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Experiencing Sculpture

Grades K–12

Table of Contents

Important Note for Educators
Activity for Grades 8–12, Featuring Mona Hatoum’s + and -, 1994–2004
Activity for Grades 3–8 (Can be Adopted for K–2 and 9–12), Featuring Jennifer Steinkamp’s Untitled, 1993
Activity for Grades K–4, Featuring Erwin Wurm’s Jakob/Big Psycho VII, 2010


  • Become familiar with three sculptures by Mona Hatoum, Jennifer Steinkamp, and Erwin Wurm
  • Observe and respond to sculpture through the use of discussion, writing, and artmaking

This lesson is organized in three parts, one for each sculpture. Each part has background information, a guide for discussion, and optional art activities. 

Important Note for Educators

These sculptures are experiential and cannot fully be understood from reproductions. Part of learning to experience a sculpture is to understand that it is necessary to view it from all possible viewpoints, as it is a three-dimensional object. Before using the guides or doing the activities, please visit the Gallery with your students and view the sculptures in person. All three of these works are on view through January 6, 2013, in the special exhibition DECADE: Contemporary Collecting 2002–2012. When you schedule your visit, please ask the Tour Coordinator to make sure these works are included in your tour.

Activity for Grades 8–12

Featuring Mona Hatoum’s + and -, 1994–2004

© 2004 Mona Hatoum
Featured Work

Mona Hatoum
(British of Palestinian origin, born Lebanon, 1952)
+ and -, 1994–2004
Steel, aluminum, sand, and electric motor
10 5/8 inches (27 cm) high, 157 1/2 inches (399.4 cm) diameter
Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery
General Purchase Funds, 2007
Background Information for Educators 


  • Become familiar with the artist Mona Hatoum and her sculpture + and -
  • Create a collaborative work of art in sand inspired by Mona Hatoum’s + and -



Visit the Gallery and view Mona Hatoum’s sculpture + and -. Start a discussion using these questions:

  • What is the main shape of this work of art? What does a circle remind you of? Where do you see circles in everyday life? What can this shape symbolize or for what might it be a symbol or metaphor?
  • What materials are used in this work of art? What does sand remind you of? Does watching the work bring any specific memories to mind?
  • Listen to (or can you remember) the sound the work creates. What type of sound is it? Does it remind you of anything?
  • What happens as the artwork moves? Can you describe the movement? What changes about the sand as you watch? What does the change make you think about?
  • Mona Hatoum has said, “I want the work . . . , through the physical experience, to activate a psychological and emotional response.” Did she succeed? 


  • Have your students create their own sand drawing in the sand container. (Each drawing will be digitally recorded and then erased at the end of the day by smoothing or raking). The shape of the sand box container will be the inspiration for their drawing. (It is up to you if you want to use a circular container or another shape.)
  • Have your students decide the answers to the following questions:
    • What is the best location for the sand container?
    • With what materials shall we draw?
    • How much time should we give each artist to create his or her drawing?
    • Who will record the drawing digitally? Will the recording be through photograph or video? Once compiled, how will the final edit be displayed?
    • Who will erase the drawing at the end of each day—the artist who drew the drawing, the next artist on the list, or the teacher?
  • Have your students make their drawings according to the schedule you established in the previous step. Once each student has had the opportunity to do his or her drawing, compile the photographic or video documentation of the drawings into one file and display.


  • Watch the final edit of the documentation of the works with the class. Ask the students to reflect on this process:
  • What did you think about creating a work of art that was not permanent?
  • Did you like working with sand? Why or why not? Did you feel that your work was successful? 
  • Did you have a meaning in mind behind your work? What was it? Do other students get the same meaning from your work?
  • If you were to create another work of art with sand, what would you do differently? How would you exhibit your work?

