Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Loiterers Welcome at Harvard

by Elizabeth Ryan 


Tags: Spirituality, loitering, Harvard University, college, students, Art Lies, Elizabeth Ryan,

loiteringLoitering usually has a negative connotation as an act that authority figures frown upon. But at Harvard University students can sign up to loiter—in fact, there’s an entire class dedicated to it that we can all learn from.

In Art Lies, Carlin Wing explores the value in learning to loiter through professor Stephen Prina’s course in which students are given a number of tasks requiring them to break out of their usual patterns and explore new things—and then share their observations with classmates. “The assignments all involve a certain sort of destructuring of what an assignment can and should be,” Wing writes. “Meanwhile the acts of collecting evidence to present and produce conversation in class help assign serious value to wandering walks and the errant perusal of music and magazines.” Activities vary from listening to a new album you would pass over normally to visiting a new place and collecting evidence on the way there. Anything you wouldn’t gravitate toward on your own. Wing makes some big-picture observations about what results:

What is compelling about this class is less what happens in it and more how it stays with you once it is over. It follows at your heels when you head off to other climes. It bubbles up on street corners in Nashville or freeways in Los Angeles. Instead of defining itself as a space where art is produced, it defines every moment of your daily activity as one of potential research or production. That is the genius in it. It can potentially come off as a fucking around sort of class lacking definition and discipline. But while you are casually browsing the magazine rack and deciding to pick up a copy of antique cars for your assignment to read a periodical that you would not otherwise pay attention to, you are actually changing the way you are going to approach magazine racks and credit card receipts and layovers in the Chicago airport for the rest of your life.

Source: Art Lies (article not yet available online)

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