Sunday, August 31 | 1:00–5:00 pm
A window into the Bennington classroom experience. We encourage you to choose a workshop in an area outside of those you’ll be studying this fall. Signups will take place during Orientation check-in and a confirmation of your workshop will be emailed to you on Saturday, August 30.
Making Connections: What can paintings teach us about other countries?
Barbara Alfano and Ikuko Yoshida
In this workshop, participants will examine, compare, and analyze paintings from Europe and Asia as well as discuss what historical, religious, and cultural aspects are represented in the paintings. The participants will also practice drawing connections among the elements in the paintings and explore how distant cultures relate to each other.
Paintings can teach you a lot. A painting such as Leonardo da Vinci’s La gioconda (Monna Lisa) can tell you quite a few things about Italian society during the Renaissance and about the Renaissance itself. In addition, the impressionist paintings of Claude Monet (1840–1926) are a result of 19th-century cross-fertilization, which happened in France and Japan. Together, we will investigate Monet’s paintings and the historical background of the Impressionist movement, and we will discuss how one event can have an impact on many countries. No foreign language background is necessary.
Warlordism 101: How to Run your own Militia
From Columbia to Iraq and Afghanistan to Somalia, non-state military bodies continue to shape the political world today. The lack of formality is not reflective of a lack of sophistication as much as it demonstrates how flexibility have allowed these groups to continue to thrive despite claims about the end of history or pax Americana. Combining social and culture patterns such as kinship, religion and reciprocity, militias can teach us a lot about political organization and social structures, particularly as local groups respond to the pressures of globalization. Additionally,this discussion looks at how we approach the study of politics on a local level. It asks, how can we use ethnographic approaches to better understand how groups both resist and take advantage of global changes due to neo-liberalism and globalization. No previous experience with warlords necessary.
Incarceration in America
More than 2.2 million Americans are currently in prison or jail, and 7 million Americans are under correctional supervision. The United States of America has the highest documented rate of incarceration in the world. How did this happen? We will look at the basic facts, ask the important questions, and discuss causes, possible solutions, and the principal obstacles to reform.
How to Read a Play
What are dramatic conventions? How do they work? What brings them into being and then causes them to lose their power over time? We'll look at early scenes from four plays: Ibsen’s A Doll House, Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Beckett’s Endgame, and Muller’s Hamletmachine. We'll note how Ibsen and Wilde use the 19th-century convention of the paradigm scene to set up the thematic and dramatic development of the play. We'll then see how Beckett and Muller, 20th-century experimental writers, subvert and “theatricalize” this same convention.
The Philosopher’s Eye
What is art? How should we look at works of art? How is art related to its social context? Is there a “correct” interpretation of an artwork? We will confront these and other questions in this workshop devoted to philosophical thinking about art. Our case studies will be based on examples from art history, recent art world controversies, and the Bennington art collection. The artworks will serve as provocations to philosophical questioning, which we will supplement with reading and research.
Drawing Towards Three Dimensions
A naked person walks down a staircase and how that event was captured makes history!
Marcel Duchamp is considered to be one of the innovative artists of the 20 Century. His collision with Cubism sparked a radical departure and rethink of the visual language set forth by Picasso and Braque. So the question is two fold: how can the study of a ‘Nude descending a staircase’ provoke such a radical change for an artist? And how does this begin to unravel all traditional values set forth in previous Centuries of art making.
We will investigate these questions through varying drawing practices.
Savage Love—Creating the work of Sam Shepard and Joe Chaikin
The great director, Joe Chaikin believed that the actor is an interpretive artist. But what did he mean? Sam Shepard asked in his poem—Beggar—"Could you give me a small part of yourself?"—but how does one do that as a performing artist? In their beautiful play/chorale, Savage Love, written during the early days in the East Village in the 60s they created and performed as a way of attempting to find the answers to both of these questions. We will pick up where they left off, and rediscover this work anew.
In this workshop, actors, directors, movers, and music makers will all come together to bring to life this poetic play/chorale. Using improvisation, movement exploration, and listening and sound exercises, we will create an ensemble for the duration of the time of the workshop. Through collaboration we will investigate the building blocks of acting and creating work for the theatre. Musicians, writers, as well as actors, directors and designers are all welcome to participate in this performance workshop.
Chinese Characters and Culture
As Chinese has a pictographic writing system, its written words reveal culture in interesting ways. Take for example the Chinese word “hao”, 好 meaning “good”: it is actually a picture of a woman, nu, bearing a son, zi. What does that tell you about the values of the ancient Chinese who created the characters? What evidence is there that these values still influence Chinese culture? By studying the etymology and morphology of some basic Chinese characters participants will simultaneously gain insights into the basis of the written language and traditional Chinese cultural values. Participants will also get an idea of how languages are taught at Bennington and maybe even pick up some Chinese.
The highest mathematics most people ever encounter is calculus—if that. Yet the whole of university level calculus covers only a part of what Newton knew, 340 years ago. People have been busy discovering new mathematics ever since, which only mathematicians, and a few physicists and engineers, ever hear about. Perhaps surprisingly, not only has the pace of discovery not slackened since Newton, but it has steadily accelerated, right up to the present day.
How can people still be discovering new mathematics? It would not be possible if mathematics was concerned only with mechanical computation. (This is why the computer has so far played only a minor role.) Mathematics stands in relation to number in much the same way that poetry stands in relation to language. Mathematics makes an art out of reason; whole numbers are one theme, but there are others: shape, symmetry, combination, structure. Each age has a particular flavor and each great mathematician has a distinct signature, just as it is in music, art, or literature.
In the mathematics program at Bennington, we try to make this larger world of mathematics accessible from the start, without excessive prerequisites. (Introduction to pure mathematics drops you right in.) This workshop is a brief introduction to these ideas. You do not need to know any mathematics to participate; in fact, if you had a difficult relationship with math in high school, I would especially encourage you to sign up. On the other hand, if you already know a lot of math, I believe you will still find that the workshop will all be new to you.
How to Read a Seventeenth-Century Letter
This workshop is an introduction to the art of doing History with primary source documents. We will work with archival material – in this case, a selection of 17th-century manuscript letters—documenting written conversations between scholars and scientists, countesses and queens. What we want to know is: who wrote this, and why? What is going on here? What are they really talking about? And, where does this fit into the bigger picture? We will learn how to walk the historian's path, following a trail of clues, and assembling the structures that will help us to interpret our evidence. And at the same time, we will respect "the pastness of the past", attempting to avoid the awful pitfall of reading the present into the past. All materials will be provided—just bring pen and paper.
Local Field Observation as a Starting Point for Environmental Studies
Understanding environmental problems requires the ability to learn how humans interact with their environment. Commonly, the history of humans’ activities in a region and their subsequent environmental impacts are a direct function of the region’s natural history, landscape, ecology, and geology. How do you start to think about the connections between humans and their “place”? This workshop will comprise a field trip with Geology faculty member Timothy Schroeder to learn about how to observe patterns in the local landscape and use your observations to formulate hypotheses about the Bennington region’s natural history.
Do Coral Reefs Matter?
Coral reefs are among the most diverse, unique and beautiful ecosystems on the planet and home to 25% of all marine life. Alas, they are also quite vulnerable to various environmental assaults and most of the reefs on earth are in real jeopardy. In this workshop, we will discuss what reefs are, why they are so important, and the factors that affect them. Then students will view underwater videos (taken by the professor) and learn to identify the things diving scientists look for in evaluating the health of a reef. Students will also be introduced to the Bennington Coral Reef Project and learn how they might participate in coral reef conservation.