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On April 29, 1993 Terrell McFarlin-James known as LI died in a motorcycle accident on Dixwell Avenue. Shortly after his death a graffiti artist painted the walls of a building near the location of LI’s death in his remembrance. This course will try to demonstrate how graffiti tag writing is motivated by the same human need to preserve memory that inspired the Roman elite who commissioned sculptors to design and build sarcophagi, and how this human need can be traced through history and exemplified in contemporary works like Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. Through a non-linear approach to presenting historical information students will develop a critical vocabulary of the visual elements that are used by artist and architects when they design and build memorials. In turn students will utilize this knowledge in their studio work. In addition to academic work students will be required to complete three studio projects in which they will build objects that function as repositories for memory. To begin the semester the class will participate in assembling panels for The Names Project, National AIDS Quilt. The second project will require students to research and build models for a sight specific public memorial in New Haven concerning a topic of their choice, and for the final project students will fabricate a temporal memorial which will be installed in New Haven. By presenting students with a paralleled study of art history and studio work this course will be based on the premise that one can see further when standing on the shoulders of a giant.
In this course students will learn how to analyze works of art and architecture. A specific form of object analysis will be introduced to students and with its use they will develop a vocabulary used in contemporary art criticism. Through a process of dialogue students will learn how to ‘see’ and express their opinions regarding their observations. Over time they will discover how critical discourse shapes the way history is recorded and remembered. Students will learn a five step process of ‘object analysis’ which begins by describing all the physical details (formal qualities) of an object, this would include its placement, materials, scale, image and text. The second step requires students to make three drawings of the object. These drawings should be to scale including a frontal study, a 3/4 view and a topographical map locating the object in relation to its surroundings. The third step analyzes the type of memory being preserved (content), and the fourth step actively critiques and evaluates the symbolic relationships between the formal design elements and the content of the object. The final step in this process is for students to evaluate how successfully the object communicates its message to others. In their conclusions students should comment on both the placement of the object (context) and the audience.
Most memorials are placed in public spaces with the intention of maintaining an aspect of history. Understanding the dynamics of this form of communication is the goal of ‘object analysis’. As students become familiar with this process they will address fundamental questions regarding why we are motivated to build markers to remind ourselves of the tragedies and Epiphanies that effect our lives. By studying memorials students will learn how identity is formed and gain a better understanding of the relationships between conscious and unconscious thought. Memorials are a way in which communities maintain conscious thought. They are public reminders of who we are and where we have come from. Their intentions are both to honor and to warn. Nations, states, cities, towns, neighborhoods, and families all have memorials which maintain a conscious reminder. For instance a white cross left by the roadside where a tragic accident occurred will remind a community of the deaths as well as the need to drive with caution. Holocaust memorials remind us of the horrors of genocide and war memorials remind us of fallen soldiers who have died for their country. History is known to repeat itself, memorials attempt to interrupt that cycle.
A child who has experienced a trauma will often suppress the memory until he or she is much older and is able to process the experience. Is it possible for a nation or a race to suppress a memory in the same way that a child does? If this is the case, do memorials keep traumatic events conscious and thus prevent the atrocities from repeating? However, even with memorials we need to recognize that the genocide of the Jews during the Holocaust is repeating itself only this time the Muslims are being persecuted and the Croatians are performing the ‘ethnic cleansing.’ What will the memorials for this conflict look like? Do we have to experience the trauma of death to experience history and to value life?
To illustrate how an ‘object analysis’ works three examples will be given each sighted in Washington DC, these will include a day long installation of the AIDS Quilt on Memorial walk, the Washington Monument, and the Vietnam Memorial. While these works are placed in the same location their message is very different. In the three works we see the difference between a temporal and a permanent marker, between worshipping a heroic figure and grieving the loss of thousands of lives, between a distant history, a recent history, and the present, and between a national symbol and a political gesture. For an analysis to succeed it is important that students develop the dialogue beyond the initial one liner,” I think the AIDS Quilt is a really good idea because people are dying of AIDS and we need to focus on the issue”. To solicit a more in-depth response students should follow each of the five steps, writing their observations and opinions down. Using the ‘stream of conscious’ writing technique students will put emphasis on the development of their ideas as opposed to writing itself. While it is best to visit memorials in person, slides are a useful tool to be used in presenting work that is impractical or impossible to see. The following analysis would be written during and just after the slide presentations of the memorials.
