Got an image?

This little postcard doesn’t have a ‘home’ yet in my own teaching, but I am putting it out as an open resource for all to use.

It began life as a list used by the now freelance consultant Stuart Langford who used to teach Art and Design at South Tyneside College and then at Newcastle College. I attended a course led by him about six years ago and he kindly gave us a range of resources to use in our teaching. Before I had an opportunity to use it, I managed to lose the folder. It was a resource that I felt would have been very useful in developing an explorative approach in my students. I missed it, so I kept looking. I heard whisperings of other artists writing lists so I searched and searched but to no avail. Finally, in March 2012, I attempted to recreate it over three frenzied days in an act of desperation. I still don’t have Stuart’s original list and I like the idea that it is slightly mythical.

As part of my Masters course in Fine Art and Education at the University of Northumbria, I have been looking at instruction art. In my own work I am looking at it as a tool for inviting participation from my audiences/project collaborators. Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit: Instructional Pieces (1964) is much more poetic than my list of somewhat more forceful suggestions. I also enjoyed looking at Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Do It (2004), Erwin Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures and Keri Smith’s blog The Wish Jar and her explorations into creativity. My own list is much more limited, more like a menu designed to whet the creative appetites of my students who, once they settle on an idea or image, sometimes can’t seem to work out what to do with it. ‘But,’ I hear you asking, ‘does the image come before the idea or after?’ I would hope that the list is open enough to invite both kinds of considerations. In using this with my students I always allow them to try a range of things before asking them to justify themselves with the all-important question: ‘Why?’

Since I wrote the list, it has been circulating around on the NSEAD’s Facebook page and my own blog. Stuart calls it a list of ‘directional strategies’, and said it was ‘perhaps a sign that some students need a hard shove towards generating anything other than a single idea…or two!’ I call it my ‘Odradek’ after Kafka’s short story about an elusive little object that lingers on the threshold of a family man’s house, accumulating bits of coloured thread. You can call it what you will. And you are most welcome to alter or add to it. I would be very interested to hear how you have used it and whether it has found a home in your teaching.

(Originally published in AD Magazine, NSEAD, Autumn 2014, Issue 11)