Look Closer: Altered perceptions (Review and evaluation).
By evelynarts, Mar 10 2017 05:07PM
Let’s see things differently, through the eyes of each other.
Look Closer: Altered Perceptions
We are a group of women aged 15-25 who have come together from across Merseyside to consider themes and issues that are relevant to us all. We come from different backgrounds and have varied experiences but by exploring the issues that are important to us all like gender, sexuality, mental health and identity we have shared perspectives and found a common language. Using paper as a metaphor for both the strength and fragility of emotions, feelings and states of mind we have created this space. We invite you to engage with the installation and look closer, helping us to encourage others to alter per- ceptions and celebrate all women and their individualism.
Late November 2016, two groups of young ladies, from different backgrounds, with different gender identities, came together to explore their common-ground, using art and the gallery as a vehicle for developing their discussions, emotions, thoughts and ideas into a creative and interactive outcome.
As the lead artist on this project, it was my role to create a ‘safe space’ for the girls to feel comfortable and confident in order for sincere and sensitive discussions to take place. My Gallery / Arts Educator method is peer-led; driven by the participants ideas and responses to artworks, environments and materials. There were no predetermined idea of outcome, other than this was a Tate Collective and Tate Exchange project that would be exhibited in Tate Liverpool over 4 days.
Introduction to the gallery
The project began with 2 sessions for each group separately. Through ‘found text’ from newspapers, we made connections to artworks in the Constellations galleries. These abstract connections provided us with a way into the artwork, encouraging discussions to flow organically in front of them. It was interesting that both groups were drawn to the same artworks on separate occasions, when I relayed this back to each group, it seemed to provide a sense of reassurance and mutual respect before they met.
I selected the Constellations gallery opposite Tracey Emin’s My Bed, as a number of Fe- male artists are represented such as; Eva Hesse, Rachel Whiteread, Zanel Muholi, Gillian Wearing and Louise Bourgeois, whose connection with Emin is well documented. The young women spoke with maturity whilst discussing issues around the objectification of female bodies in the media, gender issues, feminism, personal insecurities, and the impact of social media on their wellbeing.
Tracey Emin & William Blake In Focus.
Around Emin’s My Bed, discussions and thoughts formed in Constellations were developed and deepened. The ‘found text’ became abstract poetry inspired by My Bed, and the young women’s personal associations with the emotive piece;
Night doesn’t have to mean ‘end of the day’. Here’s why it makes sense Quality of life has a price
Not something you see everyday
Suspending privacy Got the blues
Mind games and pursuit Sluggish Monday Kingpins of tobacco Autumn addiction
Monday 17th October 2016
Threw petrol on fire
It was a matter of principle
That’s more important to me than winning I’m no threat
The solution miracle saints
The found text also became powerful, association words that were stitched and stained onto white, cotton pillowcases. During these sessions we worked with Tate Collective participant and embroiderer, Michaela Swan. As a younger member of the team, Michaela was a fantastic role-model figure for the girls, as well as providing a skills sharing master- class.
On the young women’s first meeting as a whole group, we introduced ourselves by name and preferred pronoun, eg; she, he, they. We also introduced a person who inspired us; My Dad (brave)...Mum (strong)...teacher (supportive)...Adele (aspirational)...Grandad (caring). This was a key moment, it placed everyone at the same level. It was emotional, I was humbled by the openness of the group.
We revisited My Bed as a blended group. YPAS and HL were paired together. Each pair focussed on an area of My Bed and wrote words, lists and descriptions to annotate their thoughts and ideas.
- The blue carpet became a sinking, sticky pool for the island of grief and pity.
- The belt became a symbol of aggressive sexuality.
- The chained suitcases became symbols of anxiety.
- The scrunched up tissues became emotive actions of fear, destruction, anger and fragility.
Reflecting on our reactions to the installation, we collated emotive words and in the same mixed groups, selected one word and played it out in colour, texture and materials;
smeared wax and clay became disgust, action writing in carefully selected coloured markers became anger and frustration, mirrored reflections layered with drawn symbols became messages of invisibility and hidden feelings. We extended the processes further by viewing our work through coloured lenses and projecting our outcomes to consider scale, light and movement.
These processes encouraged the group to channel emotions and feelings into creative outputs; allowing them to think conceptually and abstractly. The group collaborated to consider aesthetics and develop a creative language.
It was decided that texture was a visually powerful and interesting representation of emotions and connected to the symbolic, scrunched tissues found by My Bed, Emin (1998). The group agreed the final outcome was to be an interactive space, an installation, inspired by My Bed. It would be a space where the audience is asked to consider their emotions, and to leave it as a physical response. The group planned the content, the look of the space, the experience and the role of the participant, as well as their individual and collaborative roles. Each participant worked as artist, designer, curator and audience to unravel these decisions.
A deeper exploration
Texture was selected as the visual metaphor for our emotions and we investigated it further in clay, whiteboard and markers, and paper. We spent a session considering how, why and what each material did. Due to the projects visibility on the gallery, it was time to think logistically about each material; how will it look visually in the space? Can this material be used in the gallery? How will the public interact with the material?
