Cooperation with Artedu – The Classroom Project

Cooperation with Artedu – The Classroom Project

The Classroom Project with Jindřich Chalupecký Award Holders – Looking Back at 2017

When Tereza Jindrová from Jindřich Chalupecký Society approached us with a suggestion of cooperation with Artedu within the Classroom Project, we were very happy about it. We were especially pleased by the fact that the work we do is meaningful to someone else as well.

The name of Jindřich Chalupecký is always a guarantee that the artists to receive the award are unique in their work while also sharing a certain way of artistic thinking. That is why it was a challenge for us to explain to students of high schools with a focus outside the field of art who and what to expect in the project and why they should work with the selected award holders; for it was obvious that they would not be dealing with good old pictures.

Even if you are lucky enough to have an enthusiastic art teacher at your high school and discover the magic of artworks with them, there is hardly enough time left to meet the artists face to face. In fact, that is often difficult even for the teachers who have so many obligations that they can hardly find the time to attend the most important exhibitions. That is why many of us still believe that an artist is a creature from a different universe, creative and a little crazy, and definitely unapproachable and incomprehensible. While some of these statements may be true, the latter two are definitely not. While artists undoubtedly are sensitive individuals who can enrich us and reveal hidden worlds to us, their work does not have to be “a big secret” to us. They can share it with us and their personality can be surprisingly close to us. The Classroom Project can show the students that meeting the artists and working with them is enriching, and that there can be a little of an artist in almost all of us.

The first artist to create an artwork with the students of Arabská Grammar School was Vladimír Kokolia. His underground look and his fine, slightly ironic humor were rather unusual for the seventeen-year-old yet often conservative students. He thus confirmed their assumption that an artist is a weirdo. This first impression became further fortified during his lecture in which he, instead of giving them the usual, easily digestible teacher facts, explained to them that they have to look at a painting for a long time; a very long time; even a boringly long time. Only then will they discover something behind it, something in front of it, and maybe even something inside of themselves. The next surprise followed during their visit to the artist’s studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague where Kokolia presented a naked model with red dots stuck to her body whose nude was to be drawn by the students. However, the students were to observe the red dots only and nothing else. They had to deal with the problem of how to draw a classic nude while seeing stars themselves. They were surprised to have observed a human body in such detail for the first time in their lives. It was fascinating to watch how this “weirdo” gradually won the students over. When making a common painting called Through the Window, the artist-students-teacher collective bonded so much that when they had to defend contemporary art to other authorities, the students seemed to be more zealous than the artist himself; not to speak about the atmosphere at the exhibition opening.

Barbora Klímová addressed the students of Jan Patočka Grammar School with another challenge. A fragile woman at first glance, she presented the project for which she won the Jindřich Chalupecký Award and which not many a provocateur would dare to do. In a new context, she repeated the acts done by the old stagers of Czech performance: she would lie on the staircase, sleep in the tree or plant flowers in the middle of the pavement. She did not spare the students either; in the projects led by the strong-minded artist, they had to step out of their comfort zone many a time. Klímová made them collect signatures for signatures, shake hands with strangers and simply get into absurd situations whose main meaning was the experience itself. It was for the first time that the grammar school students encountered such artistic expression; the necessity to make a great effort and maintain an inner motivation was a novelty to them as well. Yet in the end, they agreed that even the mere process and internal experience can be an artwork. They got a first-hand experience of the fact that sometimes we have to act “strange”, that not all strange behavior is pointless, and that art is an experiment and an act of exceeding one’s own limits.

The last artist to be involved in the Classroom Project does not need a long introduction either. By his performance, Petr Nikl brought a sense of playfulness and chance to Mensa Grammar School. His mechanical beetles would strut across a sheet of silk paper in the classroom and create partially designed and partially random patterns. At the beginning of the event (held before Christmas), one of the students asked ironically whether he could make a painting using a fried carp (a typical Czech Christmas meal). The answer was a decisive: Why not? At the end, the very same young man walked around the resulting work and took pictures of it with interest and care.

The Classroom Project 2017 assured us of several things again. Every artist is a unique personality and every event (and the created artwork) carries their indelible imprint. However, at the same time, each of the present students brings in a piece of themselves and the established symbiosis is just as irreplaceable. Most of us will get absorbed by the creative process and all that we need for it to start is often just a little nudge; a certain assurance that if I can create together with artists, or even judge them, I can also step out of my own shadow and perhaps even become an artist myself.

Zdenka Švadlenková
Author of the concept of the Classroom Project, learn more here