FACS 1900 C
Arts and Ideas
Instructor: Robert Gill
Room: ACW 206 for lecture, ACE 006 for tutorial
Time: Friday 11:30 to 1:30 PM for lecture, 2:30 to 3:30 for tutorial
February 05, 2009
Many of you are very familiar with the post strike remediation environment at York.
What do we need to know to get this course back on track? In terms of the environment it
is the same as it was last term. It will be based on the three principles in operation
already. Number one, we want an atmosphere of fairness for students, evaluate you in as
fair a way as possible.
Number two, we want a learning environment for everyone based in respect. We are
coming from different places, philosophies, ways of understanding the world. I may
disagree with you but I am going to treat you with a minimum of respect. The final thing
is we want to establish a mutually supportive environment with each other and the
relationship of teacher and students. We are going to support you in finishing this course
and in having the feelings that you have about the course and the process.
The most important thing we have to do is getting this course back on track and doing the
work that needs to get done so you have a good experience and not get caught up in other
things. Fairness, respect and mutual support make up the environment we want to
What is it that you really want to know? For this course there will only be two classes.
Next Friday will be the last class for the first term of FACS 1900. There is no test next
Friday. Test will be held on March 6 , the first day of classes of the second term for this
The winter term begins on March 4 . The first test will be held on March 6, same format,
same weighting. No additional work, no change in evaluation. There is only one week
less than there would have been last term. There will be no new content in the course and
you are not required to read any new material as of the end of last year. Whatever you
have done up to that point is the material included on the test.
Today and next Friday we will put significant highlights back on the table. As was
originally planned the test for this course will be written in this room on March 6 based
on a take home exam that we will give you next week. We will give you a set of study
questions that you will prepare between next week and March 6. Then when you come in
two of those questions will appear on that exam. Two short essay length questions. Next
Friday we will give you a handout with four questions.
1 You will prepare for all four, when you come in on the 6 you will answer two of them.
Those four questions will be interrelated very closely. It’s all important and you can draw
from all the material you’ve studied.
Be as patient as you can, if there was something that didn’t get resolved last term,
everything will be fine. No problems in terms of deadlines still in play will be
unresolved. No need to be anxious or upset about anything, we are committed to
resolving any issues that are outstanding. Don’t assume something is going to be a
problem, assume something is going to be resolved.
In terms of tutorials, they will be primarily focused on review. You will spend some time
in tutorials talking about strategies for answering the questions. Also next Friday you will
receive your essays back from the TAs. I need to take a big breath and we will be talking
to you about the test based on what we have learned about you after your first essay. How
you can strategize to address some of those problems as you prepare for the test on March
The email protocol is the same as last term. If you have significant questions about the
test, post those questions to the discussion boards and we will discuss them so that
everybody can see the answer. We will address specific questions universally as much as
we can. Mutual respect and support clause, we’re still getting things off the ground and
we are committed to making sure you get back on track. If your email is not responded in
48 hours look at the discussion board.
Alternative exams will proceed as usual. Freeland, you can use any materials that you
have on the test but she is not a requirement due to the interruption of the strike. We will
shift her to the beginning of next term.
---are we still going to cover aesthetics on the exam?
Yes. There has been an uneven use of Freeland up to this point. I will leave it up to the
TA to make a decision. Your TAs are the evaluators of your written work. Tests are
based on lecture materials, written materials and materials discussed in tutorials. That still
You are welcome to use Freeland in your test though. You still have to use material in a
way that shows us that you understand the relationships between aesthetics and power.
For now I believe that when we look at test questions and format, it will allow you to
raise questions and concerns you have at the time. Questions and concerns about what I
have already discussed?
---how are aesthetics and power related?
I will talk about that today. If you have a concern, make a habit of writing it down. Send
questions to WebCT. Come and talk to me after class.
2 How to restart something after three months? I’ve said enough about the general concept
of culture. It will be a significant term for the end of term test. Today I will re-screen
Orozco first, the first couple of segments. I will revisit the concept of language today in
some detail, specifically the relationship between language and space, a very basic thing.
Space will become an important thing for us to look at in next term. Aesthetics and
power, what is the relationship? Then I will re-screen some of the material on Cara
Walker. She is challenging our ideas about aesthetics and about art and what it does.
There are materials for you to review on PBS.org. Go to Google, type in art21, it will
give you the link, there are various learning materials on each of the artists. You can do
that to refresh your memory on the artists.
