Thursday, 24 September 2015

Community World Cafe

To introduce local organisations and community interest groups to the developing project, a world cafe took place on the 23rd September, focused on exploring some of the central issues underpinning A Journey with 'The Waste Land'.

The event was a hands on and immersive session. Questions focused on testing out what should be in the exhibition, how best to engage with different types of material and how decision making could be approached. There was a particular focus on teasing out the difference between an exhibition about the poem and an exhibition about visual responses to the poem, and thinking about the connection between text and image.

Moving forward, a series of events for those delving into the research process are happening this autumn to trigger the process of getting acquainted with the poem and each other. There will also be more events to share practice, research and discoveries and shape the overall direction of the project going forward.

From initial conversations a number of areas of interest are already emerging, including the imagery of water in the poem, Margate in 1921-22, women and women's voices in the poem, sound 'music' and the spoken word, mental health and new technology.

It was exciting to start the process of talking with other groups and organisations about what might start to develop in parallel, e.g. music, small exhibitions of work, performances, community events, readings and to keep in touch about options and developments.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Developing this website

Drama student Jordan Coverdale, from The University of Kent, has been on an internship at Turner Contemporary to help us develop a website for the project.

Here are Jordan’s thoughts on his experience:

"I first got involved with the project through the Student Ambassador scheme at The University of Kent which offers outreach work to go alongside my studies. When I saw the advert for a post to help develop a website for an exhibition at Turner Contemporary, I was keen to apply due to my interest in online media platforms.

My role was to explore different web options that members from the community (involved in researching the exhibition) could use to share ideas and findings.

Whilst I've created informative websites for projects in the past this is the first time I’ve delved into making a fully interactive site, allowing people to create their own profiles and share content.

I soon discovered that there were several possible approaches, each of which would lead to participants interacting in different ways. One option was to go with a project management tool (e.g. Basecamp). However, this didn't feel suitable for the experimental and community oriented nature of the project.

Instead I proposed that we create our own platform built from existing tools. I had previously discovered online services that provide you with a basis for creating your own social network and the one that really stood out to me was SocialEngine, due to its simplicity and visual impact. Through experimenting with the service further, I learnt that users could create their own profiles with ease and that it was possible to build an interactive sense of community. Using myself and also a fellow intern, who was researching the poem, we set up a mock site that could act as both a public facing website with information for newcomers about the project, alongside an area for community members to share their own ideas.

I was keen to see what potential participants wanted to get out of using the website, and therefore used any introductory events to gather opinions. I learnt that people felt more at ease contributing to a closed off group. As a result I made the members area of the site by invite only. Some people were also concerned about whether the site would be simple and easy to use, which led me to create a help section with detailed tutorials. I feel that these discoveries were vital in the development of the platform, to achieve an interface that people could happily remain engaged with.

Looking back, the real challenges were designing a platform that could deal with lots of people working collaboratively, all with different levels of technical knowledge. 

It's fair to say that I have learned a lot in just the six weeks I’ve been working, and I am excited to see the platform finally being put into the hands of the users and watching the community grow. Going from joining an opportunity scheme within my University to helping develop an art exhibition has all been incredibly exhilarating, and now I feel so involved I can’t wait to experience the end result!"     

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Meet the robot!

Last night a philosophical inquiry took place to discuss the concepts of 'agency' and 'intention' in relation to A Journey with 'The Waste Land'.  

As well as this project being about the links between 'The Waste Land', the visual arts and Margate's cultural heritage, another key area of research concerns the participatory methodology for developing the exhibition: What does it mean for Turner Contemporary to open up an exhibition in this way and share power and trust with members of the community?

A few weeks ago Emma Braso, Curator at the Herbert Read Gallery, UCA approached me about doing something which connected her upcoming exhibition  ‘Agency without Intention’ to A Journey with 'The Waste Land'. She was interested in participatory practice and what the concepts 'agency' and 'intention' might mean for a group of people with shared interests.

We decided to host a conversation with members of The Waste Land Research Forum and opted for this to be a philosophical inquiry, an established method used byTurner Contemporary. Last night's event was facilitated by Practical Philosopher Ayisha de Lanerolle, and started with people responding to a robot designed by Abdulbari Kutb, one of the other artworks in the exhibition. The conversation moved from questions of agency and intentionality relating to the robot; its creation and movement, to a discussion of 'The Waste Land' project. In particular we discussed the shifting and relational nature of both these concepts.

In starting to develop a vocabulary around the participatory process a number of issues came up: In researching 'The Waste Land' who has agency? What’s Turner Contemporary’s intention in opening up an exhibition in this way? What are individual motivations for being involved? Where does power lie? Where might power lie in the future? What conditions going forward will create empowerment?

The discussion was filmed and an edited version will be presented at 'Agency without intention' opening at UCA on the 15th October.

Photo: Abdulbari Kutbi

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Community Research Starts

Participatory research on A Journey with 'The Waste Land' has started!

After initial conversations with different members of the community to test out interest and think about what a structure for the project might look like, through word of mouth and an open call, over 120 people have volunteered to work with Turner Contemporary in some way on developing the exhibition.

The project seems to have captured the imagination of so many people both locally and further afield and the interests and capacity of participants going forward make it an incredibly exciting venture.

In the biggest introductory event so far 67 people met outside Turner Contemporary to walk across Margate Sands from the gallery to read the poem out loud and discuss it at the Nayland Rock Shelter, where T.S Eliot wrote a section of the poem in 1921.

Most people present had an interest in art and literature but lots of people weren't familiar with the poem, so going forward there will be more events to help people engage directly with the text.