Art teacher Elizabeth Basskin has only been at UTS since January, but she has already brought a unique perspective to the school—while continuing to be part of the art world beyond it.
In March, Elizabeth led a workshop for students at her alma mater, Ryerson University. The session focused on 360 video, with participants using improvisational games to create stories that were filmed from multiple vantage points to create 360-degree videos.
According to Elizabeth, her teaching experience at UTS—not to mention the assistance of her colleagues—helped to shape the workshop.
“Teaching here very much influenced what I did with the university students, just in terms of breaking down the activities and making the learning more participatory and student-centred,” she says. “I had our drama teachers give me a whole bunch of circular drama games. We put the camera inside the circle and created a narrative through the use of these improv games.
“The idea is that this would teach the students how to create narrative through actions.”
Elizabeth’s interest and expertise in virtual reality (VR) and 360 video technology grew out of her graduate and post-graduate work at Ryerson, where among other things, she developed a card game to teach youth about digital and social media literacy.
“It’s kind of a new storytelling platform, because you cannot create narrative in the same way you can in more linear media.
“As an artist, it’s very exciting, because we’re in the same stage right now that filmmakers were in 100 years ago.”
Elizabeth (centre) leads improvisational games at a Ryerson workshop.
Elizabeth aims to use technology to transform the way stories can be told. “I’m interested in people using VR to communicate stories not just with the headset but outside of the headset, and bringing people together to tell those stories so that the creation of them can be a social act.”
Elizabeth will unveil another example of social storytelling at the Campbell House Museum on June 10. At an event dubbed “Dance the Upper Room,” she’ll bring participants, dressed in era-appropriate clothing, together to learn an 18th and 19th-century dance called the quadrille. The process will be filmed and turned into a 360-degree video and subsequently be shown online.
“We’re creating a virtual time capsule,” Elizabeth says.
Her activity outside the classroom feeds back into Elizabeth’s approach to her F2 art class at UTS. Her goal is to help students create a virtual gallery of their work, which can be “toured” using VR technology. “As a group, we can create a virtual experience of being in a gallery, where we have students with various pieces of artwork that they choose and have them direct the action on the video.”
Balancing teaching duties and artistic exploration keeps Elizabeth busy, but as she puts it, both of her roles benefit from her participation in the other.
“I think it’s important to keep working on your own creative pursuits, because if you’re constantly engaged in new things, you can bring it back to the classroom and your teaching becomes more relevant.
“Of course you need to know the basics and the classical elements of art, but it’s also important to be part of what’s happening in the art world.”