Activity: Explore Diane Severin Nguyen’s Tyrant Star

  • Grades: All Ages
  • Subjects: Art Activities

We have a series of fun, family-friendly activities inspired by Diane Severin Nguyen’s Tyrant Star for you! Start by watching the video, and then follow along with these three activities to create your own artworks inspired by Tyrant Star.

Activity #1: Sound On

For many artists, art is more than a visual experience. Part of Diane Severin Nguyen’s artistic process is collecting sounds.

A reflection of a person looking into a mirror, their face partly obscured by a colorful smear on the glass
Diane Severin Nguyen, Tyrant Star (film still), 2019, Carnegie Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. James H. Rich Fund © Diane Severin Nguyen

Listen Closely

  1. Find a friend or family member and listen to the first few minutes of Tyrant Star. Make a list of all the sounds you hear.
  2. Repeat the first few minutes of the video and listen for sounds that you may have missed the first time.
  3. Add an adjective to the sounds you wrote down. For example: Cheerful chirping.
  4. Your turn! Spend some time listening in different spaces: in nature, your neighborhood, the kitchen, anywhere you like! Close your eyes to make your hearing senses more intense.
  5. Record the sounds you hear on a device and play them for a friend or family member. Ask them what they hear in your recording. What do they visualize with your sounds?

Activity #2: Barely Moving Image

Diane Severin Nguyen is making a transition to video art from photography to capture the nuances of a moving image.

Close up of bright stars suspended in gelatin and lit from behind
Diane Severin Nguyen, Tyrant Star (film still), 2019, Carnegie Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. James H. Rich Fund © Diane Severin Nguyen

Look Closely

  1. Spend a few minutes carefully observing the visual vignettes in Tyrant Star. Look closely for barely moving images, almost like photographs. What subtle movements do you notice?
  2. Rewatch the video and discover something that you have missed your first go around.
  3. Your turn! Spend 10 minutes inside or outside paying extra attention to what you see. Loo for slight movements. What might be causing the slight movement you observe? To heighten your visual experience, try covering your ears.
  4. Videotape your favorite findings.
  5. Try to take a video of yourself. Be as still as possible for 10 seconds. What slight movements occurred with you or the background? Were they purposeful or accidental?

Activity #3: An Old Song

An important part of an artist’s process is thinking and responding to the world around them.  Diane Severin Nguyen also explores what the world was like for previous generations with images, text, and music.

A profile portrait of a person wearing large, bright headphones and standing in front of gauzy curtains with light seeping through
Diane Severin Nguyen, Tyrant Star (film still), 2019, Carnegie Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. James H. Rich Fund © Diane Severin Nguyen

Record Memories

  1. Consider the experience of someone older than you. Ask them about news stories that they vividly remember and ask them to tell you about one of their favorite songs from that moment in time.
  2. Find a cozy spot and have a conversation about their answers. Why was the news story important to them? How did it affect people living during that time? How did the song make them feel during that time?  
  3. Write down the song lyrics and record yourself or each other singing the lyrics of the song.
  4. Reflect on your cover of the song. Do the lyrics have a connection to the time the song came from? Did the meaning shift when listening to or performing it during this present time? Why or why not?