Viralnet Project Explores Art, Architecture and Learning


From the archives: CalArts in the 1970s.

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Earlier this month, the Center for Integrated Media (IM) at CalArts released the book Art, Architecture, Pedagogy: Experiments in Learning as an offline component to its online Viralnet project (a web-based curatorial initiative).

Developed and edited by Ken Ehrlich (Integrated Media MFA 99) during his tenure as a 2009 artist-in-residence with the IM program, the book contains contributions by Janet Sarbanes (CalArts faculty member), designer/architect Tim Durfee, art collective Machine Project, and artists Liam Gillick and Pablo Helguera, among others.

In his introduction, Ehrlich writes that the project was born from questions about teaching and art education:

This led me to a broader consideration of pedagogy and the ways that contemporary artistic practices, particularly in Los Angeles, incorporate, negotiate and develop out of a variety of education models and situations. I reached out to a handful of artists, architects and writers who I thought might also be interested in thinking about their own relationship to the places where they teach and reflecting on a series of questions: How does the physical environment of a particular school affect the pedagogical program? Can we imagine ideal environments or spaces for a contemporary art education? What are some of the prevailing assumptions about what art education should entail and what sort of assumptions about pedagogy do specific environments presuppose? How do philosophies of architecture intersect with philosophies of art and arts pedagogy in the spaces of art schools?

The book contains both essays, email exchanges and models that examine relationships among learning, art and architecture.

In the opening piece, Sarbanes writes about the history of CalArts, and architecture as falling somewhere between the Bauhaus and Walt Disney. She also points out that early commentators remarked at the “paradoxical disparity between CalArts’ unprepossessing exterior and the remarkable activities occurring between its walls.” (Sentiments that still echo today.) But in searching the CalArts’ archives, Sarbanes also sheds light on why CalArts was designed as it was.

From the unpublished remarks of the Institute’s head architect Thornton Ladd:

We have tried not to get things too fancy, remembering that these are work areas. if they are too elegant, it may inhibit the student from doing the things he wants to do and experimenting for fear he may scratch a table or get something dirty…The artist should feel comfortable in an environment he doesn’t have to worry about keeping neat and clean every minute.

For more information or to purchase Art, Architecture, Pedagogy: Experiments in Learning ($5.95), please visit the Blurb bookstore.

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