There are many ways in which things are in flux. Sometimes you’re conscious of the change and it is purposeful: you plant a garden, then water and tend it, and after some weeks, vegetables grow. Other times the change is more elusive. And if it involves you, you might not even realize that it has occurred until you look back at where you were before.
Inspired by these ruminations, the artist, publisher, and antiquarian bookseller Ben Kinmont created an activity for students as part of SFMOMA’s ongoing Open Studio initiative. The initiative aims to connect high school teachers and students with the ideas and inspirations of leading contemporary artists.
The multiples project On becoming something else asks students to consider the different ways in which they are in a state of becoming. What were they like when they were younger? How have they changed while in school? What have they become, and how could they represent that change in an object, text, or image?
Each student produces a work that represents their thoughts and experiences about becoming something else. The piece can be autobiographical, biographical, or about the idea in general. They then reproduce this piece in a number equal to the number of people in the class (including teachers).
Next, the students make or acquire the same number of matching boxes. Shoeboxes or cardboard boxes can be used. Each student places a copy of their work and a single, collectively authored certificate of authenticity into each box. The certificates will all be the same: they’ll indicate the edition size (meaning, the total number of sets of copies) and list each of the works contained in each box. The list should have each student’s name, the title they’ve given their work, and a brief description or caption.
When the assignment is finished, each student receives one of the identical boxes containing a set of everyone’s artworks and a certificate.
In Action at Galileo High School
In 2013, Kinmont carried out the project in person (with teacher Myrna Maroun) with twelfth-grade AP English students at San Francisco’s Galileo High School as part of a unit on Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. The results were publicly exhibited as part of a larger project by Kinmont. As an owner of the boxed edition, he incorporated the students’ work into his archive.
See selected student works in the slideshow here, with the students’ comments as captions: