Although the install of Bob & Roberta Smith and Luke Fowler’s work took place on days I was not interning at the Arts Centre, I did however help with tidying up the walls and assisting with the lighting.
This involved walking around the gallery space with Caroline Mawdsley, Curator of Programmes and Vickie Fear, Programme Assistant and taking a note of any marks on the walls and skirting, that looked untidy and may distract from the work on display.
I then had to go around the space and paint over all the marks on the walls and mask off the floor to skirting join, to make sure the painted skirting had a clean, sharp finish. I also painted the posts used to rope off a section in the gallery (placed in front of Bob & Roberta Smith’s The Brown Report, 2012).
Although this may seem quite a simple task, it is nonetheless an important factor, as the artworks have to be displayed in the best possible way in the gallery space and any minor distractions can prevent the audience from getting the best experience of the work. Furthermore, the artists put their trust in the curator (Caroline Mawdsley in this instance) to display the work in a professional gallery environment and therefore, a ‘shoddy’ appearance would be unacceptable and would probably lead to the artist being less than enthusiastic about displaying their work in the gallery in the future.
I also briefly assisted Caroline and Vickie with the lighting for The Browne Report which involved making sure no shadow was cast when audience members stood in front of the piece. As the piece is approximately 2m x 2m and was displayed on the ground floor wall and reaching up toward the first floor, extra lighting had to be placed from the 1st floor adjacent wall and shone toward the work.
Again, the lighting is also an important element of curating, as any shadow could distract from the work and the audience needs to be able to see/read the work clearly – particularly as it is such a large, text-based piece and in the Arts Centre the work could be seen from the ground floor as well as the first floor and therefore needed to be well lit.
Although I would have liked to have been more involved in the installation of the artworks, I am happy that I had the opportunity to help with some of the finishing touches.
Bob & Roberta Smith’s exhibition at Plymouth Arts Centre (5 October-1 December 2013) was particularly focused on the arts in education.
With this in mind, I was asked to source children’s activity materials to complement the exhibition.
As Bob & Roberta Smith’s work is text based, the materials were to be in a similar vein and something that would encourage a creative way of learning.
The materials I sourced from the local Plymouth toy shops were colourful magnetic letters, magnetic words and a magnetic board, as well as a red box to hold all the materials. Bright colours are known to stimulate a young child’s development and therefore the colourful activities gave a sense of fun to learning, as well as complementing the artist’s work.
On the opening night of the exhibition, I was pleased to see a young child with their parent playing with the magnetic letters etc and was later asked where I had sourced them from.
I felt that including children’s activities within the exhibition was extremely well thought out – particularly as Smith’s work, has a very strong message that children should be encouraged within the arts – particularly in an educational environment.
Letters and posters were also sent out to the local Plymouth schools to advise them of the exhibition and I feel this is a positive way of getting the younger generation to become more involved in attending art exhibitions, as well as sending out a powerful message that art is an important factor in a child’s development.
From Wednesday 21 August 2013, I started my 3 month internship at Plymouth Arts Centre as a Education and Visual Arts Intern.
One of my first tasks was to create a ‘Reading Resource List’ for the next exhibitions which were to take place – namely Luke Fowler’s The Poor Stockinger, the Luddite Cropper and the Deluded Followers of Joanna Southcott, 2012 (film) and Bob & Roberta Smith’s The Brown Report, 2012 and Letter to Michael Gove, 2011. Both of the artists’ exhibitions were opening on 5 October and running until 1 December 2013.
After reading about the exhibitions in the Plymouth Arts Centre September-October 2013 brochure, I highlighted the information which I felt would be relevant for the reading list as follows:
Luke Fowler is an artist who works with film, sound, installation and photography. He explores the limits of documentary filmmaking, producing densely layered portraits of marginal or countercultural figures. Assembled from new and archival film footage, interviews and photography, these cinematic collages reveal conflicting accounts and retell history.
This film focuses on the work of Marxist historian Edward Palmer Thompson who was employed by the WEA (Workers’ Educational Association) in Yorkshire. He taught literature and history to adults who, historically, had been unable to access higher education, including miners, factory workers and the unemployed. Thompson was committed to the WEA values of delivering a ‘socially purposeful’ education and to the cause of adult education as an engine for cultural democracy.
