Tuesday, March 10, 2009

1984 Projects

*post updated 3/11 to include students' descriptions of projects*

A couple weeks ago, Ms. Bluhm assigned a summative
1984 project. Students could write a fairly traditional analysis to a reference to 1984 in pop culture, or they could make their own, creative reaction to 1984. Ms. Bluhm has barely started grading the projects, but I couldn't wait to share two of my favorite projects that so beautifully illustrate the passion and creativity of the students who made them.

From Vivan R. comes this portrait of Big Brother in beads! It turns out he's creepy even when he is pearlescent.

Here is Vivian's description of her project:
My original work of art directly references 1984 with a beaded representation of Big Brother. I started with a Big Brother propaganda poster, pixilated the image, and changed the medium from a large inked piece to a small glass one. I think the pixilated effect of the beads makes the image a little harsher, and the metallic color with pastels makes the image more interesting than black on white. I originally created this piece working with the theory that if an item seems to be watching you, you are less likely to steal or tamper with it. Along that line, the suitcases most recently acquired by my family have staring eyes painted on. You are not really being watched, but if you feel like you are, you may act the part. This matches 1984's use of telescreens and propaganda posters to keep inhabitants in line. If Big Brother's face can deter thoughtcrime in 1984, perhaps his face can deter theftcrime in 2009. Opening one flap gives a better emphasis on BB himself, opening the other reveals the caption from the propaganda poster. When both flaps are open, the beadwork hangs in the center window, letting light pass through.
And from Maddy L., who will be going to culinary school next fall, we have the social hierarchy of 1984 in cake form.

Here's a description of the cake in Maddy's words:
For my representation of 1984 I made a cake creation. There are three layers which represent the prole, outer circle, and the inner circle. The first layer is the prole. I made a box cake because their food is controlled by the government so they do not get to make things from scratch. Also, it is just a plain yellow cake which represents their boring food. There is no icing because they are limited on how much sweet things they can eat. The next layer up is spice cake with cream cheese icing. The outer circle gets slightly more privileges and so they have a slightly more complicated cake with icing. There are less people in the outer circle and so they have more individuality so they are represented by cupcakes. The final top layer is mini chocolate truffle cakes. This shows how superior the inner circle is because they get the richest and best cakes. There are few members of the inner party so there is not much cake in the top layer.

The cake has all the components of the social structure shown by the type and flavor of each layer of cake. The increasing deliciousness of each layer can also represent the amount of power that each person has. The richness of the cake increases as you get to the inner circle where people have the most power. The message of the cake is to show how different the separate social groups are.

The cake of course simplifies the complex fight for power in 1984. However, it does get at the really message of inequality of the social classes and the superiority of the inner party.
What I like so much about these two in particular is that they took the project in a direction that is authentically their own. Cake? Beads? Who would have thought it possible?


  1. Both of these projects, imho, are complete MOMA material! Bravo, students and teachers alike.

  2. Since 1984 was primarily about surveillance, I thought I would share a tool that I use to maintain a better sense of anonymity on the internet. It's called Tor and you can add a Tor button to Firefox. Here are the links to the add-on page and an overview of what it does: