I continue to create and produce a range of digital content and educational resources, both with and for young people.
A selection of recent short films, artist interviews, exhibition podcasts & audio guides created with the MCA Young Guides can be found here and a case study of the educational resources created for the UNSW Galleries exhibition People Like Us is below.
People Like Us
In 2014 I was commissioned by UNSW Galleries to create a series of educational resources for the new media art exhibition People Like Us. Curated by Felicity Fenner and commissioned by Museums & Galleries New South Wales, the show toured 14 of Australia’s regional galleries between 2016 and early 2019 through the National Exhibition Touring Scheme.
DEVELOPING AN EDUCATION RESOURCE
The first resource to be created was an education kit. This was deliberately conceived as an ideas platform, rather than a rigorous address of the visual arts curriculum given each state and territory has its own curriculum. So, the resource had to be both broadly useful and adaptable to each audience and occasion.
It starts with the most obvious question – “What is new media art?” – and subsequent content is placed within a series of frameworks that connect our understandings of art and the gallery-going experience with our everyday experiences of these technologies. Some of these frameworks or questions include: “How has new media developed historically and art historically?” “Where do we encounter this kind of technology in our every day lives?” And “how does all that change the art viewing experience?”
CREATING A PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITY FOR TERTIARY ART EDUCATION STUDENTS
One of my main objectives in developing this particular resource was the chance to work with UNSW Art & Design students to develop the content. As an exhibition curated by UNSW Galleries it presented a unique opportunity to engage with future visual arts educators and integrate a secondary level of learning into the wider process of creating these resources.
Dr Kim Snepvangers, the Head of Art Education at UNSW was instrumental in supporting the development of this professional development opportunity, which formed an official part of an academic course in participatory practice and working in partnership with communities.
In working with these students, I adapted a model of socially engaged practice and peer-to-peer learning that I first used while working at the South London Gallery on the Louis Vuitton Young Arts Project. I’d been looking for an opportunity to work in this way again because I knew it to be a successful way of learning and developing ideas in a collaborative and positive way.
The three students—Natika Newing-Stern, Emma Desira and Grace Toiava—and I met several times over the course of several months, researching best practice models of education resources, talking through questions and our own uncertainties about new media art, and brainstorming how we might talk about the artists and their works. This was measured against the students’ direct experiences of being in the classroom or gallery and having to develop and deliver activities.
As a group we each independently developed biographical and related information about each artist and devised a collection of learning activities for each work under the agreed headings of ‘Explore’, ‘Discuss’, ‘Create’ and ‘Compare and Contrast’. Kim and I then checked and edited these to ensure they were rigorous, appropriate and engaging.
THE PRODUCTION OF SHORT FILM RESOURCES
In addition to the formal education resource, I also produced a series of short films featuring curator Felicity Fenner and selected artists, which explain some of the ideas explored in the show. These were designed to give an insight into some of the working processes of the artists but also how a curator approaches an exhibition brief and curates a show accordingly.
A SOCIAL AND CREATIVE EXPERIMENT USING TUMBLR
The final resource was the creation an ambitious crowd-sourcing project using the micro-blogging platform and social networking site Tumblr.
Tumblr allows users to create, share and re-blog different kinds of digital content from a browser, phone, desktop or email around particular themes, interests of ideas. A number of international museums and cultural institutions use Tumblr to successfully engage with their young audiences and artist audiences. MOMA Teens, Tate Collectives and SFMOMA are all brilliant examples.
The People Like Us tumblr project was envisaged as part exhibition, part social and creative experiment. It was designed to offer students and communities an opportunity to engage with some of the ideas in the exhibition in creative and personal ways.
The Tumblr project asks people to create a work of art—in a classroom, at home, in a gallery workshop—that responds to a broad brief exploring notions of belonging, difference, self and others and community. People can interpret the idea of ‘people like us’ using their own distinct visual vocabulary and skills. While anyone anywhere in the world can respond and engage with the project, we hope that as the exhibition tours Australia, the content will grow and respond according to the different communities that engage with it.
It was undoubtedly an ambitious experiment but it seemed fitting that in an exhibition about experimental technologies, interactivity and human connection there should be some way to explore and express these ideas using technology itself.