The art of teaching and teaching with art : using avant-garde art to foster active learning in the classroom

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The art of teaching and teaching with art : using avant-garde art to foster active learning in the classroom
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Journal of Authentic Learning
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Using avant-garde art to foster active learning in the classroom
Mack, Chris J. ( author )
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Avant-garde art and literature drawn from Dada artists and authors were used to foster authentic learning in a History course. Students read assigned texts to situate the artists and their work in a historical context. They then engaged in a semiotic analysis of dress, viewed and analyzed Dada painting and sculpture, participated in the creation and reading of Dada poems, and considered the question: What is art? As a result, students actively engaged with the ways avant-garde artists challenged traditional ways of knowing and looking at the world and had an opportunity to consider how they can reflect upon, and change, their own views of themselves and their places in the world.
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Submitted by Brian McDonald ( on 2005-11-07.
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Made available in DSpace on 2005-11-07T18:09:28Z (GMT).

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SUNY Oswego
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SUNY Oswego
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1558-7320 ( issn )

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The Art of Teaching and Teaching with Art 49 The Art of Teaching and Teaching with Art: Using Avant-garde Art to Foster Active Learning in the Classroom Chris Mack State University of New York at Oswego Avant-garde art and literature drawn from Dada artists and authors were used to foster authentic learning in a History course. Students read assigned texts to situate the artists and their work in a historical context. They then engaged in a semiotic analysis of dress, viewed and analyzed Dada painting and sculpture, participated in the creation and reading of Dada poems, and considered the question: What is art? As a result, students actively engaged with the ways avant-garde artists challenged traditional ways of knowing and looking at the world and had an opportunity to consider how they can reflect upon, and change, their own views of themselves and their places in the world. _______________________________________________________________________ As every teacher knows, there are always new classes to teach, new approaches to try, new materials to consider; and new research that can inform our teaching in ways we may never have imagined five years, or even a semester, before. One of the best spurs that I have found to encourage experimentation and innovation in my own teaching comes from an article in The Teaching Professor entitled: "What Makes A Good Teacher?" (Weimer, 1997). As I plan my classes before each semester, I refer to the article as a way to restore my perspective of the teaching process and as a continuing challenge to make my classes as stimulating, learner-centered, and fun, as they can be. Two statements in the article that I find particularly helpful are, "Good teachers take risks" (p.1-2), and "Good teachers try to keep students and themselves off balance" (p.1-2). Weimer goes on to explain: When teachers are comfortable, complacent, and certain about what they're doing, they're less likely to be teaching at their best. The same can be said of students, who need to face challenges they aren't quite sure they are ready to handle. It's about teachers and students always moving on to uncharted or rarely traveled territory. (p.1-2) In keeping with that counsel, I constantly try to vary the material presented to my students, including ideas and issues that some might argue are too complex and difficult for the average undergraduate. One example is the use of modern art in my teaching. Many students are not very sensitive to the aesthetic concerns and ideas of much modern and contemporary art. To some, it is terra incognita, a strange, bizarre, and confusing array of shapes, colors, and styles meant to baffle and elude them. That is the perfect place for my class to start! The students are thrown off balance by the material and their attempts to wrestle with it. Their comfort zone has been breached; they are ready to consider new ideas and approaches to not only grasp the material, but to use it as a means of re-evaluating their way of looking at art and its place in their world. But that is only the beginning. In addition, I use modern art in my classes to introduce students to the challenge that artists and thinkers presented to the Western intellectual and artistic tradition in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I want them to think about the efforts of Journal of Authentic Learning, Volume 2, Number 2, Pages 49-58, 2005


