Rosi Maria Di Meglio
2nd year, Art Education
TASKmtl: performance, improvisation
It was the summer of 2014; I was not sure what I was getting myself into when applying for Exploring TASK, the week-long intensive art-making party hosted by the Art Education department last summer during the Hemispheric Institute’s Encuentro meeting in Montreal. I didn’t know who TASK founder Oliver Herring was and, at the start, I didn’t really care. I was interested in completing the class and getting my three credits.
As a mother of six young children and a full-time undergraduate student, I was looking at time management more than anything else. My goal was to complete my degree as fast as possible, and this three-credit summer intensive seemed to fit the bill. I had no idea. TASK creates a controlled environment that encourages performance and human interaction. And did I say it was fun? Founded by the American multidisciplinary artist Oliver Herring in 2002 began organizing a series of participatory improvisational art events known as TASK parties. TASK appears from the outside as chaos and wildness or festival and rave. But I learned to see it as a collaborative, improvisational social experience wherein those who take part can take chances, explore and experience art making without any expectations.
Imagine entering into a once-familiar space—the undergraduate Art Ed studio—now completely transformed via a carefully arranged collection of materials inviting us to start making. Stacks of paper; tonnes of cardboard and fabric; egg cartons and duct tape; markers and paint; glue guns and glitter: the range of creative material and its meticulous placement beckoned involvement. The space was completely transformed into a positive, energetic haven, in which smiling faces, disco music and welcoming strangers assured you, “It’s okay to paint on the walls!” And, “It’s okay to talk to strangers.” When I asked the artist about his work, he told me that, “TASK has two rules: 1. You write a task and put it in the box; and 2. You complete a TASK that you’ve taken from the box.” I found that, actually, TASK has many rules. Now, being the control freak that I am, I could appreciate the anal tendencies involved in setting-up for TASK; anarchy needs organization to be successful. Oliver had a specific method, and we needed to follow it to the letter, but there was a reason for his madness!
The set-up was extremely important, and Oliver explained to me why. When setting up the materials, it needed to be aesthetically pleasing; the materials were not the only part of the setup—the floor, walls and windows all had to be completely covered with white paper. Oliver believes that those first impressions guide the respect of the TASK participants. The Art Ed studio was transformed, but once completed think of the room as an exploded art studio, or three-dimensional sculpture, it was unbelievable! I could not anticipate what this ten-day long art experiment would do for me, or how it would help me discover who I am and what I can accomplish by collaborating and opening up to others. Growing up in the west island in a strict Italian family with over-bearing immigrant parents taught me to be a martyr. I experienced multiple forms of abuse; I survived it, but taught myself to be on guard with others. As an art educator, I realized I had created a huge wall around myself, controlling what people could see and keeping the rest hidden. I came to TASK as an outsider, but being in this community allowed me to see another side of myself.
For me, TASK became an opportunity to be completely honest with myself: I kept a journal throughout the experience; I made new friends and met many other students at the university and those attending the Encuentro event; and I completed a lot of tasks: for example, creating a press release and reaching out to my contacts and asking those supports for help was huge for me, especially asking for help. I wrote the press release to generate interest with the media and get the word out to as many people as possible. The word “intense” comes to mind, with only four hours to produce and release to various media contacts, including CTV. Wow–it was a great experience! I see this as being an important tool for elementary school kids, who are growing up and into the world. The intense realities of my own youth affected my confidence and my view on academics, limiting a sense of what I was capable of and allowed to accomplish.
As a teacher, I learned that I could make a difference for students in public schools who may be confronting similar hardship or challenges, as I did when I was young. I believe TASK has a place in our education system, whether it be as a model taught to teachers or as a model teachers share and do with their students. It has a place in our art education because it reminds us that anything can become possible!