Friday, 27 April 2012

An event with the University of Nottingham and Lakeside Arts Centre.

By Kate Edwards , Development Officer

It was a pleasure to welcome a number of VIP guests to celebrate the Small Collections Room at Nottingham Contemporary. This is the first time an event has been held to highlight this corner of the gallery and take a closer look at what can be found within.

The artist Pablo Bronstein was commissioned to  create a 21st Century take on a Renaissance cabinet of curiosity or wunderkammer  (literally ‘rooms of wonder’). The Small Collections Room has been running an exciting programme of mini exhibitions since the gallery opening in November 2009.
The room houses four ornate 17th & 19th century cabinets with numerous small drawers and compartments housing the work of artists, writers and cultural commentators. Visitors are encouraged to explore the cabinets, opening the drawers to discover the objects inside.
Kashif Nadim Chaudry, Confessions of a Magpie. Photo: Philip Jackson
This event was organised to highlight the work of Kashif Nadim Chaudry who filled two of the four cabinets with an exhibition entitled Confessions of a Magpie in reference to a collection of beautiful objects.  Nadim studied Textiles at Goldsmiths College, London and has a rich family history in tailoring.  He compares the work to dioramas, small pictures, each one telling a story within its own drawer. 
Jim Waters, Nottingham Contemporary; Michelle Bowen, Primary; Kashif Nadim Chaudry, Artist

Nadim is currently artist in residence at Lakeside Arts Centre and has also worked at Nottingham Contemporary as a valued Gallery Assistant since the opening in 2009.  This set of circumstances provided the perfect opportunity to highlight the ongoing relationship between the two venues.  A key factor of this is valued support the University has provided to Nottingham Contemporary’s public programme.

Nadim said “It's been a real pleasure exhibiting in the Small Collections Room especially because as a gallery assistant, you get to see the joy and pleasure on visitors faces as they discover the draws and what is going on inside. Last night’s event was also very special and in many ways it reflected the Small Collections in its informality and intimacy.”
Our Director Alex Farquharson welcomes the guests
It was a pleasure to welcome Richard Flisher from CPMG Architects , our newest Business Benefactor  and to meet Daniel Hanson in person following enjoyable conversations by phone and email regarding special Business Benefactor events. Our Director Alex Farquharson and the Visual Arts Officer at Lakeside Arts Centre, Neil Walker welcomed the group and invited guests to enjoy a glass of wine and canapes with the chance to explore the drawers of the cabinets.  The event had an enjoyable intimate feel; those who attended included individuals from the University, Primary and Nottingham Contemporary who came together in a relaxed and sociable atmosphere.
This event and exhibition acted as a taster to the stunning and dramatic exhibition of new work which has been produced  during his residency titled Memes . The exhibition opens on  Wednesday 11 July at the Djanogly Art Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre. 

Thursday, 19 April 2012

By the way

By Isobel Whitelegg, Curator of Public Programmes

"Can I ask why a Gillray exhibition is happening at Nottingham Contemporary? Not that I’m at all interested in policing period boundaries - it sounds like a great idea! - I’m just intrigued…"

It is a fair question, - one of many we hope to answer via the Public Programme. This series of events allows the critical and contextual motivations of curatorial decisions to come to light. In the case of Gillray, the question is not only ‘What does the work of a long-deceased 19th century satirist have to do with contemporary art’? We are also using the Public Programme to ask in what other ways his work remains relevant - how does its context connect to questions of media, communication, colonialism and political action, for example..?

The Plum Pudding in Danger by James Gillray (1757 - 1815) Hand-coloured etching © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The person asking this question was Richard Taws, a prize-winning young lecturer at University College London. His work places Gillray's caricature in relation to a universe of print media used to circulate conflicting representations of revolutionary politics on both sides of the Channel and beyond. The leaders of the French Revolution wanted to spread their new national ideology beyond geographical boundaries - and this ambition spurred on a second revolution - a wave of experimentation with new communication technologies in France. French Revolutionary ideals (brotherhood, freedom, equality) were undermined by the fact that France was still fed by colonial slave labour - and one outcome of their parallel revolution in communication technology was that ideals of equality were heard, and radically appropriated, by those working in slavery overseas. The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) is often considered as the ultimate test to French Revolutionary ideology. If all men are created equal – would that also include slaves? Richard's talk on 16th May will lead us to this point of tension, and it will provide an introduction to the contested history of Haiti itself – a country whose art will be the subject of a major new exhibition opening here at Nottingham Contemporary in October. In this way, the Public Programme also allows us to underline the connections and continuities at play as we move between different temporary exhibitions. 