The Art of Teaching and Teaching with Art 50 artists (in this particular case) to question the received wisdom of painting, photography, and thinking in general about art in the West. What were the artists concerned with and about? How did they create new responses to the effects of World War I and the approach of World War II? How did their ideas reflect other thinkers concerns? These questions, among others, preoccupied our most recent discussions of Dadaism and Surrealism. The preparatory material for the discussion of Dadaism and Surrealism included assigned readings from our class texts, including both primary and secondary sources from the period, and handouts of Tristan Tzaras "Dada Manifesto" (1918). In addition, the students were asked to perform certain tasks requiring different learning approaches and skills designed to activate their active participation in the class. These tasks included: (a) decoding the signs present in the instructors attire; (b) viewing and analyzing Dadaist works of art and considering the ideas they advanced which both reflected their experience of WWI and challenged traditional ideas of art; (c) actively producing Dada art through the manipulation of a "Mona Lisa" handout and thoughtful engagement with the Dadaists claims regarding the artistic process and its historical place in Western culture; (d) continuing to consider the Dadaist approach toward the artistic process by watching and critiquing the instructors own "tangerine experiment" (explained later) and reflecting on the question, "What is art?"; (e) engaging students' attention and reflection through their "performance" or reading of Dada writings and poetry; (f) fostering cooperative learning through the production of a Dada poem by the class; (g) summing up what we learned about Dada and its relationship to the wider society and culture of Europe in the 1920s. Following a brief description of Dadaism and its historical context, my narrative below describes how these tasks were presented and accomplished through the course of the class. Historical Background Germany: 1.8 million dead. France: 1.4 million dead. Russia: 1.7 million dead. Austria-Hungary: 1.2 million dead. Great Britain and its Empire: nearly 1 million dead (Howard, 2002). Such were the costs of the First World War for just some of the countries involved. In addition, the war had far-reaching political effects. It led to the dissolution of political systems and aristocratic monarchies in Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary. It prompted revolutions in Russia and Germany. It created new nations in Central and Eastern Europe. And it undermined the old social order that had been dominated by hereditary aristocracies throughout Europe, replacing it with either bourgeois, or in the case of the Soviet Union, working class influences. In the midst of such incredible destruction and rapid change, and reminded of it every day by the memories of friends and family lost and the constant contact with the wars maimed and crippled, Dada was born. The rush by Europes citizens to slaughter one another prompted small, but increasingly influential, groups of artists in Zurich, New York, Paris, and Berlin to band together and question how such a horrific event could have occurred, and been tolerated, in supposedly "civilized" Europe. One of the artists who helped found and advance Dada was Richard Huelsenbeck. He left Berlin in 1916 to go to Zurich, at his parents urging, to avoid military service. His future brother-in-law's experience of combat in and around Verdun in 1916 and description of his own wounding in 1917 deepened Huelsenbeck's conviction that the war belied all the former Journal of Authentic Learning, Volume 2, Number 2, Pages 49-58, 2005


The Art of Teaching and Teaching with Art 51 Christian virtues Europe had prided itself on possessing. In a letter, Huelsenbeck's brother-in-law described the all too familiar horrors of the First World War. As he sat in a tree on observation duty, Huelsenbeck's brother-in-law was hit by a grenade: "It was like a great wind... a howling that turned into a screaming. The howling came from the projectile, and the screams, I realized next, came from the wounded. They were lying around all over the place, with arms and legs ripped off and stomachs split open, and the chaplains sniffing around them with their crucifixes so that they wouldnt go to heaven without the blessings of the church..." (Huelsenbeck, 1991, p. 6)., According to the Dadaists, these personal and national tragedies demanded a reckoning. What ideas and patterns of behavior had led to such desolation? The answer, for many, lay in a combination of Western civilization's traditional beliefs and its faith in and reliance on reason, logic, and technology and the cultural and social products and relationships derived from them. To the artists who gathered under the label "Dada," the war revealed the bankruptcy of all of the traditional assumptions about what was true, useful, and beautiful. Thus, a thoroughgoing critique, destruction, and rebuilding of Western civilization had to be undertaken and extreme measures were warranted. Art served as the antidote to the old and corrupt; a consciously avant-garde group of artists would produce, through their work, a path to a new, and hopefully better, world. The first "gatherings" (for they embraced anarchic notions that eschewed doctrinaire membership in movements or groups) of artists interested in the ideas that coalesced to become Dada appeared even before the war in New York and later