Monday, August 20, 2012

The Great Firewall

I agonized over and delayed putting up the last two posts because of their political nature. I discussed with Paige and got her blessing in the belief of freedom of speech before adding them.

When we were in China, in the morning before we were to tour Tianamen Square, I tried to Google "Tianamen Square," to brush up on my history and make sure I had the facts straight (I remember as a college student watching the news footage of tanks rolling over student protestors). Lots of hits appeared on Google under the title of "Tianamen Square," but when I tried to click on any of them I ran into what the Chinese call The Great Firewall. Essentially this is internet censorship. The Chinese government blocks much information it doesn't want its citizens to to find, including websites like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

In fact, The Great Firewall nearly prevented our own excellent adventure blog from happening at all. Paige and I were not able to access Blogger from within China via the internet. You can imagine our panic. However, the technology gods had our backs, and very fortunately the Blogger app that Paige had installed on her iPad allowed us to create and upload posts. The strange and nerve-wracking part was that we could not then see what we had posted. So we relied on you, our faithful blog followers, to reassure us via e-mail that you could indeed see all of our posts, and that yes, they did make sense!  
- Peggy

Chinese Students Harness Political Power of the Internet

There was a good story in The Chronicle recently about college students and their use of the internet to effect change:

"Experts say these characteristics are specific to the generation born after 1990, which is more independent and outspoken about its concerns with Chinese society. These young people are also China's first generation to grow up online, which means they are accustomed to seeking out information beyond China's borders—information the government frequently tries to block."

In many ways the content of this article is a continuation of the ideas expressed in the previous post about Liu Xiaobo.

- Peggy

Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Peace Prize Winner - 2010

This poem from Chinese scholar Liu Xiaobo came across my email recently. It addresses the events of Tiananmen Square and is quite moving.

Fifteen Years of Darkness
by Liu Xiaobo
translated by Jeffrey Yang

Before dawn at home in Beijing, 6/4/2004
Fifteenth anniversary offering for 6/4

15 years ago
a massacre took place at daybreak
I died then was reborn

15 years have passed
daybreak bayonets dyed red
is still a blade fixed in the eyes

15 years have passed
I still have nightmares of those departed souls
I see them soaked with blood
I write each stroke each line
as an outpouring of the tomb

15 years have passed
within the darkness of vanished freedom
I wait for the hour-hand to point to pre-
dawn's advent of the fifteenth anniversary offering

Tonight, in this city without altar
I hope the dead souls can see my eyes
and turn my watchful gaze into the flicker of a candle flame
Not the sacrificial spirit money for the ancestors
not the raging blaze that illuminates the cold night
but memory's nakedness
is like a bone that will not decay

15 years ago
martial-law troops besieged the Square
the military broadcast the order over and
over, a continuous transmission of gunshots and bloodthirsty news
A few hours before
the gathering crowds, the clamoring crowds
then in a blink the light was extinguished
people fled like a surge of quicksilver
leaving behind an empty void

Among the hunger-strike tents on the Monument
I gathered with the students and local residents
continuous gunshots rang out
bullets struck the Monument
sparks sprayed off the marble
I released an eye-flooding flash
broke an automatic rifle in half
though I can't break open the silence of the dark night

Facing an unpredictable fate
I stare dumbly into the darkness
unable to discern if the starlight abyss
is hell or paradise

15 years have passed
unexpected bloodshed has suffocated me
unexpected prisons have hardened me
I've become a thick stone
yield to the lashings of political terrors
expression hardened, frozen
always unchanged

From the massacre's bloodshed to harsh surveillance
the horrors of that night
have yet to move half-a-pace away
After the house-raid then handcuffs
after handcuffs then prison
after prison then the police sentry at my building's gate
A personal shadow
interrogates our houseguests
Phones tapped
mail vetted
all forms of communication cut off
Let me turn into a blind-and-deaf man
in the dark dark night
to resist the silence

Walls of a cell may confine the body
but no cell walls can restrain the soul

15 years have passed
a murderer's regime
forces one to desperation
A nation that tolerates a murderous regime and forgets the killed
forces one to deeper desperation
A survivor of the massacre powerless to demand justice for the victims
forces one to the deepest desperation
But in such desperation
remembering the departed spirits
is the only hope left

Let the darkness transform into rock
across the wilderness of my memory

You can learn more about Liu Xiaobo here:

- Peggy

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Connecting Communities with Chopsticks: Celebrating Chinese Culture through the Arts with Teachers and Students

While in China and on the last day of NAEA proposal acceptance, Dean Maryjo Cochran (from Troy University) and I developed a conference presentation proposal for the Spring 2013 National Art Education Association meeting. Because this proposal development was an impromptu collaboration in a Shanghai hotel, and on my iPad with tech access difficulties, I was not even sure the e-mail got through; I honestly forgot we submitted the proposal.

I was thrilled to be reminded yesterday that we will be able to revisit our adventure and share Chinese art, culture, education-related collaborations and initiatives taking place among educators and artists in China, the Confucius InstituteTroy University and the University of South Alabama. I feel confident my 10-day adventure, 4000 photographs, 80+ blog posts with Peggy, and lessons already developed and implemented in art education will serve us well in sharing ideas with conference participants.

"Dear Paige:
Thank you for responding to the 2013 NAEA National Convention Call for Presentations.  It is my pleasure to inform you that your presentation, Connecting Communities with Chopsticks : Celebrating Chinese Culture through the Arts with Teachers and Students, was accepted for inclusion in the program for the 2013 NAEA National Convention in Fort Worth, Texas, March 7-10.

NAEA received a record number of presentations this year and, once again, relied upon a scoring rubric for the peer review and assessment process.  The peer review process requires careful thought and consideration in terms of Content, Clarity of Purpose, Suitability/Relevance, Quality, and overall program balance.  The caliber of this year’s presentations was excellent—making the acceptance of just over 1,000 sessions (approximately 44%) highly competitive.  The average score for accepted presentations was 13 (out of a possible 15)."

Photo by Paige Vitulli

Please join us if you are in Texas this Spring!! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Teaching and Learning about Form and Texture

Design elements in the art world include form and texture. Form is defined, in art, as something three-dimensional having height, width and depth, such as a sculpture. Texture is the way something feels or the illusion of a texture is created with other elements such as lines, values and shapes. Texture can be actual/real or implied/simulated.

As themes emerged during our China travels, I quickly began noticing that I was focusing on photographing forms and textures. This realization was reinforced as we presented the lessons  developed based on the Terra Cotta Warriors in a workshop and observed teachers responding with creations of their own warriors, creatively using the elements of form and texture.

As I revisit the over 4000 photographs I took in China, I am reorganizing them to teach and learn about  basic art concepts such as the elements with my new images from a uniquely rich and diverse land.

~ Paige

Teachers exploring form & texture....

The College of Education at the University of South Alabama is sponsoring Ms. Siew Woei Ling during the fall semester as a visiting faculty member from the Multimedia University, which is located in the city of Kajang in the state of Selangor, just 13 miles from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital city.

Ms. Ling is supported by the UNESCO/Keizo Obuchi Research Fellowships Programme (UNESCO/Japan Young Researchers’ Fellowship Programme) to undertake research on “Training teacher to scaffold reflective and critical thinking for Malaysian students based on best practice from USA.”

Ms. Ling is one of many inservice educators participating in the Arts in Education grant where, in her workshop with Dr. Paige Vitulli, she explored the forms and textures of the Terra Cotta Warriors through her own wonderful creation.