Wow, its been a long time since i've posted here.  The real reason is that I really don't read blogs too much anymore - perhaps you don't either. I've been re-envisioning this site as more of a resource website in the future, but just haven't found the time.

In the meantime, I've found very little concise information on post-modernism in film, and so I wrote this summary up for my IB Film class.  If its helpful to you, please pass it on.  If you have something to add, please let me know.  Postmodernism is, among other things, pretty slippery.

Modernism is the belief in a metanarrative.  A metanarrative is an agreed upon belief that there is an immutable system that makes sense to us that guides our lives.  Organized religion, political systems, and econmic systems all rely on a metanarrative.  
Postmodernism is a rejection of the metanarrative.  Although some people argue this one way or antoher, postmodernism is neither good nor bad. It is simply an awareness that the systems that we have put in place as a civilization will not necessarily progress forward ad infinitum.  It is somewhat of an unsettling state to be in - it describes a world that is uncertain, a world in which any closely held belief can be challenged.  It can feel bleak because it suggests a world without greater meaning - or it can be empowering because it gives us an opportunity to create our own meaning.  
  • Pastiche: Pastiche mimcis the style of pre-existing styles. Wes Anderson pays homage to the French New Wave as Tarrantino pays homage to everything from the Western to Japansese jidaigeki (Samurai) films. You might think that this is him just ripping off those that came before them, but then you might also embrace the postmodern idea that Everything is a Remix*.  Example: Inglorious Basterds is a WW2 revenge fantasty - but it is done in the style of a Spaghetti Western film.  It also questions objective truth in that it totally rewrites the end of WW2. 
  • Self-Referentiality: Any film or TV show that breaks the fourth wall is acknowledging that it is aware of itself- Parks & Rec, The Office, Modern Family.   Deadpool acknowledges not only that he's a character in a film, but actually argues that his sequel should be better than another film franchise's and signs an autograph Ryan Reynolds. That is super self-aware.  
  • Questioning:
    • Objective Truth & Epistemic Certainty: Epistemology is what separates a certain justified belief from an opinion.  This is often understood as religious belief, but can be explained with any agreed upon belief system. Films like The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Blade Runner, Donnie DarkoSolaris, question whether we can trust that our own memories- even our own existence is real. 
    • Conventions (Narrative & Film): What do Monty Python and the Holy GrailThe Sopranos, A Serious Man, and No Country for Old Men have in common?  All these films (and TV show) end without explanation.  They deny the audience the satisfaction of an ending. In other words, without a conclusion, the audience is denied a reason for the journey...  Sounds like a pretty postmodern view of life, huh?  Oh also Run Lola Run and Memento messing with narrative structure and stuff.  Hey even jump cuts and smash cuts play with time in space in such a way that messes with film form and narrative structure.  

  • Simulacrum: The reason that Simulacrum is an important aspect of postmodernity is because it deals with the idea that if we can't accept that our reality is objectively true then we might imagine what lies outside this 'simulation' that we live in.  The classic example of this is The Matrix, but The Truman Show is also a great example of a Simulacrum (and a great commentary on Reality TV). 
  • Intertextuality / Hypertextuality:  Scott Pilgrim is the perfect Intertextual film as it references many aspects of popular culture outside of it (everything from Bollywood to Space Invaders to Seinfeld), but it also uses the conventions of both video games and comic books.   What other formats could you adapt to the screen? 


I've been thinking a lot about the role of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in Art Education recently.  The success of Pokemon Go creates a lot of interesting possibilities for the future of this kind of technology. This little "advertisement" for a future iteration of augmented reality pet game interests the film teacher, tech enthusiast, and parent in me as well.  Enjoy Strange Beasts:

Strange Beasts from Magali Barbé on Vimeo.


Girl Band!

I have had the opportunity to teach some amazing students over the years, and its always a proud moment when their hard earned skills and creative approaches gain greater recognition.  Such is the case with former Shanghai American School student Cailin Lowry, whose new film premiers at the Tribeca Film Festival today. 

