art history short essay


This assignment is based on the documentary film Rivers and Tides: working with time (2001). The section at Goldsworthy’s home shows him doing independent work, exploring the possibilities of materials at hand. But the Nova Scotia cone, and much of the other artwork shown in the film, was done on commission. In those cases, Goldsworthy is working in the centuries-old tradition of fulfilling a contract, to produce a specific kind of work using specific materials. One of the distinctions is often between ephemeral and permanent materials; most of the time natural materials are used in his processes.

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The goals of the assignment are to:

1) to consider art making as a physical practice that requires practice and problem solving

2) to contemplate the balance of factors in negotiating personal creativity and the expectations of patrons & society in general

3) to reflect on the importance of materials as tangible substances that have impact on art making practices and that also carry psychological meaning.

4) to evaluate the importance of art-making as reflective of, and an influence on, cultural beliefs and attitudes towards the earth in general and their specific relationships with the environment.

Did the film disclose information about any of these aspects in Andy Goldsworthy’s art or process?

What are some of the other concerns and aspects that link Goldsworthy’s work to that of the other artists/works/concerns we’ve been looking at over the term?

Analyze some of the interesting aspects of the film; did it help you understand/appreciate Goldsworthy’s art?

Discuss the implications of creating art to specification (including use of specific materials). Are restrictions always detrimental to art making?

How do the different forms of land art resonate with you? Why?

We looked at the work Carbon Sink in an earlier class. Do you see any connections between that work and Goldsworthy’s? What are they?

Imagine you are commissioned to prepare a work of land art. What would you create? Why? Develop your answers.

Think about past course discussions about materials, process, spirituality, and cultures.

Write a brief analysis, minimum 750 words,

Some notes:

Notes on Assignment 9 This assignment is strongly based on the film Rivers and Tides: working with time, a 2001 documentary on the work of artist Andy Goldsworthy. Usually I show a long section of this in class (was originally scheduled for March 19th this year). Obviously that can’t happen. And there aren’t good ways for me to post it (file size, copyright, etc).

So I thought for a long time about what to do with this assignment. Should I rewrite it to be something else? But: this is not only one of my favourite things to do in this course, it is also consistently (like 90%) the favourite thing of most students, so I’ve hesitated to NOT try to point you towards it.

And while I could just write a different assignment and simply suggest you check out this documentary, I honestly can’t think of an easily accessible example that wouldn’t require extensive reading or a different film, that does as much as this does to link together so many different course concepts in an accessible way.

If you decide this is something you can’t do, all the previous assignments are still available to you in some capacity as per the comments on the previous page (with the exception of assignment #5 as the AGGV is now closed).

The film is available on iTunes for $9.99 (it’s in HD which is better than the in-class version AND you’ll own it – it’s worth multiple viewings). And while I hesitated to give something that has a cost, this is less than the original assignment 9 which also had a required cost (the museum visit) as stated in the course outline. In previous years also, students who missed class the day of the showing were responsible for tracking it down themselves. So I know it’s within possibility.

There are also a few segments posted to YouTube – but be advised that not only are they minimal, but the quality varies which will affect your experience. I haven’t been able to find another streaming service that has it, free or otherwise.

In any case I would still like all of you to watch the film if you can as part of the course materials for this week. I usually schedule the film for somewhere around this part of the term – as respite in the stress of winding up the academic year. And in such a tumultuous time as we’re experiencing in 2020, I think the film has even more value. I hope all of you will be able to track it down somewhere and spend an hour immersed in the art. It restores my soul and I hope you will all find it revitalizing too.

In previous years I try to get us as far as the pool of dandelions by the waterfall (one of my favourite artworks ever). Just so you know if your time is limited, that is enough material to get you through the assignment comfortably.

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