Middle school students muse about technology and art
With the help of Ottawa-based inventor Darcy Whyte, 12.1 Window Works artist Judith Cottrell developed a machine named Mr. Drew to make her drawings for In the Window. Cottrell learned how to make a computer program tell a system of pulleys where and how to drag a special permanent marker along the window pane and create her drawings.
Eighth grade students in the Semester Program at Irving Academy are also learning about the intersection of art and technology—they have already built pinhole cameras out of juice boxes, and are now building cameras from more than 40 parts! On Irving’s tour of Artpace last Tuesday, February 21, students thought about what it meant for Cottrell to tell a machine to make her marks. One student thought it was better for the artist to do the drawing, because she was free to pick up her hand and move to another area of the window—unlike the limited machine. Other students noticed that the machine wasn’t perfect, and pointed out a wayward line. (In one window pane, there is evidence of when the drawing machine had a mind of its own.)
Back inside the Window Works gallery, which is the back side of Cottrell’s work, students considered other features of Mr. Drew and In the Window. They talked about the warm, cozy, butter-yellow curtains lining the window behind the artist’s first machine-made drawing of a cat. They listened to the marker’s consistent, soothing creaks as the machine moved it in tight loops across the glass. Sounds like a creaking rocking chair? Or the first notes of a cicada? On their Artpace tour, students discovered ambiguity in art—and perhaps pondered how special it is that an artist can make machine act… human.
Image credits: (Top) Judith Cottrell, In the Window, 2012. Detail. Photo by Todd Johnson. (Bottom) Behind the scenes of Cottrell’s Window Works installation at Artpace. Photo by Todd Johnson