February 19 2008

Learning To Love You More

Posted by matt in Culture, User generated

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Assignment #55 Photograph a significant outfit
“This is what I was wearing when I finally truly understood that he was breaking my heart.”
Megs Elyse

I can’t get over Learning To Love You More. No that’s not an oblique reference to my ailing love life, it’s a website that has blown me away. Learning To Love You More is an online collaborative art project conceived by American artists Miranda July and Harrel Fletcher. Set up in 2002 it has so managed to get thousands of people to complete their art assignments and post them on the site, creating an ever growing exhibition of user generated art. Their projects are designed to inspire people to see themselves and others around them as a rich source for provocative art. Assignment #11 asks you to photograph a scar on your body or on someone else’s body and tell the story of how it happened. Two photos of cigarette burns tell very different stories. One is the mark of a girl’s struggle with a boyfriend whose aggressive impulses led him to sear her arm with his fag butt. But another girl sends in a photo of her ex-boyfriend’s scar that was given to him as a rite of passage from his gang of mates. He got it because he successfully made a fool of himself for love by banging on her door for two hours in the dead of night. Assignment #47 asks you to re-enact a scene from a movie that made someone else cry. It tells you to do in less than a minute. Kara Hearn’s rendition of E.T. is amazing. She plays all the parts herself, jacking up the melodrama as she leaps through all the characters at a frenzied pace.

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Kara Hearn in E.T.

As you go through the various assignments, from “Make the saddest song” to “Write the phone call you wish you could have” you get the sense that Fletcher and July are asking everyone to reassess their lives. They’re telling us that every little corner of our lives is worth exploring. It’s a symptom of the triumph of web 2.0 where content is no longer decided by a couple of eggheads in a room whose job it is to tell us “This is culture”. Now web content relies on all of us, we are all a vital part of online culture. LTLYM wants to celebrate this by encouraging us all to create art. It’s telling us that we are all artists, not just the lucky few who get canonized by a cultural elite and remembered for their “intensity”. So this is all teaching us to feel empowered, to love ourselves more. Hmm… it’s all beginning to sound a bit like a self help book, don’t worry I’m not gonna go into a nauseating rant about “living in the moment”.

But I do want to encourage everyone who is thinking about how web 2.0 is affecting education to learn from LTLYM’s example. When we made Maths Raps with BEAM Education something quite phenomenal happened. Maths Raps was designed to help children learn unwieldy maths vocabulary and concepts in a fun and catchy way. Children watched videos of rappers performing captivating raps about mathematics. Then children were asked to write up their own raps to perform in class. This caught on and a lot of schools suddenly had a posse of wily kids stepping up to perform their maths raps. Beam started to receive maths raps transcripts together with audio and visual recordings of this new breed of little maths MCs. It wouldn’t surprise me to find on LTYLYM an assignment that asks “Make a video of a child performing a rap about mathematics.” This leads me to think there should be some kind of online archive for creative educational assignments. The future of learning is pointing towards online learning communities, with many sites like WizIQ already building a large web connecting teachers and pupils in virtual classrooms and networks of learning. It would be brilliant to incorporate into this kind of educational social media an area where teachers can upload the results of online assignments that inspire creativity and a hands on approach to learning. It would be great to have classes all around the country fulfilling assignments. A project for English could be “Act out your favourite Shakespeare scene in the style of an Eastenders episode.” A history assignment might go along the lines of “Get a friend dress up as Oliver Cromwell and make a Channel 4 style documentary about Cromwell’s life.” It would be a great way of getting children to engage with the national curriculum in an imaginative and personal way.

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Assignment#30 Take a picture of strangers holding hands.

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