Tuesday 21st July.
The first day of the Summer School is a little bit like the pilot of a television programme. You are introduced to the genre. You have to get to know the characters. Major themes are established. There is enough action for you to understand what the rest of the series will be like and be interested in it. Something is left hanging at the end so you want to come back to the next episode.
So here’s how it went.
We started with Barby and Teresa reading to us about art/not art and the kinds of decisions that are made in keeping records of any kinds.
The participants introduced themselves to each other using two objects – a personal and a professional object that they had brought with them. There are twenty six participants, twelve from overseas, three of whom are British teachers working abroad. They hail from Singapore, Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Portugal, Nederlands, Australia. Twenty of the participants work in schools. The others are primarily associated with galleries. Nearly everyone talked about having an art practice as well as teaching/educating/researching. Some found the division between the personal and professional difficult and spoke of significant blurring between the two.
Some major themes have been introduced throughout the day – the archive is social and is a living resource – it can be reenacted and re-read/relived; the personal is political; place is important in grounding memories and stories; art is a means of constructing archives of experience, particularly of those who would otherwise be invisible; there are interconnections of place, identity and culture. Barby and Teresa also talked about their own work with young people around these themes.
We did several activities after the introductions, through which these themes were discussed further.
(1) We listened to a text while making a clay object while also wearing a blindfold.
(2) We were given an archive box into which we put our clay object. We were told that we would fill it throughout the week and that it was our archival tool box.
(3) We have the option of writing responses to the five questions that we were sent in the introductory letter. There is also a video diary option that we can use to register comments or concerns.
(4) We watched a slide presentations about the practice of the two school leaders, Barby and Teresa
(5) We went into the gallery to a room with two series of photographic portraits. We split into two groups and then into pairs. We were instructed not to read any of the curatorial material. One group looked at a series of images; many of the pairs generated questions to ask of the people in the portraits. The second group found an individual image that they were drawn to and looked to see what information they could deduce from the image.
(6) We were introduced, via slide show, to thirty artists whose work was photographic portraiture.
(7) We had forty-five minutes to work with a partner to make a photographic self-portrait. These were then put into a slide show.
We were also given advance notice that we will be making gifs later in the week. There is a lot of basic kit about in the room and it is clear that we will be using it everyday.
Looking at the exhibition and taking the self portrait brought some basic ethical questions (also those that are key to archiving) into the conversation – do you need permissions, what do you want to show, how do you want to be represented.
Teresa making the slide show.
A short reflection at the end of the day included comments about how useful it is for teachers to be put into the position of learners – they/we re-experience the difficulty of being asked to do something that is hard or something that you don’t want to do because it makes you feel uncomfortable.
We were given homework – to take a selfie which we have to email to the workshop leaders before 9 am on Wednesday.