Art Outside My Window

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No, Spiderman has not yet made an appearance at Middlebury nor have my students figured out how to scale the new-library walls; no, I’ve been receiving visits from soaring dancers this week as Project Bandaloop prepares for this weekend’s performances on the exterior of the new library as part of the celebration of its opening and the Clifford Symposium. The dancers smile as they twist and fly past my window, and I pull out my flippy phone and snap shots as I can, and then return to my computer, my books and my students, wondering if somehow I’ve chosen the wrong line of work–they are doing art and I’m not quite sure sometimes exactly what it is I’m doing…

Spending time these past couple of days with a hero of mine, Janet Murray, who is as warm and generous as she is brilliant and creative, and then listening to Siva Vaidhyanathan, has pushed me out of my own particular classroom story (fascinating as that may be to me) into the larger world of computer narrative and the culture of copyright. (The tension between the gifts, the stimulation of encountering the rest of the world via blogging and the teacher’s traditional experience of so often feeling locked into the demands of the particular classroom experience is another topic for a future blog post). And our own Héctor Vila had the pleasure of hearing his longstanding ideas and vision echoed by these groundbreakers. Exhilarating and exhausting couple of days. Much to think about and to try out in the classroom.

Indeed, the classroom, to be precise the Artswriting classroomwill benefit from what we’ve all taken in this week. I am struck nearly every day by how much more we imagine than we are yet able to deliver in this medium. I should be playing with imagery and sound here. I don’t like the way I write such long posts every time I sit down to the computer–ha– And I am forever making mistakes on the arts blog and cursing my weak Dreamweaver skills and lack of time to play around with Flickr and other applications that might well suit the kind of blogging my students are up to.

I need to tweak the art blog–adding a new couple of draft blogs (aptly entitled (fl)awZ as an interim place to post in-process writing for the students to respond to and revise before posting to awZ proper and yet also linking the draft blog prominently to the more finished version to enable those interested in our process to see it. Right now two of awZ’s internal blogs– Views & Reviews and Essays and Commentary are out of control spills. Drafts and revisions from fourteen students are thrown in here without much sense of organization.

A few students find the chaos absoutely exciting and liberating (can you tell, from their writing, which students these might be?), but most of them find it overwhelming. Of course some of what they are experiencing has to do with their desire for immediate gratification–the impatience we experience as things move ever faster (yup,the topic for another blog post–speed and expectations in the blogging classroom), but some of it is the fact that the nature of the blog is to create entries chronologically first, thematically as an aside. So–I think we’ve hit upon a solution with the new draft blogs for those two monsters. And the students are seeing the need to write better excerpts, better titles, to consider setting in place a rubric. They crave a bit of order, and are finding ways to accomplish it. I also think they will start responding to one another more, to engage in discussions, and to post spontaneously as they encounter art in the world.

Ah, we dreamed aloud this week of having a technology fellows program at Middlebury which would allow us to take a semester off to pursue some of this innovative application of technology in the classroom. I am falling behind…Bandaloop is falling past my window…time to get outside and watch the effect though I do love the intimacy of seeing the fragment, the up-close shot of one or two dancers. They are having such fun–laughing and grinning as they hang upside down, their heads inches from the unforgiving marble walls. They remind me to laugh, too, to PLAY with this medium if it’s the one I’m choosing as my means of expression, to be exuberant and serious all at once: to soar.

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