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Jeremy Lee

To Be Or Not To Be: Counter cultural ideologies and critical media literacy

        As a class of 33 students, we published 369 volumes of art and literature for less than $40. We recorded and published multiple copies of a CD that told the personal histories, hopes, fears, and dreams of individual students for less than $15. Then we constructed 33 portable art galleries out of popular cereal boxes.

On a Friday morning, we marched into a conference room that had previously been reserved for union meetings. In less than 33 minutes, we opened 33 portable art galleries with 369 volumes of art and literature. We fired up a CD listening station with multiple headphones that shared the personal stories of real students. We filled two giant punch bowls with cereal for hors d'oeuvres, and opened an art show to 3,000 individuals that lasted the entire day. If the show generated at least $55 in proceeds, we could reproduce 399 more editions of every thing we created.

This represents the end of a seven-week project that took place with a freshman art fundamentals class at Curie Metro High School in Chicago. The project was based on a critical investigation into the representation of dominant and subordinate cultures in the media. The students engaged in a zine project that critically examined media culture and subjugated media messages. The students also examined how zines represent a democratic youth initiated art form that allows them to take creative control over a medium that builds a community of multiple views and voices antithetical to corporate media control.

In class, we studied the ideological transition from modernism to postmodernism in art history. We examined how certain aspects of this transition represented a liberating ideological coup over the hegemonized dominant ideologies of modernism. Then we used a critical media literacy approach to examine how the hegemony of dominant ideologies are reinforced and explicated through popular visual culture. Next we excavated analogies of the postmodernist ideological coup and applied them to notions of critical media literacy and counter culture. Referencing the artistic merit of said analogies, we engaged in performances of creative cultural resistance.

         Most importantly, the students were able to learn these concepts because we explored them in terms of the localized literacy of every day life. Through this approach, the students were able to draw on their personal knowledge of popular culture in order to relate to the ideological dilemma of every intellectual concept we confronted.

         Jeremy Lee received his BFA, with an emphasis in interactive multimedia art, from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2002. While at SAIC, his graduate work focused on art education with an emphasis on critical pedagogy in visual culture.


Thesis Advisor: Kevin Tavin, Assistant Professor, Art Education; Director, MAT Program

Thesis Reader: Therese Quinn, Assistant Professor, Art Education; Associate Director, Center for Youth and Society, University of Illinois-Chicago

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