Tuesday, 29 July 2014

For and Against: Debating Ideas and Concepts around art!

A case study around developing a new cross-curricular secondary school programme piloted with Year 12 History students from Pukekohe High School.

The moment of truth! The students were now asked to use the content they had been given to debate the moot ‘The influence of the Renaissance is obvious in art from today’... The debate was a roaring success – both groups were lively and engaged, and were keen to discuss their interpretations and ideas... I'd facilitated many debates in the Gallery prior to this one, but immediately this stood out as more successful.

The analysis and discussion of works of art can offer rich learning opportunities appropriate for a broad range of subject areas. Motivated by this thinking, we wanted to develop a programme that gave secondary students from a range of subject areas the opportunity to build relevant content and contextual knowledge around works of art, to explore the big ideas these generate, and to then apply this knowledge through a facilitated group debate designed to encourage high level critical thinking.

We developed a focused tour and debate programme (For and Against: Debating Ideas and Concepts around Art), combining the strengths of two of the Gallery’s teams. The first part of the session is led by one of our Gallery Volunteers, who work with the public to deliver daily tours and have an comprehensive understanding of the Gallery and its collection. The second part of the session is led by one of our Gallery Educators, who work with schools and community groups and specialize in facilitating sessions where students use critical and creative thinking to analyze artworks.

We trialed this new programme with a class of Year 12 History students from Pukekohe High School. They had been studying the Renaissance, and were preparing for an internal standard for which they needed to write an essay on the art of the Renaissance and its effect on art in the present.

We introduced their debate topic: ‘The influence of the Renaissance is obvious in art from today’. When they discovered they wouldn't know which side of the debate they would argue from until the second part of the session there were groans and slight looks of panic on several faces, so we assured them the debate would not be a test, but rather a fun and lively way to apply their knowledge, share their thoughts and hear the thoughts of others!

Part 1: Volunteer Guide-led tour 

Juan de Juanes, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, 16th century
We started in Little Miracles, an exhibition of 16th century Renaissance paintings and then spent time discussing several works in-depth. Students also had opportunities to share their own knowledge and interpretations, and she encouraged them to link what they were hearing now back to what they had learnt in the classroom.

Tony Fomison, My Personal Christ (St Anthony) 1976
We then viewed examples of ‘art from today’. The challenge was to identify or relate the characteristics of the Renaissance works we had discussed to these contemporary New Zealand works. The students were supported through this process through discussion and were encouraged to look at the notes they had taken in Little Miracles to compare and contrast the works.

Part 2: Educator-facilitated debate 

The moment of truth! The students were now asked to use the content they had been given to debate the moot ‘The influence of the Renaissance is obvious in art from today’. Their teacher, Liz, and I stepped back at this point, and gave the students space to voice their opinions, use the notes they had taken in Liz’s session, and to use their prior knowledge. Where needed, we would step in to further fuel a discussion or push them further with their thinking.

Colin McCahon, Takaka: Night and Day 1948
The debate was a roaring success – both groups were lively and engaged, and were keen to discuss their interpretations and ideas. An atmosphere of playful competition kept them on their toes, as both sides wanted to 'win'. I'd facilitated many debates in the Gallery prior to this one, but immediately this stood out as more successful. Giving the students access to content and then allowing them the time to digest it and manipulate it made a huge difference. Challenges we’ve since thought through – sticking to our timing – they could have kept debating much longer, and trying to keep all of the students engaged during the debate, not just the ones who are really comfortable talking in public. The arguments from both sides were well measured, supported with evidence and convincing. For example, the 'for' group argued that the influence of the Renaissance was clearly visible in McCahon's Takaka: Night and Day. They thought his dramatic use of light and dark tones referenced the chiaroscuro technique used by Renaissance artists.


  • Students said they found arguing a given point of view challenging, but useful. This is a skill they need for essay writing in several subjects, not just History. They also liked hearing different perspectives from their peers during the debate, and having the opportunity to learn from each other in that way. 
  • The flexibility of this programme allows the Gallery to respond to a teacher's needs, or to a specific topic of study. Liz was able to introduce lots of content, which secondary students need. Their teacher was engaged and encouraging throughout the entire session. Her enthusiasm helped students maintain interest. 
  • Liz’s past experience with secondary groups had seen her solely as a ‘guide’, her role purely to share content. She has found in this environment students are often reluctant to ask questions or participate in discussion. Alternatively she found the For and Against programme created an atmosphere that allowed students space to show curiosity or share their knowledge, making it a more rewarding experience for them and for her. 

Going forward:

  • Taking into account the challenges in the pilot, we are now offering this programme on a regular basis along with the rest of our Secondary Learning programming
  • I love working with this age group, and really enjoyed the opportunity to hear them voice their opinions and share their knowledge in such an enthusiastic way. 
  • Bring your students in and let us know what you think! 
– Gallery Educator Vivien Masters and Volunteer Guide Elizabeth Buchanan

Image credits: 

Juan de Juanes
Saint Catherine of Alexandria 16th century
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Sir George Grey, 1887

Tony Fomison
My personal Christ 1975-1976
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1976

Colin McCahon
Takaka: night and day 1948
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of the Rutland Group, 1958

Youth Media Internship 2014: The End in Sight

Interns critiquing their peers' work
Today we started with a quick critique session. We all had the opportunity to look at what each of the groups had done so far and offer some feedback about each of the short films. At this stage feedback plays a key role in motivating the Interns to fine tune and push their films to a higher level.

Getting the job done
Editing was the main focus of today. There was an atmosphere of concentration and determination in the studio. Talking to the Interns revealed that there were still a lot of ideas that they would like to develop. Everyone was optimistic and knew that they would get it all done and calmly carried on working.

Reflective drawing of an intern
This year’s Interns love to express themselves through their own art. Many of the interns doodle or draw as part of their reflection. As not everyone in the group can work on editing at the same time, a few chose to reflect through their drawings. The interns have a lot of skills in many different fields and their artistic ability has really shone through over the last two weeks.

Pizza for lunch
One of the highlights of this programme that everyone agrees on is the food we get everyday. The programme has been fully catered for with a combination of snacks, sandwiches and everyone's favourite: pizza. Lunchtime today was a much needed break from all the work everyone had been doing. Some were so focused on their work that they needed to be peeled away from their computers to take a break.

Programme mentor Jacques lending a hand
Jacques, one of the programme mentors, helped a lot today. He knows a great deal about the technical side of things. The Interns called on him when they were faced with something that they didn't know how to do. His expertise in this area helped in the process of learning that the interns have gone through.

– Photos and text by Reuben Poharama and Martin Hill, AUT Media Mentors

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Youth Media Internship 2014: Positively Messy

Rechecking our goals
Today, after taking a look at the art boards downstairs, the Interns were given some questions similar to those answered in the first few days. The aim of these questions were to help us remember our goals why we are making these films. We have been busy making our films for the past few days now so it was good to take some time to refocus and make sure we're still on track.

Shooting some last minute footage
Very soon after, we got back to work. The teams were all at different stages of production, which is expected with their unique styles. There was editing, filming, even props making in the studio which is slightly worrying as the groups should probably all be editing by now. There was definitely progress being made, however, I just hope that this progress is enough to get the groups all on schedule.

Borrowing eyes from another team
There was an encouraging amount of cooperation both within the teams and between them. I loved seeing the interns help other teams when they weren't busy with their own films. Because editing is often difficult to do with three people at once, there were many times throughout the day when a team member was not needed in their own project, freeing them to help others with theirs.

Interns get messy
The studio got a little messy today, not because the Interns are dirty, but because there was some very arty filming taking place. The techniques used in some of the their films are unique and exciting. We all look forward to seeing the final results on Thursday.

Interns play music and work
The end is slowly creeping closer. With only one day to finish everything, the pressure is on for everyone to get their projects done. Luckily, to ease the stress, the interns had access to a guitar and cookies. Both of which are proven to relieve mental pressure… I think. The atmosphere in the studio is still positive though, and everyone is still enjoying being a part of the programme.

– Photos and text by Reuben Poharama and Martin Hill, AUT Media Mentors

Monday, 21 July 2014

Youth Media Internship 2014: Monday Morning, 3-Day Warning

Editing in Adobe Premiere Pro
Starting the day with a lesson in Adobe Premiere helped clear the fog in our minds in terms of how to piece together our short films. Jacques showed us all how to layout the windows, sort the files and some basic editing techniques. The tutorial was followed by action – trying this ‘editing’ thing for ourselves. 

