Contributor: Florie Tse, Jockey Club Ti-I College
Target students: S.3 & S.4 students （14-15 year olds student）
Over the past two years, my former students Nicole Pang and Calvin Woo took part in Chow Yiu Fai’s AAA residency project, where Ha Bik Chuen Archive was the catalyst for the creation of a painting and an animation that paid tribute to the late Hong Kong artist. As a spin-off project, the lyricist later collaborated with singer-songwriter Sophy Wong to translate both works into songs and music videos that were presented in a concert-exhibition titled Connective Memories.
I was deeply impressed by how, in the creative exercise, static archives can produce resonance and artistic associations when mediated by personal experience and inspiration. After the exhibition, I wanted to incorporate these seemingly arcane materials and complex artistic practices into a curriculum for junior secondary students. The resulting framework is aimed at exploring ideas, feelings, and artistic expression, with AAA Collections serving as a catalyst for creative thinking.
- Explore new ways of reading or browsing AAA Collections.
- Using AAA as a platform for creative inquiry, encourage students to seek linkages in the collection to contemporary life and their personal lives.
- Through a series of exercises, guide students at each step of the way to extract a theme of creation from their interactions with the collection. The theme then serves as inspiration for an art creation.
Part One: Developing a Personal Connection with the Archive
The first teaching session aims to familiarise students with the archive’s search function, exploring ways to create a connection with images through a series of exercises. Students search and select images, associate them with themes, and give them a new life through creativity.
2. Exercise one: The teacher decides on a theme, such as “The Body and Rhythm” or “Pain and Pleasure.” Students use AAA’s search engine to look up images in the collection that are related to the theme and familiarise themselves with the search function. In this warm-up exercise, each student is required to look up three images and upload them onto a shared folder. From the search results, students may observe that their peers have different interpretations of the same theme.
3. Exercise two: arrange students into groups of two and continue to familiarise them with ways of looking up information in the archive. In this exercise, each student is required to pick their own theme and look up three relevant images from the collection to share with their groupmate.
4. Exercise three: Borrowing from the artist Lam Wing Sze, whose personal creation Thinking Studio drew inspiration from the archive by the late artist Ha Bik Chuen, the teacher guides students to use a similar method to make associations and connections in the process of observing an image. During his lifetime, Ha Bik Chuen loved to use a camera to capture what he saw and heard, and left behind numerous contact sheets. When viewers browse the contact sheets, they can look at the numerous thumbnails of visual records. The teacher can start by introducing Ha Bik Chuen and his archive, and display to students the contact sheets within the archive. Next, the teacher prints out these contact sheets and instructs students to select five images they are interested in or resonate with. Students then write down keywords related to the image, so as to practise developing a personal connection with the visual information.
5. The teacher introduces the concept of creative inquiry and describes how Lam Wing Sze developed a personal connection with the Ha Bik Chuen Archive in her process of creation.
Homework: Consolidate the skills that students learnt from Part One, which form the basis of the exercises under Part Two.
1. Students recreate Ha Bik Chuen’s contact sheets by selecting 35–37 images that inspire them and make their own versions.
2. Students pick a Research Collections from the archive that interests them, read the introduction, and browse through the online collection. They can then use the information to prepare a three-minute artist’s introduction.
Part Two: Telling a Story through Images
The second session trains students to connect seemingly unrelated visuals and develop a rough narrative through observation and image description. This narrative will serve as an inspiration for the direction that the final art creation takes. Students are required to use the homework from Part One to put together a story.
- Students use three minutes to introduce an artist or share stories related to AAA’s Research Collections.
- Using the artist's introduction or background knowledge about the stories within the collection, students choose five images from their own contact sheet that inspire them, explore a theme, and create a story.
- Students match the five images with labels or keywords with the aim of developing a personal connection with them.
Tips on telling a story through images:
- Carefully inspect the images and accurately describe them
- Use one sentence to describe the narrative of each image
- Arrange the images in order to tell a story
- Create a suitable title for the series of images
- Students share their stories and provide feedback to one another
Homework: Students use the medium of zines to organise scattered thoughts into a coherent story.
1. After the exercises under Part Two of the lesson are completed, the teacher can introduce AAA’s zine collection as an overview of zines as a medium of creation.
2. After the lesson, students create a zine based on their stories, which they share with peers in the next lesson.
Part Three: Sharing Zines
The third session has students revise and edit their personal stories with feedback from their peers.
Students display and share their zines, then provide feedback to one another.
Students may edit their stories based on the comments of their peers.
Part Four: Collecting Information for Art Creation
In the fourth part of the lesson, students use the initial concept and theme of their stories in the zines as starting points to construct a mind map. Students can look up keywords in the archive and obtain information and material about different artworks, which then serve as inspiration and reference points for their creation.
1. A member of AAA staff introduces students on how they can find inspiration by collecting information and produce a mind map for thematic research.
2. Students use the themes of their zines’ stories to produce a mind map. In groups of three-to-four, they share their own mind maps and zines, and discuss how they understood and interpreted each other’s themes.
3. A member of AAA staff gives an introduction on looking up archive collections and books.
4. Students choose one-to-two books from the archive as references for their research.
Homework: Art Criticism, Appreciation, and Creation
For their homework, students review the information and books they obtained from the archive during the lesson, and choose an artwork related to the theme of creation for critique and appreciation. They can apply their understanding of an artwork’s background and the relevant analysis of the creative approach to their own art creation.
- Students produce a PowerPoint to share their learning journey at AAA and critique the artwork.
- Students take inspiration from art criticism and appreciation to produce a painting. Students may also try out different mediums to convey their theme.
The teacher may extend this journey of creation based on the progress of the class.
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.
The framework was challenging as it was an experimental learning approach that aimed at exploring the myriad possibilities for Form Three students. I was hesitant during the implementation—could it be too demanding for junior secondary students?
As opposed to conventional pedagogic practices in junior secondary schools where all subjects concerning creative themes and media are explored through a defined framework, the new initiative gave students free rein in choosing their own theme and medium, allowing their imagination to run wild whilst using the more static archive for creative reference.
The programme was conducted in two academic terms for two groups of Form Three students.
The first one combined both online and full-day, face-to-face lessons, with elements of experiential learning such as a field trip to Asia Art Archive. On the day of visit, we shared zines created by students. Students were also encouraged to browse through archival materials at AAA Library for creative inspiration. Among the group was an English teacher who had a great interest in zines. He was delighted to learn that junior secondary students were given the opportunity to conduct archival study, which he thought was available only to university students. Instead of being overwhelmed by the learning activity, the students were enlightened by archival practices, to which they related their own interests and experiences during the creative process.
The second term was interrupted by the “early summer holiday” mandated by the Education Bureau due to the pandemic outbreak. I was forced to restructure the face-to-face lessons into online activities. We finally came up with a flexible approach that combined both on- and off-line teaching under the “Be Water” principle to cope with the volatile situation.
In conclusion, pedagogy should allow for great flexibility in times of uncertainty. For art educators, it is a joy to encourage students to express their personalities through creative practices.
Students discussed how the “archive as a platform for creative inquiry” programme inspired their creation:
Publishing date: 16 August 2022
The AAA Learning and Participation Programme is supported by the S. H. Ho Foundation Limited.