These names, seemingly infinite in number, carry the sense of overwhelming numbers, while unifying those individuals into a whole. Brought to a sharp awareness of such a loss it is up to each individual to resolve or come to terms with this loss. For death is in the end a private matter, and the area contained within this memorial is meant for private reckoning.
I had an impulse to cut open the earth . . . an initial violence that would heal. The grass would grow back but the cut would remain. It was as if the black-grown earth were polished and made an interface between the sunny world and the quiet dark world beyond, that we can’t enter . . . I chose black granite to make the surface reflective and peaceful. The angle was formed solely in relation to the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument to create a unity between the past and the present.
For the purpose of making this Curriculum Unit accessible to other teachers it will be structured into sections organized chronologically in a semester long Visual Arts block at the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School. This course will meet twice a week for a duration of two hours each period (see attached course schedule). While this unit is designed to be used at Co-op High School the sections can be modified for a standard class period. Art history as well as studio projects are combined in different sections placing a greater emphasis on academic studies in the beginning of the semester.
Establishing an open dialogue with students is critical and important for the course to succeed. Classroom discussions, slide lectures, field trips to specific memorials in New Haven, design projects and group critiques of student work all emphasize an interactive approach to teaching in which students are encouraged to express themselves.
Days 1- 2
The first classroom project will be to draw a large map (8’ x 12’) of New Haven and then to use this map to locate the monuments and memorials including the temporal memorials that can be found in New Haven. Because Coop High School is an arts magnate school it draws upon students living in several different neighborhoods. The first assignment is designed to harness each student’s knowledge of their own neighborhood in a collective manner. However, before students begin the process of indicating the location of different monuments they will be required to write a short one to two page definition of ‘memorial’. In this paper they will be asked to establish categories for the different types of memorials such as war, civic leader, religious saint, or victim and to describe the different styles of memorials. They include memorial parks, architecture, statuary, symbolic objects and tag writing. From their definitions students will develop a color coded key indicating the different types of memorials, with clear distinctions made between the type of memories being preserved and the formal characteristics of the memorials.
Students will be required to complete a series of short research assignments investigating the memorials found in their own neighborhoods (see attached research forms). This will introduce them to the five step procedure of analyzing memorials. Having completed the research students will be asked to present their findings in the class and to place this information in code on the map. The goal is to generate a collective map that will indicate how the very fabric of our city is built upon the human need to preserve memory. It is through a careful analysis that students will gain an understanding of the artist’s intentions, use of symbolism and finally how our interpretations of these memorials shape our understanding of history.
The teacher’s responsibility will be to listen to each of the students presentation, review their research forms and to give critical feed back that will continue to challenge their insights. For instance if a student were to make a presentation of the Vietnam Memorial in New Haven, described its form (black granite in a V shape), stated the purpose of the memorial, equated the symbolic use of the V as representing Vietnam and summarized the audience as anyone living in the greater New Haven area, the teacher should press the student with additional questions such as: What is the significance of placing the memorial along the side of the highway? When you see the letter V what comes to mind? Victory? In what ways have the Vietnam Veterans become victorious? Does this memorial read as a billboard and if so does the audience include all of the people who are driving past the memorial on I-95? Is there a relationship between the way we view the history of Vietnam and the way this memorial can so easily be viewed from I-95? If in fact its placement next to I-95 is inconsequential then what is the symbolic purpose of placing it next to Long Island Sound? This process of questioning will encourage a dialogue within the class room and give students the freedom to question every aspect of a memorial and create an informed perspective.
