The Art Education Archive: “Living Moments” in Practice with the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Art, Nature and Dance (iLAND)

Ann Holt
Pratt Institute, USA

Christopher Lee Kennedy
New School University, USA

Citation: Holt, A. & Kennedy, C. (2019). The Art Education Archive: “Living Moments” in Practice with the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Art, Nature and Dance (iLAND). Transdisciplinary Inquiry, Practice, and Possibilities in Art Education. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Libraries Open Publishing. DOI: 10.26209/arted50-06

The purpose of this paper, and the vital point to be addressed within the processes by which contemporary art educators do research, teaching and creative practices, is the need to address the archive as a locus for active engagement in transdisciplinary teaching, learning and art-making. In order to secure opportunities for a continuum of knowledge making and generation in art education, we must attend to the archive as the foundation from where we draw understanding and build on it.

Technology has in many ways brought the concept and experience of archives into our everyday practices, enhancing art education practice. Digital technologies simultaneously facilitate how artists and scholars create, access and use digital forms of knowledge, while they also challenge how archivists organize, store, preserve and steward this work over continuous time. As both art and archive are ephemeral in nature. The question becomes — how to cultivate opportunities to collect, preserve, revive and repurpose past contributions in new contexts, or even, how to ensure the continued activation of archives and the ideas, actions and knowledge they inspire.

To that end, we discuss iLANDing (the process of archiving iLAND) as an example. iLAND (the Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art, Nature and Dance) is a dance research organization based in New York City. For over ten years, iLAND has brought together movement artists and scientists, visual artists and designers for intensive residencies that critically explore and respond to New York City’s ever-changing urban ecology. iLAND artists respond to what scientists are calling the Anthropocene, or the Age of Man, when human activities on the Earth start to have potentially irreversible and significant impact on planet Earth’s geology and ecosystems (Smithsonian Institution, 2016).

This paper highlights an example of how a group of artists/educators/researchers involved in iLAND conceptualize a practice as both users and producers of archives, where the land and the body are source materials for participatory, arts-based, and performative responses. The output of each iLAND residency involves the creation of scores, a set of loose instructions designed to tune one’s observational senses to a particular aspect of an environment. The scores can be quite simple or necessarily complex, representing an investigatory process used to explore a particular site, concept or context. To illustrate a context for archiving time-based “happenings”, or living moments, we relate iLAND’s activities to the archive of performance artist and educator, Allan Kaprow, who was invited to the 1965 Penn State Seminar for Research in Art Education for his perspective of the artist teacher. Using the two components of past and present, we speculate on pedagogy in relation to the use and integration of archives as living research/teaching practice. Focusing on iLANDing as the example, we discuss contemporary transdisciplinary practices within the context of library archives.

Ten years of iLAND residencies have resulted in a robust collection of materials that document transdisciplinary and collaborative responses to changing environments. Recognizing the pedagogical value of these forms of inquiry, iLAND organizers began to conceive of a way to capture and share this knowledge for future iLAND participants as well as artists, dancers, scientists, activists, and publics interested in embodied and time-based methodologies. The iLANDing archive was born from this desire and today is a growing collection of scores and documentation from past projects currently being developed as a physical field guide and website. The web platform in particular is imagined as a dynamic and responsive archival device, using a poetic “taxonomical logic” that will allow users to access past scores, while also inviting re-interpretations and adaptations. In foregrounding a kinetic and indeterminate relationship to changing living systems, participants’ scores are essentially born from the archive, mediated temporally through the body and then reframed, refigured and folded back into the archive. The archive unfolds as something in-the-making, allowing new relationships and contexts to emerge.

iLANDing is an action word here. It is a way that participants of iLAND refer to their practice of using and producing archives for their creative output. We use the notion of iLANDing as a model of envisioning possibilities and potentialities for contributing to and diversifying the art education archive, conceptualizing it as an archive in process.

Expanded archival practice: Making connections to the PSU@50 seminar

Archives offer opportunities for potentiality and possibility. Knowledge of history enhances our contemporary moment and shows how theory gets interpreted and recycled over time. We are not using the term “archive” bound solely by the traditional definition of a repository for preserving documents from the past — where knowledge has already been produced, or recovered. We expand it, as many cultural theorists, artists, activists and archivists are currently doing (Eichorn, 2013), conceptualizing the archive as the intersection of where knowledge production, cultural production and critical practice entangle to answer questions or solve problems – where knowledges can co-exist, intermingle, and become something new.