Luke Fowler’s film explores the issues that were at stake for post war progressive educationalists and exposes an historical struggle that resonates within education today. The film’s title is a quotation from E.P Thompson’s book, The Making of the English Working Class. (Plymouth Arts Centre, 2013)
Bob and Roberta Smith is recognised for his trademark, text-based paintings. These colourful signs are hand painted onto scraps of wood and roughly nailed together. The shapes and misshapes of letters are as important as the message they spell out. These fields of colour ask questions, make statements and instigate debate. Letters swim before your eyes as you attempt to decipher a text, which could be an announcement of an event or provocative call for action. Bob and Roberta Smith’s work explores the relationship between humour, politics and society and questions established values and authorities. Many works take the form of succinct witty slogans whilst others, such as the Cuts to the Artsand Letter to Michael Gove, are longer diatribes that expose a frustration with political decision-making. The messages almost always advocate for creativity, culture and freedom.
These paintings use the visual language of folk and punk; the use of drop shadow text and a mixture of different fonts and letter sizes evokes the aesthetics of protest and is reminiscent of makeshift public notices and temporary shop signs from an era before the computer.
The process of producing these musings on art, politics and culture seems to be cathartic one for Bob and Roberta Smith, which is perhaps why the artist advises ‘Make Your Own Damn Art’. (Plymouth Arts Centre, 2013)
Using these keywords, I went on to resource books and online reading resources which would relate to the artists and their work and create a simple list as follows:
Recommended Reading List for Luke Fowler’s The Poor Stockinger, the Luddite Cropper and the Deluded Followers of Joanna Southcott
Luke Fowler, 2013, The Poor Stockinger, the Luddite Cropper and the Deluded Followers of Joanna Southcott
E. P. Thompson, 1964, The Making of the English Working Class
Albert Mansbridge, 1920, An Adventure in Working-Class Education
Brian Jackson 1932-2012, Education and the working class
Kevin Ward & Richard Taylor, 1986, Adult Education and the Working Class: Education for the Missing Millions
Colin Kirkwood; Sally Griffiths; Workers’ Educational Association, 1984, Adult Education and the unemployed: practical approaches to investigation, curriculum development, method and organization
R. D. Laing, 1967 The Politics of Experience
R.D. Laing, 1960 TheDivided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness
After I had compiled the list, I was asked to check if Charles-Searle Library, Plymouth University had these books by using their online search engine http://www1.plymouth.ac.uk/library/Pages/default.aspx. For any books that were not available at the library, I checked amazon.co.uk and forwarded Vickie Fear, Programme Assistant the prices.
A few weeks prior to the exhibitions opening, I took a note of the library reference numbers and collected the books from Charles-Searle Library. These were then displayed in the cafe gallery space, along with a computer which displayed the online reading resources for PAC guests to peruse.
Plymouth Arts Centre (2013) September-October 2013 (brochure) Totnes: Kingfisher Publishing.
Respect Festival is an event organized to celebrate the diversity of multi-cultural communities and was held in Plymouth on the 12th and 13th October 2013 at Plymouth University.
I was personally in attendance on the Saturday of the festival, interning for Peninsula Arts Gallery. During this time, I was approached by a member of the public, who wished to make a complaint about a sculpture by local art teacher Jeff Stratton, Hope is Not Enough, 2013 based on the story of Pandora’s Box.
The sculpture includes a large open box with a bird – a kite perched on the open lid – representing hope. The exterior of the box is intricately inscribed with symbols from different cultures, while the inside is covered with images of hatred and atrocities against persons of different ethnicities.
Images of Jeff Stratton’s Hope is Not Enough, 2013
The gentleman who complained was concerned that children were able to see the images on the interior of the box, which he considered too graphic. I courteously listened to the complaint, as he is entitled to his opinion, but I neither agreed nor disagreed with his point.
Following this incident, I considered this further, as I have children of my own of 10yrs and 3yrs old. I personally feel that my 3yr old would not understand the context of the piece, so would have no particular reaction to it – apart from being interested in the colourful bird. However, I feel that my 10yr old would not necessarily be upset by what she was viewing, but would question what was happening in the images and why it was happening.
In this respect, I feel that this would create a good educational dialogue and a conversation which would unlikely have taken place spontaneously. Afterall, the artist Stratton had suggested in his description of the piece, that it would hopefully initiate discussion and debate on the subject.
In light of it also being Black History month, it is important to remember the African diaspora past and to educate people – regardless of their age.
Therefore, I personally feel the sculpture could serve as a powerful educational tool and any discussions resulting from it, would hopefully serve as a reminder that the world must continue to move forward in a harmonious acceptance of different races, cultures and nationalities and never go back.
BA (Hon) Fine Art, Critical & Curatorial Practices