in Zurich. The New York group moved in and around the French artist, Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968). Duchamp moved to New York after he became disenchanted with the avant-garde art scene in Paris. His painting, "Nude Descending a Staircase no. 2", rocked American audiences at the Armory Show of 1913 with its Cubist-influenced approach to the human body and its movement through space. Teaming with another European expatriate, Francis Picabia (1879-1953), Duchamp began to criticize the continued allegiance of the artistic mainstream to aesthetic ideas derived from traditional Classical models. Reflecting the increasing mechanization of society, Duchamp and Picabia created an aesthetic that fused the human and the machine. Their experiments produced works such as Picabias "mechano-morphic" drawings and paintings and Duchamps "The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even (or Large Glass)" (Henderson, 1996, p. 228). Duchamp went even farther by questioning the visual and craft emphasis of art; instead, he advanced ideas as the most important factor in artistic creation. His "readymades" like the "Bicycle Wheel" (1913) manipulated found objects to realize his artistic ideas. Duchamp's experiments proved highly influential for future generations of artists, giving credence to the claim that Duchamp was the founder of conceptual art (Hopkins, 2004, p. 9). Before returning to Europe after the war, Duchamp and Picabia's New York years helped jump-start the careers of other aspiring American artists, most notably, Man Ray (1890-1976). Thus, Duchamp, Picabia, and their collaborators developed a version of Dada that was internationalist in its vision, critical of the Western artistic tradition, and interested in placing ideas and their execution at the heart of a new kind of art. Not much later, in February 1916, Hugo Ball (1886-1927), his partner, Emmy Hennings (1885-1948), and the Romanian poet Tristan Tzara (1896-1963), launched Journal of Authentic Learning, Volume 2, Number 2, Pages 49-58, 2005


The Art of Teaching and Teaching with Art 52 the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich. Ball, Hennings, and Tzara attracted other collaborators, among them Marcel Janco (1895-1984) and Hans Arp (1887-1966), as well as Ball's pre-war collaborator in the German avant-garde in Munich, Richard Huelsenbeck (1892-1974). Indeed, it was Ball, Huelsenbeck, or a combination of the two no one is completely certain who gave their art and ideas the name, "Dada" a nonsense word that could mean nearly anything to anyone, precisely as the young artists intended. The group who gathered at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich in 1916 shared a similar set of artistic influences and experiences. They had been a part of avant-garde art circles in their home countries (influenced variously by Cubism and/or Expressionism). They rejected the values and political ideals that led to the First World War (some had seen combat in it), and they sought in neutral Switzerland an incubator for their alternative ideas and visions. Hans Arp described the motivations of many of his comrades: Revolted by the butchery of the 1914 World War, we in Zurich devoted ourselves to the arts. While the guns rumbled in the distance, we sang, painted, made collages and wrote poems with all of our might. We were seeking an art based on fundamentals, to cure the madness of the age, and a new order of things that would restore the balance between heaven and hell (Arp, 1948, p. 25). The performances at the cabaret included recitations and readings by poets like Ball, Tzara, and Huelsenbeck (among others) usually in outlandish costume and accompanied by some form of music or noise. Musical numbers that satirized and lampooned bourgeois society and its deficiencies also appeared on the program, as did stage sets and artwork of various kinds by the group members who worked in those media. Along with the performances at the Cabaret Voltaire, Dadaists in New York, Zurich, and later in Paris and Berlin, produced art exhibitions at galleries and printed journals to advance their criticisms of society and their alternative ways of seeing and living in the world. Despite closing only five months after its opening, the Cabaret Voltaire and the artists who were associated with it created a set of ideas that became known as Dada, ideas that were carried, after the war, to Paris and Berlin. Despite their numerous differences and personal idiosyncrasies, the Dadaists shared a commitment to political engagement and the creation of an art that sought to overturn not just the political and social status quo, but the entire edifice of Western culture. In the place of reason, they emphasized the irrational. Rather than homogeneity, they embraced the heterogeneous. And instead of an emphasis on continuity and enduring standards and values, they emphasized the new and the creative possibilities to be found in the chaotic. Tristan Tzara summed up Dada's aims: We have had enough of the intelligent movements that have stretched beyond measure our credulity in the benefits of science. What we now want is spontaneity. Not because it is better or more beautiful than anything else. [But] because everything that issues freely from ourselves, without the intervention of speculative ideas, represents us... Art has not the celestial and general value that people like to attribute to it. Life is far more interesting. Dada knows the correct measure that should be given to art... The Beautiful and True in art do not exist; what interests me is the intensity of a personality transposed directly, Journal of Authentic Learning, Volume 2, Number 2, Pages 49-58, 2005


