art by ShotHot Design
A study in flesh and mind
by Liz Argall
The model is privileged to work at the Albury-Wodonga Academy of Fine Arts and Neuroscience. Work permits are few and she needs to send half her ration to family up in the burning lands round Newcastle way. She has excellent references, but that doesn't count for much; the proof will be in her flesh, her stamina, her strength of will.
She removes her clothes in a dark change room. Someone has let a can of drink fall on its side and sticky Cack congeals on the bench--a waste of good, if foul tasting, nutrient. She removes her clothes, top half first: a soft crochet hat, elbow high fingerless gloves and three layers--soft hemp undershirt, polyurethane mid layer, thick wool shell. The whole lot pulled up and over her head in a single gesture, an easy, familiar motion. She folds them neatly and places them in her bag. She pulls off her shoes, lines them up on the scratched linoleum, then removes the bottom half: poly-leggings under button-fly goat leather, hemp underwear, wool socks, removed in a similar single gesture. Folds the pants in on themselves and places them in her bag. She stretches one arm, then the other, shakes her legs and thinks through possible poses and energy she will bring to the class. She lives to do her job well--she loves to see how artists develop and grow and make classes come to life with potentia.
The model opens a tall cupboard in the back corner of the change room; she grimaces as her hand touches congealed Cack on the handle. She climbs into the cupboard and closes the door with a soft click. She hears the machine rumble as it gears up for the sensor sweep, processors whirring. Eventually there is a small ding. Synchronization complete. The model steps out of the cupboard and, keeping her sticky hand away, pulls on a thin poly-cotton dressing gown. She checks herself in the mirror and opens the door to the awaiting class.
Studio Four is a fairly standard space, awkward fluoro lighting and a few spot lights suspended from the ceiling, a heat lamp beams down on the podium in the centre of the room. She shivers under the thin robe; she'll need that heater. About thirty students, young with a scattering of olders, prepare themselves at their easels. Some chatter with the familiar nervous bravura of first-year intakes trying to find their way. Some prepare their space, breathe deeply, meditate, and organize their materials. Each easel has cheap reusable neuprint, sticks of charcoal, and sand trays for warm-up sketches, and a basic Tablet/Stylus with a 5dial4slide array. A few ambitious students have full 256ControlBoards, but two-thirds of their array has been taped off to reduce their pallette back down to the 5&4. The model nods approvingly--too many choices just muddy the mindscape to start with; they have to learn technique first.
The model looks for a cloth to wipe the Cack off her hand and the bench, has just found the cleanup sink but no cloth when the Great Teacher arrives. He is a petite man, but his presence fills the room. He is the best, he makes the best. He is a new prestigious prize for the Academy with a reputation so glorious that applications have already doubled. The students spring to attention, each behind an easel, dominant hand closest to the board, body at a 45 degree angle, hips and shoulder towards the podium with open, upright posture. The students insert their neural interface earplugs, carefully coiling the cable over their shoulders. The cabling is more awkward than wireless but has superior resolution and response times.
She walks over to the Great Teacher, smiles warmly. "Hi I'm..."
"Yes, I can tell by the robe. Once I have inspected the class you are required to be on the podium. Make sure you are ready."
The Great Teacher circles the room, correcting posture with precise raps from a slender bamboo baton. His jagged eyebrows and superior lip draw fear, admiration, hatred, and a cult-like devotion from his class. A student bites her lip, watching his corrections with furtive glances, terrified she'll fail. Another smirks and wears her skirt up high. As the Great Teacher prowls the model washes her hands in the sink. The soft whoosh of water elicits an angry scowl and she turns off the tap abruptly, wipes her hand on the dressing gown.
When the inspection is done she drops her dressing gown onto the floor, stands on the podium and moves into her first pose. It's a challenging pose, arms uplifted away from her body while twisting her torso in a large sweep. It's high energy, works from all directions, and has interesting negative space, an excellent pose to warm up the class and get them drawing confidently.
"No, no... not that, dear, do this." The Great Teacher places his left hand on his hip in a fairly generic, if splayed, stance. The model observes the shape, intent, and through line, places herself into a similar pose, but with a more graceful composition and flow.
"No, like this." The teacher displays a rougher, more exaggerated pose, one knee bent awkwardly. "Ah," thinks the model, "an exercise in mundane grotesquerie, interesting." She observes the key points of the pose; it is important to understand the voice and intent of the teachers so that she can complement their teaching methods and curriculum. She refuses to be one of those models who simply rotate through a number of set pieces and never extend themselves. She has noticed how much more the students develop when working with a dynamic model who actively engages with the creative process.
"Try to observe closely," says the Great Teacher, not really looking at her fresh pose, tapping the baton in his palm and smirking at the short-skirted student. "It's like this."
The model observes his new stance, the way his right hand grasps his hip, the left held in the air. She mimics his pose exactly, although she keeps her face carefully blank and does not include his sneering expression.
The Great Teacher snorts in disgust, shakes his head and rolls his eyes. She swiftly finds a new pose, a mangled combination of the previous three, fighting down anger and a hint of panic. She has no idea what he wants and she will not survive at this school without his recommendation.