CULTIVATING ARTS AND MINDS
The Sculptural Line
The Sculptural Line
Child's play, or a seriously intellectual adult activity? We spent a cheerful half hour exploring the Sculptural Line by shaping colourful nuggets of PlayDoh into representations of artist✼academic identity. A group brainstorm filled the whiteboard with some of the many words and phrases that we associate with the word artist: for example, imagination, undercover, passion, nude, experimental, constraints, anything goes. Those keywords became the basis for the 5-minute sculptures we shaped with our yellow PlayDoh. Next, we brainstormed academic: words like critical, discovery, "rigor," privileged, pioneering, challenging, obedient came to mind. Those key concepts were embodied in blue PlayDoh. Finally, our red Play-Doh sculptures expressed the idea of the asterisk: the risky star, the Va, the mysterious relational space where artist and academic meet. Merged into a singular sculpture, eachtricoloured PlayDoh masterpiece expressed far weightier concepts than its playful material form might suggest.
Group brainstorm: ARTIST ✼ ACADEMIC
Artist: naked, vulnerable, dancing
Academic: rigor, resources, privilege
Have I sculpted an Adam-and-Eve tale? All Eve, of course. Eve is the naked, vulnerable artist in the Garden of Eden. The snake, symbolizing knowledge, tempts her with its power. It poisons her with its seductive promises: intellectual rigor, resources, privilege. She wants to keep dancing on her tightrope, but the tightrope becomes that hissing snake. Exhausted, she sinks down – into an opening flower, the aster-risk, the space of knowing and becoming and collaborating. She rests, she recovers; she prepares to dance again. The snake, defanged, supports rather than threatens her now. No longer a tightly strung tightrope, it is now the curving, unfolding koru of becoming.
Artist: creative, way of seeing, imagination = UFO
Academic: pioneering, hard-working, challenging = Mountain
In a dream, I travel in this UFO, like an alien in the academic world, without direction. I don’t have the map for this universe, but I sense the light – the light of my faith in arts. In this UFO, I fly and see this world through different perspectives. I not only see things through my eyes, but also through imagination. But there is no place for me to land in this world. I have to hide from this world without being captured. Another second into this dream, I stand in front of a tall mountain. The steep path to the top is overgrown with thorns. I have to climb with my feet and hands, to endure the pain from the sharp thorns. My body documents this journey through my scars from these thorns. With every step toward the top, I add more scratches on my skin and in my memory. I have to be on the top, but I do not know why. Then, I am on the mountain top. I see the light from the sky. I wave and wave, shout and shout. The light finally comes toward me silently and speedily.
I am in the UFO, finding a safe place to land. I am on the top of the mountain, finding a way to fly higher. I am an artist✼academic, finding the balance between the sky and the land.
The Sculptural Line
- A whiteboard and markers
- 3 colours of Play-Doh (yellow, blue, and red) divided into palm-sized pieces.
- Group brainstorm (3 min): On the lefthand side of the whiteboard, come up with as many words as you can that you associate with the word ARTIST.
- Individual sculpture (5 min): Choose any 3 keywords that appeal to you, then use the yellow clay to create a shape that evokes them. Set aside.
- Group brainstorm (3 min): On the righthand side of the whiteboard, come up with as many words as you can that you associate with the word ACADEMIC.
- Individual sculpture (5 min): Choose any 3 keywords that appeal to you, then use the blue clay to create a shape that evokes them. Set aside.
- Group brainstorm (3 min): In the middle section of the whiteboard, come up with words or symbols that represent the idea of the ASTERISK, the space between.
- Individual sculpture (5 min): Choose 1 keyword or main idea, use the red clay to create a shape that evokes that one keyword. Set aside.
- You now have 3 sculptured shapes in front of you. Silently walk around the room looking at each other’s sculptures – no talking.
- Individual sculpture (5 mins): Combine these 3 shapes to represent the concept of ARTIST✼ACADEMIC. You may use more PlayDoh. Your shapes may morph, but try and keep the essential element of each sculptured shape intact.
Voila! You have created your tactile definition of an Artist✼Academic.
Freewrite in response to each of the following questions in turn, digging into the detail:
- WHAT did you physically do to create each shape? (eg ‘I rolled the dough in my hands and started pressing it into a flat circle, then poked a hole in the middle.)
- HOW did you physically connect them? (eg ‘I then pinched one end of each piece…’)
- WHY did you do what you did? That is, what insights does your intuitive physical response in making, shaping and joining these words give you into your creative, intellectual and emotional responses about:
- What an Artist✼Academic is?
- The kinds of permission might be needed for you to become an Artist✼Academic?
Share your shapes and your writing.