Week 5 - CONNECTING WITH OUR HANDS
Friday 16 August, 2019
We are making great progress with our sessions. This week was our second week in the ceramics studio. We focused on trying to bring our concept further in, by introducing the concept of 'many hands' as a way for our participants to contribute something personal in the project.
We've now established the weekly habit of reflecting on where we've come from, and where we're going. So building on our discussion last week of the Manningham art collection, we moved towards discussions on contemporary artists who have used multiple, repeated components in their work, to speak about the relationship between the individual and the collective identity. We looked at many examples including the work of Do Ho Suh, Anthony Gormley and my dear friend Tintin Wulia, to discuss how these various artists had considered how individual components make up a collective identity or message. So the group started playing with photographs of hands, so they could get a sense of how hands may create an expanded meaning. They explored many ideas relating to food, home and the environment.
We also discussed our need to start narrowing our conceptual focus, so Jessica, created a 'dotmocracy' chart with possible themes and metaphors they represented. The participant families voted on which ideas they related to the most. The two most popular ideas were related to their love of food and the world map, relating to their broadened vision of their place in the world. By having this conversation, we have all gone away thinking about the concept further, brainstorming how we can make this work as the basis for an exhibition. I have faith it will all work out, it is a matter of simplifying and making the concept visually clear and resolved. The process has been filled with a slight anxiety, as there is a desire to rush and choose a concept, but I have been patiently trying to wait for the right answers and concepts to emerge from our conversations. I believe they are beginning to, and we just need to build depth into the themes that present themselves, this will ensure, they feel a sense of ownership of the concept.
After our discussion, we began the process of casting each of the participants hands in plaster bandage. This was a fun activity, as most of them had never had this experience before. They enjoyed the sensation of the plaster warming and setting on their arms. They were surprised to see all the fine lines of their hands replicated in the casts. I was pleased to see the joy on their faces as they experienced the unusual session, they were pleasantly surprised by the results. Quite a few of the children commented they had never thought of something so common as their hand as something special and worthy of attention. I think this is the magic of making art, that special concentration on an individual item or moment, which can transform an everyday experience into a meaningful one. How amazing it has been for me to witness these families have that experience. It puts a smile on my face and reminds me of why I enjoy working with various urban communities.
Week 6 - FOCUSING ON THEMES & CONTINUING TO BUILD
Friday 23 August, 2019
Following on from last week's discussion of themes, I took away these discussions and began brainstorming various interpretations of possible approaches to our exhibition. The theme of food, comfort and home led to considering the dining room scenario as a way for representing the idea of bringing people together. I began thinking about how a table with a place setting for our 22 participants could indicate setting a place for each of them, a metaphor for creating a place for each individual, which is valued. This reminded me of Judy Chicago's famed Dinner Party, where women in history were recognised by the artist. This was discussed with the group and they agreed with the concept for the project, adding their input about what they liked about the ideas. A world map also resonated well with them, as they see themselves as part of a global community, so I am thinking about how we can build this theme in to the creative outcome as well.
Following our review and discussion of ideas, we continued working with our hand casts, by pressing the hands with paper clay. Paper clay was chosen because it is resilient and handle being worked by less experienced artists with clay, I felt it would accomodate for all skill levels. The group was very engaged with this activity and had a great time working with the materiality of the clay, which continued to have a calming impact on the group, they were in deep concentration during this activity and fascinated with the outcomes. Karen and Camila were so inspired they began to make the food they love that reminds them of home, which showed the concepts developed were aligning well with their own interests. This made me realise that by engaging them with the ideas progression has assisted with all of us taking ownership of the conceptual development as a collaborative team.
Week 7 - FIRST FIRING & BUILDING OUR INDIVIDUAL BOWLS
Friday 30 August, 2019
I started this week by looking for moulds suitable for the participants to make their own individual bowls. I am finding that week to week refinement of our plans occur, as we are constantly working through and adjusting our approaches. It does require quick problem solving to be ready for each week. I feel that from my continued practice as a socially engaged artist, the need for quick and flexible problem solving is needed.
Our first set of hands were already speedily fired by Jenny this week. I was amazed at how fast she was able to do this. The buff paper clay fired to a very warm and beautiful natural colour, so everybody was very please with how the hands look, together they created a powerful image. I spend the morning in the studio producing more hands, as I anticipate that we will need more, so I am starting early.
Before our session today, Jessica, Sofi and I sat down and planned out the gallery space. Sofi is leaving for Iran next week for 6 weeks, so we wanted a clearer plan of how we will proceed with the exhibition. We gained a sense of how we will make the gallery work, thinking about scale, location and developing a plan of positioning. We considered what would create a situation where the participants would be the centre of the project ie. projecting the interviews on the central wall when of the first gallery.
During the session, we focused on rolling out slabs to create our bowls and also casting our second hands. I have usually been one of the key speakers during the sessions, but I wanted Yuso to give the demonstration this time, so she could play a role in instructing the group and also to mix up the voices. It really is fantastic to have two ceramics teachers in the classroom to support the functioning of the studio and so great to see how the manage, support and lead the group. I feel all the participants are feeling comfortable in the studio, there was deep concentration for the tasks at hand. We've already received feedback from another urban planning department at Manningham, who are very interested in our processes and how they could learn from our approach in consulting community in relation to a local public park, which is great news in relation to project impact. Only three sessions left to go!