Lesson: Rivane Neuenschwander: State of Mind: Paranoia

  • Grade Level: High School (9-12 grades)
  • Subject Area: Art, Film, Psychology
  • Installation view of "Primeiro amor/First Love," 2005.Installation view of "Primeiro amor/First Love," 2005.
  • Installation view of "Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other," 2010.Installation view of "Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other," 2010.
  • Installation view of "Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other," 2010.Installation view of "Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other," 2010.
  • Installation view of "Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other," 2010.Installation view of "Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other," 2010.
  • Installation view of "Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other," 2010.Installation view of "Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other," 2010.

Introduction:

written by Joseph Keehn II

Metaphors are embedded in Neuenschwander’s works and are often connected to politics.  Her works have several layers of meaning, and at times address the passage of time; the dissolution of physical boundaries; and notions of assimilation, corruption, destruction, and transformation. This lesson explores Neuenschwander’s use of film to channel paranoia as a catalyst to create work. Neuenschwander has the viewer experience the psychological discomfort of paranoia and utilizes both literal and metaphorical devices to allude to her influences. Departing from Neuenschwander’s practice, students will engage in their investigation of their influences to create an engagement that channels a state of mind, such as paranoia, mania, or a case of the jitters.

Time:

one forty-five minute session with additional sessions to watch films and create an artwork

Objectives:

  • Students will be introduced to artistic influences, in particular film, as a departure point to create a work of art.
  • Students will create an engagement or participatory experience for a community based on a state of mind.

Vocabulary:

Metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.

State of mind is a term used to describe a person’s mood or outlook.

Suggested Procedures:

  1. Begin class by asking students what their influences are. Create a list of these influences on the board. From the list, ask students to circle the influences that have inspired them to “create.” Use the word “create” loosely; meaning as literal as a tangible thing or as abstract as an idea. Tell students that artists are influenced by similar if not exactly the same things. Today students will explore the role film has inspired Neuenschwander to create.

  2. Before looking at the artworks, have students watch Roman Polanski’s The Tenant (1976) and/or Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974). Both films are psychological thrillers where paranoia sets in and consumes the main characters. What states of mind do the characters undergo in their developments? While the films are playing, have students write down evidence that validates the characters’ paranoia. In a separate column, have students write down evidence that contradicts this paranoia. Discuss and share their findings.

  3. Present Neuenschwander’s works, which were named for the aforementioned films: The Tenant (2010) and The Conversation (2010). Have students compare the two works in terms of Neuenschwander’s artistic choices. Frame these artistic choices in the visuals, such as the mediums used and the way the audience engages with the work. Discuss their differences and the overall effects of the choices. Besides the titling of the work, what literal choices has Neuenschwander employed to allow a direct connection to the films? What metaphorical choices are suggestive of the films’ influences?

  4. Have students compare Neuenschwander’s works with the films that influenced their creation. What themes do both share? What nuances does Neuenschwander’s works suggest that the films do not? Have students write an analytical paper addressing Neunschwander’s use of metaphors in these two works when compared to Polanski’s and Coppola’s films.

  5. Referring back to the list of influences created at the beginning of the lesson, tell students that they will “create” something that references selected influence both literally and metaphorically. In addition to this, they will need to select a state of mind they would like their audience to experience. Have students share their creations and discuss the literal and metaphorical connections.

Extending the Lesson into Literature and Psychology

Have students read Samuel Beckett’s novella First Love (written 1946, published 1973), a short story about a man recounting his first sexual relationship among other memories that stem from the character. Present students with Neuenschwander’s First Love (2005), a project where visitors are invited to describe their first love to a police sketch artist. Have students discuss the human psyche and memory in Beckett’s and Neuenschwander’s works. Discuss the parallels and dissonance in both.