Fall 2021 Electives, Advanced Practice: Material As Metaphor

Advanced Practice: Material As Metaphor

CRN:11929 PGFA 5310 A

Faculty: H. Lan Thao Lam

Thursday. 9:00 – 2:40pm

Metaphor: Greek metaphora, from metapherein meaning ‘to carry across or transport.

This course explores the meaning of material for artists. The goal is to gain a deep understanding of the language of materials, and hence how to fashion that language to function not merely literally, but also metaphorically; that is, figuratively, abstractly, symbolically, and conceptually. The course probes beyond the familiar meaning of wood, plaster, metal, and clay, and asks what such materials can do in the world and how artists can activate them.

Material is finite. What we choose to use has great implications to the planet. Materials are the vehicle for ideas, emotions, and concepts. They point to the production processes and are the basis for continuous transformation. In the hands of artists, the term “material” denotes not simply inert matter, but substances that are always subject to change, whether through handling, environmental interaction, or the dynamic life of their chemical reactions.

The class will be introduced to processes in the wood, metal, and wet shops not only as the means for fabrication, but also as opportunities for hands-on exploration and in particular, how each artist can learn to cultivate a distinctive approach through manipulations. Students will gain an appreciation for materials in their particularity, whether organic or synthetic, and will learn how to exploit their specific charge to express ideas such as connectivity, labor, tension, memory or pain.

Taking inspiration from current materialist theories (Cheng, Karen Barad, and Elizabeth Grosz) we will disentangle the politics and ecologies embedded in our materials and study how contemporary sculptors are working within this frame, in which the social, cultural, global and political significance of materials are considered just as important as their essential or intrinsic properties.


Faculty Bio:

H Lan Thao Lam (b. My Tho, Vietnam) trained in architecture, informed by research and a keen eye on how materials and processes can be integral to concept development, their practice reach across a wide range of mediums and disciplines including object-making, installation, photography, film, video, writing and performance. Since 2001, they have been active as artist duo “Lin + Lam,” producing projects about archives, immigration, sites of residual trauma, national identity and historical memory. Their current projects investigate  critical issues around toxicities, ecology, environmental racism, place-based knowledge and mythologies. They have been awarded commissions from the KW Berlin, Queens Museum and their work has been exhibited and screened internationally at venues, including Busan Biennale, The Kitchen, The New Museum, NY; 3rd Guangzhou Triennial; Arko Art Center, Korean Arts Council, Seoul, Korea; Taiwan International Documentary Festival; Oberhausen Film Festival; rum46, Denmark; Void Gallery, Ireland; Cold City Gallery and Lennox Contemporary, Toronto. Lam received grants and fellowships from Canada Council for the Arts, MacDowell, Vera List Center for Art and Politics, India China Institute and AICAD BIPOC Academic Leadership Institute, among others.