This is the End…Sorta: Blueprints for a Past Future

Today is the last day of Blueprints for a Past Future – an exhibition that brings together the work and ideas of Faculty and Students from this semester’s classes at Ohio State that engage with the radical educational and artistic experiment of Black Mountain College (during the run of the Wexner Center for the Arts exhibition Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933-1957.)

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Organized by Kris Paulsen (History of Art), Erica Levin (History of Art), Suzanne Silver (Art) and myself, we have turned Hopkins Hall Gallery into a meeting place for lectures and workshops for our students as well as a site for showing their creative work and research in responding to Black Mountain College. For my part, I have been teaching two classes this semester that have contributed to and engaged with this project: Philosophy 2450: Philosophical Problems in the Arts and Art 4004/5004: Drawing Ideas – team taught with Suzanne Silver. The latter class, in which we combined the two core classes taught by the founder of Black Mountain College, the Classicist John Rice (on Plato) and one of its most important artist-teachers, Josef Albers (on Drawing), we investigated how concepts from Plato’s philosophy in general and the Republic in particular (e.g. Form, Idea, Mimesis, Dialogue, Pleasure, Myth) could form the basis for an advanced drawing class through a series of challenging assignments. While I am sure I will post here on other aspects of the course, given that Blueprints for a Past Future closes today, I want to write about one of the projects that a group of students displayed in the gallery as part of their Dialogue assignment and which directly engaged with Plato and the dialogue form.

Throughout the course, while the students had been working in the studio space on their drawing assignments, I had utilized the blackboard as a place to discuss Plato’s philosophy and our readings from the Republic. During an assignment on the nothingness and the invisible (for which we read the story of the Ring of Gyges from Republic Book 2), some students decided to intervene in the blackboard space in a way to both display but also erase their work. This engagement with the blackboard took a more radical turn for the Dialogue assignment when a group of four students (Macy Mankins, Delaney Brochowski, Chan Kim and Zoe Sturges) chose it for their collaborative space. They not only created a group drawing on both sides of the board, but also used the edges of the space to conduct a literal dialogue between them. As part of their interaction, they played and punned on the name of Plato himself (something that both Plato’s critics as well as Platonists liked to do in antiquity, interpreting the meaning of Plato’s name as ‘broad’ in terms of his physique, from his time as a wrestler, or the broad-range of his learning and his literary style). While the students worked on the project in the studio, for the crit they brought the blackboard down into the Blueprints exhibition (on Halloween!) and continued to add to it. Finally, they each created individual extensions and responses to the work as separate pieces. Here are some of the photographs of their work and even though this is the last day you can see it on display and the end of the exhibition, this post will at least record for posterity (sorta) their time working together.

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