To illustrate the notion of an expanded archive, the 1965 Penn State Seminar for Research in Art Education included recording, transcribing and publishing presenters’ multi-disciplinary perspectives along with the post-presentation discussions. “The Red Book” (Mattil, 1966), since its publication, has served as a foundation to re-argue, re-cycle and re-use the ideas for future work; for instance, looking at its impact as did June King McFee in 1984 (McFee, 1984), and offering opportunities for reflection by those involved as seen in the dissertation study by James Stewart (1986). Perhaps for some, it is a new discovery as a result of their participation in this conference.

At this moment, the archive is again re-activated by a conference fifty years later, offering a new opportunity to re-imagine the 1965 seminar, and its function at the time, of attempting to map the past, present, and future of the field. To explore the ideas, issues, and context of the time and imagine what it can mean to us in this living moment.

In drawing on this archive, we went back to the Red Book and explored lineages for iLAND and found possibilities in drawing connections between the work of iLAND and that of Allan Kaprow, not only with regards to common source materials but also with regards to the archive, as he too archived his scores and other documentation (Kaprow, 1998).

Kaprow was invited to speak at the 1965 seminar. His role served to insert a contemporary art perspective within the current art education practice and in doing so, break down the hierarchy of static ideas in order to prepare the terrain for innovation. After what he was listening to over the course of those ten days, Kaprow argued for an alternative pedagogy expressing that he was looking for a pedagogy that encompassed an approach of “ignorance and uncertainty– a way without rules and without lesson plans. Its only platform is scratch, and its only discipline is trial and error” (Kaprow, 1966, p. 74). Kaprow called on his art education colleagues to look at the practices of contemporary artists as applicable to teaching.

As an artist, Kaprow documented his performative work (which he later termed Happenings), for non-participants sparingly; “the photos should, in no way, be seen to encapsulate the main features of the event” (Potts, 2008, p.121). Kaprow defined good art as ambiguous, “the artwork was to remain, as long as possible, unclear in its status” (Kaprow, cited in Allen, 2011, p. 86). Aware of the value some artists placed on “fixing a position in the archive” early in their career, Kaprow waited, and finally placed his papers at the Getty in 1998, offering opportunities to experience what Alex Potts (2008) describes as a “precarious living moment” of imaginative inquiry (p. 134). As Kaprow’s art was time-based and ephemeral, those who never physically experienced a Kaprow Happening in the flesh, but come to engage with his archive, refigure the only “traces or records of it that remain” (p. 119). What is the difference between archive and artwork in this kind of inquiry, when meaning-making, interpretations, become both investigatory and embodied?

Suzanne Lacy (2010) explains, “Kaprow emphasized art’s meaning-making capacities. His focus on process could be extended such that all parts of a community-based artwork, including preparation and follow-up, were part of what I [she] later termed as ‘expanded performance’” (p. 278). As is the case with performance art or ephemeral art, where no original piece can be retained, the archive in this way serves as a departure point for an expanded performance and what expanding the performance might suggest within the context of an archive. The archive thus becomes a site for capture and release, a locus for continued experiences and engagement, simultaneous using and producing of materials to, for instance, enhance teaching and learning, share resources, or support a continuum of scholarship based from primary source materials.

The concern of this paper is to underline the archive as a place for ideas in context that outlast their creators as they connect to new meaning and language. Archives can simultaneously make visible and fragment the patterns and connections between ideas, people and places; archives reflect that knowledge making happens in relation to context. For example, we have found in the process of dipping into the archive extant patterns of connected, yet disparate, threads of past and present between iLAND’s archive practice, the evolution of Penn State’s art education department archive, and Allan Kaprow. Whether or not these connections have deeper meaning lies in the potential question being asked. Without any particular question, the dots connect randomly.

  • Kaprow was at one point on the faculty at Pratt Institute.
  • Kaprow highly regarded Judy Chicago’s feminist project in California, the documentation of which is now part of her living archive, housed at Penn State.
  • Kaprow was invited to the Penn State Seminar for Research in Art Education in 1965.
  • In 1957 Kaprow went on a mushroom hunt with John Cage and founding member of the Fluxus group, George Brecht.
  • Cage worked with Kaprow at the New School in New York City, helping him to create and imagine performative and event-based artworks called Happenings. Cage’s work, like many Fluxus artists at the time, is a source material for many iLAND projects.