Paper was chosen as the physical form for our emotions. Paper is genderless, yet it became the embodiment of Woman. It became skin, it became the creased bed sheets of Emin’s bed, it was powerful and strong, yet delicate and fragile, it was complex and pure, it revealed and concealed. Subsequently, a YPAS participant would comment that, 'Paper is a metaphor for the strength and fragility of our emotions’.
Due to the sensory nature of the paper experiments, Sound also developed into an important element of the installation. Jessica Wild, a filmmaker and sound artist, joined the project to document the processes, create visuals for the installation and a soundscape. Again, this created another opportunity for the girls to work with an Arts professional and female role-model.
During the final experimental session, two participants created beautiful imagery through a game they invented. Emotive words were written onto scraps of paper, sitting opposite each other on a large piece of white paper, they blew the words to each other. The idea was to reveal the word you were feeling by relying on chance. Jessica captured this performance on film and the outcome became the final moments of the installation film and the image of the E-invite for the celebration day. This example of creative play was a form of self-expression for the girls, they developed an idea and played it out, it was peer-led learning in it’s purest form.
The physical processes employed by the group during our playful, paper investigations, were representational of real emotions and feelings. Paper was screwed up with clenched fists, passionately ripped and forcefully kicked through. Neat folds were thoughtfully and carefully created, paper was layered, hidden, smothered, encased and protected. We shone lights onto punched, paper walls to cast shadows that turned into ‘delicate birds’, through charged and aggressive actions. Images of paper were projected onto layers of translucent papers, that were torn through to reveal hidden images, memories, like scars; healed wounds that never forgot.
In one session, paper links were sculpturally formed by experimental hands, these were connected into chains. In the final event, these chains formed the basis of an engaging intervention for the public; they were asked to consider how they were feeling and to then change the paper through an emotive action. These paper-chains snaked the length of the space, winding around and through the paper walls, creating pockets of space, chaos and forming barriers and places for people to sit, relax and create in.
Our lists of emotive words explored ‘opposites’, so for every negative word we always strove to find the more positive word. The group discovered negative words could be visually filtered out by writing them in certain colours and then viewing through a colour filter. We chose a red filter to symbolise the saying, ‘Looking at life through rose-tinted glasses’. The girls were able to control the negative words to disappear or fade away,
The glasses became an intervention opportunity for the audience on the final day of the event. Emotive words were written onto paper walls during the Celebration event, by the girls and their families and then installed on the final day. The experience inspired the audience, both young and old, to question how it worked, comment on the strength of it’s message and likening it to an analogue style of editing or photoshopping. It gave the audience a sense of ownership of the space; they could change it, they controlled how they viewed it. This idea was also present when I invited the audience to alter and distress the paper walls, as an alternative to the final performance. The viewer became participant and performer.
Belittled Empowered To please Control Scared Fearless Paranoid Self-assured Confused Focussed Hallucination Clarity Illusions Healed Isolated Connected Scarred Healed Disgust
Anger Tranquility Frustration Determined Confident Restless Settled Reformed
Uneasy Comfortable Reluctant Relentless Active Misunderstood Excepted Forced Free(dom) Alone Unity
The final install
After 12 weeks of workshops the final installation was decided upon; 3 layers of 8 white, paper walls, of different translucencies and textures. Some crumpled, some torn and some pristine. Footage of the girls experimenting with paper had been captured and turned into a black and white, atmospheric visual that was projected through the paper from two different angles; from the front wall and from the side; adding extra layers and depth of light and shadows, the space became immersive from the inside, out. During the editing stage, it was noted by the girls that the video made them look genderless, which they liked, some enjoyed the vagueness of the imagery, some questioned the meaning of it. A paper sound- scape animated the space, creating yet another layer and adding to the emotive, sensory feel of the environment.
Jessica Wild filmed the young women’s verbal responses to photographs selected as a representation of the project, they fell into the following categories; working together, gender in art, light and shadow, words, connections, paper feeling, emotions, layers. What came out of this evaluation was the girls understanding of the projects processes, the importance of working together, connections to the gallery and artwork, the aesthetic effects of the final installation, they all expressed a sense of pride in the project and the final outcome. One of the girls noted it made her think and look differently at things, another, ‘liked analysing art’. Another participant noted we were ‘giving emotions a physical appearance based on what we thought and felt’.
Here are a few more comments from the young women;
‘It’s been fun working with a different group, and with other artists’.
‘I see it (the paper) as more creative, you can do more things with it’.
‘It shows different emotions on paper’.
‘I think the projections on the paper are fantastic’.
‘It shows we’re independent’
‘We felt that we wouldn't have as much say as we expected to, but it was, kind of, a lot based on our ideas’.
‘Working with the other group provided different thoughts and opinions and we couldn't have created what we did without them, definitely’.
‘You go through things in life that tear you apart’. (When discussing the ripped paper)
‘In English I’m taught to look between the lines, there’s a deeper meaning and I’ve never done that with Art; this project has made me think me about what it means, like in English.
We looked beyond the simplicity of the paper...created something that is stylistic and simple, but at the same time it’s effective.
We started as a group of women from diverse backgrounds, with no predetermined ideas or plan, and collaborated to create an inspired, interactive environment that invited every- one to look closer.