Drawing as Social Practice Workshop
What does Drawing mean in public space?
October 18, 2018
by Michael Bilsborough
How can drawing act as a radical intervention in public space? In the Drawing as Social Practice workshop taught by faculty member Tirtzah Bassel, participants draw at the intersection of art and social action. Beginning with the traditional practice of plein air drawing, the workshop explores the meanings that drawing can generate in a seemingly mundane location.
Bassel leads the workshop participants into "non-places." A term coined by the French thinker Marc Auge, “non-place” refers to spaces like shopping malls, airport lounges, department stores, and more. These spaces are everywhere and designed to feel like anywhere. They are entirely self-contained and independent of their surroundings; Bassel observes how a Starbucks in the West Village is designed to feel exactly like being in a Starbucks in an airport.
“These spaces position us primarily as consumers, which can contribute to an overall sense of alienation and isolation,” writes Bassel. “I think artists are uniquely positioned to question and probe the way these spaces operate on us.”
Hence, the workshop meets to draw at Forever 21, a ubiquitous non-space whose name defies time and age. Bassel writes, “To me, standing in a Forever 21 and observing the space as an artist rather than as a consumer is essentially a subversive activity. With each mark that we make we are getting in touch with the here and now of the experience, with the relationship of our body to the space we are standing in.”
In addition to the conceptual and critical questions of the workshop, Bassel leads participants in drawing from observation, with an emphasis on tonal relations — the light and dark tones within a given composition. She introduces a viewfinder for students to use as they compose a drawing. “This pushes you to see all the elements in your composition in relation to each other as opposed to as isolated components,” she writes.