Enquiremanchester’s Weblog

The Manchester Museum is the lead museum in the North West Manchester cluster in a national project about art and learning for engage called ‘enquire’

ReCurate – by Dena Bagi January 29, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — enquiremanchester @ 4:42 pm

The project is nearing the half way stage and will eventually enable its participants to re-curate over Manchester Museums’ Human Remains collection with contemporary art installations or interventions. So far, the girls have grasped the concept of manipulating an audiences ‘experience’ with a collection.

The participants have had talks from Curators and Educators and have documented their developing thoughts and opinions surrounding this subject. They have documented this using numerous visual arts and drama techniques and process’s. They have subsequently formed their own complex opinions about the display of Human Remains and have started to think of ways that they can effectively convey this to the visitors to Manchester Museum on the 7th of March 2009.

It’s now time for the participants to put together some initial designs for their installations or interventions. In the last session the girls ‘tested’ out some of their ideas. These ideas included: vibrating interpretation, playing the national anthem and an intervention, which would ask visitors to the Museum to complete a 3-minute silence every hour!

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Paul and St Peters RC January 13, 2009

Filed under: Alchemy Enquire,Uncategorized — enquiremanchester @ 7:29 pm

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image, tennis ball holderBefore the Christmas break, artist Paul Needham, art teachers Karen and Natalie (along with the Deputy Headteacher), Louise – Curator of Secondary Learning at the museum and I met up at St Peters to plan a project in which we would collaborate together.  Karen and Natalie were both really enthusiastic about working with Paul and the museum and we talked about how we should bring Paul’s work into their existing curriculum and planned how to make best use of the time available.

The first sessions in school were lively and energetic.  Paul is working with two classes at St Peters so one session was followed by the other, though they were far from identical!  Paul’s premis was that there can be many answers to the same question.  So by asking things like “What can’t you photograph?”, “What isn’t this ball?”, and “Draw something you can play”, Paul got the class to start thinking about their own personal responses to objects.

Some hands on creativity also went on with the students being asked to make a structure that would hold a tennis ball in the air using only wooden skewers and masking tape.  A seemingly straightforward task, but of the ten or so groups making a structure, there were at least ten different outcomes.  This activity really seemed to focus the student’s attention and Paul has set himself the task of thinking about how he will work with the student’s strengths when they come to the museum.

image, Paul's practicePaul rounded up the session by talking about his own work.  The students reacted confindently and perceptively asking provocative questions like “Have you got a lot of time on your hands?” and more considered quesions like, “How much money do you sell your work for?”, “How did you make that?”, “How long did it take?” .  They also showed palpable pleasure in working out how Paul’s art work functioned and took easily to a type of art which was quite unfamiliar to them.   While Paul’s work is very conceptual and playful it is also very crafted, including a lasoo carved from wood, an elastic band moulded around a railing and a long pole made from match sticks.  Paul shared these two ideas really well with the session divided between wordplay and creative making.


Dena and Levenshulme

Filed under: Alchemy Enquire,Uncategorized — enquiremanchester @ 6:37 pm

image, journal making 2This session was great.  Dena introduced the project to the girls and explained how they would be reinterpreting objects through curatorial processes and interventions, as Dena has investigated in her own practice.  It was quite a difficult concept to get across but as the day progressed and the students worked through putting their project journals together each one gradually developed their own understanding of what Dena did and what the project might be about.

Dena was balancing a fine line between having a strong project framework which would lead the students on an exciting and challenging journey, while still leaving space for them to take a lead in that journey and responsibility for their own learning.

image, journal makingThe girls seemed interested but hesitant about the idea that what they produced during the project would form part of one of the museum’s ‘Big Saturday’ events on March 7.  Because of publication deadlines the event was planned in before we had discussed this with the group but Dena, Alice and I feel confident that the girls will have something to contribute as an intervention to the day – even if neither them nor us know what it will be yet.  [The situation reminds me of a conversation at one of the enquire events I went to which raised the question of whether we should be asking students to publicly exhibit their work at all.  Artists, someone argued, have the choice, time and foresight to hand should they choose to show their work.  Students involved in projects do not necessarily have the will, confidence or development time to be in a position to be happy to show their work publicly.  Therefore should we be putting them in such a position, it was asked?]  This project, by its very nature, is experimental.  The students are working to a brief rather than as ‘fine art’ makers so the outcome is more a vocational investigation rather than an art object in its traditional sense.

The group will be coming to the museum for the next couple of sessions to research and record what they think of our human remains displays, looking at what is on display and how it has been presented to the visitor.  Can’t wait.image, journal making 3image, making journal 4image, journal making 5


An away day for collaboration

Filed under: Uncategorized — enquiremanchester @ 5:44 pm

Before Christmas Alice Tasker from Levenshulme High School for Girls, arist Dena Bagi and I headed down for a visit to London.  Unfortunately teaching assistant, Laura, couldn’t make it in the end.  The idea was that by taking part in a unique shared experience and taking the time to get to know each other, we would collaborate better when it came to the intense experience of working on the project.  We understood that we were very lucky have this sort of luxury (ie the funding and cover) to take time out like this.  When we were planning the project we believed that building a strong collaboration between the partners was essential for it to work effectively and fortunately enquire, who are funding the project, have been very supportive of this way of thinking – in fact the recently published enquire research evidences the reasoning behind it.image0831

During our day in London we took in the sights and sounds from The Wellcome Collection (including their War and Medicine exhibition), The British Museum ( Statue Philia, installations of contemporary sculpture throughout the galleries) and The Serpentine Gallery where we looked at contemporary Indian art in Indian Highway.  One of the most important things to come out of the day was that outside of our ‘roles’ as ‘teacher’, ‘artist’, ‘educator’, we were pretty much the same.  We all had degrees in fine art, we were all inspired by looking at contemporary art and we all felt invigorated by a day away from our regular work and excited about what we would take back with us.

For me it was the simple things about the day that meant the most:  a shared love of Caesar ‘The Dog Whisperer’, exchanging thoughts on what we liked and didn’t like about the art and exhibitions, and telling ghost stories over lunch.  We talked about our concerns and how we would get over them, what we were looking forward to and got a feel for how each other thinks/works/learns.

image, installation at the Serpentine GalleryWe’ve had our first session in school at Levenshulme since and all went smoothly.  Dena had chatted to Alice beforehand and both knew exactly what would be happening.  We sensed it would be good to give the class 10 mins with Alice after lunch so they had a chance to discuss the project so far with the teacher they knew and trusted and that seemed to work well too.

I’m sure one day in London isn’t the answer to everything but it’s certainly given us a shared point of reference from which we’ve all found it easy to move forward from.