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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2013/2014

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. John Ford


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 429A

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23931

Office Hours: Monday 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. TSH 429a

Course Objectives:

Course Description

This course investigates points of intersection where installation, site-specific approaches, performance, time-based practice, kinetics and digital technologies interweave.


Course Components

The course includes demonstrations, discussions, critique, and the production of preliminary work, a body of completed studio work, presentation, critical reflections, research.


Material considerations

As this course is meant to push the envelope of our casual understanding of sculpture, the choice of materials and techniques in this course will often be left to the individual student.  It is incumbent upon the participant in this class to think in the most innovative, expansive, and self-guided manner, and when possible, develop work that also echoes the aesthetic attitudes present in other aspects of their creative oeuvre.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Studio Fees

A studio fee of $100 is required for this course.  Some materials are simply less expensive for you when they can be acquired in bulk, and that is the main reason for the studio fee.  It makes no logical sense for each of you to have a box of screws, a set of drill bits, saw blades, 100 lb. bags of plaster or cement.  Your studio fee will provide you with materials to create sculptural objects as per assigned projects, and some self-directed work.  With lead time, materials can be procured, within reason, that you may want specific to a project, but it is incumbent upon you NOT to leave this until last minute. 



Tuition covers instruction, technical and administrative support, equipment, tools, facilities/utility costs, models, visiting artists, and resources such as McMaster Museum of Art, Library, Anatomy Lab, etc.

Method of Assessment:

Overall evaluation of term

This being a third level course in a program focused on self-directed study and professional achievement, it is assumed that the participant accepts the challenge to elevate their level of expectation and achievement.

Assessment of student outcomes in this course will be based on the quality of a portfolio of preparatory and finished works of art, created in reaction to project assignments (visual, written, or presented as may be the case) and any independent initiatives (this may include a log book, sketches, preparatory maquettes, etc.). There will be at least two written assignments, brief essays describing what each student learned from comments at their critiques. Each assignment and/or project will be evaluated at the time of critique or turn-in, the evaluation available to student in one-on-one meeting with the instructor (this insures an open channel of communication between student and instructor).

An overall, mid-term mark will be available to student, the purpose being to assess the standing of said student were the term to end unexpectedly at that moment.  Instructor will make a concerted effort to meet with each student at mid-term to offer constructive feedback, and to respond to individualized student questions and concerns.  This mid-term mark, while intended as a fair assessment of the student work at that point of term, will not necessarily handicap student from elevating the final mark, or assure that the final mark may not be lower.

At any point in the term, instructor encourages students to seek feedback on their standing, to ask for personalized tutorials and/or mentorship, and generally discuss their viewpoints and ambitions as young artists.

Final course marks will be based on the final portfolio submission (80% overall grade*), and overall participation in the course, including prompt/full attendance during studio sessions and also outside of class (20% overall grade*).

  • Please be mindful that instructor not only evaluates the quality of work in the portfolio, but the level of quality in its presentation.
  • Please also be mindful that instructor will take class roll at the beginning and end of class, at least one measure of student participation and engagement for the course.

The following scale of percent equivalences is used for calculating final grades, based on portfolio and any additional:

The success of studio courses is dependent on the active engagement of all participants. Learning is accelerated in a hands-on environment where work and ideas can be discussed as they evolve and challenges and successes can be shared. Important health and safety information and safe operating procedures are communicated during class time. You must receive this information to work independently in the studio and you may not operate any equipment or use any process that you have not received safety training for.

Class Discussions and Critiques empower individuals to take risks in their art practice and learn from each other. It is of utmost importance that all students participate fully by attending all classes and remaining welcoming and open to all points of view. The atmosphere of the studio should be characterized by courtesy and mutual respect. Participating in group critiques is an important part of providing constructive feedback for your peers. Active questioning and differences of opinion, respectfully expressed in a spirit of collaboration and mutual exchange, contribute to a positive and supportive group dynamic. It is your responsibility to contribute positively in this shared space and come to class prepared, on time and ready to contribute to the activities of the day.

A sampling of criteria used by instructor to evaluate projects, and visual art in general:

  • Is the project turned in when required; how complete is it, how many are there?
  • Does it complete the minimum requirements, fall short, or go well beyond the limitations of assignment?
  • Does it seem timid or brave?
  • Does the work demonstrate competence with media, fall short of competence, or demonstrate mastery?
  • Do the works demonstrate a serious intent, an ambition, does it go beyond comfort zone?
  • Does the work contain meaning, content, and if so, how complex or sublimely insightful is the result?
  • Does the work demonstrate, even quietly, a knowledge of historical context?



Late Assignments

Projects that are not presented by the student during their scheduled critique will be marked as 0. Work that is handed in late will receive a penalty of one full letter grade for every academic day it is late. Exceptions to this

policy will only be considered in specific instances where a student is eligible to file a McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF) and follows the proper procedure online at


Attendance is Mandatory

Failure to attend class can result in failure for the course even if assignments are complete. There are 12 classes per term each four hours in length so an absence is a significant loss of time.  Each student is entitled to one absence if reported with the McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF). This system is in place to accommodate illness and other extenuating circumstances that warrant a missed class. However, students who miss 4 classes (33% of the course) or more may not receive credit for the course.   


