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Thursday, March 5, 2015

PERFORMANCE ART STUDENTS TALK ABOUT MY TEACHING



I ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT MY TEACHING TO STUDENTS:


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        MICHAEL PARKES:
 
1. Linda teaches by provoking the student to recognize aspects within their history, lives, psyche, and human experience that affect who they are and which are reasons for which their established paradigms either help or hinder their lives. Through “art” as a framing of this process, Linda deliberately breaks down the construct of a persons life in order to make them express and act out pathways to liberation. Feats of bravery, vulnerability, and honesty lead to the release of long-held constraints, and Linda is not shy about asking the student to show this bravery.
 
2. Solely within an academic context it would appear to be a typical class...She has a scheduled time and room, a course description, and related credits or reward structure as prescribed by the academic system. It’s only as you participate and experience the class that you realize it is like no other class you have ever taken.  You are expected to “come as you are” but in an amplified manner. For those who are naturally open or prone to exposing deeper secrets about themselves per formatively, this is relatively easy as a transition. However, for th more restrained, private, or expressive, the benefit of being around people who are exposing, plus the leadership of Linda to create a safe environment for people to do this, often times will bring even the most reserved of artists out of their shell.  You can only sit back and not participate for so long, because you see the transformations happening and you almost want to get in on it so as not to be left out.
 
3. For those who give themselves to the tasks at hand, I really believe the result is complete transformation.  For example I was always a great producer of “products” - pieces of art that were “perfect” and considered…extremely defensible to criticism.  This had become my take on being an artist.  And as a result I had placed limits on myself that were not realistic, healthy, or inducing of creativity.  It was only after I was put to the test by Linda to explore "myself as art" that I expanded into areas I had never considered. The framework of “art as life” is extremely liberating and opens many doors. It’s safe to say I never thought about making objects the same way one i worked with Linda.

4. I see Linda’s purpose whether admitted or not by her, as that of an “Art Shaman” - a spiritual figure driven to truly get to the core of the pain and history and love and energy and light within every artist/student she teaches.  It’s for this reason her class and teaching methods don’t fit neatly within a standard curriculum.  The result skirts the line between spiritual retreat and therapy session and it lasts for whatever constrained timeframe a “course” dictates. But for me the experience has become lifelong.  How do you put a definition on that? How do you explain what its purpose could be except a driving need to enrich and alter the very lives of the students she touches?
 
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SHARON   MARINETTI-LEEPER
1.  Linda's pedagogy is very much free-flowing and without restraints.  She allows for a laissez-faire environment in which peers (students) tend to set boundaries for one another versus a top-down approach where the professor is creating the map.  This makes sense in light of the cohort mentality and peer directives that art school encourages.  In my experience, Linda lead by example and by effective modeling - by her own embodiment of art/life performance.

2.  Class usually began with warm up exercises - lots of "relax your anus" breathing exercises, meditations, body scans, and gratitude exercises.  Sometimes we would move into individual performances, sometimes we would go on field trips, sometimes we would just hang out in the liminal space of ritual that performance creates.  Our time was not unstructured per se, but we tacitly understood that our time was co-constructed, and not subject to any pseudo-academic demands.  The performance room where class held was in itself a liminal space - a time and place very distant from and independent of the academy, but also very much a part of it.  It was this sense of subversion and rebellion from within that very much attracted me to Linda's class.

3.  Class often resulted in inner turmoil, as the content presented and the social dynamics amongst young adult undergraduate art students was not always easily digestible.  Sometimes the performance aspect was therapeutic, but not often.  Linda did prioritize physical safety, which was often tested during performances, yet emotional safety could not be guaranteed.  Aside from aesthetic considerations, performances often gave way to intense emotions and other powerful somatic experiences that the peer-based holding environment was not always successful in containing.  Linda as both a teacher and a mother-figure did her best to contain the happenings, but performance (which is not therapy) is mostly wild and uncensored, and as such resists the confines of the academy.  
 
4.  I cannot speak to Linda's "real purpose" being with a group of people as only Linda can do that, however as a student in Linda's class I can say that I was opened up in some amazing and profound ways on multiple levels; I think that was mostly due to Linda's willingness to be open herself.  Linda's 7 year chakra performances have been incredibly powerful to experience vicariously.  Seeing her walk around the "40 acres" of the UT campus wearing only red, orange, or yellow was very powerful as her presence was a constant reminder of the courage of the artist...if anything, that was her "real purpose" for me.
 
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 RACHEL SHANNON
 

Performance Art Class
6-10pm at the University of Texas with Linda Montano, Spring 1996
 
A large low-lit studio room
High ceilings concrete floors
A big box
 A group of people in a circle
Trading head massages, make sure to gently rub that tender area just under the skull
The body has 270 bones feel all the bones in your own body
GETTING IN OUR BODIES
Arriving
Getting present
 A guide. Linda our guide.
Linda is calling.
Linda is helping us occupy the space.
 Linda is laughing, we are laying in a circle, heads on each other’s stomachs, starting to laugh. Led by Linda’s wild howls in a slumber party circle game
Sounds begin to emerge, we all show up in the room
 Linda comes in many forms – she brings us her predeccessors, her ancestors, her collaborators -  all through her body. She entertains us, she dares us, she invites us
She points a flashlight into a large, beautiful cave – shows us drawings of ourselves on the walls.
 
Getting present for one hour, two hours, stories, visiting artists –
Reading Performance Art RoseLee Goldberg
Watching videos on the big screen in that room
Sharing our performances for that week – a raw space, an exploratory space
5 minutes each, 10 minutes each – talking seeing trying feeling
 Wigs and a karaoke machine.
PLAY.
 Afternoon inhabiting the UT mall – day of free services – free talking, free haircuts, free listening
 Tell someone the exact words you need to hear, then let them whisper them in your ear.
WHAT DO YOU NEED PERMISSION TO DO?
 Building so much trust, risk-taking, being in our selves, seeing each other and reflecting back.
These are some of the best gifts a teacher can manifest
 (from RACHAEL SHANNON – www.rachaelshannon.com)
 
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ALTON DULANEY
 
1. Linda teaches by creating a comfortable environment, one in which the student feels completely safe, and then invites the student to express all of their discomfort and vulnerabilities through performative and transformative art. 
 
2. A class by Linda looks like a tai-chi class meets an improv workshop meets nap time in kindergarten meets an MFA thesis critique. 

3. The results of the class is both clarity and confusion. I left the class knowing without a doubt that I was an artist and that I would dedicate my life to creation and inspiration. That reassuring identity of being an artist has guided me ever since, and the confusion has field my exploration. 

4. Linda's purpose is allowing the student to stretch as far as their creative muscles will allow and then she gives just a little nudge further. Linda helps to open artistic eyes and see that inspiration is everywhere and that we must only look at ourself to discover a deep well of creativity. Linda prepares the student with confidence to make bold statements and ask thought provoking questions.

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