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Educational Activities for SFAC Gallery's Trace Elements
This document for students of 14 years of age or older was created through a collaboration between the San Francisco Arts Commission's Arts Education Program and the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery
Exhibition dates May 8-July 2, 2009
SFAC Gallery at 401 Van Ness in the Veterans Building
Friday, July 2, 5:30-7:30 PM: Exhibition closing reception
To schedule a fieldtrip with a guided tour, artist talk, or other planned activities, contact
Aimee Le Duc, Gallery Associate at 415-554-6080 or aimiee.leduc [at] sfgov [dot] org
The following activities are designed to help visitors engage the work in Trace Elements. The first section is meant to accompany a gallery visit. These discussions and activities can be conducted in small groups, with a classroom facilitator, like a teacher, or mulled over individually. The second section encompasses ideas for classroom work on the exhibition themes. These suggested activities are ideal for youth 14 years old and up after a visit to the gallery. Many of the activities correspond to California grades 9-12 content standards. Resources for teachers are listed at the end of the packet.
About the show:
In the field of science a trace element is a minute component of a whole. It is not insignificant, however, because without trace elements the organism/entity would either not be what it is, or not be healthy. Identifying a trace element is very difficult, but once it has been singled out, it is often the key that unlocks a complete understanding of what is being researched.
What are the trace elements of a City? Does the urban environment hold secrets or codes that would provide a greater comprehension of its systems, or of its human inhabitants? What remains when individuals and the places we build cease to exist? How does this evidence, these trace elements, assist us in piecing together history?
These are some of the questions posed to the Bay Area-based artists in the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery's exhibition, Trace Elements. Each artist in the exhibition was chosen because of their remarkable visual and conceptual strategies for building and communicating complex narratives. The newly commissioned works in the exhibition range from installation to painting to photography, and attempt to reveal or reconcile some of San Francisco's hidden secrets. Detectives and historians are left with gaps in their evidence and must piece together plausible explanations of what existed or took place in the past. Such is the case with our team of artists; expect to see a labyrinth of fact intertwined with fiction, and outcomes that pose more questions than they answer.
• The exhibition concept was inspired by Paul Auster's City of Glass, a novella in the New York Trilogy. It is also a graphic novel. Check out either one, and mull over Auster's concepts of urbanism, identity, and language.
• Check out Pourus Walker discussing his installation on Culture Wire, at sfartscommission.org
While at SFAC Gallery...
• The San Francisco Fog Factory, Pourus Walker
o Do you think that Pourus Walker intends this piece to be believed? Why or why not?
o Does it seem like he believes it?
o What role does he take in the story telling? What effect does that create?
o Regardless of veracity, or if it's true or believable, does this piece bring us an honest representation of San Francisco? Or, a representation of a part of San Francisco?
o Is this piece ironic? Is it spoofing something? How? Is there a critique written into it? Or, it is just for fun?
• Sunset Conversations, Michelle Blade
o What is your experience standing in front of Blade's painting?
o How do you think it changes the work that she mapped out where the viewer should stand?
o Why do you think she chose sunsets as her concept for this exhibition? Does watching the sunset signify something culturally specific? What?
Is it romantic?
• Peripheral Listening by the C side, Jason Jägel
o Jägel says that his work is about creating his own language. He creates this language with pictures and symbols. Do you see a story happening in this piece?
o Is the story told differently because Jägel represented it in pictures and found text than it would be if he simply wrote it down?
o Jägel writes about this piece that "the paper sculptures can't be seen all at once, as they require movement and time to experience..." What does that add to the piece?
• Hidden History Map of San Francisco, Death P. Sun
o This map is so detailed and rich, a group can surely uncover more than an individual standing in front of the work. This activity is meant for a class, or a group with a facilitator. It is taken from the Visual Thinking Strategies method for critical thinking about art (see additional resources). The VTS facilitator should pose the following questions to the group while they are standing in front of the painting:
What is going on in this picture?
What do you see that makes you say that?
What more can we find?
After the Visit...
Creative Writing Exercise:
• Write a creation story for some aspect of the city. Why is Lombard Street so crooked? Why is the Mission District the sunniest part of the city? Imagine the story behind an aspect of your environment; if you don't live in the city, write about where you live or know best. You can choose to make it an underground history like Pourus Walker's, an ancient creation myth like Aesop's Fables, or like an exposé for a newspaper. Remember to explain how you discovered or heard the story. Did you find a time-capsule? Did an alien communicate it to you?
Visual Art Activity:
• How do you engage your space? Make an artwork for the show. If you do not live in San Francisco, imagine an exhibition about your city or neighborhood. Think about the issues behind the exhibition concept: Do you have a special language for your neighborhood? A secret code you see developing in the streets? An alternative map of your city? Or, your block? Or, your school? Maybe you want to visually express the feeling of your city, the way Tunstall and Plock did. Think carefully about what materials you should use to display your concept.
tinyurl.com/r86lyh (Death P. Sun's online creation to accompany his painting)