What’s the Big Id
themes for second-
ary art, it seemed
important to include a unit
on conceptual and perfor-
mance art. After all, it’s hard
for students to fully compre-
hend much of contemporary
art without a study of the
innovative artists whose work
was more about an idea than
about a traditional, well-crafted,
collectible, precious art object.
While visiting the classroom of an English teacher on campus, I
noticed a large number of literature textbooks that were being
replaced with a newer edition. The next day, the discarded books
were in the artroom, having provided the inspiration for a proj-
ect designed to introduce students to an art form based on ideas
rather than aesthetic objects.
Inspiration for Ideas
The first step of the project required students to think about
their response to these textbooks. What ideas did these books
inspire? They could respond in a specific or general way.
These questions prompted class discussion: What was their
attitude towards a specific piece of literature in the book?
To this English textbook in particular? To English classes
at our high school? To academic approaches to English lit-
erature? To literature in general?
The discussion in response to these questions was varied,
often humorous, and disarmingly honest. For example,
many students picked their favorite piece from the book
and responded to it specifically. Others talked about
the inspiration that comes from reading and the con-
nection between writing and visual art.