Showing a quick mock-up video
For the next while we began to put shots, titles and images together to form the basic outline of our films. Not aiming for perfection, but rather an idea of what it could be. These quick videos helped us explain the direction of our production and how we are going to achieve our goals.

Notes from the critique
Each group presented their rough cut videos and spoke about the direction of their production. It was exciting to see the creativity in what has been done so far and it gave us all an opportunity to find inspiration for our own films. Critical feedback from the group helped to understand how each film is perceived by individuals. We look forward to what the interns will be doing over the coming three days.

Snacks to cure the stress
Wait… Three days? Actually more like two and a half. These films will need to be completed by Thursday which leaves the final half of today, then Tuesday and Wednesday. Not a lot of time at all. Don’t worry everyone, more snacks have been ordered to help with the stress.

– Photos and text by Reuben Poharama and Martin Hill, AUT Media Mentors

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Youth Media Internship 2014: Do you need it? Yes!

Figuring out the camera
Today was a jam packed day focused around the Interns filming the things they needed to. It was pretty intense and, for some, like jumping into the deep end having done nothing like this before. They took this in their stride and gave it their best shot.

Working together as a team
In each group they had different roles and responsibilities. They really took ownership of these roles. They understood which part each of them played and how these parts came together as a group. The planning really shone through and allowed the groups to work effectively to complete the tasks that needed to be done.

Interviewing the Director, Rhana Devenport
When filming in and around the Gallery the Interns interacted with the people there. It is interesting to see such a diverse range of people all from different backgrounds coming together in this one place to appreciate the art within it. This diversity allowed the interns to gain some interesting responses from these people when they interviewed them.

Selecting music for their short film.
Only two groups could film at a time because either Mindy or Selina had to supervise the interns. So while two groups were out filming the other two were conducting research about their enquiry. The Interns had access to the Gallery Library and spent their time reading books, gathering information from online sources and some even began selecting music for the soundtrack of their film.

Together with the Youth Events Sqaud (YES)
Today we also had lunch with the Youth Event Squad (YES). This is a group of young people that work with the gallery staff to plan and run exciting events for other young people at the Gallery. Many of them have come through the Youth Media Internship program and inspired many of the current interns by showing them where these types of opportunities could lead them.

Working with the content
The rest of the afternoon was spent watching and organising the content that had been generated throughout the day. Doing this can be just as important as generating the content in the first place and is often something that is overlooked. The interns had some important decisions to make. What do they keep or disregard? Do they need more content? Is there anything missing?

– Photos and text by Reuben Poharama and Martin Hill, AUT Media Mentors

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Youth Media Internship 2014: Make a Move

The teams became a lot closer today. After writing out our individual strengths and goals, we decided, as teams, the roles that each person would have. It was helpful for us, the documenters, to go through this process at the same time as the interns.

Each team was then to write and present a proposal for their films, explaining what their film is about and what they want it to look and feel like. Writing a good proposal is very difficult and presenting it in front of people is often intimidating, however, the interns showed intelligence and insight in their work. Presenting their proposals allowed the teams to receive constructive feedback from the rest of the group.

We needed to start making things. The gallery was hosting an event that invited members of the public to make leis, either for themselves or to add to the community lei. How could we miss this opportunity? At the same time, we were invited to listen to a storyteller tell Hawaiian legends. This was a great source of inspiration as many of us will be telling stories through our films.

Sandwich break! Everyone out! We’re moving! The high school students were all eager to go to University.

Colab at AUT University has provided us with filming equipment and a studio space to work in for the two weeks. This afternoon was an intense round of workshops on storyboarding, journaling and filming, which were very “hands-on” and allowed for the young artists to finally feel like they were making something as a team. It was great for the interns to see the different techniques and ways of doing things in all three of these areas.

The feeling of excitement is building as the teams get closer to starting production. I have a feeling it’s going to get very intense very soon...