Haiti exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary this October

The question could however have been answered in two words: Alan Moore. The acclaimed graphic novelist is visiting us for a live discussion in May. According to the University of Nottingham’s Matt Green, the James Gillray connection was the main reason that Alan said yes. The discussion will link the two boundary-pushing graphic artists via various tangents - from the Gothic imagination to underground publishing and radical politics. Sharing the stage with Alan is Melinda Gebbie - a long-standing force within the underground female comics movement.  Her participation will establish connections not only to Gillray but also to Mika Rottenberg – whose work will also be occupying three of our gallery spaces. One of the ideas running through Mika's work is female self-definition; she identifies herself as a feminist and cites Karl Marx as a reference. I admit that my first copy of Moore’s V for Vendetta was stolen from my boyfriend’s bookshelf, but the work of Gebbie (as well as that of Karrie Fransman, Nicola Streeten and Mary Talbot - will remind us that cult comics are not only for the boys.

Alan Moore; Melinda Gebbie by Jonathan Worth. C-type colour print, 6 February 2007 © Jonathan Worth / National Portrait Gallery

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Quality Moments

Heather Kirk & Lizzie Thompson reflect on their favourite moments being part of Get Involved 17, the Nottingham Contemporary youth group

The Lab
HK: Only being part of Get Involved 17 since the beginning of January, the first few months for me have been eye opening. I first heard about Get Involved 17 through my college and I immediately thought it would be a great opportunity for me to build on my skills, get a taste of the art world and experience working with other aspiring young artists which will help me with my Fine Art degree.

LT: After joining Get Involved 17 in September there have been many memorable moments. We have organised events and showcased these to the public, made films of the public’s opinions and made artwork which is to be showcased in Bulwell Riverside. It has been an exciting experience and within it I have made many new friends.

I particularly enjoyed our first project, The Lab, as this was a completely new experience for me. We were able to ‘take over’ The Space for a whole weekend and hold an event which we had been planning, inspired by Klaus Weber’s exhibition.  We had lots of stalls each inspired by different pieces of artwork and involved the public in different ways. For example we made a tree, on which we hung old, broken and unwanted items, to show how humanity was trying to control nature and was abusing the environment. This linked to Klaus Weber’s ‘Tornado machine’ as he too was trying to control nature. The rest of the stalls followed a similar thread, with the ‘13 impossible questions’, sound machine, and ultimate invention designer. We also created a film asking people around Nottingham ‘If you could invent anything what would it be?’ 

HK: Being introduced into Get Involved 17 proved to be a decision well made. One of the qualities of the group is the strong connection between everyone, and the friendship that we share. The Bulwell Riverside Project has to be my quality moment within Get Involved 17. This is because we have had the opportunity to work with a local centre and create pieces of work to represent The River Leen in Bulwell, which will then be exhibited within the building for a few months. This is a great opportunity as we are learning and gaining skills throughout the project. It also gives us the chance to exhibit our work and explain it to members of the public and people in the art world! I am very grateful for this opportunity and I don’t doubt that there are more quality moments to be had in the future.

LT: This whole experience was particularly memorable to me as it was my first project within the group and was exciting and new. Throughout the whole project I enjoyed acquiring new social, marketing and creative skills to carry on in the future.

Follow Get Involved 17 on Twitter or Tumblr

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Power of Art & Architecture

by David Newport, Gallery Assistant

The present exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary explores the power and art of architecture. In the first two galleries, we are introduced to the work of the DAAR, a loose architectural collective based near Bethlehem and consisting of an Israeli, a Palestinian and an Italian. This group has taken the tragedy of the Palestine/Israel situation and injected it with both hope and humour.