The Art of Teaching and Teaching with Art 53 clearly into his work; the man and his vitality (Tzara, 1922, p. 68 70). Dada in the History Classroom Our classes on Dadaism and Surrealism took place on the last Tuesday and Thursday of the semester as a part of an upper division course offering called "Europe Between the Wars, 1919-1939." To keep the students engaged, and off balance, I wanted to create a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk, a total or complete artwork, that in some small way mimicked the Dada antics of the Cabaret Voltaire. My aim was to provide the students with a variety of stimuli and activity: visual, tactile, aural, and certainly intellectual, that reflected Dada's anarchic spirit. PowerPoint presentations of some representative individuals and artworks formed the foundation of each class. The Dada presentation included sixteen slides, while the Surrealist presentation included thirteen. The presentations were intended to give the students an all-important look at the works of Dada and Surrealist artists. They needed an opportunity to see, and evaluate against their own understanding of art, how the artists of the two movements created provocative and exciting new forms that challenged all of the old rules of what was, and was not, considered proper art and painting technique. For the purposes of this paper, I will confine my focus to our discussion of Dada. As the students filed in for our Tuesday class on Dadaism, they immediately noticed that something was different my dress, or costume. Instead of my usual "uniform" of khaki pants, button-down shirt or turtleneck, sweater vest, and sport jacket, my outfit consisted of canvas work pants, white-buttoned down shirt, sweater vest, "tie", and tweed sport jacket. But the tie was not like those with which we are most familiar; rather, it was a common shoelace (in this case black, though any color will do). The students noticed and began to make comments about my unusual attire. That served my purpose: already they were observing carefully and had been enticed to think about what would happen during the class-and be certain to pay close attention to the details of the day's activities. I gave each student a photocopy of Leonardo da Vinci's famous La Gioconda (The Mona Lisa). Their interest was piqued. What were they going to do with this? As I handed out the photocopies (giving them plenty of time to observe my costume), I explained that they were to use the photocopies as their canvas. They were to do what they would with them; they could take notes on them, doodle on them, rend them, bend them whatever they liked for the two classes (or outside of class if they desired). I asked only that they bring them to the final exam and after they finished the test, to affix their copy to a "frame" that I'd constructed from recycled textbook boxes. Since we were talking about two varieties of modern art, I proposed that we make some "art" of our own (the finished product now adorns my office). I explained that we were replicating an artistic experiment of Marcel Duchamp's. Duchamp earned great notoriety when he produced a copy of the Mona Lisa and adorned it with a mustache and goatee along with the initials, "L.H.O.O.Q" an abbreviation of an irreverent phrase used by French schoolboys referring to the Mona Lisa's (of course unseen) backside. What Duchamp intended was to poke fun at the seriousness and conventions of Western artistic production; could we really call what he had done to a copy of da Vinci's famous painting art? Thus, in a humorous way I introduced our topic by asking them to consider the question that Duchamp was asking: What is Art? Journal of Authentic Learning, Volume 2, Number 2, Pages 49-58, 2005


The Art of Teaching and Teaching with Art 54 Before we examined that question, I moved into the center of the classroom and prepared to offer some introductory comments on Dadaism; but, before I could begin, a student asked: "Prof. Mack, what's the deal with your clothes?" Eureka! An entry into the world of Dada had been provided for me! I replied that many Dada artists argued that art was everywhere and could be created from anything even, perhaps, one's choice of clothing. So, I asked, "What do you think it means? Why am I wearing these pants today? What do they represent? Who wears them?" They immediately recognized them as work pants, the type worn by roofers, construction workers, painters, etc. I asked them why they thought that I wore them that day. A perceptive student, who had clearly done the assigned reading, responded that many of the Dadaists were socialists and communists and interested in working class movements. I responded affirmatively, and we reviewed our earlier discussions of revolutions that occurred during or after the First World War: the Bolshevik and German revolutions. Briefly, we considered why avant-garde artists might be interested in the ideas offered by radical thinkers. We