Teaching Labs and Online Resources – A case study on teaching performance art in Hong Kong

Accessibility | Diversity/ Inclusion | Participation | Sustainability
A talk and a workshop, with online materials including videos and handouts.
Asia Art Archive (AAA) aims to support educators by: 1) Expanding educators’ knowledge of contemporary art by introducing less visible histories and development in Asia; 2) Connecting contextual knowledge from AAA’s collection with artistic practices; 3) Encouraging educators to implement this knowledge and develop meaningful connection with their students; 4) Providing a platform to access enrichment resources for teachers, along with lesson plans shared by teachers for teachers.
Overview of Hong Kong Art Education The new senior secondary visual arts curriculum has been implemented in Hong Kong since 2009, which has challenged teachers to move beyond the studio-focused approach to explore new teaching methodologies to facilitate a more holistic way of learning. The new curriculum and assessment require students to demonstrate the ability of art writing (appreciation and criticism) and art-making, with competence to critically analyse and reflect on art from a broad cultural and historical context, and relate it with personal experiences and reflection through artistic expression. Contemporary art provides different perspectives to society today that enrich students’ understanding of the world. However, there is a lack of relevant teaching materials for contemporary art education in the classroom. Educators find it difficult to access discourses around contemporary art, as well as a suitable pedagogy to facilitate students’ learning. Learning & Participation In response to the needs of the educator community, AAA established the Learning and Participation Department (L&P) in 2009 to expand what is taught in the classrooms. Our mission is to build a supportive platform that provides professional development programmes and develops teaching resources for educators. We activate AAA’s collection of materials of contemporary art in Asia to draw meaningful connections between historical contexts, artistic practices, and current needs in education. This expansion of pedagogical possibilities encourages educators to develop a spirit of experimentation, and hopefully extend this spirit to their students. We hope that our educators can help students to reflect and recognise challenges in their everyday life, society, and the world through learning and practising contemporary art. Teaching Labs and Online Resources – A case study on teaching performance art in Hong Kong To realize our goals, AAA has worked with researchers and artist-educators to develop the Teaching Labs Series, an annual professional development programme that invites teachers to innovate new ways to teach and study contemporary art. It is a two-day programme which consists of a public talk by AAA researchers and a hands-on workshop led by artist-educators. By exploring multiple histories and cultural perspectives, as well as unveiling artistic practices and pedagogies in the collections, Teaching Labs expands the educators’ knowledge of contemporary art and facilitate them to implement these learnings into a classroom setting. Following the Teaching Labs, online resources developed from the programme are published on AAA’s website to consolidate educators’ learning, which includes mini courses and teaching materials. The Teaching Labs series in 2019 focused on performance art. Performance art is a unique form of expression as it adopts a non-traditional, embodied and de-materialized approach. Yet, the performance art appears to be “mystifying” for educators and local students. Furthermore, as performance art is being associated with social and political issues, educators have expressed their difficulties to teach performance art in classrooms for its sensitivity. To ease the conception of performance art among educators and students, L&P used the Archive of Lee Wen, a Singapore-based performance artist as a point of departure and developed Teaching Lab series and Online Resources to explore innovative ways of teaching and practising performance art.
Teaching Labs – The Lee Wen Archive and Performance Art Local teachers were already familiar with the performance artworks by Serbian artist Marina Abramovic or New York-based Japanese artist Yoko Ono. Yet, they lack exposure to performance art development in Southeast Asia, which might be more relatable to local audiences. Using the archive of Lee Wen, the Teaching Labs started with a talk by our researcher Chương-Đài Võ on performance art in a Southeast Asian context. Her talk included the connections between drawing and performance art, the post-colonial identity formation, and orientalism. Collaborating with NTU CCA Singapore, a pedagogical guide was also developed to suggest different approaches to performance art education. Following the talk, a workshop was led by Anthony Leung Po Shan, a local artist-educator. The teachers took part in a performance art exercise designed by Anthony in relation to artistic practices explored in the talk. The teachers first participated in a tagging exercise to describe what they think, feel, observe and associate with a selection of performance artworks. Then, they were invited to conduct an experimental performance, which was to reset the furniture in the classroom to express their feelings towards their school’s administration. Through the case study of Lee Wen, the participating teachers developed a better understanding of performance art in Asia. With the hands-on workshop, they were empowered with confidence and started to take the initiative to introduce performance art in their classes. The teachers were then given a month to implement what they learned in the programme and gathered again later to share their teaching experiences. To further encourage mutual learning and facilitate the teaching of performance art, a teacher sharing session was organised one month after the workshop which allowed teachers to raise questions, share challenges and practices in classroom implementation. A learning community was formed during this peer-support process of co-learning and co-creation of teaching plans and trying out new ideas in their schools. Online Resources: teaching materials and mini courses Teaching materials Carmen Kwok, one of our participating teachers shared her teaching plan on AAA’s website. She implemented Anthony’s exercises in her class. In a tagging exercise, her students brainstormed keywords, such as #complaint, #search, #personal and #criticism around the performance artworks by Lee Wen. The process helped students to make sense of their feelings towards the artworks and showed them how performance art can be used for personal expression. Subsequently, the students were invited to use the classroom for a short performative work under the theme of “learning”. They re-organized the classroom setting for one day, including during lessons other than Visual Arts to express their thoughts on the current education system. Through these exercises, students were offered greater freedom to take initiative to explore a particular issue they closely relate to and be more critical to things that they have always taken granted for. Carmen also expressed that the exercise had helped students to develop their problem-solving skills, the ability to express and share, as well as empathy. As the audiences of the act include other subject teachers, this hands-on exercise also demonstrated to students how performance art can provoke conversation and construct meaningful discussions between different stakeholders in society. It showed Visual Art teachers that, other than the traditional one-way knowledge transmission, students can also be active agents in exploring and incorporating art into their daily life. Mini Course As a wrap up to the Teaching Labs series, AAA developed mini courses with contents from the programme. Materials include videos, handouts, keyword list, guiding questions etc. By making these resources available online for free, L&P furthers its impact and reach by continuing easy accessibility to resources for local educators who were unable to join the programme, as well as other practitioners around the world. The mini course series developed from Lee Wen Archive consists of three short videos that introduce the history of performance art in Singapore and Southeast Asia, and Lee Wen’s biography and works. Apart from enriching the educators’ knowledge in performance art, these materials can also be used in classrooms to facilitate students’ understanding of performance art. Conclusion By activating its collections for learning and teaching, AAA has encouraged teachers to be confident in teaching contemporary art in the classroom and built a supportive learning community. This community has the potential to be further activated to create a sustainable impact to even more educators and their students. The issue of lack of resources and materials on contemporary art of Asia in classrooms is not unique in Hong Kong, but an issue that needs to be addressed in the global classrooms. Building on the past ten-year endeavours in art education, AAA aspires to extend its reach through programmes and online resources, in partnership with like-minded organisations in the region, and collaboratively contribute to a more generous art history by expanding what is taught in classrooms around the world.