• I like to work here, I like to walk. It wakes me up. Just a few blocks of walking,
there can happen many things. I like to walk and enjoy them. The camera is an
instrument I use as an excuse to look at these things. The camera is a way of
awareness. Even when I was a kid walking from house to school I could
remember all the puddles in between and the cracks in the sidewalk.
• I don’t have a studio, a studio is an isolated place, an artificial place like a bubble.
You have to be confronted with reality all the time, being outdoors I try to be
intimate with everything I can. To be intimate you have to be open and to trust
what is around you. Then other people can have the same kind of relationship
with the world.
• I don’t have a technique, I have many different ways to work. When I finish
something I need to invent something else in a different medium in a different
play. The Citroen is a cultural object. Also a machine with a function. We worked
for a month in a garage with a mechanic. On one side you see like a normal car,
but when you walk around you have the perspective distorted. I called it Transport
system beyond the vanishing point.
• Orozco’s partner: He had to come to the supermarket with me and started playing
with the food. He realized what a perfect world a supermarket is and when you
don’t put a thing in the same place you generate chaos. He put the cat food with
water melons. He has curiosity about these things that you take for granted.
• Orozco: A game is a thing on its own. You have a little world on a board designed
to perfection so you can play in a landscape. When you have a normal ping pong
game you have a net. A net is closed space. Here the net is open and you have a
new space. Where the net was I decided to make a pond. If you want you can
relate it with the lotus flower and the beginning of the universe and the pond as
the center of the universe in Aztec mythology.
3 One of the challenges of teaching FACS 1900 is the question how do you teach an
introduction course to musicians, studio artists, conceptual artists, multimedia artists,
designers, how do you teach a foundation course that addresses everyone’s interests and
concerns. The thing that is common to all artists today is space. Space is something that
in different ways all creative people are struggling with.
Artists can also learn a lot from understanding this thing called language. In lots of ways
each of you in your individual practices are addressing language in the sense that you are
addressing the language that you speak with. You are addressing a language of visual
culture in the society that you are in. You are addressing a language of bodies. You are
addressing a language within your own discipline itself. Someone like Orozco is trying to
understand reality in a basic way. The medium that he uses is reality itself.
He is interested in understanding how we make sense of this reality through language. He
has taken for instance the language of the supermarket where it’s a very ordered universe.
It has a grammar, a logic, the way everything is laid out. He is thinking about the way we
order the universe around us and then disrupts that. In this case he put cat food and
melons to create a surprising condition.
Orozco then explores what lies between these two objects. The explores interstitiality, the
place between two things that is hard to sense, to grasp. Cat food is not supposed to be on
top on watermelons, that is the tension. As soon our society tells you something should
not be a certain way and you confront something like that as an artist, that’s where you
go. That’s where you have the capacity for something new to happen. Artists often are
attracted to “though shalt not.” He is interested in creating new things and new spaces for
It’s very philosophically rich what he is doing but it is also very simple. He is exploring
this rich philosophical concept in everyday life. He walks through the streets of Paris
with his camera documenting what normally would be taken for granted. This way of
thinking about the world is an extraordinary gift for an artist. Historically artists have
been given the task to be geniuses and come up with things nobody thought of before.
Orozco’s approach is to say, life itself that is around you is full of things. The universe is
full of things, all you have to do is reach and pick something up and you can start.
The idea that it is something hard to understand the world the way it is because of the
way we already think about it. Internally you’re always working against the idea that
someone is telling you, this is how things work, this is how things are set up. It’s an
incredible skill to develop the capacity to see how things work, the systems at play
around you to make it an ordered universe and then you do new things.
Orozco is an artist who is playing with reality, observing reality, and then making a new
reality by bringing different realities together to play against each other. There will be a
show on surrealism at AGO this summer. This space in between, this pond that is not
supposed to be between ping pong tables is the generative idea.
4 Orozco is interested in the in between space. That space in between is the place we feel
uncomfortable, we don’t understand it. It’s also the place that allows us to move forward.
This course has been so far about setting up a framework for thinking about culture in a
critical way. The world around you is structured in a certain way and it has an impact on
you and how you think, how you can imagine yourself and the kinds of creative things
that you can do. We come into art schools thinking we are so unique and crazy. Be a
crazy creative person but do it with a set of guiding principles. Do crazy process work but
then present it in a way that someone can see the process. Understanding the structure of
the universe around us is a foundational thing for doing creative work.
Everything in my PP presentation today is already in your notes. I’m just di