then continued our deconstruction of my clothing. As our dialogue continued, I moved about the room, up and down the rows of seats, sitting down among the students to continue the discussion (I consciously try to manipulate the classroom space, to change it a bit each day, just to give them a different perspective, something new to attract their interest). We finished "reading" my clothing with the tie. Many students looked at the shoelace, shook their heads, and said, "It's just goofy." "That's it!" I responded. I explained that many Dada artists engaged in outrageous and silly behavior to make a point. What would such an approach to life say about the world in which they lived? We reviewed our discussions about Europe after the First World War. I asked the students to consider that for many of these artists, the horrors of the war permanently compromised the traditional values and practices of Western society and culture. As a result, they used humor, especially ironic and satirical humor, as critical tools for a re-evaluation of society and the creation of new values. I asked if anyone knew which Dada (and Surrealist) artist wore such a tie? No one answered the question correctly. "The answer," I told them, "is Man Ray. We'll see some of his sculpture, painting, and photography in our PowerPoint presentation." Thus, the students soon had a "tie" between his work and some of the ideas that were characteristic of the period. And, just as importantly, our "reading" of my clothing has gotten them to think in symbolic terms-a good warm-up for our impending discussion of Dada paintings. I returned to the front of the classroom and asked the question again: What is art? To help answer the question, we viewed a few works from Dada artists: Picabia, Duchamp, Ernst, Haussmann, Hoch, Schwitters, Arp, and Man Ray. As we looked at and talked about the art, I casually picked up a small, brown paper lunch bag from the desk and removed a tangerine from it. While we talked about the art, the artists, and the students' initial response to the question, I flattened the bag and began peeling the tangerine. I didn't look down at the tangerine or the bag; I maintained eye contact with the students as we continued our discussion, allowing the tangerine peels to drop on the bag below. After I'd finished peeling the tangerine and the peels lay strewn about the bag, I carefully separated several sections of tangerine and placed them on the peels and bag. I then asked, "Given what you've said about your understanding of art, what do you think of my creation? Is this art?" Journal of Authentic Learning, Volume 2, Number 2, Pages 49-58, 2005


The Art of Teaching and Teaching with Art 55 The students paused to consider their response. There was immediate disagreement. Some said, "You can't possibly argue that that is art! It takes no skill or talent!" Others conceded that it is art because, "It is if you say it is." Or, they held that art is in the eye of the beholder. We talked about this for a bit; we didn't resolve anything, but at this point I wasnt concerned if we did or didn't. Instead, I moved on by suggesting, "Well, let's look at some more of these artists' works and their understanding of what the artistic process is all about maybe that will give us some clues." The class was active, puzzled, engaged. The students, whether they realized it or not, had become artists of their own learning. I prepared to put up another slide, but first I gave it an introduction: "In a recent survey, over 200 leading artists, art critics, and academics chose the piece we're about to see as the single most influential work in the history of Western art." It is Duchamp's "readymade", "The Fountain" a urinal tipped upside down and signed, "R.Mutt, 1917." Jaws dropped. "No way," was heard throughout the room. "How could these learned folk make such a claim?" I asked. "What is art?" I wondered aloud if my "tangerine installation" didn't look better now. We talked about it for a bit, then returned to "The Fountain." We puzzled over it before the class recognized that Duchamp was saying that art isn't just about the mastery of technique and materials. Nor is it about the faithful depiction of the world around us; rather, it is about the creative act itself; the thoughts and ideas of the artist are the source of Duchamp's, and the Dadaists', project. The students realized that for Duchamp, art is about what the artist thinks and what the artist does; he or she conceives of an idea and brings it into the world. The art is in some sense the idea. The idea is what we see in front of us. The students came to these conclusions with little guidance from me. I merely presented them with situations and objects that were unfamiliar and challenging, asked a few questions, and allowed them to think and speak about them in their own way. Next, I varied the pace and presentation again. I talked about the Cabaret Voltaire and the development of Dada in Zurich during World War I. We read aloud selections from Tristan Tzara's "Dada Manifesto." We talked about Tzara's challenge to the old order and traditional wisdom that had led to the horrors of the war. I concluded with Tzara's curt summary phrase from the "Dada Manifesto": "Kunst ist Scheisse!" (Art is sh-t!) Of course that elicited giggles. Why would he say such