The inspiration for this project comes from sound, not sight. To be precise, jazz.
Art historian David Morgan used the idea of “riffing” to describe how visual artists, like jazz artists, riff on what others have done. This isn’t copying. It isn’t stealing. It’s riffing—giving credit, paying homage, making something new.
In this project, you become historian, art critic, and “riffer.” Your tasks include:
1) Annie Leibovitz is the artist
2) Researching the biographical history of the artist
3) Providing an overview of the artist’s work
4) Offering a detailed critique of one or two exemplary images/designs/film scenes from the artist (drawing on multiple perspectives and ideas from Lester’s text)
5) Riffing* on one of those exemplary images/designs/film scenes you chose in #4
6) Delivering a side-by-side critique of your image and the artist’s image/design/scene
7) Packaging all of the above in a visual design suitable to the subject and
8) Delivering all of the above in a 7-10-minute screen-capture video essay.
*Riffing does not mean copying. You do not have to mimic the artist’s subject matter. You can riff on form, on mood, on tone, etc. Elements like lighting, composition, kerning, leading, lines, depth, color and many more can be used to riff on someone’s work. Take the artist’s work as inspiration and make it your own.
You May Choose one artist from one of the following categories for your riffing project: (note: this list is a work-in-progress and more names will be added to it. Also, you may pick someone else entirely pending my approval.)
1) Photographers: Margaret Bourke-White, Robert Frank, Kevin Carter/ The Bang-Bang Club, Sebastiã Salgado, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Steve McCurry, Dorothea Lange, Lewis Hine, Walker Evans, Diane Arbus
2) Painters: Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Johanness Vermeer, René Margitte, Michelangelo, Kazimir Malevich, Ilya Repin, Frida Kahlo
3) Filmmakers: Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Clint Eastwood, Ava DuVernay, Alfred Hitchcock, Ari Folman, Chloe Zhao
4) Designers: Cipe Peneles, Saul Bass, Brad Klausen, Herb Lubalin, Archie Boston, David Carson, Lucille Tenazas
Great example of a visual riffing:
Video Essay Components, Sample Structure, and RubricVideo Essay Components, Sample Structure, and Rubric
Note: Use the following as a guideline for your essay structure. I’ll use a version of these components as a grading rubric.
Seven to ten minutes probably seems like a long time. Here’s a sample structure to help guide you:
1) Introduction—Who you are, what you’re doing, what’s your subject and the main ideas you will develop (30-45 seconds)
2) History of artist (2-3 minutes) [Use multiple sources for this. Give your audience more than the Wikipedia version.]
3) Analysis of key artist works (2-4 minutes) [Draw on Lester’s 9 elements of pre-analysis and apply at least three of his perspectives relative to the works.]
4) Riffing: Your image/design/video side-by-side with artist image/design/video with a discussion of how you riffed on the image (2-4 minutes). In this comparison, also apply the analytical perspectives/elements you engaged in Step 3.
5) Conclusion (1 minute): Reiterate key points.
Visually, your presentation must include:
1) Key imagery from artist work + your analysis of it
2) Your riffing product (image/design/video scene)
3) Side-by-side comparison of your product with the artist’s product.