Education & Social Practice

Visiting Teaching Artist 2018—2019 at the Dia Art Foundation for the Dia Teens program

Over the course of a year, a group of 15 teenagers living in the Hudson Valley will define, deconstruct, and analyze the boundaries between nature and culture. Our understanding of “nature” will widen, and we will look at the many ways in which culture acts upon nature. We will study how the broad net of nature functions in modern and contemporary art, specific to the Land Art movement and beyond. We will embrace a wide range of media—from rocks and marble, to fruit and flowers, to group rituals, to performative photography, to light itself. Is anything ever “unnatural,” or just manipulated aspects of the organic world? How can we engage with the consciousness of the earth?

Looking to the Dia collection, we will study how the Land Artists paved a new way of making art, and how many others engage in landscape, organic materials, and the biological world as conceptual material. Key artists include Ana Mendieta, Nancy Holt, Michael Heizer, Louise Bourgeois, Robert Smithson, Walter de Maria, and Michelle Stuart.

Especially in this context, my approach to teaching prioritizes critical thinking and non-hierarchical group discussion, in tandem with field work and studio work. I use student-driven practices that center on the interests of young adults, empowering them and giving them agency. The program, and my own personal vision, bring social justice and utopia-building to experimental pedagogy.

Ritual destruction of ephemeral sculpture by student Bella. Below: student work, and a group field trip to Lodger in Newburgh.

Ritual destruction of ephemeral sculpture by student Bella. Below: student work, and a group field trip to Lodger in Newburgh.

Performance Research Journal Issue 21: On Radical Education

“Play, Process, and the Unknown: Towards an Embodiment of Thought

at the School of Making Thinking”

Written by Mollie McKinley

Michelle Bentsman

Aaron Finbloom

Sophie Traub

My essay on the School of Making Thinking, where I was a teacher and co-Director from 2012-2016, is available in the journal, Performance Research, in the issue dedicated to radical education.

The School of Making Thinking (SMT), established in 2011 in New York, is simultaneously a residency program for artists and thinkers, an experimental college, and a nomadic investigation into intentional living. Through a summer residency program, immersive events and conferences, and artist ­run classes in New York City, the organization aims to explore non­traditional connections between art and thought in an embodied, integrated experience among creators and thinkers.

This paper outlines The School of Making Thinking’s pedagogical worldview by situating key SMT artworks and practices alongside their theoretical and political ramifications. In doing so, the text conveys SMT’s commitment to: the creation of an organization that undergoes constant structural re­orientation via consensus driven models, the establishment of a process­ oriented environment that necessitates the embrace of the unknown, the critique of emergent power structures, the use of subversion as a necessary tool for innovation and change, the upholding of structures of intimacy and vulnerability, and the encouragement to challenge oneself towards the embodiment of ideas.

By questioning and reformulating the way that thinking and making are experienced and understood, SMT de­stabilizes the primary structures in which thinking and making are customarily applied, namely: the art world and the academy. The pedagogy of SMT forges alliances of optimistic experimentation and exploration between affiliates of these two worlds. With these fluid, subversive and nomadic principles at play in SMT's structuring and programming, the learning site continues to become an environment which resists the crystallization of undue authority within the cultures of thinking and making.