a thing? What does it mean? Does it mean that all art is empty? Or, as in Duchamp's "Fountain," that art can be as common (and profane) as human excrement? We talked about how such statements and ideas were received by mainstream society; we talked about the artists' response to their critics and their feeling that the social and political leaders of their nations had let them down. They believed humanity had to make a new start in order to save itself from future devastation; thus, the manifesto prompts yet another discussion of the social and political situation in Europe that produced such a bitter critique. The art and reading actively engaged the class in a discussion of the values and ideas of the period and simultaneously brought them to reflect on their own notions and conceptions of art and their customary way of looking at the world. At this point I put up an image of Jean (Hans) Arp's "The Laws of Chance." Arp produced the work by tearing up strips of paper and then dropping them onto another piece of paper on the floor, allowing them to form whatever patterns resulted. He then simply glued the torn pieces to the Journal of Authentic Learning, Volume 2, Number 2, Pages 49-58, 2005


The Art of Teaching and Teaching with Art 56 paper that "caught" them. Is that art, I asked? Many now agreed that it was and my tangerine piece looked much better. We talked about the Dada artists' focus on chance and why they might be interested in such questions after the war. They better appreciated Duchamp's "readymades." They came to realize Duchamp's notion that art is in the idea and in the process of realizing that idea as much as it is in the viewing. We turned to another activity and Dada art form, poetry. Some students and I read Dada poems by Tzara, Hugo Ball, Richard Huelsenbeck, and Walter Serner. Now we listened instead of looking. The poems were bizarre, nonsensical, and absurd. For example, one of the poems we read is Richard Huelsenbeck's "The Primitives": indigo, indigo tramway sleeping bag bug and flea indigo indigai umbaliska boom DADAI (Huelsenbeck, 1995, p. 66) Most students, understandably, were confused. Why spout such nonsense? I asked them to consider the images that we'd seen and what we'd said about them. How was that art constructed? What purpose did it serve? Were the Dada poets engaged in a similar sort of creative process? Heads nodded. Smiles of recognition appeared. I concluded the Dada class with another hands-on activity. I passed out sticky-notes to each student and asked them to close their eyes. I instructed them to clear their minds and when I counted to three, to open their eyes and write down the first word that came to mind. When I'd counted and they'd recorded their responses, the students came to the chalkboard and affixed their words, in no order, to the board. The exercise mimicked those of the Dadaists and Surrealists who believed that such experiments in "automatic writing" bypassed rational consciousness and allowed unmediated access to the unconscious. I asked the students how they would like me to read their work standard left-to-right, backwards, vertically, randomly, however. When they made their choice, I read. I varied my cadence, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, lingering over a word, repeating, racing on, whatever. The class laughed, smiled, and shook their heads in disbelief. It's crazy! It's nonsense! It's Dada! We ended the class with a brief review of some of the ideas and concepts we'd learned about Dada: (a) it arose out of the horrific experience of the First World War and its chaotic aftermath; (b) the artists attracted to Dada called into question traditional ways of seeing, describing, and living in the world; (c) the Dadaists developed alternative ways of understanding art and its place in Western culture and society; (d) Dada artistic ideas helped shape future art movements (Surrealism) and continue to be influential today. Reflection The impact of the experiment was profound. The activities I offered during the class attracted, interested, and engaged the students. They wrestled with some very difficult and abstract ideas, but in ways that they could relate to and enjoy. Whether or not they were fully persuaded of the value of Dada art, they had thought about and evaluated the artists' ideas alongside their own ways of looking at and understanding the world. Active learning had taken place, as we met each of the objectives I outlined in the introduction. The value of using avant-garde art in such classes is that it prompts students not only to question the place of avant-garde art in Western society and culture, but also to consider alternative ways Journal of Authentic Learning, Volume 2, Number 2, Pages 49-58, 2005


