Back with a bang at the Tate Exchange

It’s some time since I added a new post. Shame on me. Working with A New Direction at the Tate Exchange this week has been one of the best weeks of my working life. Nineteen special schools from all over London brought 350 young people and their amazing staff to make art works and music and take part in dance and drama workshops.  For highlights    13th – 17th March 2018

This year’s theme was ‘Production: the seen and the unseen’. One of our aims was to make the creative skills of young people with special educational needs and disabilities more visible and to challenge the understanding of ‘access’ to major cultural organisations. We chose to respond to works in the ‘Materials and Objects’ gallery including Magdalena Abakanowicz’s ‘Embryology’.

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The photograph above shows how students from two schools working together interpreted the work. Another school photographed the work and made a short film using their photos and voice over to communicate how the work made them feel.

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The piece suspended at the back of this image was a response to El Anatsui’s ‘Ink Splash’ using panels of photo montage and water colour laced together. For a constantly shifting installation, what could be better that 300 cardboard boxes? We built with them, we tunnelled through them, we cut them up, we wore them…

On Saturday, someone left this for us all to enjoy.


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The now legendary Backdrop were in the house on Saturday with a classic set including ‘Sandwiches’ and ‘Build It’. Adults and children danced in a space resembling a mosh pit with cardboard boxes tumbling around them. You can check out the band’s Youtube channel: backdropVALE.

A school that came in on Friday worked on a collaborative piece that they wanted to leave in the space for the public to add their own stitches to. Throughout Saturday, adults and children came and contributed to this:

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Did you know that anyone can give a ten-minute talk in one of the Tate galleries? You can get advice and coaching to give you confidence to stand up in front of people and talk about your response to a chosen work. But what if talking isn’t your thing? Students last week showed how they felt about works such as ‘Quipu de Cobre’ by Sheila Hicks and ‘Tropicalia’ by Helio Oiticica through sign, expressive dance moves and sound effects.

We wanted to know what makes a typical artist. A good question, I think. I hope our work starts some good conversations.

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