Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Art Box as a Frozen Tableau

Frozen Tableau is a strategy in which the learners create a scene and freeze the action, then discuss what is happening and their reactions to it. Photographs are selected from a particular historic moment. Photos that depict the emotional impact of an event on people will engage students best, especially if the pictures depict a range of emotions and attitudes (

The Art Box
is a Second Life art installation that provides a series of detailed photographic sets that recreate scenes in homage to famous works of art, in a virtual world setting. The Art Box is a place that fully recreates famous paintings and photographs in great 3D detail, so your Avatar can star in it. Everything is provided, from the detailed set to the props and clothes (if needed), and the poses.

The marriage of the Art Box and the Frozen Tableau learning strategy became obvious to me within minutes of exploring this Sim. This Second Life build permits a virtual participation in a Frozen Tableau. The advantages of participating virtually are (1) the obvious ability for learners to participate across geographical locations in real time, and (2) the virtual environment provides a rich 3D immersive environment that real life cannot afford (and can only be appreciated with an actual visit to the sim as the 2D images presented in this blog do not do it justice). For example, in the Apollo 11 installation, I got the opportunity to put on an Astronaut helmet, gloves, and boots while standing on a simulated moon and next to the Eagle Lunar Module - something students could not easily experienced in real life.

Learners working in small groups can approach the Art Box as a Frozen Tableau using a similar methodology that would be used in a "real life" classroom. Opportunities to be both participants in and observers of the immersive 3D installations have the potential for engagement in visceral, experiential and powerful learning experiences.

Generic questions that facilita
te a deeper engagement with and understanding of these 3D paintings/photographs include:
  • What's going on in this picture?
  • Who are the people in this picture? What emotions do you think they are feeling?
  • Choose one person in the photograph. What do you think he or she is thinking at this moment?
  • If you were showing this photograph to other people, what message would you want them to come away with about this event? (Frozen Tableau)
One of the observers takes the role of a reporter to interview the avatar(s) who is posing in the installation. The reporter can ask the character questions such as:
  • Who are you?
  • What is going on in this scene?
  • What are you feeling?
  • What brought you to this moment?
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • What do you want the viewing audience to know about this event?
    (Frozen Tableau)
Below I describe a half-a-dozen of The Art Box of the 3D photographic sets. As you can see in the images, I posed in each of the installations to engage in my own personal Frozen Tableau. I included ideas for their educational applications including links for additional information and resources.

Keith Haring: Untitled
This work by Keith Haring permits the avatar to select the color and pose from the five figures. Learners could then describe, while in their poses, the rationale for selecting that particular pose and color. Additional ones could be selected, comparing and contrasting the different thoughts and feelings experienced. An interesting variation would be to have a group pose with 2 or more avatars, each selecting their own color/pose and articulating how he/she feels in connection to and relationship with the other avatars. For more lesson ideas:

The Scream
The emotion expressed in the tableau is the essence to the power of this pose. To see my avatar expressing such fear evoked more emotion in me than I expected. Questions could be directed to connect learners to the possible source of this fear, its causation, and the relationship of the people and the colors used to evoke this fear. For more lesson ideas:

The Beatles & Abbey Road
The setting is Abbey Road, the cover picture of the Beatles' Abbey Road. The Art Box installation permits the learner to select which of the Beatles he or she wants to be. Obviously, the first point of discussion could focus on why a particular Beatle was selected. A possible extension of this activity is for the learners to get in groups of 2 to 4 to learn the lyrics of one of the Beatles' songs, come back to the installation, take their Beatles' places, and sing the song. A follow-up to this activity is the John Lennon Lesson Plan.

Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollok's installation is a more interactive installation than the others at The Art Box. Taking the pose of Jackson Pollock gives the avatar the opportunity to create his or her own Jackson Pollock masterpiece with a choice of "splatters" and colors. The observers/reporters can then interview the Jackson avatar clone about the artistic process, and his/her description of and name for this new artistic creation. For more lesson plan ideas:

Lunchtime Atop A Skyscraper
This is an almost perfect application of the Frozen Tableau. I would have preferred a few more avatar seats atop the skyscrapter. This setting naturally lends itself to being interviewed by a "reporter" using the questions posted at the beginning of this Blog.I found this photograph powerful in so many ways yet couldn't find any lesson plans about it. For more information about the photograph:

Apollo 11 Moon Landing
Upon entering this installation, I naturally started citing, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Learners could easily expound upon and explain this passage while standing on the moon. Co-learners from "mission control" can interview the astronaut about the sites, sounds, thoughts, and feelings experiences. Another learner(s) could put on the spacesuit and have a group on the moon comparing and contrasting being along on the moon versus having companionship there. An extension of this activity could be a field trip to the Apollo 11 Tranquility Based Simulation (see video below). Related resources:


  1. Hi
    I would like to have seen some proper credits / acknowledgements in this piece, so let me make those corrections here.

    Art Box is jointly created and curated by:
    * Frankie Rockett
    * Violet Sweetwater



    Please note:
    Special conditions apply to any academic groups visiting Art Box. Please contact the curators in advance for details.

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