s collaboration with Babycastles, a non-profit video game-based gallery and arts collective, saw 23 teens working together on the creation of a fully-functional arcade, mural, and sculptural art installation.
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