communicative artifacts from futures that never were
Official Exhibit Guide
- Choose an “artifact”.
- Identify a historic point of deviation.
- Imagine an alternate history.
- Reflect on the past,
- the present,
- and our future.
Never Events is an experiment in visuo-spatial, experiential learning. It is a vision of a new method of teaching history that is not domain specific.
Never Events places mundane, anachronistic “artifacts” in a modern visual language and asks viewers to engage with them in a visuo-spatial way. These “artifacts” may entertain, intrigue, or disturb the viewer. They present unrealities to the viewer. They act as prompts. Each Never Event inherently and perhaps subconsciously poses questions. It is up to the viewer to form their own questions based on their historical knowledge. With their own “what-if” questions formed, they must use analytic and synthetic abilities to create answers. This process will be either conscious or subconscious.
The viewer not only uses their left-brain in retrieving historical facts to comprehend and analyze the “artifacts”. They must use their right-brain to synthesize their knowledge and build their own alternate history that explains for themselves how the “artifact” could have come to being. Never Events demands active spectatorship, and is intended to plant a sense of historical curiosity in the viewer. It is my hope that the viewer maintains this sense of curiosity and independently seeks more knowledge to deepen their creative interpretation. This process will make the knowledge acquisition process more relevant to the viewer, improving retention.
The term “Never Events” is also used in a medical context to describe inexcusable outcomes for patients. Things like the “unintended retention of a foreign object in a patient after surgery.” In the modern setting, even with our efficiencies and advancements, these are still possible impossibilities. In the same way, these anachronistic “artifacts” depict impossible modern scenarios that were, at one time, completely possible. The “artifacts” mimic our visual domain in order to insert a subtle incongruity that challenges the viewer with modern impossibilities to make a learning experience possible.
This exhibit was produced in a fairly low-fidelity, do-it-yourself manner. All the printed works were made using Microsoft Word or Sketch Book. The purpose is to demonstrate a potential democratic and memetic quality to this style of teaching. Anyone with even basic software or artistic skills can make a Never Event. Anyone can engage with history in a creative and meaningful way, perhaps teaching others in this process. Most importantly, one could transpose this educational method to any domain to achieve the same outcomes.
Never Events asks viewers to critically and creatively engage with history to build a better understanding of our world. This style of learning and teaching is active, spatial and experiential. It emphasizes higher order cognitive abilities on Bloom’s Taxonomy (a classification of learning objectives) like application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation as opposed to factual knowledge recitation and the testing of comprehension. The former are the skills of the future. This style of whole-brain, engaging learning could be applied to any domain. So I pose the question: How might we redesign our education system with these concepts and outcomes in mind?
Special thanks to: Justine Stevens Jennie Evamy Hill – Anne Evamy Rick Stelmachuk – Mark Hill Linda Carson
Originally exhibited physically April 12 – 14, 2012 – Presented at the Root Cellar Gallery, Calgary. This was with the generous support of Sled Island, the Root Cellar Gallery Project, and the Alberta College of Art and Design Students’ Association