Digital Creatives: Keith Haring’s Digital Dance Club

Levels 5-12

NGV Digital Creatives supports the integration of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) with the visual arts and provides an authentic context for developing problem solving, critical and creative thinking skills.

A new coding activity is developed alongside each major exhibition. Schools are invited to visit the NGV for an educator facilitated exhibition viewing and Digital Creatives workshop or follow the activity in the classroom using this resource.

The activity uses Scratch – a program which teaches the foundations of coding. Students apply mathematical and computational thinking to get creative with coding and make 21st century art.

Learning Objectives

  • explore key programming concepts including sequencing, repetition, variables and if/else statements
  • build a simple program using blocks of code with Scratch
  • create an animated sequence inspired by Keith Haring’s work

Supported by Telstra

Teachers Notes

  • About Keith Haring

    Keith Haring (1958-1990) was an American artist based in New York through the 1980s. He developed a bold and energetic style which he used to communicate positive social, political and personal messages. Immediately recognisable for its vibrant vocabulary of symbols and icons, Haring’s work appealed to audiences all over the world. Spaceships, dogs, crawling babies and dancing figures populate his visual world as recurring motifs.

    As a child in Pittsburgh, Haring loved to draw and dreamt of one day becoming a cartoonist. Arriving into the thriving New York art scene in the 1980s, he was inspired by graffiti and the idea that art could become part of the city landscape and be accessed by everyone. Using white chalk he began drawing on the black matt paper which covered New York City subway’s blank advertising spaces. Haring’s animated figures, created using continuous line, soon became familiar to thousands of everyday commuters.

    Signs and symbols from different cultures and times fascinated Haring. He loved to explore ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman art, taking inspiration from ancient vases and hieroglyphics when creating his own visual alphabet. Aspiring to communicate with the largest possible audience, Haring studied semiotics, the language of signs, at the New York School of Visual arts and applied what he learnt to his art.

    As he gained recognition, Haring’s practice continued to expand using symbols to communicate increasingly complex messages with a positive perspective. His work celebrated his community values and love of music, and commented on social and political issues such as racism and drug abuse. His body of work includes thousands of paintings, drawings, sculptures and larger scale public murals.

    Learn more about Keith Harings’s life and projects, visit the Keith Haring Foundation website

  • About the symbols in Keith Haring's Digital Dance Club

    UFO

    Humans first walked on the moon when Haring was 11, capturing the world’s imagination and bringing science fiction into the public consciousness. The UFO is one of Haring’s earliest pictograms, often used to symbolise space and space travel. It also sometimes denotes ‘otherness’ and groups which exist at the margins of society. Haring believed that outsiders held a unique strength, symbolised here by the beams radiating from the UFO.

    Dancing dog

    Dogs were one of Haring Haring’s favourite childhood subjects while he learned to draw with his father. Appearing in different forms and positions throughout his work, dogs are one of Haring’s most recognisable motifs. The barking dog is generally used to show fear, but sometimes it appears to be playfully dancing.

    Dancing Figures

    Keith Haring loved hip-hop and breakdancing, which were emerging as a new cultural movement during the 1980s in New York. The influence of music and movement on Haring’s art can be seen in his figures, who look as if they are celebrating and dancing together. The world encased in a heart creates a sense of unity, expressing Haring’s belief in community and global fellowship.

  • Workshop instructions

    In Keith Haring’s drawings nothing stands still. Humans, dogs, aliens and angels radiate, pulse, wiggle and dance through space.

    In this workshop, we will animate Haring’s characters using Scratch, a simple coding language that lets us build programs using blocks of code. We will add our own figures, backdrop and sounds, putting them all together to make a digital dance party.


    Step 1

    Open the Digital Dance Club project in Scratch

    Click on the green flag to start the program. Watch the dancing dog figure dance and change colour.


    Step 2

    Let’s have a look inside the program to see how it works.

    On the code script tab, you’ll see a block of code that look like this:

    This code gives the program instructions of what to do once the green flag has been clicked.

    The forever block tells the program to keep following the instructions contained within it forever – while the program is running.

    The instructions inside the forever blocks tell the program to go to the next costume, change the colour and wait 0.2 seconds.

    Costumes

    The dancing dog figure (sprite) is animated by changing costumes. Each costume is the dancing dog figure in a different pose.

    Click on the costumes tab.

    Let’s have a look at (figure-a), the dancing dog sprite.

    Notice the figure-a (the dancing dog sprite)’s different costumes – called Frame-1; Frame-2; Frame-3; Frame-4; Frame-5.

    By moving quickly between the different costumes (frames), the figure looks like it is dancing.

    Other sprites

    Notice the other sprites below the stage: figure-b, figure-c, figure-d, figure-e.

    The same code is also attached to the other sprites. If you click on their Costumes tab, you’ll see that they have different costumes, too.


    Step 3: Add more party characters

    Add more figures to the stage by selecting and dragging them to the stage area.

    Make sure the show button is selected to make the figure visible.

    Make a duplicate of a character by right-clicking on the sprite and selecting duplicate.

    Return to the code tab and copy the original code block:

    Making sure your new duplicate sprite is selected, paste the code block above onto the code area.

    When you press the green flag, both of the figures should start to dance!


    Step 4: Create more characters

    To add some different characters, hover your cursor over the sprite icon under the stage.

    Click on the paintbrush icon that appears and use the tools to draw your own character.

    You will need to make some different costumes for your character in order to make it move.

    Right-click on the sprite in the costume menu to duplicate it and change the duplicate however you like.

    Repeat until you have enough costumes to make your figure move.

    Don’t forget to copy the code onto your new sprite.

    You can also add a sprite from the Scratch menu by clicking on choose a Sprite.

    If you hover your cursor over the selections, you’ll notice some of the sprites are animated already.

    Choose a sprite and drag your new sprite to the stage.

    Add or create as many figures as you like, remember to add the code block above to each sprite.

    Step 5: Add a backdrop

    Let’s add a backdrop to our animation.

    Click on the backdrops button under the stage to choose from the selection of backdrops.

     

    To create your own backdrop, hover your cursor over the backdrops button and click the paintbrush icon that appears. You might choose to create a room, landscape or scene – or you could use a flat colour and use your figures to create a dynamic pattern over the surface of the page.

    You can program the backdrop to change just like costume changes by adding code.

     


    Step 5: Add sound

    You might prefer a silent disco, but you can also add sounds.

    Go to the sounds tab and click the choose a sound button.

    You can either select a sound from the menu or record your own. You might like to try the sound loops.

    Make sure the backdrop tab is selected.

    Copy and paste the sound into the code area (the same area as the backdrop code above).

    Add a pink sound code block to your background code to get your sounds to play.

    If you want it to repeat, you will need to add a repeat block.

    Your digital dance party is now ready to rock and roll. Press the green flag to get the party started!