SchoolArts Magazine

October 2016

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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L O O K I N G & L E A R N I N G ARTIST Q&A SchoolArts: When did you realize that art was what you were born to do? Koichiro Kurita: It was in college when I was studying percep- tual psychology. While conducting research on visual percep- tion, I used a camera to examine how people view moving objects. This was the beginning of my relationship with pho - tography. I soon developed more interest in photography than psychology, and chose the camera without hesitation. SA: What are some of the biggest influences on your work, including other artists, events, or things outside of the arts? KK: I encountered Henry David Thoreau's Walden in my mid-40s while working as a commercial photographer in Tokyo. I was inspired by the freedom of the spirit in nature and switched from commercial to fine-art photography. I also moved from big city Tokyo to a mountain area in Nagano Prefecture and began to take nature photographs with an 8 x 10" field camera. SA: How did moving from Japan to the United States affect your work? KK: My first visit to the US was as a grantee of the Asian Cultural Council (part of the J. D. Rockefeller III Fund) in 1990. I was surprised by the differences between the art environments in the US and Japan. I felt great artistic energy and experienced a well-balanced art environment. After moving from Japan, I have learned who I am and that I can also express my beliefs in the American art world. As a result, I could harmonize my Asian background with my experiences living in the United States in my work. SA: How do the historic photographic processes you use help express your ideas? KK: I want to be an artist before a photographer. I want to make my photographs with my eyes and hands as much as possible. Historic photographic processes are less mechani- cal and use low-tech processes. Many commitments are needed by one's eyes and hands to make original work, and it takes time. I am enjoying this unique process, but not through a sense of nostalgia. I call it "slow photography." SA: How do you feel about the impact of technology on nature and our culture? KK: We live in a very convenient, uniquely human world with high technology. On the other hand, we are still biological beings, engaging in daily behaviors as we have since ancient times. We cannot live without either technol- ogy or biology. We get a lot of benefits from technology, but at the same time, we have lost our connection to nature and a lot of things in our culture. We reduce thinking, working with our hands, walking, hearing natural sound... We are declining in our capacity as humans day by day. My phone GPS puts maps in my car, pushing aside the ability to memorize routes and directions with my brain. It now becomes important to think about how we will use tech- nology in the future to preserve both nature and culture. SA: What advice would you give high school students about the artistic process (not just the end result)? KK: Trust your own five sense organs and intuition—that is the place where art lives. DISCUSSION Share Ichi and Tangent II with your students, along with work from other environmentally minded artists such as Wolfgang Laib (especially his pollen and beeswax pieces), Patricia Johanson, and Andy Goldsworthy. Discuss how the artwork and unique processes are focused on our rela- tionship with nature. • How are Kurita's photographs different from the digital photos we see every day? • What evidence of Kurita's slow, low-tech photographic processes can you identify in the completed images? • Does this artwork successfully communicate the artist's beliefs about the importance of nature? Why or why not? Use evidence to support your opinion. • If the Internet and all digital technology stopped work- ing today, how would it change our lives? What skills would we need to relearn? STUDIO EXPERIENCES Take students outdoors to a school garden, park, or other green space to practice "slow looking." Then have each student choose a spot or viewpoint and cre- ate a drawing on-site. Ask students to create a two- or three-dimensional artwork using materials of their choice that is inspired by nature. Place students in small groups. Each group should choose an everyday activity that relies on sophisti- cated modern technology, and replace it with a slower, hands-on, low-tech process. Have each group create a video or series of photos that document what happens when they try the "old-fashioned" process. These pho - tos/videos can be made into works of art themselves or be used to inspire individual works from each group member. Have each student create a work of art in the media of their choice that examines his or her relationship with technology. Ask students to begin by developing their ideas and then choosing the most appropriate materials and process for expressing and creating that idea. Written by Karl Cole, curator of images at Davis Publications and Robb Sandagata, digital product manager at Davis Publications. ADVANCED INTERMEDIATE BEGINNER 32 OCTOBER 2016 SchoolArts

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