Check out the trailer:

The film itself is fantastic, but more importantly there is no question that they are taking on the film industry's gender inequality both behind and in front of the camera.  You can read more about the film and the intentionality behind it in this article from Revelist.

Here's an excerpt:

A huge impetus for creating “Girl Band” was the trio’s desire to see characters like themselves on TV; women who are (sometimes crudely) funny and not afraid to make a poop joke, but also seriously career-minded and highly committed to their group of equally ambitious female friends.
Explained Lowry, “You so rarely, if ever, see women who are ambitious and confident when they’re young and aren’t prioritizing boys [on TV]. If I ever see a self-assured young woman in media, it’s somehow a negative. She’s either shown as a bitch or selfish.”
It is this type of filmmaking that makes you realize how decidedly sad it is that we even need a Bechdel Test for most of what we see today.


I'm seeing a lot of posts on my Facebook timeline about the arts becoming a 'core subject' (I hang out with a lot of art teachers I guess) thanks to the new Student Success Act... but I'm not so sure that we should be ready to celebrate yet. 

I've read a bit of the act itself and it looks to me what has changed isn't that the arts have become a 'core' but that the language around 'core subjects' has changed. Instead of 'core subjects' the text now reads 'a well rounded education' which is defined as: 

“...courses, activities, and programming in subjects such as English, reading or language arts, writing, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, geography, computer science, music, career and technical education, health, physical education, and any other subject, as determined by the State or local educational agency, with the purpose of providing all students access to an enriched curriculum and educational experience.” 

So while it is significant to see that the arts are recognized as equally important as other subjects under the definition of 'well rounded education', it is not mandated as a 'core subject' which, by definition, would be one that *must* be taught. In fact, the bill states that a well-rounded education can be defined by *any* course that the state or local agency mandates as 'providing all students access to an enriched curriculum and educational experience'.  In other words, state governments are free to include art, or not include art.

On the other hand, there does seem to be many provisions to support arts education with additional funding, STEAM initiatives, and supplementary art programs for under served communities.

This does look like progress for arts education in the US - but perhaps this mammoth ship is not turning as quickly as some other articles would suggest.  


Although I don't spend too much time on color theory in my own classes, I found this article particularly interesting: Reinventing the Color Wheel: Why Red is Not A Primary Color.  

Its interesting because for some reason in my mind, I have always thought of the additive approach as being specific to traditional media and the subtractive specific to color printing.  However,  this article makes a compelling argument that the subtractive method is a superior approach to color mixing. Interesting. I'm going to share it with my IB Art students this week and have them experiment with their acrylics this week.


Two different ideas came across my various news feeds today. The first was this great video essay that analyzes some of the ways in which color informs storytelling in film:

Then I was looking at these... 129 "most beautiful shots in film history" and thinking about the use of color.  Initially I was thinking that this would b e a great opportunity to discuss not just the use of color, but how much can be communicated in a single frame of film with my IB Film class.  Upon further reflection, this could be a great way to engage students in a traditional art class to think more about composition as well.

Often times I've found, as you may have, that it takes some time to help students analyze a painting.  With a film still, there is an implied story - it is easy to get students to imagine what the rest of the scene or film might be be about from context clues. 

In this way, these film stills could be an excellent segue for analysis between a more familiar and comfortable medium to something that might be more unusual and foreign to students.


I am a huge fan of Pixar.  When the film historians of the future look back on this time period, Pixar will be seen as a transformative force, both creatively and technically. Even though Cars might not ever be considered a masterpiece, I love how this anecdote about problem solving demonstrates the ingenuity of their creative process:

...and speaking of ingenuity and process... I've been meaning to post this video that I've been using with my filmmaking classes this year.  Although making toast might not seem to be an inherently creative activity - it has worked wonders to transform our storyboarding process:

Of course, this process could be adapted to any creative process, but I've found it particularly useful for storyboarding.  After "learning how to make toast" the students use this process to arrange and rearrange elements of their stories- both to reexamine individual shots and reframe conceptual ideas in their films.  For more information about how you can make toast yourself, check out the Draw Toast website.


