Site Specific Characters

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Continuing the exploration of character design, student artists transitioned from working on autobiographical cartoon versions of themselves to site-specific characters. The student artists quickly realized that the same principles of quality character design applied to characters installed in the public realm.

 

The student artists began the unit with a presentation on morality and the concept of the monster in popular culture. The class analyzed a Frederic Nietzsche quote on monstrosity, discussed films such as American Sniper and American Psycho, and viewed old horror movie posters from the 1950’s along with other various images from historical and contemporary art to fully understand the concept of the monster. The artists came to the conclusion that monsters are defined by what a particular society deems as harming or threatening. In addition, perspective plays a large role in defining what is harmful, evil, or “bad” in each society. 

 

The artists were then introduced to the concept of psychogeography, or the study of the specific psychological effects of a geographical environment on the emotions and behavior of individuals in that environment. The school environment was chosen as the specific site to explore as the students developed lists of contrasting positive and negative aspects of school. The artists considered their conflicting beliefs relating to the differences between the positive benefits of education and learning and the negative effects of current schooling practices in the United States. The student artists were invited to adopt a new way of considering the school as a type of monster, something that produced harming or negative effects in the students who occupy the school building, despite positive intentions behind the purpose and goals of education.

Once their sketches were finished, students embarked on creating and installing their original two-dimensional characters. Their character design had to conceptually respond to a negative or harming feeling/memory in the school environment and transform it into a positive intervention.  In addition, the characters had to visually respond to the architecture of the space the student chose, creating the character specifically for a particular site.