Introduction

The pandemic has changed the idea of place and the association of our body with it. Digital spaces, in a way, reject the performance of the full body when we show only the upper torso in front of the camera. It has also changed the way we interact with each other in the regular classroom, and so it’s interesting to see how our body adapts to such “unusual” circumstances. This exercise studies the coexistence and contrast of the body and physical/virtual spaces, and their impact on the learner's psyche and observations.

Educators can conduct the following warm-up exercises and creative projects to encourage learners to imagine and understand what it means to be “unusual” visually. 

 

Warm-up Exercises

Exercise One

Educators can have a visual brainstorm session by showing these two references together:

During the session, ask these questions:

  • What is going on in the picture?
  • What makes you say that?
  • What else did you find? What might it be?
  • What kind of feelings do the painting and the trailer give you? Why do you think they give you such feelings?
  • How would you describe the spaces depicted in the painting and the trailer? Do they look realistic? Or do you find anything strange or surreal about it? Why?

Exercise Two

Ask students to look through a window nearby, and ask these questions:

  • What do you see on the other side?
  • Recall what you observed from the two references in Exercise One, and the way the painting and the trailer depict surreal spaces. If you have to change just one thing to make this space surreal, what would that be?

Students can draw this surreal space or landscape.

 

Creative Projects

Questions to Think About in Advance

Educators can think through these questions a day before they conduct the session. As the session begins, the educator can propose the same questions to students, and let them hear each other’s responses. Students can have a day to think through these questions if more than ten students are in the group. They can also submit the responses in writing.

  • What unusual things have you realised about your immediate surroundings during the lockdown or school suspension? How has this experience impacted your relationship with the place in which you live?
  • What kind of differences do you experience between an online lesson and a lesson in a physical classroom?
  • What do you like or dislike about the digital classroom? What are three things you would like to change about your current online class?

 

Project One

Learning Objectives

  • To make students aware of their immediate surroundings, and to encourage them to imagine inaccessible spaces
  • To introduce students to surrealist styles and techniques and use them in drawings
  • To expand the understanding of our relationship with the places in which we live

To Begin the Exercise

Spend some time observing the room you are sitting in. Pay attention to the arrangement and the details of the objects/things. Think of the relationship you have with this place.

Now think of another place you wish to visit after the pandemic is over. This place you are imagining can also be a place that you have never seen.

What if these two places (the one you are in now and the other you are imagining) merge? How would you visually represent it? How many ways of doing that can you think of?

Here is an approach educators can introduce to the students:
Do a line drawing of the room you are in (including the things lying there) on an A3 paper. Now erase any part (minimum 3x3 inches) of the drawing in any shape and draw the place you are imagining.

Questions to Discuss After the Exercise

  • Does this drawing make you feel like you can be in many places at one time? How does that happen, or if not, what do you think is the reason?
  • Would you want your drawing to come to life? Why or why not?
  • Recall your experience of having an online class. How do the forty minutes of an online class change the space you are in? Does your entire space turn into a classroom, or just a corner?

Learning Outcome

By the end of the exercise, students should be able to conceptually bridge their immediate surroundings and their imagination. The exercise makes students pay attention to details of their surroundings and objects around them, and to provoke them to use experimental methods in drawing.

References:

 

Project Two

Learning Objectives

  • To make students understand the coexistence of the physical and digital space
  • Developing skill sets regarding iconography and language in visual art

To Begin the Exercise

Observe how the digital interface of the software (Zoom, Google Meet, etc.) you use for online classes is designed. Look for different icons, names of columns or tools, and the space division on the screen. Think about how and when you use these tools (video on/off, share screen, mute, chat box, etc.) during an online lesson.

If the tools and icons turn into real devices, how will they change the experience of the physical space? What if the virtual and physical space seeps into each other and becomes one? How would you represent the interconnection of these two spaces in your artwork?

Notice the types of space division on your screen during the online class. Create similar divisions on a sheet of paper using lines. Think about your offline experiences. If you have to put them into an online class format, how and where would you place them? For example, there might be some things you’d like to mute or some memories you’d want to share. Draw and paint these experiences with icons and columns you find appropriate.

Note: Students should be encouraged to use a variety of mediums and materials to create the icons and columns. They can refer to the full screen or some part of the digital interface for their composition.

Questions to Discuss After the Exercise

  • Which tool from the online software would you like to have in real life? Why?
  • What does your drawing or painting remind you of? How do you associate any themes (social, environmental, political, etc.) to it?
  • Compared to the offline world, how does the online space filter interactions? How do you think it is different from offline interaction?
  • Does the use of specific tools in online interaction allow you to express yourself more? Why?

References:

 

Project Three

Learning Objectives

  • To make students understand the idea of self and multiple identities in the current techno-sphere
  • To develop the performative skills in portrait-making

To Begin the Exercise

Educators can start discussing these questions with students:

  • Does your personality or behaviour always remain the same in different places?
  • How do you think that different places or people can trigger multiple identities?
  • How does it feel to be present in front of the camera? Does it make you feel conscious or confident?
  • Compared to when we were in school, what changes do you notice in the behaviours of your fellow students during online classes?
  • If you have to distinguish your sense of selfhood in physical versus virtual spaces, how would you do that?

Afterwards students can carry out the following steps:

Start an online meeting using Zoom, Google Meet, or other software you are familiar with, and keep the camera on. Do not let anyone else be a part of this meeting. Pay attention to your immediate feelings and the things you see around you. Observe yourself for at least ten minutes and make a self-portrait. (Dry mediums are recommended in making this portrait.) Create a background for this portrait by considering what else is visible on your screen.

The next day, make another self-portrait by sitting in front of a mirror. Follow the same procedure of observation to create this portrait. Present both portraits together as one work.

Questions to Discuss After the Exercise

  • How was seeing yourself in the mirror different from watching the computer screen? Did you feel alone on the screen when no other participants were at the meeting? Why or why not?
  • Which scenario took a longer time for you to create your self-portrait?
  • What differences do you see between these two portraits? Which portrait do you think discloses more emotions, and why?
  • If you see these portraits without the background, will it convey the same feeling? Why do you think so?

References:

 

 

About the Artist

Murli Dhar (b. 1992), also known as Murlosky, was born and brought up in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, India, and currently lives and works in Bangalore. He holds a Masters in Fine Arts from Shiv Nadar University, and a Bachelor of Visual Arts in Painting from Rajasthan School of Art, Jaipur. He has exhibited and taken part in projects such as What About Art in Mumbai (2019), the performance Two Degree at Artist Unite in Delhi (2018), the open site project The breath after crossing the yellow line in Greater Noida (2017), the Shiv Nadar University MFA Final Year Display at Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in Noida, Uttar Pradesh (2017), an online exhibition and broadcast on Mojarto by New Delhi Television (2017), and Students’ Biennale of Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2016). He also received an honourable mention for Emerging Artist by Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art in 2017.

Murlosky creates site-responsive installations using tangible materials, found objects, videos, photographs, text, and places where liminal acts occur over a course of time. His practice explores the methodologies of action-art in site-specific contexts. These acts manifest in the form of orchestrating processes of precipitation, seepage, evaporation, leakages, and spills, producing a palpable tension of the site and the surface underneath.

 

This Artist Exercise is derived from "Teaching Labs | Learning Paradigms Today: Workshop for Art Educators" in collaboration with the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art in 2020. Murlosky was a participant of the workshop. 

The AAA Learning and Participation Programme is supported by the S. H. Ho Foundation Limited and C. K. and Kay Ho Foundation.

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