DAAR, Common Assembly. Photo © Andy Keate
What better use for an ex-military base could there be than to punch holes into it, so that migrating birds can nest, or to replace the pitched roofs of private houses with an interconnecting terrace to celebrate communal life. The group further probes the absurdity of colonisation by taking the line on a map literally and scaling it up into a five metre wide ‘lawless line’; a line that bisects, among other buildings, the Palestinian Parliament. A building which the PLO erected as close to Jerusalem as the Knesset, and consequently incurred a boundary change between Palestine and Israel, which led inevitably to its abandonment. The DAAR has now taken that bisecting line and re-constructed it in Gallery 2 as a spectacular, dream-like structure. Its sleek, black form appears suspended by cables that reflect and refract the light. The resulting structure dances in the sunlight, lifts your spirits, and appears to reach up to heaven.

Thomas Demand, Model Studies. Photo © Andy Keate
From the heat of the desert, the exhibition moves to the decadence of the Los Angeles coast and to the cinematic luxury of John Lautner’s architecture in Galleries 3 and 4. In these galleries, Thomas Demand has created a vibrant atmosphere consequent of his empathy with the building and his love of this space. Colour, texture and depth radiate from his monumental photographs of Lautner’s architectural models. They appear as doors inviting you to step into extraordinary spaces, or to contemplate the DNA of a roof or a terrace. The flamboyance of Lautner’s designs may not be to everyone’s taste, but few can argue with the beauty of Demand’s presentation.

The overall effect of this exhibition is to remind you of the value of architecture and its ability to affect the human experience. It is an exhibition that will change the way that you look at the world; tiled roofs and boundary lines will never be the same again….so don’t miss it.

Thomas Demand, Model Studies & Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency, Common Assembly run until 15 April. For more information including opening times, click here.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Social Moments

By Vicky Godfrey, Marketing Officer
I have been looking back on what we have been posting on our social sites over the last couple of years. Sometimes the things we think are sure to work well go down like a lead balloon and things that we post off the cuff get an extraordinary response. There isn’t a magic formula for what to write about – but here are some of my most enjoyable!

What do you think sound looks like?
When Caroline Locke showcased her Sound Fountains for a weekend in November 2011 this question provoked a whole range of responses from practical to the romantic. I love to learn what sparks the imagination of our audiences. Here are some of the comments  

Makena Sheila Depends on the source, all sound does/cannot look the same.
Love Notts We think sound would look messy.
Robert Squirrell What does the visual field of perception sound like?
Ben Nimerovski A spectrum analyzer can answer that for you
Kelly Vero it's looks like corn syrup in a speaker
Carmel Gummett-Kemp That depends on the sound surely? Some music looks like shards of broken glass (Stockhausen) while other music looks like a dark room with colours behind your eyelids (Pink Floyd) then again other music looks like a dewy autumnal forest (Vivaldi) I could go on....
Bogusia Matylda sound doesnt look, sound tastes

Klaus Weber introduces Already there!
Sharing video is a perfect way to provide an insight, the thinking or process behind an exhibition. Klaus Weber was the one of first artists that we recorded, and it is something we hope to build on this year. Since then we have broadcast live from talks by Razia Iqbal and the DAAR conference. I'm looking forward seeing what the response will be when we stream Thomas Demand in conversation with Joseph Grima (which is fully booked) in April with This is Tomorrow.

Behind the scenes of the Jean Genet exhibition
We have had some seriously complex installations that have re-configured the gallery spaces dramatically. We don’t want to give away everything before the exhibition opens, but aim to provide a snapshot of the process. We have always posted photos of the install periods but the Jean Genet exhibition last year reached a peak for being the most popular for views and comments.

photos from the Jean Genet installation

There are always observations in the office that go down well too!

Setting a new colour trend for 2012
Weather and nature
Snow, glorious sunsets and rainbows have provided a seasonal frame for our building over the last year. I am also a sucker for cute cretins. When animal trainer James McKay bought his owl and giant rat for a walkthrough of the Jack Goldstein exhibition I was delighted to meet them!

James McKay walks through the Jack Goldstein exhibition
Double rainbow above the gallery
The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust visited the gallery recently, through meeting them I found out about the peregrine falcons that live on the Nottingham Trent University building in the city centre. It’s wonderful that nature can thrive in a such a busy urban centre, and last week they laid two new eggs!