While these connections are not necessarily explicitly linked, they are evidence that sourcing from the archive allows the potential for serendipitious discoveries and for just being simultaneously in the past, present and future differently — legitimizing and acknowledging past production and methodologies to ensure that what may be considered new, is not just a product of what Mary Hafeli (2009) has termed “institutional amnesia” or forgetting.

Kaprow’s work sought to create moments and events that encourage participation in everyday situations, which emerge as new arrangements, assemblages and understandings of place, people and things. His method evolved through his interest in abstract painting and actionism, into what Hannah Higgins (2002) describes as “a sort of performance dedicated to exploring day-to-day reality…precisely an “acting out,” a movement beyond the attempt to embody in paint alone (p. 106). Like iLAND participants today, Kaprow’s performative work often employed the body and landscape as source materials. This performative ontology connects to the ethos of iLANDing, which in many ways seeks a new kind of relationship between the body and environment through movement and cross-disciplinary exchange.

The iLANDing archive is a site for such exchange. Similar to artworks explored by Kaprow, Cage and other Fluxus artists, iLAND scores are typically open-ended and participatory, requiring publics to critically confront their relationship to place, and to use their body as a radical pedagogical force for kinetic understanding (Ellsworth, 2005). As forms of participatory choreographic and movement research, each iLAND residency is unique in its approach, and often takes a circuitous and ambiguous path toward understanding(s) of ecological phenomena, and how place-based inquiry, movement and dance can be used to further engage and make visible the ecological systems and networks all around us. Walking tours of lower Manhattan that trace original waterways, dancing with street trees in Harlem, foraging for mushrooms in Chinatown, dancing alongside migratory routes of birds in Corona Park, Queens are just a few examples.

Embodied pedagogies: Emplacement & inter-corporeality

Pedagogically, iLAND projects explore the use of movement, dance and cross-disciplinary exchange to understand how ecological systems operate in relationship to urban infrastructure, which involves a number of learning events that invite and provoke each team of artists/scientists, as well as the public, to contribute to and add to the process through live performances, workshops and immersive encounters. Ellsworth’s (2005) pedagogies of sensation offer salient touchstones in this respect, recognizing the presence of our bodies, and their integral role in meaning-making and knowledge production.

Over the past decade in particular, contemporary practices are turning to embodied and situated pedagogies, drawing from a range of theories and concepts highlighting the spatial, cognitive, and environmental conditions and phenomena, which are crucial to understanding how we learn through and with the body. Fors, Bäckström and Pink (2013) offer a useful framework in this respect, proposing the idea of multisensory emplacement, which they describe as an entangled connection between the embodied and environmental conditions through which learning unfolds (p. 174).

It’s important to note that the emphasis of iLANDing is on process, invoking a pedagogy of reciprocity and replicability, which allows for untested and emergent practices to develop in relation to a particular place, a group of people, and the wider public sphere of New York City. Ideas that surface and get explored through each residency become enmeshed in the very environments to which they seek to respond. In this way, iLAND projects intersect critical art pedagogy with a kinetic understanding of ecological phenomena.

As an example, a 2009 iLAND residency called StrataSpore involved collaborations between a mycologist, architect, choreographer, and artist to investigate New York City’s hidden infrastructure through the lens of fungi. Mushrooms became a metaphor and material for the group to speculate on the invisible networks and latent potential beneath the city’s cement exterior. Their process began by foraging for mushrooms together in various parks around the city and learning the basic science of mycology to inform a series of workshops and dances created with and for the public. The hunt for mushrooms became an opportunity to bring people together and discuss larger socio-ecological issues facing New York City — soil contamination, ailing urban infrastructure, housing and water resources.

The project culminated in two dances in Manhattan, one at the Flea Theater, and the other at the Judson Church, in which choreographer, Athena Kokoronis developed a set of scores inspired by weather patterns, chance, and mushroom hunting, movement which requires one’s body to move slowly through a forest with a keen sense of awareness of one’s environment. The act of slowly leaning down to pluck a mushroom, of wandering off trail paths, of scanning the forest floor became a source material for the piece. Live during the dance, resident mycologist, Gary Lincoff, was interviewed by Kate Cahill, providing an intimate and improvised soundtrack. Together the group danced, while mushrooms were cooked on stage and fed to the audience.

