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Conference Presentation

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war, visual arts, film, music, theatre, pedagogy, general education program, interdisciplinary, Dordt College


CORE 160: Introduction to the Arts is required as part of the core curriculum at Dordt College and is team taught every semester by four professors who each address a different art form: Music, Theatre, Film, and Visual Art. Semesters are divided in half, and students select two art forms for special attention. Additionally, all students meet in two mass sections in which the team of professors address topics spanning all the arts. These mass sections are an opportunity to demonstrate for students that interdisciplinary collaboration around a given topic often produces remarkable insight.

Last year, in recognition of the 10-year anniversary of the US led invasion of Iraq, our team of arts professors took up the topic of war. Acknowledging that most of our students had effectively come of age continually seeing images and hearing news connected to war in the Middle East, we asked if the arts could help them develop more nuanced perspectives and challenge accepted understandings.

Dedicating four mass sessions to this topic, we began with Jason Bullard’s quasi-religious prints of military heroes aside paintings by Steve Mumford, who traveled with the 4th Infantry Division in Tikrit. We then asked students what art works by Hanaa Malallah, Malina Suliman, and Wafaa Bilal could teach us about the cost of war from the perspective of those who try to live with the threat of violence. We continued this discussion of perspective by considering Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, a realistic video game which situates the player in a Middle Eastern conflict, and concluded with Jim Sheridan’s 2009 film Brothers.

My presentation summarizes these mass meetings of CORE 160 in 2013 (our collaborative process in planning them, topics covered, and student responses) as well as the class CORE 160 itself as a productive venue for interdisciplinary artistic research.


Paper presented at the "8th Verge Conference" held at the School of the Arts, Media + Culture on the campus of Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, Canada, September 25-26, 2014.