Flash God

Hello Revolutionaries!  I'm coming out of hiding to post about this great introduction to Flash that I plan to use with my students next year.  So far, I've only watched this first video, but if this is any indication, this is a wealth of great information for learning all about the program and Alan Becker might just be a powerful god of flash.   Check it:


Hey film teachers!  I've been sitting on a few film resources here, meaning to post them.  Now that the IB Film classes are finished, I finally have a moment to share some of these gems again.   The first is a  great article by Matt Zoller Seitz, who carefully articulates what good film criticism looks like.  The article focuses on how criticism should be more focused on film form and less on the entertainment and surface issues of filmmaking. Please Critics, Write About the Filmmaking.

A second excellent article was recently featured in the New York Times.  Editor Brent White discusses how much influence the editor has in the final stage of the filmmaking process.  I always find that this is the hardest idea to articulate in class - that editing is more than just a final assembly, but a critical step in the creative process. Walter Murch wrote that his edit is essentially the final draft of the screenplay.  White articulates that further here, specifically as it applies to Comedy. The Man Who Makes the Worlds' Funniest People Even Funnier.

Finally, if you haven't yet discovered Tony Zhou's excellent series, Every Frame a Painting- you must.  Not only will your students learn more about film analysis, but he does the whole video essay thing so well.  In fact, he even has a video essay about video essays:



This was an amazing year at the Shanghai Student Film Festival  - our headliners included the head of Dreamworks Asia, Olivier Staphylas,  Cinematographer Rainerio C. Yamson II, Finding Hillywood's Director Leah Washowski and Editor Todd Soliday, and producer Emmanuel Benbihy who offered our students an opportunity to work on their own student edition of Shanghai, I Love You.  Students whose films are selected will be able to work with professionals currently involved in the actual production.

Our Shanghai American School students also claimed many of the awards of the evening - including the following fantastic films.  Even the ones that weren't shown were fantastic. I couldn't be prouder of my students.

For some reason, I can't embed links from our festival's Tudou account, so here are some links to folow!

Best Narrative (Action/Sci-Fi):  Dissonant by Jason Lin, Madeline Chen, Billy Chen

Best Narrative (Dramedy): Benchmark by Derek Chan, Vivian Wang, and Joy Guo

Best Screenplay (Overall): Peter Cheung for “Rob_” 

Best Narrative (Horror): “1134” by Hasumi Tani, Winston Chan, Henry Koo, Lyndon Fan, and Mark Lau
Best Animation:
First Place:  “Cat and Penguin” by Mulan Fu and Vivian Wang
Third Place: “First Look- Unit 658” by Lyndon Fan 
Best Documentary: My Right Breast by Spencer Browne
Best Director (Overall): Jason Lin for  “Dissonant” 
Best Acting (Overall): Spencer Browne and Noah Browne for Jump
Best Acting (IB):  Titus Hartman for The Blind Date

Honorable Mentions:
“Lemonade” by Mickey Blatt
“Henry Spring” by Noah Browne


And we're back!  With not one, but three, count 'em three projects from the Student Creative this year.

The first project is the 8th annual Rotoball Project.  In this iteration, once again, the emphasis remains on a creative approach to what happens in the 15 seconds of animation that the ball appears on the screen in a new or unique way.  Once again, although the project gets its name from 'rotoscoping' - any kind of animation is acceptable.  Video is acceptable as well, as long as the ball is somehow animated.

The second project, BOT challenges your students to create artwork that is inspired and/or assisted by machines.  This project can be 3D printed-drone filmed-automated-fab labbed or break out thos traditional materials and make a drawing or painting of your favorite plastic-pal-whose-fun-to-be-with.   Works from our BOT project will go into our 6th book of student work available from the

Student Creative.

Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to pose for their art project.

Finally, this year we are introducing Sketches of the City - our first collaborative video project. Through a series of open ended creative challenges and conscripted video assignments, students all over the world will film their cities.  The footage will be sent to Shanghai, where we will assemble a final cut.  This final video will be set to an original symphony of the same title, written by film composer Rolf Becker.  We've got some exciting news in the works for this project, so start filming now!

In order to participate, head over to The Student Creative Website, click on whichever projects you are interested in and sign your classes up!


I often attribute my interest in art to an exhibition by Jonathan Borofsky that my parents took me to in 1984 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Unlike other museums that they'd dragged me to in the past, this exhibition was different.  Instead of the images of humans in various states of repose or motionless statues, of which I had no interest at the time, the exhibition was alive.  There was a ping pong table with people actually playing.  There was a painting that was singing, and giant metal men hammering.  And there may have been something like this:

I will love him and squeeze him and call him George.

I say 'may have been' because it was so long ago, that frankly, I don't remember - but my parents, sensing my interest, did buy me a book of Borofsky's work.  After my interest in art exploded, I constantly revisited the book of his work -and so my memories of what I saw in person vs. in the book are cloudy.  This particular piece stands out in mind, even though I can't accurately recall if I've seen one like it in person or not.

What is fascinating about this piece is that it is only looks like this from one perspective.  The parts of the face are painted on various surface of the museum walls and ceiling and only form the resulting image when you are viewing it from a single location.

To demonstrate how this works, check out the latest music video from OK GO - which takes this idea to an extreme, and like much of their earlier work is mind-bogglingly done in all one take:

Their impressive accomplishment in this endeavor becomes even more impressive after watching the behind the scenes video:

I've been thinking about how to organize something like this in my classroom for a few years- I think its time to put it into action!


Patty Bode's xTED Talk, Art Education as a Civil Right has me pretty fired up about the state of Art Education in the states.  While most art teachers will nod in agreement (or perhaps flip over their desks after carefully removing the laptop from which they are watching the speech), this is a talk that is important for non-art teachers to see. In fact, this is a talk that should be seen by anyone who is interested in the importance of education, which should mean just about everyone.  She directly addresses one of the core issues of why it is difficult for me to think about coming back to the US to teach again - the passive resignation that the arts are "the first to go" as if there were nothing to be done about it.

Although-  it never really goes past there does it?  I mean, if the arts are the first to go, what goes next?  Science? English? Social Studies? No.  "The Arts are the first to go" itself is a lie we tell ourselves as if there are other disciplines that would follow.  This is not the equivalent of Niemöller's poem about the cowardice of German non-intervention in the Holocaust (First they came for the art classes, and I did not speak out because I was not an artist, then they came for the science classes but I did not speak out because I was not a scientist...).  It's not a domino effect that we risk, it's something even more critical.  The domino effect suggests that after the first domino falls we can intervene before the rest of the pieces fall.

And before you say, "but wait, schools have been cutting other important subjects as well", Ok, yes, I agree, but the domino effect isn't at play here- this is all part of the disaster created by our environment of high stakes testing. Arts get cut for testing. Arts get cut for budgets.  Arts get cut because A comes first in the alphabet. Art gets cut because it's Tuesday.  Whatever.

We may call art the 'first to go' but I doubt that many believe this to be true.  This sentiment belies a fundamental misunderstanding about the critical importance of the inclusion of art for all students.
Bode explains the necessity of an arts curriculum from a Freirian perspective. Freire believed that free and open education was the key ingredient to a free society.  Maxine Greene pulls the contribution of an arts education to this freedom into sharp focus- it is through the arts that we bring into being the possibility of that freedom, to be able to see the potential for change, through imagination.

