summer school day two


Who is here? Today we were joined by Lawrence Watson, photographer.

What did we do? We began the day by visiting the Olafur Eliasson exhibition. We were asked to think about reflection, and “how you are you in your work”. The environment in which we worked was important too – “how do we benefit from the places in which we learn?” We were also to think about the differences between formal and informal learning, being taught and teaching ourselves. These questions all connected to Eliasson’s works and his studio practices.

Lawrence had chosen his favorite piece from the exhibition, The Blind Passenger (2010), a k a the fog. Thirty nine meters of fog to be precise, which twenty people at a time can experience. It’s quite disorienting. We were also able to spend time with other pieces in the exhibition.

After this we met in a space outside the exhibition, and were given blank cards. We were to write on each of eight cards eight key moments in our journey with art. Then, in four groups, we talked about the key moments to find connections and patterns. These connections were made both verbally and with twine. We then met as a whole group back in home base of the Exchange to talk more. Most people had talked about the importance of family, school, travel, mentors and serendipity. This was a way to get to know each other, as well as ourselves, better.

After lunch, Lawrence talked to us about his career in photography, and showed his work for the NME and with musicians. We then experimented with photographic techniques, using fabric, celluloid, projections, mirrors, lights and tubes. This was a time when people were free to “teach themselves”.

A post-practical-activity discussion focused on what happened when the emphasis on finished product is removed and we are just able to play and experiment, when we move to trial and error and unknowing.

The final activity was a brief introduction to our ‘teaching aids’ – we had all brought in something that we used in our teaching. This was a quick activity but one which opened up new avenues for personal and group exploration tomorrow.


The environment that has been created for us is one in which people are already able to say if they feel anxious about doing something. We heard for instance of worry about documenting everything, of time taken to let go of wanting to produce something “good”. Yemi and India have presented themselves as questioning and changing; they have not been defensive about anything that could be read as critical – they have set aside time to talk about feelings with all feelings equally OK. They haven’t talked about the need for a safe space per se, but have made one. Given the ongoing focus on the tensions, erasures and visibilities of the personal in the professional, this safe place is clearly important.

And today India talked about Vygostky and scaffolding and whether the notion of scaffolding was useful outside of classrooms. Her reference made me think that there are multiple forms of scaffolding going on here – in particular the experience of making scaffolds the development of abstract ideas which in turn scaffolds a different experience and so on. Scaffolding is integral to the “circling in” to key themes and concepts.

I noticed the term neurotypicality used today, perhaps seeded for tomorrow?


About pat thomson

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