Borders and Boundaries

By Katter, Eldon | School Arts, January 1998 | Go to article overview

Borders and Boundaries


Katter, Eldon, School Arts


While on vacation last summer, we saw two highly entertaining art cinema films: Ulee's Gold and Mrs. Brown. In terms of character and setting, the two films had little in common. Set in present time, Ulee's Gold was about a beekeeper in central Florida. Mrs. Browm, set in nineteenth-century Scotland, focused on a time in the life of Queen Victoria. But in both films, the central characters were grieving the loss of a loved one, and lived, to some extent, in isolation of society. Both existed within self-imposed boundaries. Ulee's boundaries defined his personal space. Queen Victoria's self-imposed boundaries were the walls of Balmoral Castle.

For many years following the death of her husband Albert, Queen Victoria never left Balmoral. She learned second hand of the needs of her world empire. Except for occasional outings with commoner John Brown, she remained out of touch with the natural world and with the people she served. There were shots in Mrs. Brown of Queen Victoria peering out the castle window that reminded me of this month's Looking/Learning centerfold piece, Self-Imposed Boundaries.

In Richard Cleaver's sculpture, three faces are contained behind the facade of a 1905 Victorian school building. As the title, painted across the bottom of the piece, suggests, the boundaries are self-imposed. This bears an eerie resemblence to schools I have visited in the past, where virtual communities are created within the imposed boundaries of classroom walls. For security reasons, outside doors are locked and, in some schools, so are classroom doors. Behind the locked doors of the classroom, the children learn about the art world via art reproductions, videos, CD-ROMs, laser disks, and the Internet. Meanwhile, outside, within walking distance of the school lives a quiltmaker, a wood carver, an interior designer, and a landscaper. Inside, the children do sculptures of imaginary animals in the style of Northwest Coast totems, while squirrels, rabbits, and pigeons go unnoticed outside.

This issue is about striking a balance between the self-imposed boundaries of classroom walls and the undefined borders of a classroom without walls. …

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