New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum

  • New York State Learning Standards for the Arts (Visual Arts, including the museum visit) 1, 2, 3, 4
  • New York State Learning Standards for Social Studies 2, 5
  • New York State Learning Standards for Technology 5
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening 1, 2

Activity for Grades 3–8 (Can be Adapted for K–2 and 9–12)

Featuring Jennifer Steinkamp’s Untitled, 1993

© 1993 Jennifer Steinkamp
Featured Work

Jennifer Steinkamp
(American, born 1958)
Untitled, 1993
Computer video installation
Dimensions variable
Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Mildred Bork Conners & Joseph E. Conners, Albert H. Tracy, Edmund Hayes, Mrs. John T. Elfvin, Charlotte A. Watson and Gallery Volunteers in honor of Robert T. Buck Funds, 2005 


  • Become familiar with the artist Jennifer Steinkamp and her video work Untitled, 1993
  • Create a connection with Untitled, 1993, through art, movement, and technology


  • DECADE: Experiencing Contemporary Sculpture Presentation
  • Various art supplies: yarn, string, cardboard, paint, and paint supplies
  • Video editing software, video projections, and use of a computer lab, OR a parachute (perhaps borrowed from your school’s physical education department)

Background Information for Educators

Jennifer Steinkamp’s works are in numerous public and private collections, both nationally and internationally. Steinkamp employs computer animation and new media to create projection installations exploring ideas about architectural space, motion, and perception. Her digitally animated works make use of the interplay between actual space and illusionistic space, creating environments in which the roles of the viewer and the art objects become blurred. Steinkamp currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. 


  • Visit the Gallery and view Jennifer Steinkamp’s work with your students. The video projectors attached to the ceiling project colorful organic shapes that move, so when a viewer steps underneath them, the video image falls on the viewer as well as the floor. This is done purposely so the viewers feel as if they are a part of the work. Make sure your students experience this when they are viewing the work.
  • Ask your students:
    • What colors do you see? Where in real life do you see these colors?
    • Which way would you prefer the work to be: all one color or many different colors? Why?
    • Why might the artist choose to project the video onto the floor? Where would you project it: the wall, the ceiling, outside? How would that change the work?
    • Does the work of art remind you of anything? (Many see this as a watery image, like a river of light, but that is not necessarily what your students will think).


Artmaking Connection
Brainstorm with your students a few ways they can alter a space in the room using creative materials. Some ideas are installing yarn or string, a painted mural, a maze constructed out of cardboard, or video projections. This can be just a brainstorming activity or continued into an actual construction within your classroom space.

Physical Education Connection
Use a parachute to alter the space. Each student should hold on to the parachute at the edges, with the thumb underneath and the fingers on top.

Making Waves
Have students:

  1. Move only their wrists up and down to make small waves
  2. Move their forearms (up to their elbows) to make larger waves
  3. Move their entire arms (from the shoulder) up and down to make the largest waves

Under the Mountain
Have students:

  1. Lift the parachute to its peak (the highest they can lift it)
  2. Put the parachute behind them and sit on the edges of the parachute until the parachute falls to the floor

Technology Connection
Using video editing software, with Steinkamp’s work as inspiration, have students combine some aspect of the following three elements in a short video: light, space and movement. 

Free video editing is software available online:
Windows MovieMaker (PC)
iMovie (Apple)

If technology is available, use a projector to project the videos in different areas of the school to create a space-altering work of art. 

New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum

  • New York State Learning Standards for the Arts (Visual Arts, including the museum visit) 1, 2, 3, 4
  • New York State Learning Standards for Technology 5
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening 1, 2
  • Health, Physical Education, Family, and Consumer Services Standard 1

Activity for Grades K–4

Featuring Erwin Wurm’s Jakob/Big Psycho VII, 2010

© 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VBK, Vienna
Featured Work

Erwin Wurm
(Austrian, born 1954)
Jakob/Big Psycho VII, 2010
Aluminum and paint, edition 5/6
47 1/4 x 15 3/8 x 42 1/8 inches (120 x 39 x 107 cm)
Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Sherman S. Jewett Fund, by exchange, Gift of Baroness Alphonse de Rothschild, by exchange and Gift of Mrs. Seymour H. Knox, Sr., by exchange, 2011 