– Photos and text by Reuben Poharama and Martin Hill, AUT Media Mentors

Monday, 14 July 2014

Youth Media Internship 2014: An Intern’s Personal Reflection

Day 1

The thing that struck me during today, was how much about art I don’t know. Before arriving at Auckland Art Gallery, I assumed that the majority of what was left to understand about art was mainly about personal interpretation. However, after today I have come to a different conclusion. During our tour of the Gallery Selina explained to us the composition of several early 1600’s paintings. She explained how, since most people of that time period did not know how to read or write, artists employed symbolism into their art work as a way of creating narrative. Although this was a fairly simple idea, to me it was a very important piece of knowledge that I was shocked I was missing. It reminded me of how much there is left to learn and made me even more grateful than I already am to be involved in the program.

Day 2 

Today was a strongly idea-based day. During the most part of it, we were brainstorming and pondering what aspects of the Gallery, and art as a whole interest us. After many different activities, discussions, and a delicious lunch, our group has successfully come up with an idea to investigate that interests all of us, one that we we are very excited to work on for the rest of the time here.

– Anonymous Intern

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Engaging with our neighbours in South America

Guayaquil, Ecuador
What do we generally know about South America? In April I was able to spend a month researching art in three countries in South America in preparation for an exhibition at Auckland Art Gallery. This was a long awaited trip as my last visit to the continent was in 2006 when I co-managed the project TRANS VERSA, artists from Australia and New Zealand, with Danae Mossman, which resulted in the presentation of artworks at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Galería Metropolitana and Centro Cultural Matucana in Santiago, Chile. Apart from my ongoing research into art from that area from afar, my understanding of the South American continent was second hand. It had largely remained known to me though its ancient history (Rapa Nui, Incas), colonial settlement, the authoritarian regimes of the recent past and natural wonders that include the world’s longest mountain chain (the Andes) and features including the Amazon River, Atacama Desert and Galapagos islands.

I was eager to be reintroduced to art from neighbouring countries across the Pacific Ocean, and hope that this future exhibition project will find a similar sentiment amongst the New Zealand public. An exhibition of recent art from South America answers the Gallery’s vision of offering transformational experiences that strengthen and enrich our communities. While obvious cultural differences exist between New Zealand and South American countries, the South America–Pacific nexus is growing. Economically, both regions have thrived while most of the world is still under the throws of the global financial crisis. There is an increasing flow of South American citizens to New Zealand, especially from Brazil, and close trade partnerships exist between New Zealand and Brazil, Chile and Argentina. Yet New Zealanders have not been exposed to art from this region. Alongside the growing sense of collaboration in trade and policy on both sides of the ocean, collaborative art projects raise the possibility of enhanced cultural understanding between neighbouring countries.

My itinerary was devised to coordinate with my colleague in this project, independent Chilean curator Beatriz Bustos. We began at the SP-Arte Fair in São Paulo, Brazil, where over 120 galleries show their wares in the Biennial Pavilion in Ibirapuera, the fabulous pavilion designed by a team of architects including Oscar Niemeyer. Like all art fairs, SP-Arte only gave a taste of the rich and varied contemporary art practice represented by commercial galleries from around the continent. Photography and three-dimensional or installation based work was most attention grabbing, despite the presence of works demonstrating the legacy of geometric abstraction in Brazil and surrounding countries. The strong sensibility of memory, so present in the work of artists practising in the 1970s and 80s, had been replaced with new foci in the work of a younger generation.

Sp-Arte, São Paulo, Brazil
Evident from this fair, and from our research in galleries, museums and visiting artists’ studios in Brazil, Argentina and Chile was the varied and exciting mix of artwork being undertaken by artists. While it remains impossible to categorise art being made in one city, let alone by country or continent, many works showed a clear engagement with local issues – including contemporary lifestyle, public and private corruption, the tension between religion and new freedoms, Indigenous issues, the changing state of the environment – alongside art that conveyed abstract and universal themes. Each country has its own distinct blend of cultures and Indigenous peoples, historical and contemporary culture, and rapid urbanisation in which raw life is intersected by new aspirations for lifestyle and different attitudes toward history. Demian Schopf’s image of one of the many homemade designs for a festival parade in northern Chile, Jukumari, 2011, clearly combining components from Asia with popular culture, gives a sense of the cultural mash-up at large.

