Though the purpose of this workshop was to study and make collages, the underlying project was to alter the methodological and pedagogical rhythms of the architectural studio. The semester, unbeknownst to the student until the final review, was laid out in three parts in which each week a different work ambiance was given as an assignment. It was agreed that all work was to be done out of paper found in the trash.
To thwart any attempt by the students to think that they were "making art," however, in the first part of the semester they had to endure a process by which they produced work that I destroyed each week. The mode of "destruction" changed with each meeting. The class period was used to "repair" the damage or reconstitute the authorial presence. This give-and-take eventually involved not only me but the class as well. In the second part of the semester, the students were teamed up and had to design a relationship that gave methodological rigor to the dynamics of adding and subtracting, discovery and recovery, building onto the surface of the collage and digging into it. Only in the last week, were the students "free" to work on their collage without interference from others.
Both political and psychoanalytical ideas were at play. What we notice and what we don't notice in beginning a collage can be seen as both an artistic and a political problem. Furthermore, the continual attempt to demote the ego in the studio challenged the principle of "ownership" that is presumed to be such an important part of avant-garde art production. In fact, everything that was made in the semester had multiple and sometime anonymous authors. In some instances it was not clear how to trace all the events that had taken place in the production of a piece. Ownership came into play only at the end of each methodological unit. In other words, the last person to touch and transform it owns it.
My critique of the work, therefore, was never about a student's intention (in relationship to a "program" or a set of desires as it might be in architecture), but about the rigor by the procedural decisions that were made. The message in this was that despite the insistence on method, as a type of game plan, not only did "art" arrive, but also each student's individual aesthetic soon came to shine through the work. In fact, as the semester progressed the differences between the students became more obvious and thus more useable in creating new strategies of interaction.
The semester was also designed around the question of scale. In the first third of the semester we worked toward making something only a few inches square, the idea being to get the students to sharpen their intensity and skills of observation. The second third students made things that could be held by the hand; and in the final part of the semester the students moved to the scale of the wall by working on large door panels. The purpose was to get the students to continually think of the interrelationship of these scales.
The Syllabus, in Graphic Form (PDF)