Kids in brightly coloured uniforms are arranged across uneven rows in a sunny room at Woy Woy Public School . The connection quality is looking good – detailed enough to single out a questioning student at the front based on her pigtail and jacket colour. We’re in the MCA’s Multimedia Studio, artist educators are being filmed live in front of a green screen, everyone’s mic’d up and glaring banks of lights give the room an overexposed glow.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, a digital excursion or virtual excursion, is a workshop or experience delivered to students remotely using video conferencing or other web based 2 way video connection. The program allows us to work with students who due to a range of barriers including distance, economics or just a pressured school timetable might not otherwise make it to the physical building.
The MCA has worked in this space since 2012, along with many other cultural organisations keen to expand their engagement with schools and audiences. We recently overhauled the technical approach by building a portable production cart that allows broadcast quality production, inclusion of green screen or chroma keying and the ability to connect by either video conferencing (H.323) or web based video such as Skype, Hangouts, Facetime or Zoom. It seems the magic of a green screen hasn’t faded over the years – students still get very excited at the seemingly magical effect.
Getting a good connection with quality audio and video is essential to enabling a meaningful, interactive connection – but what you do with that capacity is much more important. We’ve taken the time to examine what it is that we can offer through this connection and we think we’ve come up with some interesting ideas.
Firstly, if you came to an art gallery or art museum you would see artworks, not pictures of artworks or descriptions of artworks but actual artworks – be they video, painting, sculpture or installation – and that first hand experience is something that visitors value highly in encounters at cultural institutions. So one approach we have tried is asking an artist, Agatha Goth-Snape to create an artwork that can only be experienced via remote 2 way video connection designed for secondary students. Because the medium is live, the work itself is a performance work that examines relationships between the art of today and art movements from the 20th century questioning how art is valued.
For many students the resulting work; The Feelings Were harder To Dismiss Than I Initially Imagined would be their first encounter with an artwork that includes performance, interaction and use of appropriated material. The experience challenges its audience to rethink what art is and what an artwork might consist of but it also builds their confidence in responding to a work and taking away their own meaning.
For primary students we have also been working hard to create a new program titled Colour and Emotion that brings techniques and ideas from onsite workshops to a remote audience. Using a game show format Colour and Emotion offers multiple pathways (Choose your Own Adventure Style) leading to different artworks, themes and playful activities. Students are engaged through strategies that use multiple senses encouraging them to respond to artworks from the MCA collection in innovative ways. For example one activity uses personification to give two sculptures each a character and then act out a resulting conversation between them. A deceptively simple idea that gets students to think about the qualities and form of an artwork, then through the resulting discussion they are deciphering and communicating their own responses.
We’re very excited about the possibilities these programs bring for students located anywhere in Australia to connect to contemporary art and come away with new perspectives.
The Feelings Were harder To Dismiss Than I Initially Imagined
Colour and Emotion
All digital excursions are offered FREE
For more information digital excursions at the MCA head to:
This (digital excursion) provided students the chance to really understand the conceptual framework and actually be part of it. I was so excited at the uniqueness of the experience and feel it is a way to ignite art teaching in rural and remote schools.
Abigail Sparks, Glen Innes High School, NSW 2015
Alex’s interest for intersections between creativity, technology and community has drawn him to roles in community broadcasting, community development, and cultural sectors. He has a long history of organising and curating experimental music and art through projects like; Tele Visions, Serial Space, Electrofringe, High Reflections, Lion Mountain Studio and Liquid Architecture.
Alex currently works as the Digital Learning Producer for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. He is passionate about the possibilities for art and creativity to change lives both for audiences and creators. Alex also produces and performs sound, video and installations working with both customised software systems and hardware based modular synthesis systems.