Film As Art and the Role of Collaboration
Anna Grant Dean
Charles Townes Center, Sterling School, Greenville, South Carolina
Anna Grant Dean teaches fifth through eighth grade art at the Charles Townes Center, part of the Sterling School in Greenville, South Carolina. The Charles Townes Center is a public school for highly gifted students grades 3‐8, with approximately 75 students per grade. Anna is also a teacher who is participating in the 2010-2011 Art21 Educators program.
I used William Kentridge’s artwork and the Art21 documentary to introduce the concept of film as art to start a conversation on this topic. My students are very familiar with movies in a popular culture context, but very few of them have seen film or video in an art museum or gallery context. It was an interesting exercise for them to think about analyzing film in a similar manner to the way we have analyzed two-dimensional or three-dimensional art works.
I was excited to use the William Kentridge segment from Season 5 of Art in the Twenty-First Century because of the wide variety of media that the artist uses in innovative ways. The students were absolutely fascinated by how he made Breathe (2008), arranging torn paper to create an image that was then dispersed. Another section of the film that captured students’ attention was the performance of I am not me, the horse is not mine (2008), when we see Kentridge throwing papers while interacting with a projected version of himself that is catching the papers. My students made me rewind this part of the film so that they could watch it over and over again.
A theme that I want students to grasp from the Art21 film was the role of collaboration in both Kentridge’s work and within the broader scope of contemporary art. My students will be collaborating with each other to create a film, and I think it helped them see how some artists’ visions cannot fully be realized without the combined efforts of others. I’m hoping this will help my students find their own individual strengths as they begin to work collaboratively toward a common vision of their project.
After watching the film, my students and I discussed how contemporary artists do not focus on just one medium or technique but rather, they find an idea and then experiment with a variety of media and techniques to find the best vehicle to communicate their concepts. As I learn more about working with contemporary art in my classroom, I am finding that teaching from the contemporary and allowing my students to experiment with a variety of materials and techniques is more relevant to the way that they think and learn.