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Projects will be relatively brief and intense as a way to cover several contemporary themes

September 11, first day introduction, go over course outline and assign first project, show images of McMaster     wilderness sight, show images of site-specific sculpture and artists’ work, show video Herb and Dorothy.


Project 1 / SITE / INSIGHT  (a Plein Air spatial project)


THEME / CONCEPT - spatial sensitivity in natural space


A project to develop insight, perception, analysis, planning, and to explore the artistic idea of interface and intervention in specific natural spaces.


Nature has inspired human creativity for millennia.  Whether the result was an attempt to understand the cosmic order, or humanity’s place within it, the human animal has interacted with the spatial aspects of the natural world that surrounds them.  Historically, the process has resulted in two rather opposite views of how best to interact – SUBLIMATION, or COOPERATION – it is rarely a neutral state of interaction. 


It should be stated that Western society has a particularly bad track record of co-existence with natural systems, and we could stand to learn from cultures other than our own (ancient as well as contemporary examples).  We are bearing the fruits of our rapacious human appetites and the tendency to dominate nature.  There have been cultural trends toward preservation and cooperation with natural systems, and artists have often led the way in thinking and acting upon this impulse.  One important expression affirming the importance of nature, and of being in nature, is the late 19th century art movement called Plein Air painting, and during the week of 23-27 it will be our privilege to synthesize our activities with Plein Air painter Jim Reid.  To make best use of his presence at McMaster, and the opportunity to work in a natural setting, our first project is to develop a Plein Air spatial project, based in or on the natural preserve where Jim will be working, and it will begin with an explorative site-visit to the complex eco-system.


The project need not be based on Jim Reid’s work.  In fact, the Jim Reid project provides a context for something innovative and challenging, and we owe much to Judy Major-Girardin and the York Wilson Fdn. for making this possible.


ASSIGNMENT for NEXT CLASS / Intensively research the history and traditions of creative expression in and about intersection with the natural world.  This should include at least one acknowledgment of the way natural fauna interacts with flora and its general context (as per examples in instructor presentation).  Including Western and non-Western traditions of human creative expression, the presentation must represent a minimum three examples of human intervention in a natural world, be they based in Western or non-Western traditions, or in fact examples that are not considered “art” at all.  These samples may indicate a positive or negative expression of human interface with the natural world, and should somehow support and argue on behalf of the tentative and preliminary plans you are making to engage the McMaster natural site.


Following each presentation, there can be group discussion and input as a way to clarify each student’s initiative.  Instructor will evaluate the quality of presentation, it’s attention to broader and more detailed ideation and innovation, and feasibility of the concept.


Bear in mind, the presentation itself does not bind you to the actual final project, but thoughtful investigation, speculation, and planning can (and will) ameliorate the potential pitfalls of this challenging project. 


Description of site – show map and images of wild area


Present work of human/natural intervention


September 18, Student presentations, discussion/input on development of site-based project, site visit to wilderness area - be prepared with:


            water bottle

            bug protection (spray or light long sleeves and pants)

            heavy soled shoes (steel toes or hiking)

            hat, sunglasses, umbrella (optional)


            This preliminary visit is CRITICAL to the eventual success of this first project.


September 25, Special Project, on-site Plein Air Spatial project with Jim Reid, shuttle bus to wilderness site departs TSH at 2:30, do not be late.


            For this project to be a success for each participant, you must be prepared to fully-engage the site,           come prepared with the items below, including any materials and/or equipment necessary to invest immediatly.


            Be prepared with:


            water bottle

            bug protection (spray or light long sleeves and pants)

            heavy soled shoes (steel toes or hiking)

            hat, sunglasses, umbrella (optional)

            materials for whatever they plan to do


October 2, Student presentations and critique of their finished project SITE / INSIGHT.(tentatively, this       maybe on-site or also potentially a presentation in TSH 114, depending on the concept, realization, and choice of materiality)


            Students must take notes during this critique, or have someone else record comments in order to write    self-analysis of their project,


            Assign self-reflective essay, to be submitted at first of class following week, and assign Project 2.


            Project 2 / Exploration of personal and public space


            THEME / CONCEPT - Spatial Sensitivity in the shared human environment


            (Complete description of assignment in separate document)


October 9, Turn in self-analysis of work from Project 1, group discussion about self-analysis, with further input      from peers and instructor.


            Work on Project 2.  Must work in class, must have materials with you. 


            Meet individually with instructor for feedback on first project, idea-development for Project 2.


October 16, Critique for Project 2, assign self-analysis for Project 2 critique, assign Project 3.


            THEME / CONCEPT – Exploration of inner space, be it physical or metaphysical


            (Complete description of assignment in separate document)


October 23, Critique of project 3, turn in self-analysis of second critique, finalize plan for project 4.


            Assign Project 4


            THEME / CONCEPT – Exploration of negative space


            (Complete description of assignment in separate document)


October 30 – Work day


November 6 – Critique of project 4


            Assign Project 5


            THEME / CONCEPT – Independent project


November 13, Work day for project 5, one on one conversations with instructor


November 20, Work day


November 27, Work day


December 4, Llast class meeting, informal review of works for final feedback


December 4, Classes end


Studio clean up will take place following the last day of classes.