Teaching with Contemporary Art

Art21 William Kentridge: Anything is Possible

Reflecting on Teaching with William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible

William Kentridge, "Felix in Exile," 1994. Production stills; 35mm animated film transferred to video. Copyright and courtesy of William Kentridge.

This past Saturday I sat down with a small group of wonderful teachers at the Jacob Burns Film Center’s Media Arts Lab for the second part of a two-part workshop on teaching with William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible (WKAIP). The group was composed of Art and English teachers who shared their successes and challenges working with the film in middle and high school settings, and I was thrilled to hear teachers reflect so honestly about what was inspiring (and difficult) about teaching with this film, particularly with regard to play and process. Below are some excerpts from the conversation:

“Usually when I prepare an assignment for my students I’m very goal-oriented. I know what the end product will be like. I give them a lot of rules and a framework for them to create. But after viewing this film, he (Kentridge) kept talking about process and how it was about the process, as if he wasn’t sure what the end product would be sometimes. So I tried to open myself up and not try to be Miss Art Dictator about what I wanted. I tried to get a feeling from them about what they wanted to create. That was a real challenge for me… to let go.” –Patty Tyrol, Newburgh High School

“Ultimately, the film was really inspiring to me and I created projects that I wouldn’t have had the nerve to try. The guide was really helpful and I really focused on play and process.”- Angela Langston, Sleepy Hollow High School

“I wanted them to see the transformation of the charcoal drawings… and the one thing that I wanted to share was the seriousness of play.”- Debra Tampone, Kingston High School

“I think it’s really interesting to hear about getting play into the classroom… so we do a lot of play, and experiment, and try to see what comes from it with the computer and the video camera.” –Brady Shoemaker, Media Arts Lab at Jacob Burns Film Center

“(Kentridge) is the anti-hero that Huck (Finn) is… I really like this to explain how the metaphor of movement is the journey itself and you really don’t know what the end is.”- Janet Matthews, Westlake High School

If you have taught with WKAIP, or have previewed the film for future units of study, what kinds of experiences can you share? Please post your comments.

To view the film simply click here. Many thanks!


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