The Art of Teaching and Teaching with Art 57 of thinking about themselves and their place in the world. It allows them to discover, or re-discover, that the "world" in which they live, their society and culture, is constructed, a "made" thing; and, that they, like the Dada artists, can perhaps develop new ideas of what society should be and how it might be changed. Finally, using avant-garde art allowed the class to take risks along with me. We kept one another off balance; we stretched ourselves beyond our usual comfort zones. Best of all, we did it all again but differently when we considered Surrealism. Conclusion To follow-up on the effectiveness of the experiments on Dada and Surrealism, I asked the students to briefly comment in writing on what they had, or had not, learned from the two classes. A few representative examples appear below: I learned that there is an interesting relationship between art and historical events. The works of Dadaist and Surrealist artists generally reflected feelings shared by much of Europe at this time. Some of their concepts and images may have been strange but it really made sense in a historical context. Much to my surprise, I learned a lot from the discussions on Dadaism and Surrealism. They focused on an obscure aspect of life during the time, which was the cultural and intellectual aspect to it. It was interesting to learn about the new ways of thinking people adopted. Dadaism, in my opinion, shows an enlightened view of the world. Everyone was tense and uptight about World War I, and it created a depressing feeling. I think instead of mourning, Dadaists learned that life was short, so have fun. As for Surrealists, I think they had a similar, yet deeper look at life. I think they wanted to show the world that even though something may seem different, it can be as normal as anything. They encouraged an open mind in an era of closed minded anger, hatred, and sadness. I actually did learn a lot from the Surrealist and Dada lectures. I learned that art is not just a realistic painting or photograph of a nice sunset. Art can be a real and living thing, with mixed feelings and expressions. The whole point of art is to express whatever the author needs to express or what he feels, not just make something look as real as possible. This is what the Dadaists and Surrealists did. I also think that making art out of everyday objects is real neat because things arranged a certain way do have meaning and it doesn't matter what those objects are. If you were to paint a picture of those arranged objects it would be art, so why not the objects themselves? I learned a lot! I was able to look at art in a completely different way and appreciate it on a much higher level! You should teach more classes with art too! I'd definitely take it! Overall, 24 students gave positive assessments of the classes. Two students, however, didn't glean much from our discussion. Three students did not respond (two were ill and missed the classes). The critical comments appear below: Journal of Authentic Learning, Volume 2, Number 2, Pages 49-58, 2005


The Art of Teaching and Teaching with Art 58 As interesting as the classes on Dada and Surrealism were, I honestly didn't learn anything useful from them. Most of the artwork seemed rather trivial and worthless to me. Some of it was extremely well done and beautiful to me but most wasn't. As much as I hate to admit it, all I learned from those classes was that the artists and poets from that time were crazy and anything could be sold on the art market. Even though I didn't get much out of those specific classes, I did love this course and would take it again in a heartbeat. I learned that art is sh-t. It can be considered art if in the action of making something, I have artistic intent. I also learned that if I do drugs and become impoverished that my art will be worth more. Ah, the critics! Now I have a spur to make it new, take risks, and try some other approaches next time. Let our experiments in creating active learning continue! References Arp, H. J.. (1948). Dadaland. In Hans Richter, Dada Art and Anti-Art. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. Ball, H. (1996). Flight out of time: A Dada diary by Hugo Ball. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Brendon, P. (2000). The dark valley: A panorama of the 1930s. New York, NY: Knopf. Camfield, W. (1979). Francis Picabia: His art, life, and times. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Ernst, M. (1948). Beyond painting. New York: Wittenborn, Schulz. Grosz, G. (1998). George Grosz: An Autobiography (Nora Hodges, Trans.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Henderson, L. D. (1996). Reflections of and/or on Marcel Duchamps Large Glass. In F. M. Naumann and B. Venn (Eds.), Making mischief: Dada invades New York. New York: Whitney Museum of Art. Hopkins, D. (2004). Dada and Surrealism: A very short introduction. New York: Oxford University Press. Howard, M. (2002). The First World War. New York: Oxford University Press. Huelsenbeck, R. (1991). Memoirs of a Dada drummer. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Huelsenbeck, R. (1995). The Primitives. In Blago Bung Blago Bung bosso fataka! London: Atlas Press. Miller, T. (1999). Late Modernism: Politics, fiction, and the arts between the world wars. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Tzara, T. (1918). Dada Manifesto. In Eugen Weber (Ed.), Movements, currents, trends: Aspects of European thought in the 19 th and 20 th centuries. New York: Houghton Mifflin. Tzara, T. (1922). Conference sur Dada. In R. Motherwell (Ed.), The Dada painters and poets. New York: Wittenborn, Schulz. Verkauf, W. (Ed.). (1957). Dada: Monograph of a movement. New York, NY: Wittenborn. Weimer, M. (1997). What makes a good teacher? The Teaching Professor, 11(1), 1-2. Journal of Authentic Learning, Volume 2, Number 2, Pages 49-58, 2005