Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lesson idea: Packing Tape People (Sculptures)

This project idea is not original and I snagged it after seeing it on my blogroll when Mark Jenkins and his art endeavors were highlighted.

This year there has been a general theme in the 3D Design classes that has carried/pushed art outside of the classroom and also promoted group/peer learning. While all of this has definitely been fueled by the massive amounts of graduate work I've been doing in order to earn my Masters of Arts in Teaching, it's served the students and school well. I have gotten great feedback about all of the attempts at installation art and I pray that I will be able to continue with this beyond this year.

Anyway, the packing tape sculptures. (Sorry. I am so easily sidetracked!)

The goal was to create multiple sculptures and place them in various places all around campus. All told, I believe we successfully designed, fabricated, and installed a little more than 10 sculptures.

Before the designing and sculpting occurred, I (with the help of two students) identified 18 "random" locations on the school's campus that would both permit as well as benefit from having a sculpture within it. Students grouped themselves in fours and fives and then picked locations from a pile. The last group from each class was permitted to open all of the "leftover" locations and select from that in order to show them they weren't "stuck" with anything that nobody else wanted.

The design process for conceptualizing each of the sculptures required them to visit their location and then fill out short answer worksheets and draw pictures (front, side, and back view) explaining their thought processes and intentions. We had class discussions about communication via body language and how the sculptures needed to draw upon that in order to correctly communicate whatever message the students were trying to make of their sculpture and its location. While the students fussed plenty (because we rarely to never do writing of any kind in 3D Design class ever) they completed their work in very impressive fashion and became that much more invested when they were creating the pieces.

The fabrication process went a number of different ways. In all ways, we employed the use of pre-wrapping in order to protect the individual's being cast from the stickiness (and pain) that can result from being wrapped in packing tape. We used all of the following as pre-wrap and I have indicated the overall end result below in ranked order:
  1. Packing tape => This was the best overall!! It yielded the most solidly structured pieces and lent itself to creating things that had a real transculent quality that DIDN'T require any stuffing though we did end up stuffing all of them. The way we used this is we turned the tape sticky side out and wrapped with it very carefully and then we turned the tape around sticky side in and taped it upon itself.
  2. Saran/Plastic wrap => Definitely very effective as much as it could be but we went through A LOT of this and since that made it that much more costly (just buying the tape alone was a huge investment) I didn't prefer it as my #1 choice.
  3. Table paper => This is basically large "throw away" paper that we use for table coverings for quick clean-up. We used this because we ran out of the previous two and it was very difficulty to work with. If I do this project again I will do everything I can to NOT have to go this way.

 Below you will see pictures of the students doing the wrapping/sculpting of a selected group member in order to cast their sculpture...

When it came time to do the head/face, I made a rule that they were NOT allowed to cover anyone's face in pre-wrap or tape!!! I had them make a "cap" of sorts and then take it off of the person and use that as the beginning of the head that they had to sculpt more to make the face. Many of them stuffed the cap and then just kept adding tape and forming it until they were able to achieve shaping that more closely resembled a face. I instructed them to really concentrate on features like the chin and the nose in order to really make the face look that much more human.

Here are a few of the sculptures done and placed in their respective locations...

Windows lining the Student Art Gallery hallway.

Top floor looking down to the dining hall atrium. Tilt-shift effect via instagram.

Lifting weights in the student workout center.

Working in the Digital Art studio lab off the library.

Browsing in the school store for spirit wear. Tilt-shift effect via instagram.

In wait in the front office reception area. Tilt-shift effect via instagram.

Practicing a vocal solo in the choir room.

Enjoying a refreshment in the seated outdoor area off the dining hall and facing the quad.

Using the eyewash station in the Chem lab.
All in all, I would say this project was successful.  Some of the challenges faced by the students were many of which I predicted: creating structures that could stand alone, difficulty manipulating non-traditional art materials, and showing correct body proportions.

One thing that was completely unexpected was how "creepy" many of the sculptures would end up looking once they were placed in their designated locations. Speaking from experience, I forgot about them and would come upon one and be kind of startled. The idea behind each of them was to "represent and embody the spirit of any student at this school." While I believe that sort of occurred successfully, it definitely evoked an emotional response successfully that, while they each appeared creepy, definitely compelled the viewer to investigate the piece a little more closely and think about it a little bit longer. With that occurring, I feel the overall idea of the project and the execution of it was successful.

I plan on doing a version of this project again but probably not next year. I find it is smart for big attempts at outside-the-classroom art that it's best to do them every other year if they are repeated at all.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Andrea! I will check out the other link you provided as well.... How did the students go about removing the wrap from their models before reassembling and stuffing them? I forsee tragedy if I allow my students to cut wrap off of one another. : /


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