In my experience as a child from a middle class white family with a psychologist as a father, assessment testing was a game for me. I was my dad’s guinea pig, solving WISC puzzles and word problems as his students gathered around to watch. It was a kind of performance, really.
This semester, I have been reading about children for whom assessment testing is not a game. For children with serious problems in the home, or with their own emotional or developmental tests assessment tests can be scary and have life-altering implications.
Leave me alone, I’m busy began as an idea about what would happen if a child, left alone with a WISC kit, would do with its contents; something maybe I always wanted to do. I think it’s funny that, in the end, it looks a bit like a horse-and-cart making a break for it.
Inspired by the Dada and Surrealist art movements of the early 20th Century, I designed a workshop this semester to educate educators about the importance of cultivating creativity in the classroom. In short, children need outlets for self-expression and processing academic anxiety and teachers must be revolutionary thinkers and advocate for playtime and a progressive curriculum.
One night, in the midst of this project, I had a dream: a waitress in a diner handed me a menu (in a tri-fold plastic cover; the kind with the fabric binding and little gold tabs around the edge). When I opened the menu, it was full of multiple choice questions, charts, and diagrams. The waitress could see that I was baffled so she told me to just draw a picture of what I wanted to eat and she would show it to the “doctor.” I told her I wasn’t an artist and she said “Yes, you are, dear.”
Menu is obviously not an exact replica of the diner menu from my dream. It is a play on a menu, using a tri-fold examination shield from one of the WISC kits as the main form. The fabric binding I used was intended to imitate the tacky menu embellishments of a diner menu, while also suggesting something like academic graduation memorabilia—a high school diploma in a slightly padded, faux-leather, faux-gold-embossed portfolio.
Psychology, philosophy, dream work, and politics were all major influences on the Dada “anti-art” movement and the equally provocative Surrealist artists. The playful transformation of found objects combined with the rebellious spirit of this piece is an homage to that era.