Tell us a little about yourself—your teaching areas and interests and/or your background and how you became connected to the Paris /Documenta field school?
My name is Elizabeth Barnes and I attended the Paris / Documenta Field School as one of two faculty members. At Kwantlen Polytechnic University, I teach drawing, painting, and advanced studio courses in the Fine Arts Department. When Dorothy Barenscott approached me to teach in the field school, I agreed to do so immediately. I had never been to Paris or Documenta, so this was a very exciting proposition.
My personal studio practice is based mostly in painting, although I also work in digital media. I am particularly interested in the intersection between art and technology from both a current and historical perspective. The structure of the field school, beginning with historical work at the Louvre and ending with Documenta, where we experienced some of the most challenging contemporary art being made today, allowed me to consider the depth of my own practice with renewed focus.
How did you approach the task of teaching and working with students inside and outside the classroom for the field school?
The studio aspect of the field school began with three weeks in our Surrey studio, where students completed two projects informed by the Impressionist artist they were assigned to research. I worked with the students by sharing examples of contemporary artists whose work touched on ideas relevant to the Impressionist work they were studying. For the second project I also assigned a quote from a contemporary source for students to consider and to help students to expand their ideas. During our travels in Europe I was encouraged by the fact that quite a few students came to me relating thoughts from their studio work with what they were seeing. Students sketched daily, and their sketchbooks showed that their ideas continued to evolve.
What was unique or memorable about experiencing Paris and Kassel with a group of students already interested in and/or practicing art making?
Travelling with a group meant that we all became much better acquainted and more open to sharing our thoughts. Having an historical knowledge of the renovation of Paris in the 19th century and understanding its transition, affected the way in which we looked at the architecture, as well as life in the streets. Watching students become excited over seeing the actual art they had studied was equally as exciting as seeing the work myself for the first time. It became clear that this trip would change students understanding of art and the way they make it. I look forward to seeing what they produce over the next school year.
Which of the activities during the trip stand out to you? Any special highlights or memorable moments for you?
There were many highlights on the trip, and each museum seemed to increase the excitement, but I think that the trip to the Pompidou was a high point. It was here that the transition from modern to contemporary became clear. It was also here where I witnessed students barely able to contain their excitement upon seeing a familiar piece of art close up and live for the first time. I remember this excitement for myself, and know that this will now be an important part of life for each of these students, one that will enrich and inform who they are and who they become.