research @tate: summer school day three

The artist featured today was Sonya Boyce MBE, a Professor in the Art and Design Institute at Middlesex University. For the last twenty years she has worked in collaborative multi-media projects and then made art works from the documentation. She has been amassing an archive of black women singers from the 1920s to the present day, called Devotional, and this was the basis of Scat, a recent exhibition at INIVA.

We moved into the lecture theatre at Tate to hear and watch Sonya’s presentation. Her work brings together image words and voice and is often focused on the associations between sound and memory. She presented a series of films of various pieces of work explaining their connections with other artists’ work, and with the social context and sites for which they were developed.
For you, only you and Gather, Justicia are on you tube.

The discussion that followed highlighted questions of voice, play, emotions such as embarrassment and discomfort, the connections between the visual and sound, control and freedom, the importance of open ended inquiry and not knowing the shape of the whole before you’ve begun. We noted that when you see a word you often translate it without thinking into a sound. This does not happen if you are looking at a language you don’t know.

A shared lunch in the Meschac Gaba restaurant space was followed by an activity focused on sound. We were all asked to think of a song that was meaningful to us and share the name and reason with the whole group. We then worked in small groups to develop a short performance using these songs as the base materials. The most spectacular was constructed by a group – it went up and down the main escalator causing the security guards a moment of anxiety.

A final discussion examined:
• the connections between art and music and what it means to use music within an art practice
• the ways in which seeing more subtle live art opened up possibilities for some who had felt resistant to it
• the way in which sound could be felt rather than ‘seen’
• the way in which art practice did not suffer from the same boundaries that school arts subjects do
• that playful public performance benefited from having a small number of agreed rules.

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
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