Monday, 8 May 2017

Imann Gaye, sculpture and visibility

Imann here, I am 2nd year sculpture student at Wimbledon College of Art and as a part of my work placement I am interested in the function of art regarding the relationship between audience and society.

During my stint at the Shop of Possibilities in March/April 2017 it has become evident that there are some questions I need to ask myself in relation to this function. These questions include:


- Who benefits from the art education offer that museums and galleries make to their audience?

- What type of audiences go to galleries and why? How diverse are they in reality?

- How do we involve a wider audience in museum and gallery programmes?

- How do we increase diversity and access to the arts in general?


Giving access and visibility to a wide range of people should be seen as an imperative in order to break down the image of galleries and museums that they still retain, as being elite institutions.

To do so, I believe that engaging a diverse audience that are part of the local community is necessary.

South London Gallery is located on Peckham Road between Camberwell and Peckham in South East London.

As a part of their education programme ‘The Shop Of Possibilities’ is based in Sceaux Gardens council housing estate just at the back of the gallery. It enables local children to play and engage with contemporary art practices.


On Saturday 25th of March, I went to ‘The Shop Of Possibilities’ out of curiosity, where I met Jack, the Residents’ Programme Manager, who kindly showed me around. I asked if I could somehow get involved and Jack suggested that I participate in the project the following week, as part of my professional practice research. He asked me to introduce new materials and practices to the project and to support delivery of the project for the next four weeks. Exciting!!!

The challenging part was to think about how I could make my planned activities stimulating and interesting for a wide range of ages (let’s say 3-15 years old on average, but no established limit). In a way, the Shop could be compared to an adventure playground which meant that there was no hierarchy between adults and children.


I worked out different ideas and devised a series of workshops every week for them to engage with different materials and practices in relation to the idea of ‘sculpture’.


For the first workshop, I chose to introduce the young people to the representation of the human form through the use of clay because of its malleable qualities.


‘the clay that fixes and memories the gesture holds the impression’

                                                                                    (Giuseppe Penone, 1981)

Despite my careful plans for the workshop, the outcomes were not as expected…..!  The children made snakes of clay and they claimed that it looked like ‘poo’. They ran to the gallery to experiment with placing them in different places. Too funny.

It was interesting to see how the children expressed theirdesire to go to into the gallery: ‘Can we go into the gallery?!?’


In week two, the workshop was devised to consider how children could engage with objects in relation to play. I chose Erwin Wurm’s One Minute Sculpture as an interesting starting point for this session . I made post-it notes explaining children how to pick one and then they tried to become a living sculpture themselves using objects in the style of Wurm. However, the children found it difficult to understand the concept behind the activity so the remainder of the session was led by the participants.


After my experiences of week 2, for week 3 I brought some off cut wooden pieces and leftover metal pieces from the workshop at my University. I laid out paints, the young people put their aprons on and we began to paint! The children really enjoyed this session.


After a visit at the scrapstore, last session at ‘the Shop’ was like:





In the process of building a house…








Cutting shiny paper!









Playing with handmade trolley.
























And eating cake J






Being a part of the learning programme team at SLG has made me realise how important it is that art institutions engage with local residents in order to support the creation of community cohesion and cooperation/collaboration. ‘The Shop of Possibilities’ is definitely playing a crucial role in the democratisation of the arts because its aim is to introduce young people to cultural possibilities early on in their lives, which can be taken through into adulthood. WE need to see this type of practice as essential to the inclusivity, accessibility and diversity of the arts in the UK.

Children appear to be detached from engaging with each other at this time and taking part in this project has allowed me to think about the relationship between their behaviour and the impact of this phenomenon on society. I have learned how much children work with spontaneity, intuition and unplanned behaviours, with no pre-set agenda and in any similar work I do in the future, I will take this experience on board and factor it in to my project planning and delivery.

I am grateful for the unique experience I had working on this project at South London Gallery and hope that this will inform my practice as an artist and educator in the future.

Imann Gaye can be reached via Instagram at @imanngaye

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