Zebra Spotting
Our zebra does a fabulous job as our family ambassador, one of his jobs is to give out badges and hugs in the city. He developed a new dimension to his personality last year via zebra spotting. He went travelling, made a music video and can also be found chilling in The Study.

Zebra on a rainy day

So there are five of my online moments from last year, I could have included many more! If you have been following us on Facebook or Twitter I hope you have enjoyed hearing from us and I look forward to sharing more online adventures with you this year.

Look out for some exciting changes to our website this spring - and if you want to get in touch this is where we are

Friday, 2 March 2012

Get Involved 17, by Sian Watson

Young people in the driving seat with creativity as their vehicle

Get involved 17 is Nottingham Contemporary’s young peoples group. They have witnessed and taken part in a host of unexpected, imaginative and innovative projects, weaving the voice of youth between the walls of Nottingham Contemporary.

The first ever project over two years ago took place before the doors of our gallery had even opened!  The group  set sail with over 300 members of the public to celebrate  the opening of the gallery by creating an armada of  paper boats that sailed across the waters of Old Market Square. 

The group has had a fantastic journey over the last two years, experiencing  adventures in the shape of carrying a stripy sofa across the city collecting conversations, turning The Studio into an application form installation, even causing a coup d’état by staging an  ART FORM election.

Get involved 17 are a peer lead group who have complete freedom in the direction of how their projects travel, taking pride in sharing fresh ideas and perspectives with us. In turn we have support our young people in the process of action research and consultation. Inviting a collective curiosity, openness, and dialogue that allows a shared conversation to grow.

I have been lucky enough to have been involved on this exciting road trip, along the way I have seen them complete the Silver and Gold Arts Award, with their portfolios acknowledged as outstanding levels of achievement. Two of the young people’s portfolios were chosen to be used nationally in Gold art award training as examples of excellence.

We were also invited to visit the US ambassador's residence in London. Marjorie Susman, the ambassador's wife, guided the group around the house in Regent's Park, sharing with them the beautiful modern art collection. They even got to sign in the official US Embassy guest book, their names nestled between the likes of President Obama and Tom Hanks!

Our new project is even more exciting!

We are taking part in the Tate Plus initiative, a programme exploring young people’s engagement with arts and art organisations. Working with 18 organisations across the country such as, Tate Liverpool, Ikon and the BALTIC, Get involved 17 will be helping to create an evaluation tool which can be shared with other galleries and their youth programmes. The group will be looking at  ideas around,  ‘what is quality?’ and how can we evaluate a quality experience?

So, keep your eyes open for events around the city, celebrating what quality means to the Get Involved 17, Nottingham Contemporary and you!

I know that Get involved 17, old and new, have made my life full of quality moments!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Missing Houses and Possible Plans

by Becky Ayre (Researcher, Inheritance Projects)

Support Structure with a Clumber Spaniel and owners 

Clumber is a vast expanse of park, farm and woodland on the Northern borders of Nottinghamshire. Amongst the wildlife, the Serpentine Lake, the campsites and the cycle tracks, there lies a space that exists to remind visitors of what is no longer there. The mansion that once stood at Clumber was demolished in 1938, leaving only traces of itself behind in the landscape that The National Trust would later purchase in 1946 from the people of Worksop, who inherited the grounds from the previous owner, the Duke of Newcastle. Much of the collection of art and furniture was sold off and dispersed around the country and the world, while the bricks were made use of around Nottinghamshire. As the result of a recent period in residence at Clumber, the artists group Support Structure recently seized upon this notable gap in the landscape and the park’s history as an opportunity to invite users of the grounds to imagine new possibilities for the future of the park.