  • Become familiar with the artist Erwin Wurm and his sculpture Jakob/Big Psycho VII
  • Create a connection with the work Jakob/Big Psycho VII through art, movement, and discussion


Background Information for Educators

Erwin Wurm’s sculptural works consist of varied media—verbal or written instructions, trivial objects, the viewer/user, photography, and video. Since the late 1980s, Wurm has developed an ongoing series of “One Minute Sculptures” in which he poses himself or his models in unexpected relationships with everyday objects. In other words, Wurm invites his audience to participate in the creation of temporary sculptures by using their bodies to interact with a variety of common objects according to his instructional drawings. The sculptures are fleeting, spontaneous, and temporary. Through his use of “super-sized” houses, automobiles, police helmets, and a variety of other larger-than-life objects, and with his depictions of people participating in less-than-couth activities (spitting in soup or picking their noses), Wurm offers a comical and satirical commentary on our time.

The Gallery’s freestanding sculpture, Jakob/Big Psycho VII, is about four feet tall. The sculpture depicts an average-sized person bent over and seemingly stuck in an oversized light blue sweater. The figure’s feet and fingertips, as well as parts of its back and chest, stick out of the sweater and are painted metallic silver. The rest of the figure is obscured by the sweater. The figure’s feet are sticking out of one of the sweater’s sleeves and its fingers are poking out through the opposite sleeve. The sweater’s neck hole and bottom are visible on the torso of the body, but you really have to move around the sculpture to find them. When questioned how the idea for this pose came to him, Wurm answered, “I asked a person to take a sweater and put it on as I told him. These forms came out and then we cast it. It transformed very easily into something else. . . . I made a series about this aspect with clothes because it’s about hiding—you see a human being but you don’t see the face, so it’s not related to any person or personality.”


  • Visit the Gallery and view Erwin Wurm’s sculpture with your students. Begin by asking questions to figure out what is going on in this sculpture:
    • Look closely at this sculpture. What can you identify?
    • Can you find the feet? Can you find the fingers? What color is the person?
    • What article of clothing is on this person? What color is that article of clothing?
    • What is funny or unusual about how this person is wearing the clothing (sweater, sweatshirt)? Has this ever happened to you (getting stuck while trying to put on an item of clothing)?
    • Put yourself in Jakob’s place—how you think he feels?    
    • Why do you think the artist chose these colors for the sculpture?


Physical Education/Dance Connection
Have the students perform movement exercises mimicking situations like Wurm’s sculpture. Ask the students to brainstorm actions, using “getting dressed” as a starting point. If available, give each student an oversized sweatshirt to mimic Jakob/Big Psycho VII. Have students try on the clothing in as many strange ways as possible. Every twenty seconds, ask them to “freeze.” 

Artmaking Activity
Perform the above activity and take a photo of each student after the “freeze.” Print the photos and give each student his or her own photo. Have the students make a drawing, using the photograph as inspiration, or create a sculpture using available material (clay, papier-mâché, etc.).

New York State Learning Standards and Core Curriculum

  • New York State Learning Standards for the Arts (Visual Arts, including the museum visit) 1, 2, 3, 4
  • College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening 1, 2
  • Health, Physical Education, Family, and Consumer Services Standard 1



  • Mona Hatoum's + and -: Audio for Younger Students

  • Mona Hatoum's + and -: Audio for High School Students

  • Mona Hatoum's + and -: Audio Description

  • Jennifer Steinkamp's Untitled, 1993: Audio for Younger Students

  • Jennifer Steinkamp's Untitled, 1993: Audio for High School Students

  • Jennifer Steinkamp's Untitled, 1993: Audio Description

  • Erwin Wurm's Jakob/Big Psycho VII: Audio for Younger Students

  • Erwin Wurm's Jakob/Big Psycho VII: Audio for High School Students

  • Erwin Wurm's Jakob/Big Psycho VII: Audio Description