After the students have completed their research assignments the teacher will present a slide lecture of New Haven memorials. This presentation will combine overview shots with details of the most significant memorials using approximately 80 images (one carousel). A significant portion of this presentation will be a review of the students research. However when a memorial is shown that was not previously covered students should indicate this work on the collective map. (see notes for slide lecture 1)
In this section Students will be presented with documentation of the installation “Shroud Mother’s Voices; a memorial for victims of gun violence in New Haven CT”. They will be asked to compare this work to street graffiti memorials for victims of gun violence. The Shroud Memorial includes a group of silk banners which have the image of the victims’ mothers printed on them along with a text, giving her name, her child’s name, child’s age and date of death. These silk shrouds accompany a two hour video document edited into short ten minute vignettes, in which each mother shares memories of her child, describes who they hold responsible for the death of their child, and what it means to them to be a mother. This work is built from the voice and shared experience of twenty-seven mothers who have lost a child to gun violence in New Haven, CT. This work attempts to create a space for remembrance and acknowledgment for both the victims and their families as well as a document that addresses the complex issues associated with urban violence. I created the Shroud Memorial as my graduate sculpture thesis exhibition at the Yale Art and Architecture Gallery. After this initial installation the work has been shown in the Maloney Correctional Institution, the entrance corridor of New Haven’s City Hall, and in the Connecticut College Harkins Chapel, New London, CT. Included in this unit is a set of sides documenting each installation and a copy or the video. Students should question how this work changes when it moves from one location to another. (see slide list # 2)
Invite a representative from The Names Project; AIDS Quilt to make a presentation to the class. Their presentation should include photographic documentation of the AIDS Quilt and a short description of The Names Project as well as a detailed description of the guidelines which need to be followed in making panels for the quilt (contact: The Names Project, P.O Box 14114, San Francisco, CA 94114).
Design and assemble two panels for infants who have died of AIDS as a collaborative class project, and then present the panels to the local chapter of The Names Project
This section is designed to present students with significant works of art, monuments and memorials which function as a repository for memory. During informal slide talks students will be asked to write a brief ‘object analysis’ for the works presented in class Students will study the memorials located in Washington DC, as well as works of art such as Pablo Piccaso’s ‘Guernica’ and Auguste Rodin’s ‘Burghers of Calais’ (see slide list # 3).
Independent Research Assignment
Students will be required to write a seven to ten page, comparative analysis of memorials which address a common theme. Students will be given the opportunity to select a topic of their choice which could include memorials dedicated to Civil War heroes, Presidents, veterans of World War I and World War II, the persecution of the Jews, or the Vietnam War to begin a list. This paper should reflect four weeks of work and will be used to determine 50% of the final grade. If a student chose to write about memorials dedicated to the Holocaust they would be expected to study the relationships between Auchwitz, the New Haven Holocaust Memorial, the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC and the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies housed in the Yale University Sterling Memorial Library.
Designing a Public Memorial
Students will be required to design a memorial to represent the civil rights uprising which took place in New Haven during the year 1968. It will be their responsibility to research the history and to find a way of communicating some aspect of that time period in their work. The memorial they are to design will be located on the New Haven Green opposite Phelps Gate. Students should consider the relationship between Yale and New Haven and use this opportunity to comment on Yale’s response to the riots.
After students have focused on a specific concept, they will begin a series of drawings of their proposed work. It will be the teachers responsibility to review these drawings daily, giving each student appropriate criticism and encouragement. After the concept drawings have been refined students should create three drawings to scale of their proposed memorial. After this is completed students will begin to build finished models at 1/4 scale.
Building a Temporal Memorial
Students will be given the opportunity to design a spray painted memorial using graffiti tag writing techniques in New Haven’s downtown sixth street district. The paintings should memorialize a teenager who has recently died as a result of gun violence. It will be a challenge to use this trauma as a catalyst for creating an image that both acknowledges death but also functions as a sign-post warning others to settle conflicts without violence.
Before going to the street site the students are required to brain storm, then draw concept sketches of several plausible ideas and to finalize the sketches before painting the memorial.
- #1-4 “The Holocaust Memorial,” Whally Ave, New Haven CT.