The Residents is a series of artists in residence programmes at three regional National Trust properties, curated by Inheritance Projects in partnership with Nottingham Contemporary, BALTIC and The National Media Museum. The challenge put to the artists/artists group by Inheritance Projects in considering their time in residence, while taking the opportunity to develop their own practice, was to engage critically with the historical and contemporary contexts of the designated properties in order to scrutinize the ways and means that The National Trust protects, preserves and promotes notions of English national heritage. How could an artist working in residence with The National Trust, an organization that holds something of a monopoly over, and responsibility for, the Country’s known social history, challenge or unsettle otherwise dominant narratives in national heritage? While in residence at Clumber, Support Structure (research-architect Celine Condorelli and artist-curator Gavin Wade) met with historians and various users of the park to learn more about the absent house, including how the building was utilised until it was demolished. They also spent time investigating various unrealised proposals for other buildings at Clumber Park and around the world. This led them to discover the story of a house designed by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe for the Kröller-Müller family in the Netherlands. Although a full-scale fabric and wood structure was erected of the final design for this house, the Kröller-Müllers ultimately decided that the house was unsuitable and it was never built. Between a house that was but no longer is, and a house that never was, Support Structure have imagined new possibilities and stories that resonate in the unfinished histories of such social and architectural ambitions.

Hazel Robinson, Gardener, 1:1000 model of Clumber House, 2011-12
The research undertaken while in residence has accumulated in a series of proposals for changes to the future conditions of Clumber Park, on-site and at Nottingham Contemporary- the partner institution for the residency. These proposals are presented in a new publication, co-published by Nottingham Contemporary and distributed to all visitors at Clumber Park and are aimed at discovering and producing new stories, generating new ideas in a manner that seeks to support new social and communitarian potentials for the site where Clumber’s mansion once stood. The publication’s launch on February 24th at Nottingham Contemporary will be with a panel of presentations aimed at further illuminating the threads of research pulled out by Support Structure from Clumber’s varied history, and from the story of the unrealized house in the Netherlands. A weekend-long programme of events from Nottingham Contemporary and Clumber will follow.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Do Zebras like snow? By Mr Zebra

Last weekend I was out and about in Nottingham distributing flyers and button badges (promoting the Half Term Holiday Happenings). There were few takers that morning...those amongst you who had ventured out were focused upon remaining on two legs...treacherous conditions underfoot. It was remarkable that several people who passed before me were ill prepared for this current spell of mushy coat, their arms tightly wrapped around their own bodies...shivering and struggling to remain balanced...and likewise Mr. Zebra; shivering... at a a lion. I am certainly not primed for this weather. I remind myself that this is only my third winter here in the UK and I rarely ventured out during the previous two winters...I do not particularly like the damp and the snow here in the UK seems to be shoddy is good for about an hour then its rubbish.

I started to worry about Trench Foot.

Trench foot is a medical condition caused by prolonged exposure of the feet to damp, unsanitary, and cold conditions...trench foot does not require freezing temperatures.

...and my four appendages were most certainly damp! We Zebras are used to warmer climates and without doubt we can shiver in very cold weather just like humans...I observed this the preceding Sunday; I stood by the right Lion in the Old Market Square, my mitts sodden and icy after walking through the remnants of some fetid mushy snow. I remember grandma Lucy used to tell me a story; she said that we zebras were all white at one time. One day Zebra (For Zebra existed as our primary character) was hiding from Lion by standing in the tall grass. He stood there for so long and held very still the whole time so that Lion would not see him. The hot sun cast the shadows of the blades of grass across the white of Zebra's body. He stood there so long that the shadows became permanent and that is why we Zebra are striped to this day. Back to the Market Square. 

After about an hour I somewhat wretchedly capitulated and did the commonsensical thing and called it a day...if the Local Derby; Derby and Forest could be called off, then I also could concede defeat. I returned home...put my four feet up on the sofa and settled down to watch an Audrey Hepburn film on DVD (Sabrina). As a rule I will not place my muddy hooves on the sofa...on this occasion I decided I deserved it.

Friday, 3 February 2012

A Common Assembly

Reflections on the DAAR seminar and a follow up at Primary Studios. By artist Rebecca Beinart

Last weekend I attended the Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency seminar, 'A Common Assembly'.  The event was described as 'a one day seminar within DAAR’s reconstruction of the Palestinian Parliament' that would 'consider the new nature of political action and association, against the background of current collective protest in the Middle East and around the world.' The  term Common Assembly was defined as 'a radical form of political participation, revolutionary protest and collective action - from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, St Paul’s Cathedral - and Nottingham’s Market Square. These forums have changed the meaning of the words common, assembly and occupation.' I was excited to see how DAAR would put these ideas into action at Nottingham Contemporary.