...and this guy Neitzsche said that existence has no meaning without an understanding and appreciation for aesthetics. If art is the 'first to go' then meaning is the first to go. So there's that.

I'll end on a more hopeful note though- New York city is investing 23 Million dollars in arts education this coming school year.  Comptroller Scott Stringer says that "In New York City, the cultural capital of the world, a zip code should never determine whether a student can access arts education in their school". 

It's almost as if he watched Bode's video.  Ok, your turn:


I only had the opportunity to take one class with Maxine Greene while at Teachers College, but I remember hanging on her every word, and reading The Dialectic of Freedom on more than one occasion cover to cover.  That book, more than any other, has shaped who I am as a teacher.  There is one passage in particular that always reminds me about why our jobs as art teachers carries such weight.  According to Greene, the purpose of arts education is to teach:
….the relation between freedom and the consciousness of possibility, between freedom and imagination—the ability to make present what is absent, to summon up a condition that is not yet….to seek out openings in their (students’) lived situations, to tolerate disruptions of the taken-for-granted, to try consciously to become different than they are. 

 Thank you, Maxine, for all of your inspiration.  Maxine passed away last month at the age of 96. 


Rotoball 2014!

Rotoball 2014 from The Carrot Revolution on Vimeo.

Two years in the making, here is Rotoball 2014, featuring all the missing videos from 2013!  This year I decided to go with a Chemical Brothers soundtrack. In previous years I've edited the video to their music, so I decided to go with leaving their music in this time. Rotoball is released with a Creative Commons license, and is fully not for profit- so hopefully they won't mind me using their work to support some student art work.  Thanks to the many students and teachers from around the world who participated!


Screenshot from Monument Valley
In an upcoming article for my School Arts Magazine column, I interview game designer and artist Ken Wong about video games as art.  If you haven't played his ridiculously addictive and beautiful iOS/android game Monument Valley yet, it definitively ends any debate as to whether or not video games can be considered art.  With very little instruction, you can wander around beautiful Escher-esque (also very Escher-iffic) architectural curiosities and find your way through a fascinating and changing maze that defies any adherence to gravity or perspective- but is incorporates a new imaginative logical process.  There can be no question, in the design of this game, the artist is present.

Which brings me to the 8-Bit game version of Marina Abromovic's The Artist is Present by artist/game designer Pippin Barr.  In this game you get to visit the artist at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as per her recent 'performance' piece.
Unfortunately for me, I'm on Shanghai Time, so every time I try to enter the museum in the game, it's closed.  I've been virtually sitting outside the Museum for 3 days now.  Maybe those of you in and around East Coast time will have more luck.

In 2011, street artist JR won the TED prize to use art to affect change in the world with a global art  project. Inside Out invites anyone to participate by including their faces in a global mural in which your expression reveals your feelings about your chosen cause.  The exact meaning of the project is both ephemeral and in constant flux- and therefore in line with its mission to show the true face of the global community.

Part of the project involves mobile photobooth trucks that take pictures of participants around the streets  to be included in murals around the cities they inhabit.  I was recently able to take my family to JR's Close-Up show at the Magda-Dansz gallery here in Shanghai, of which the photobooth truck and Inside Out project were a part.

Participating in the project was an amazing experience and gives you the feeling of being connected to something big.  To get a sense of what this connection means, have a look at JR's 2011 TED Talk about his wish for the world.


Still LIfe

This poignant little film makes some thoughtful connections between living in the moment, experiencing life as it happens, and the creative process. There is some nourishing food for thought here, and it will only cost you two minutes.

Still Life from ZANDRAK on Vimeo.


Art Show Poster

This is the best art show poster we've ever had. The Second Chance Room is for students who haven't completed work on time and the AP Art kids are totally owning it in their final celebration of their incredible work. Totally worth all the second chances! 


After reading Kendra's article about Light Painting in this month's School Arts (p24) and Matt's article on the School Arts Room Blog... I have to wonder, is a sequel to  Paint the World with Light in order?