Joana Vasconcelos, Casarão (installation view), April 2014, Casa Triangulo
The art of younger contemporary artists, growing up in the new ‘democracies’ in South America, naturally reflects their context, which includes greater access to and communications with the rest of the world. The sense of change is palpable in art as much as it pervades daily life and the broader political and economic spectrum. Transformation is precarious at the same time, as the situation in Argentina indicates and as was evident in the growing voice of the underclass in Brazil unhappy with their treatment in the lead up to the World Cup which acerbated the lack of public services and wealth inequalities in that country. Nevertheless, there is also much art which engages with beauty, pleasure and aspects of tradition, as evident in the new work by Joana Vasconcelos which we experienced at Casa Triangulo in São Paulo.

This research visit raised as many questions as it loaded us up with encounters with artists and artworks. Bustos and I have much to discuss in regard to the how we frame art from South America for audiences in New Zealand and which artists, writers, performers, film makers, poets and philosophers can join the project and enrich its experience in Auckland. We propose that an introduction to the recent history of the countries involved in the exhibition is as important as the public programme of film, music and discussion that accompanies the exhibition. I hope you will follow us on our journey of discovery over the coming months...

– Zara Stanhope, Principal Curator

Youth Media Internship 2014: What's the Big Idea?

Discussing responses to questions and quotes

Today the Youth Media Interns focused on generating ideas and looking deeper into the enquiry that each group wants to follow. The exercises that the interns took part in today helped them come to a greater understanding of what they would like to research. One exercise particularly looked at a range of questions with various strengths and weaknesses. The interns reflected on these which helped them formulate their own questions that they were personally interested in.

All of the different exercises were not only to help formulate enquiries but also build connections within their teams. Each group was able to understand and make effective decisions quickly with each member having an input. This will be crucial when they start producing their short films as they only have a limited time to complete many tasks.

Conveying meaning through movement
The interns have shown an impressive amount of enthusiasm and intelligence. They have also built strong relationships with their colleagues which is vital for any successful team. Everyone has made the most of the time that we have had, especially today, which was filled with valuable learning experiences.

Thinking as a team
Today was also valuable for us as the documenters. We will be making a short film as a documentation of the Interns’ creative process while they produce their own films. We also went through the idea generation process with the interns today. Our enquiry is about each person which meant we needed to get some insight into their thinking through the use of reflection.

Ideas for reflection
Personal reflection will not only help to document the process but will also help the interns gain insight into their own ways of thinking and doing, creating a greater awareness of the decision making process.

– Photos and text by Reuben Poharama and Martin Hill, AUT Media Mentors

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Meet the 2014 Youth Media Interns

The new Youth Media Interns
Today the Youth Media Interns began a fun-filled journey to produce their own creative short film based around their experiences at Auckland Art Gallery. The interns come from all over Auckland with many different skills and interests. This diversity became very apparent when we were sharing goals that we would like to achieve through the programme. We are excited to see what each member of the group is able to contribute.

A big part of today was the tour. This gave the interns the chance to begin thinking about what they find interesting about the Art Gallery. This helped give them some ideas about what their films might be about. We met some of the staff and were able to hear a little about what role each person played within the Gallery. This ‘behind the scenes’ look was a unique experience.

Dave Bavage, Head of Gallery Development & Visitor Services, speaks to the Interns
Towards the end of the day we discussed the values that will be important while working in teams for the next two weeks. We first individually decided – from the list we brainstormed – which three were the most important. We then paired up and debated which of the six values were the three most important. The pairs then debated in groups of four, then eight, then as one big discussion to decide the final, most important three. These values chosen were:
  1. Open-mindedness 
  2. Constructive 
  3. Imagination 
Open-mindedness, constructive and imagination were the three top values decided by the Interns
The interns were sent away for an afternoon break while the teams were being decided. There was tension in the air as they waited to hear who they would be teamed up with. After watching some inspiring videos the interns were split into their teams to discuss ideas, values and what each member would like to contribute to and gain from the experience.

Individual goal setting
It has been a great start to this year’s programme with everyone being very open and friendly. We are really excited about what is to come…

– Photos and text by Reuben Poharama and Martin Hill, AUT Media Mentors