The invited speakers shared interesting experiences, reflections and analysis of the situation in Palestine and recent uprisings in the Middle East, and I learnt a lot from listening to them. It would be impossible to sum up all that was said, but some of the ideas that were of particular interest to me were the notion of a 'no mans land' or edge between places as a potential place of transformation, and the way that DAAR used the term 'ruins' to refer to a place (like the Palestinian refugee camps) that's in permanent suspension between construction and demolition. Rasha Salti described the protests in Egypt and Syria as a 'physical political movement'. She talked about people in Syria, confined by the authorities, dancing together in the street, and how visible and vulnerable the body is in these situations. In the final session, Rene Gabri talked about the Occupy movement in New York, and offered another reading of the idea of 'deficit' and 'debt' that goes beyond monetary systems, suggesting that recent protests have been driven by people demanding what is owed to them in terms of democracy and participation.

Although the seminar was rich with ideas, I was surprised – given the way it had been described – to experience a series of lectures, in a space with problematic acoustics, with experts giving their opinions and dialogue mostly limited to the exchanges between the invited speakers. The notion of a 'radical form of political participation' was being discussed in a very conventional, academic format. There was little attempt (until the final session) to reactivate the space created by the installation and to actually embody these ideas by inviting and facilitating participation from the 50-60 people who had come along to the event. DAAR's installation interrupts the gallery space and is deliberately uninhabitable, so perhaps this irony was intentional. But it was also frustrating. Given DAAR's imaginative and critical responses to the the situation in Palestine, and that their project and this talk were being presented in the context of a public art gallery, I had hoped for a more open and accessible form of dialogue. There was a wealth of information being shared, but no clear way for the audience to actively engage with this information or do something with it afterwards. For a day that promised to be empowering as well as informative, I left feeling disappointed.

Pre-empting the fact that day-long seminars often leave questions hanging, Isobel Whitelegg, curator of Public Programmes at Nottingham Contemporary, invited me to host a follow-up event the next day. Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri stayed on for the day to meet with locally based artists and activists to reflect on some of the issues raised by the seminar. Ayreen and Rene are involved in (amongst other things) a self-organised space in New York called the 16 Beaver Group, that aims to 'create and maintain an ongoing platform for the presentation, production, and discussion of a variety of artistic/ cultural/ economic/ political projects.'
On Sunday, a mixture of people came along to the recently opened Primary Studios in Lenton, to share ideas and experiences from their involvement in artist run projects, education, and activism. Although it was another long day of talking and listening, the small group and informal setting allowed for everyone to speak, and made space for disagreement, challenges and common ground to emerge. The discussion was rich and covered a lot of territory. We talked about the way that different spaces open up the possibilities for interaction and of activating our time with others politically and creatively. We discussed the differences between institutions, self-organised spaces, and public spaces and what each of these sites opens up or closes down. We talked about our roles within groups or institutions and our roles as individuals – and how to share the various resources we have access to. Questions were raised about access and how this is often limited in ways that go beyond physical space, such as the language used to frame an event, the perception of who certain institutions are 'for', or the lack of provision of cheap food and child-friendly spaces. Something that came up several times was the question of time, and how difficult but necessary it is to open up time for conversation, listening, reflection and action.
During the seminar, I raised the question of why DAAR's work, and this conversation, were being framed within an art gallery – what does this add or take away in terms of the agency and power of such political work? It was interesting to hear Rene and Ayreen describe their own relationship with the label 'artist' and how the 16 Beaver Group works – as an independent space that avoids labels. They were clear on the danger of claiming all of the work that happens there as 'artwork'. This raised big questions about participation and authorship, returning us to the notion of the commons. It may be inappropriate to frame something as art when it's social activism, especially if it emerges from a collective process, because claiming it as art can remove the agency of many of the people involved. We talked about why and how artists work within the realm of social activism, the problem with labels, and how art could at times be considered a strategy. Where art and activism cross over, can we open up political spaces that go beyond conventional forms?
The decision by Nottingham Contemporary to host such political work brings up some important contradictions, but the function of the Public Programme is for opening up space for debate, reflection and learning around the exhibitions. And for me, the art galley is another public space – not a commons – but a space that can be used and potentially re-appropriated[1].  Having just moved into Primary Studios, which is a very new arts space, it was fantastic to have the opportunity to invite in a diverse group and pose these questions about access, participation and political engagement – which are relevant to my own practice as well as the possible directions the studios might take. Primary is situated on what someone described as one of the city's 'fault lines': a school that is no longer a school, between a disintegrating community and rapidly empting student accommodation. Many of these questions will become pertinent as we try to develop a public programme around the studios.