- #5 Grave Yard opposite “The Holocaust Memorial”
- #6-7 “Westville Soldiers Memorial,” Whally Ave, New Haven CT
- #8 “Memorial for Bart Giamatti,” Yale University, New Haven CT
- #9-12 “The Vietnam Veterans Memorial,” Sargent Dr. New Haven CT. (see analysis in paper)
- #13-18 “Memorial Wall,” Dixwell Ave, New Haven CT
- #19 “Temporal Memorial for gun shot victim,” Whally Ave, New Haven CT
- #20 Memorial Statue, Yale University, New Haven CT.
- #1-8 Brad McCallum, “Shroud: Mothers Voices, a memorial for victims who have died of gun violence in New Haven CT.,” May 1992 MFA Thesis Exhibition Yale University. This installation included a group of silk banners which had the image of the victim’s mother printed on them along with a text, giving her name, her child’s name, child’s age and date of death. The silk “Shrouds” accompany a two hour video document edited into short ten minute vignettes, where each mother shares memories of her child, describes who they hold responsible for the death of their child, and what it means to them to be a mother. On the far end of the room opposite the video monitor was built a table to display audio speakers, placed on the front of each speaker was a selection of text from a local news paper. This article summarizes the homicides which took place in New Haven, and the circumstances surrounding each victims death.
- #9-10 “Shroud”, July 1992. Installation in the entrance to the New Haven City Hall. The “Shrouds” were installed in the entrance corridor.
- #11-12 “Shroud”, November 1992. Installation in the Maloney Correctional Institution.
- #13-14 “Shroud”, September 1992. Installation in the Harkins Chapel, Connecticut College, New London CT. Slide #14 shows a reflections book that accompanied the installation.
- Slide List #3
- #1-4 “The Names Project, AIDS Quilt” (see analysis in the body of the paper)
- #5-7 “The Vietnam War Memorial, Washington DC” (see analysis in the body of the paper)
- #8 Washington DC Memorial Walk, aerial view
- #9-10 Versailles, aerial view.
- #11 Jenny Holzer, “Under a Rock,” 1988, 2’ x 4’ Jenny Holzer is a contemporary ‘word’ artist, this work is a bench that she made with a written epitaph cut into the set of the bench.
- #12 Pablo Picasso, “Guernica,” 1937, 11.5’ x 25’
- #13 Eugene Delacroix, “Liberty Leading the People ,” 1830, 10’8” x 8’6”
- #14 Francisco Goya, “The Third of May, 1808,” 1814, 9’ x 11’
The first chapter of this book the ‘Sacred Mountain’ would be a useful introduction to ideas concerning context and placement. Students will learn that the earth itself is a monument, and that our desire to build architectural space is ancient. He also gives an interesting story about Maya Lin in the last chapter.
Suzi Gablik, “The Reenchantment of Art,” Thames and Hudson, Copyright 1991
An impressive argument for arts ability to heal. Memorial are often designed with specific social intentions, this book outlines a number of artist who work from a similar point of view.
Louise Gardner, “Art through the Ages,” Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, seventh edition Copyright 1980
A useful survey of art history, high-lighting significant works of art.
HW Janson, “History of Art,” Abrams NY, second edition, second printing Copyright 1977
A second useful survey of art history.
Cindy Ruskin, “The Quilt, Stories from the Names Project,” Pocket Books NY, Copyright 1988
A very good description of the Names Project, and the Aids Quilt. Easy reading, great pictures.
Douglas Crimp, “AIDS, Cultural Analysis Cultural Activism,” The MIT Press, Copyright 1987
This is a collection of articles and essays that covers AIDS activism. Martha Gever’s “Pictures of Sickness” is particularly good, and provides useful information to be used in the context of this course.
Edward Cassy, “Remembering,” Copyright
This book provides excellent theoretical support for why mankind is motivated to build memorials, and how memory functions.
Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, “Survivors Among Us,” Film, 40 minutes
Excerpts from testimonies of survivors now living in the Hartford area, organized around the themes of “Early Memories,” “The Camps,” and the “Resistance.”
Contents of 1993 Volume I | Directory of Volumes | Index | Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute