Post written by OYAP Young Leaders team
In association with the Beyond the Balcony project, we (Tess Anderson, Emma Mayoux-Andrews and Lauren Baldwin) designed and delivered an interactive workshop for the Ashmolean’s Framed! Live Friday event on 13th May 2016.
We considered themes that brook & black had developed through their workshops with YDUK and MIND, and were drawn to the concept of exploring personal identity through the written word. Where brook & black used Dada inspired cut and paste poetry within a longer workshop to develop thoughtful and considered responses, we had the challenge of engaging an audience that was constantly changing and evolving. We decided we wanted to capture snapshots of the identity of each participant who visited our workshop, and collect these into a group identity, touching on the relationship between the individual and the collective.
Inspired by the Warhol exhibition, we devised a workshop where participants could create a pop art portrait of Manet by writing their responses to the question ‘what makes you unique?’ onto coloured card and sticking it in the corresponding colour section on the portrait wall. This open question ensured participants had the freedom to share as much or as little about their identity as they liked, and had the scope to interpret the question as they wished. By using the unique responses we were able to build a portrait of Manet using the identity of many.
Once we had solidified our concept, we then had the task of creating the portrait installation! We ordered supplies and began sawing, drilling and painting a 1.8 metre high by 3 metre long MDF wall which could be easily assembled, transported and deconstructed at the end of the evening. We designed a pop art style portrait of Edouard Manet and painted him in pride of place on the wall. After refining our marketing copy we created simple instructions for our workshop and painted these next to the portrait of Manet.
The portrait wall was going to be installed in the Sickert Gallery (Gallery 63) for the duration of Live Friday, and this location meant we had to think creatively about drawing in the public from the busier lower galleries. We wanted to ensure enough participants engaged in our workshop and so we came up with the solution to give out tokens in the Ashmolean foyer directing the public up to gallery 63.
Our final preparations focused on the branding of our workshop. This included creating almost 500 clay tokens, by hand, featuring our gallery 63 logo. We also screen printed t-shirts for ourselves and our volunteers to wear, to make us easily identifiable when the public wandered into the gallery holding a token.
On the day of Live Friday itself it was full steam ahead from the second we arrived in Oxford. The portrait wall was in storage at Magdalen Road in East Oxford, and needed to be transported to the Ashmolean in the city centre. Nicola Bird drove the University Museums van full of our equipment across the city and as soon as the Ashmolean closed at 5pm we rushed to install our wall in Gallery 63, ready for reopening at 7pm for Live Friday. The tokens worked amazingly well throughout the evening and our volunteers (Sarah Mossop, Helen Ward and Nicola Bird) added a touch of mystery by handing out tokens to the public with just a hint of what they were for. This ensured that lots of curious members of the public stopped by gallery 63 to see what was going on, and got stuck in with the workshop themselves. We had a fantastic range of responses to the question ‘what makes you unique?’, spanning from the funny and bizarre, to the poignant and touchingly personal.
We would like to thank everyone involved in making our Live Friday event a success, with special thanks to Sarah Mossop for guiding us through the whole process and supporting on the night, with thanks also to Nicola Bird, Helen Ward and Sarah Doherty for their coordination and support from the Ashmolean side. We are also grateful to brook & black for opening up an opportunity to work with them through OYAP Trust, and to all the participants at Live Friday who helped to bring our portrait of Manet to life.