Many thanks to Isobel Whitelegg for initiating the event, and to Ayreen Anastas, Rene Gabri and  all those who came and took part in the conversation for their thoughtful and thought provoking contributions.

Rebecca Beinart is an independent artist based in Nottingham. The opinions expressed in this article are her own and she does not represent Primary.

[1]          For an example of a project that attempted this, see 'C Words' at Arnolfini by PLATFORM.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Art is… connecting, talking, travelling…

by Jo Dacombe, Artist Associate
Working with Schools

The four Associate Artists at Nottingham Contemporary that work with schools across Nottingham continue to be inspired by contemporary art in a variety of ways – with ambitious and surprising results!

"The Klaus Factor”, Crab Tree School working with Sian Watson Taylor
In the 2011 autumn term artists worked with teachers to plan ways to engage children with the exhibition by Klaus Weber, If You Leave Me I’m Not Coming & Already There!

Activity inspired by the exhibitions is not always focussed on making, but on ways of thinking and exploring, which can result in a wide range of responses crossing curriculum areas. Sessions last term focused on exploring connections, how we think about objects and how we express opinions. 

“Connections Workshop”, Djanogly Academy with Jo Dacombe
Artist Sian Watson Taylor thinks of creativity as a process for opening up new ways of thinking and building confidence. Working with Big Wood Comprehensive, Robin Hood Primary and Crab Tree Farm Primary Schools, Sian has been exploring with the teachers ways of building confidence in the children to talk about art and their own opinions. The children tried to identify one piece of art in the whole exhibition that had “The Klaus Factor”, that summed up everything about the artist’s ideas, and they debated which piece this should be and why. The project approaches children as “mini-ambassadors” for contemporary art, building their confidence and passion to discuss art.

My practice involves mapping and an interest in networks. Working with Djanogly Academy, Heathfield Primary and Mellers Primary, they have been exploring the idea of connections. Djanogly decided to challenge their students to attempt to make a connection between each of the 200 objects displayed in the exhibition.  By doing so, they drew out the themes of the exhibition that the artist Klaus Weber is interested in, such as connections between man and animals, and science and nature.  Heathfield School took part in a “Random Art Trail” to discover themes in the exhibition, and Mellers Primary created their own inventions harnessing the powers of nature.

Gillian Brent works with sculpture, so is interested in how people relate to objects. With Carrington Primary, Ambleside Primary and Bentinck Primary Schools, Gillian and the teachers have been getting the children to think about what objects mean to us. They have discussed the idea of collections of objects, how the stuff that objects are made of influence the way you feel about them, and how the objects you choose can say something about you. At Carrington the children were asked to bring something in from home that would say something about them individually, and they created a museum of their class by putting all their objects together into an exhibition in their classroom.

Work by pupils from Ambleside on a visit to the gallery with Gillian Brent

Artist Chris Lewis-Jones is interested in the journeys that we take, believing that “the journey is more important than the destination”. Working with Edale Rise Primary, Farnborough and Blessed Robert Widmerpool Schools, Chris and his schools are working on the idea of “travelling hopefully” and interpreting this in different ways:  ideas travelling across media, across curricula, sharing between schools, travelling across communities and exploring surroundings. Inspired by the Shape of the Ape artwork in the Klaus Weber exhibition, where a number of variations of the same sculpture appear on glass plinths, Edale Rise School are making their own plinths which will result in a series of photographs of the children standing on the plinths in locations in Nottingham!

“The Museum Of Our Class” by Carrington Primary School with Gillian Brent
By bringing their own practices to working with teachers and schools, artists at Nottingham Contemporary open up new ways in which children can engage with exhibitions. The partnerships with Nottingham schools continue into 2012.

Find out about our Schools and Colleges programme here