"Art making is a form of alchemy, in a way, because you are trying…to make gold from nothing. When it works very well is when you manage to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary."
Use the following images, texts, and films to help develop a deeper understanding of the work in terms of the artists' sources of inspiration, interests, and motivations in connection with individual ideas, experiences, and interpretations. Additional resources and strategies for teaching with films and working with contemporary art can be found in Teach, as well as in the Art21 Educators' Guides and Screening Toolkits.
Describe the artwork's formal qualities—such as color, composition, style, scale, mood, media, and materials. What do you see? What materials did the artist use?
After students provide their answers, summarize all their points, using their language when appropriate.
Consider the concept—the ideas, choices, and process that contribute to what the work is about. What choices or decisions did the artist make, to create this work (such as selection of materials, installation decisions, color or image choices)? Why do you think the artist made those choices? What personal references do you make to this work? What does this work remind you of? Consider the relationship of this work of art to your own ideas, experiences, opinions, and assumptions. What visual, literary, and/or historical references do you see in the work? What can this work of art tell you about the artist, yourself, and/or the world around you?
Ask students to support their interpretations based on the formal qualities of the work that they identified in the previous question. Summarize and re-present the students' ideas.
Discuss the context of the work. After asking students to observe the work and comment on what they see, use the questions below to engage students with the possible intentions and motivations of the artist, as well as personal or social connections they make to the work.
"Some/One evolved from my first sculpture, Metal Jacket. I had a dream one day after I finished Metal Jacket that I wanted to turn it into some kind of larger installation. The dream was quite vivid. It was night, and I was outside a stadium, approaching it from the distance, and I saw a light in the stadium. So I thought, 'There's some kind of activity going on there.' And as I approached, I started to hear clicking sounds, like the sound when metal pieces touch together. It was like there were thousands of crickets in the stadium. And then I entered the stadium. I walked slowly, but I went into the stadium on the ground level. And then I saw this reflecting surface and I realized I was stepping on these metal pieces that were military dog tags. And they were vibrating slightly, vibrating and touching each other. The sound was from that. From afar I saw the central figure in the center of the stadium. It tried to go out of the stadium but it couldn't because the train of its garment, which was made of dog tags, was just too big. It was just too big to pull all the dog tags. So that was a dream and the image that I got. After that I made a small drawing about this vast field of military dog tags on the ground and a small figure in the center. Obviously I could not create the piece exactly as I dreamt it, but that was the kin of impact I wanted to create through that piece." —Do Ho Suh
What new information about the work do you now have?
How does this new information contribute to or change your original ideas about the work?
What additional questions do you have? How could you pursue answers to these questions?