23 September 2013

Developing Practice course - session 1

The full title of the course is "Developing practice for makers through museums" and it's at City Lit and it's a new course and I'm very excited about it. It runs all year - 11 Saturday sessions, once a month but two sessions in September and two in July.

The course description: "The course provides you with an opportunity to think, research, and make work in response to a museum collection and practices within a supportive environment. We will look at museums as a resource and as a site for making work. Whilst developing your practical work in your own work space away from the college, you will meet periodically over the period of one academic year, to attend a series of work-based seminars, talks, discussions and group tutorials facilitated by members of the tutor team. You will have the opportunity to engage in critical discussion, draw on theoretical texts and ideas to enhance your own creative practice and understanding of the social, political and cultural contexts of museum practices, and will develop a proposal in relation to a museum collection."

I felt I was in the right place when Flea Cooke, the lead tutor, introduced herself as someone who "likes to forage for new and interesting things and then bring them together". I'm hoping the course will keep me looking for new things, ideas and concepts and artists and information ... and help me focus on bringing these together in yet-to-be-discovered ways.

The introductory slideshow fell into the headings of Collect - Display - Label. Listing the names of artists whose work was shown gives a chance to research them while adding a photo and/or link for each -
Edmund de Vaal (A Change in the Weather, Kettle's Yard 2007) ... Richard Slee (From Utility to Futility, V&A, 2010) ... Verity Jane Keefe (workshops in response to the Death exhibiton at the Wellcome) ... Helen Snell (artist in residence at Royal Naval Museum) ... Grayson Perry (Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at BM) ... Clare Twomey (Trophy at V&A, Exchange at Foundling Museum) ...
Susan Hiller (From the Freud Museum)
 ... Joseph Cornell ... Caroline Bartlett (in Cloth & Memory) ...
Annette Messager (The Messengers) (via)
Dail Behennah's suspended airy form made from (enamelled copies of) labels from the Natural History Museum ... Simon Leather's etymology collection ... 
 installation by Shelley Fox at Belsay Hall (via)
 ... Liz Orton's use of obscure words from specialist areas (see "Splitters and Lumpers" here) ... and also some bird specimens being prepared at the Beatty Biodiversity Museum, labels lost from objects loaned to other museums, how company archives label their contents, and a selection of handwritten museum labels, showing both how technology changes through time and the current authority of type.
labels lost from the Grant Museum
During the introductions ("tell a bit about your background; what you want from the course; and do you have any collections") it became clear that most people did have collections ... is it really possible not to have a collection of some sort? (I seem to be making a collection of dictionaries of all sizes....) and that we are from a range of backgrounds, though mostly textiles. As for what the course might provide - as always, I'm looking for surprises, and for focus - maybe on the old memory theme, maybe on something a bit different, if only because memory and museum go together too well ... is it really possible not to have memories in a museum?

Slideshow and "going round the table" took care of the morning, and the afternoon was more hands-on. We'd been asked to bring a small collection of objects of personal significance or interest - and the first task (5 minutes) was to draw one of those objects from memory. I'd had been polishing one of my objects a few hours before, so should have been able to remember and draw -  it was frustrating and humbling to realise that my attention had not been taking in the important details after all. (How much attention are we paying to what we have around us - how much do we see, how much do we remember? Or do we navigate mainly through our assumptions and habits?) Fascinating to see what others had drawn, and hear the stories of those objects.
Inside the little silver rabbit (and its friend the bear) is a little bell; holes on the bottom let the sound out
Next, getting out the objects and arranging them -

More stories about the displays - every object has a story! - and then 15 minutes to draw them; move along five places and draw another person's display (10 minutes) - come back and see what someone else has chosen to draw in your display.
Final task - 5 minutes - write a statement about your objects - which I did in detail, but when it came to reading it out I condensed this detailed "museum label" into:
My creative time line, and some more general objects related to family and friends. 
They represent the fact of being and/or the pleasure (or necessity) of making.
It would have made sense to use the double spread for the drawing ... next time!
Next week we'll visit the Hunterian Museum, which is close by. Also, we're to bring a piece of our work ... as with the small selection of objects, what to choose, what to choose...

Meanwhile, or rather - already - there is work to be done: setting up a visual research process to capture ideas and other things of interest. For me ... via the blog, but with a new label (wording to be decided), which will allow easy retrieval of this material. Maybe, as for the foundation and MA courses (when a reflective journal was required for assessment) I'll print out these posts and assemble them in a physical folder. Somehow, turning the pages - often with pencil in hand - is more contemplative and thought-inducing than scrolling down a screen.


Linda Bilsborrow said...

How incredibly stimulating this sounds, I'm excited by your description and the list of artists to explore. There are a few new names in the list and that's always interesting - like looking at the bookshelves of someone who has similar tastes/interests.

JAQUINTA said...

This course sounds wonderful. I am excited for you and know you will get alot out of it. I can see your need to record the process and can I suggest using a blog page devoted totally to the new course on this blog or setting up a new blog for the course and linking it to this blog and I can see what you mean about scrolling down on blogs so an actual paper journal is a must too I still use a reflective diary/journal a habit got into from PPD on the BA course....


Felicity Cooke said...

Great blog, this is a visual research process in itself.
Glad you enjoyed the first day - looking forward to the Hunterian on Saturday.
Flea Cooke