What is perhaps unique to iLAND is that these phenomena are engaged in a way that is rarely didactic, inviting what Biesta (2012) calls a “citizenship of strangers” (p. 684) where freedom can emerge through processual play and provocation. Their unstructured approach defies the logic of modern schooling and education — privileging instead, a more intuitive, somatic understanding of our relationship to the world around us. In creating a transdisciplinary framework that is process and research-based, iLANDing unfolds as a radical pedagogical device by resisting neo-positivist claims for how and why knowledge is created, circulated and legitimized, opening up networks and modes of knowledge creation; thus pivots the dominant centers of perception on the socio-cultural/ecological continuums that constitute power relations between humans/non-humans and the built environment. The issues invoked, by understanding how ecologies operate within a socially-constructed world, produce a politic of stewardship that enables a distinct kind of agency where the intersections become apparent of immigrant/refugee rights, water and land use politics, air quality and habitat loss, of gentrification and capitalism.

In/Continuum: iLANDing futures, archiving futures

We seek to stress the value of contemporary practices in art education that address the archive in-process as a diversely representative archive. We stress the value of not only situating oneself in the continuum of a robust landscape of art, research and teaching, and legitimizing past ideas, but also actively and intently contributing to both using and producing art education materials so that they might grow the archive.

The iLANDing archives project was largely conceived from an acute recognition of the fragility of ephemeral, site-specific, time-based movement data, and its potential role of transdisciplinary contributions to the art historical record. The attention to archiving is particularly vital and timely in view of how artists, educators, and researchers both capture and disseminate their work through various genres of technology and ephemeral media. The archive is, in this contemporary moment of capture and release, always a living moment.

iLAND serves as a model for conceptualizing focused and robust inquiry exploring what was, what is, and what can happen to surface new ideas through the body as archive. The iLAND archive is not intended as mere static documentation of past work. Rather, it is operating as a living archive that supports a platform for ongoing dialogue inviting future experiments of "evolving applied research and creative practice, constantly to be drawn from, reinterpreted, and contributed back" to iLANDing.

The majority of discussions about art education archives adhere to a framing of histories in art education. For some, archives presume an assumption that history is history; it is past, rather than a dynamic condition. Moreover, many art education programs are cutting out or down foundational and/or history of art education courses. Our hope is that both the contemporary and past examples of expanded archival practice might offer educators and artists alike possibilities for engaging with place, self and others in new ways.

The 2016 Penn State Seminar @50 is a good example of expanding from the archive. In a sense, it is an attempt to re-enact the archive. As a community of scholars, we are drawing from it, rethinking the same questions, and repurposing the past. We are using the Red Book as an archive and a stepping off point for further conversation. The archive in this living moment is a site and an opportunity for dialogue and discourse and it expands now through this process.


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Ann Holt and Chris Kennedy

Ann Holt, Ph.D., serves as a Visiting Professor at Adelphi University and Pratt Institute. Ann is interested in issues of marginalized historic narratives as well as access to knowledge and understanding of the past. Her research encompasses interests in archives and marginalized histories of art education. She sees archives as social spaces for experiential pedagogy, feminist scholarship, and activism, and her work with archives seeks to expand on notions of using archival materials as both forms of information and things to experience. Ann holds a B.F.A. in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute and an M.A. in art education from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Holt completed her doctoral work in art education with a minor in women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Penn State University. Her dissertation titled “User Experience with Archives and Feminist Teaching Conversations with the Judy Chicago Art Education Collection’ explores a feminist transdisciplinary orientation to the Judy Chicago Art Education Collection housed at Penn State and broadens understanding about engaging and encountering art education archival records.

Dr. Christopher Lee Kennedy is a transdisciplinary artist and educator who creates site-specific projects that examine conventional notions of ‘Nature’ and the biocultural possibility of interspecies agency and collaboration. With a background in environmental engineering, Kennedy playfully re-imagines field science techniques, in addition to new forms of storytelling to develop embodied research, installations, sculptures, prints, and publications that aim to visualize and recontextualize complex social and ecological systems. Kennedy holds a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a M.A. in Environmental Conservation Education from NYU and a Ph.D. in Education and Cultural Studies from the University of North Carolina. He is currently a part-time lecturer at the New School University in the Parsons School of Design.