Author Archives: Charlotte Frost

The Art of Staying Somewhere Very Special

Because attending huge art conference just isn’t enough art for me, I opted for a week staying in…

which, as it turns out, is about as close as you can get to an art gallery sleep-over. Welcome to my photographic essay: The Art of Staying Somewhere Very Special!

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Where It All Started…

Back in 1996 I attended my first ever art history lecture at the University of Leeds. I walked into a large lecture theatre where a dazzlingly glamorous woman stood in front of, er, this image, by Linda Benglis. She enthusiastically ushered us in, keen to get started, and, well, nothing has quite been the same since.

An hour later I bumped into a friend studying law and said “You are soooooooooooooooooo on the wrong course. The lecture I’ve just been too? Well, let me just say that EVERYTHING looks different now!”

The lecturer who had made such an impact on me? Griselda Pollock! And she is absolutely the reason I went on to do an MA and a PhD – and trust me, if I could study more I would, I’m an addict I tell you, and it’s all her fault!

OK I admit it, sometimes I do wish I could watch a chick-flick without noticing all the misogynistic undertones, but I’m eternally grateful to Griselda for making me see things so differently, so I was thrilled to run into her here at the CAA the other night. It was a great opportunity to say hello and catch her up on how my career is going.

Oh and if it doesn’t sound too stalker-ish (which clearly it does!), guess what Facebook group I joined first? I Love Grisdelda Pollock, a group set up by some of her current (and apparently equally awe-filled students). And that reminds me, I really should find out what she though of the Social Network…

(I think the photograph might be a little wine-infused but I’m nonetheless grateful to the photographer! ;-)

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Gimme a good old chat and a cuppa char (please)

CAA, I have to ask: where are the coffee breaks? (Or even tea breaks, seeing as I’m British). At the AAH in the UK there are set times when all the sessions are out and tea, coffee and biscuits are supplied aplenty. I know the AAH is a much smaller conference but I rely on these moments to meet the people I didn’t know I needed to meet – if you see what I mean.

Standing queueing for a cuppa (that’s English for cup of tea) I end up finding out about sessions I haven’t made it to, speakers I’ve never heard of and theories I hadn’t considered. They end up being very useful networking events – not to mention important pit-stops. Consider this a suggestion posted in the suggestion box – and next time I’ll bring the Earl Grey!

(Forgive the gratuitious cup cake shot, I actually made these for a conference session once, so it seemed apt. And I’ve just noticed the branch of Magnolia a few blocks away from the Hilton and it’s ALL I can think about right now! ).

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The Death of Books

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Semantically Yours…

Technology and Collaboration in the Art History Classroom was an interesting – if slightly frustrating – session. It was good for me – a Brit – to hear about some of the tools art historians are using to teach art history in the US and the success rate they are having with them. I certainly made a note to look into VoiceThread as a way of getting my students to research and present their ideas in a different way. As I haven’t used it yet, I’m not clear what it brings to the table that is particularly new, but I could definitely see the benefit of getting students to collect information together and witness their own construction of critical data in this way.

What bothered me about this session, however, was the uncritical use of certain terms like ‘open source’ and ‘collaboration’. Open source is not quite a synonym for free. Rather, it is about giving people access to the working model in addition to materials and, importantly, what is implied is that they take these and rebuild/rework what’s there. Few if any of the platforms or tools cited as open source in this session actually were, and as an historian of New Media art this is an important sticking point for me.

One of the obstacles to the art historical representation of New Media art is that many of these terms have their own histories and cultures and what we’re often missing from art historians is their critical application (beyond the niche realm of New Media art history that is). We, as art historians, do need to understand these terms better. We need to know the difference between open and closed source just like we know the difference between oils and watercolour, not just so we can recognise New Media art, but because these concepts are a part of our everyday lives now.

Collaboration is another word liberally (mis-)used today. It can be found in the title of this session on teaching but not (for reasons I’m about to introduce) in the title of the session on Participation and Engagement: Curating Contemporary Art After New Media. The organisers of the latter session have written extensively about the subtle distinctions between ‘collaboration’ and ‘participation’ (and while we’re at it ‘interaction’) that are too often overlooked. (See their book Rethinking Curating: Art After New Media.)

I would argue that Technology and Collaboration in the Art History Classroom focused more on participation, because the tools discussed were predominantly about getting students to take part, to be more active in their learning. There was less about how these tools make students active co-producers of new material (VoiceThread, I believe, is an exception to this if used in the right way). And so it follows that Participation and Engagement emphasised curatorial projects where the audience was given a more active role but not entirely turned into a co-producer of the work.

The presenters in both these sessions raised a wealth of issues associated with the nature of teaching art history and curating art. They looked into the various possibilities of new technologies at our disposal as educators and curators. But, for me, what is often missing from sessions on art historical technologies is a New Media artist/curator/historian/theorist on the panel, who can provide valuable and, I’d say, necessary insight into how we can and should understand the type of knowledge construction fostered by proprietary software compared to something FOSS-based, for example. This is not the sole domain of the New Media artist/curator/historian/theorist but, right now at least, these are often the people best placed to help make these distinctions.

Posted in Sessions, Technology | 4 Comments