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Art School in Asia is Making My Brain and Hands…Weak

By Taylor Garland

I’m reporting live, dear readers, from the other side of the semester. My final submission was last week, and I have to say that I’ve never felt like I’ve worked harder on anything else – and all the grades are pass fail!!!

To refresh, I’m a Marketing Major, with a Fine Arts/Art History dual minor. I’ve completed the majority of my business degree, with the rest of the classes required to be completed in my next, final semester. For this fall semester, I planned on completing my minor, so four out of the five courses I’ve taken here in Singapore have been either studio courses or art history…and let me tell you…I suffered for my work.

In my weekly schedule, my first class was Applied Drawing. I found it to be like an elevated foundation drawing class – for people who were familiar with drawing techniques to hone in on their artistic voice and methods. This was a bit above my technical level, but I tried my best to keep up, and ended up producing a lot of artwork that I’m generally quite pleased with!

The next class was my one business course, Social Marketing. It was about creating marketing strategies for social issues, which differs to traditional product marketing. I enjoyed conversations about ethics, learning more about the Singaporean social fabric, and getting a look at how different expectations are for business school students here versus in the states.

Next class was History of Photography. A delightful (and manageable) dive into the mechanics of the evolution of photography, as well as the people and art movements that were important to this timeline.

After this, one of the most interesting and intellectually challenging classes I’ve ever taken – The Expanded Field of Art: Public Spaces. This class was intended to interrogate the construction of “space” in the Singaporean art scene, as well as identify actors and relationships relevant to Singapore’s struggle with its identity and the art its people produces. The readings were, in my opinion, unnecessarily dense and required academic context that I definitely didn’t have. However, after several passes through the readings, and hours of discussion with my group mates (who became two of my closest local friends) there was a ridiculous 3am intellectual breakthrough, and we were able to piece together a new, cohesive argument, drawing on the texts and our experiences within the class. Our final presentation (and accompanying essay) is one of my proudest achievements this semester!

My final class was called Wearable Technology: Fashion and Design. While the Public Spaces class was the most intellectually challenging, Wearable Tech was the most time consuming and labor intensive. This class was essentially a three-hour studio in preparation for a end-of-semester fashion show, where we would design and create an outfit that featured some kind of technology in its context and execution. I spent a cumulative of about 200 hours (I wish I was kidding) designing, creating, breaking and then remaking my garment. The technical aspect, the sewing (which took the most of the time due to the design which in hindsight, was WAY too ambitious), and the research and coordination for the class’ show consumed my time deep into the night. Definitely a challenging course as an exchange student, but I had a lot of fun creating and discussing and spending long hours with my professor, who was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.

In all, this semester was full of challenges and setbacks, as well as break throughs, congratulations, and moments of genuine pride when reflecting on my work that I’ve never felt before in any other college class (save for my African-American Art History course with Bibiana Obler, which I would highly recommend to any GW student thinking of studying art history!). I’m super happy with my work and the memories I made with those who were working around me.