Monday 26 October 2015

Signs and meaning

On Tuesday 5th October I was lucky to be able to join Class 4S of Furzedown Primary School on a workshop day at the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the Royal Academy.

First impressions of Ai Weiwei:  In the courtyard of the Royal Academy, and an introduction in the studio before seeinf the exhibition

It is not an easy exhibition for children to understand.  The content of the works are heavy with political references.  These are read through the Ai Weiwei’s method of representation which leads the viewer to question and re-question what they are seeing.  It was surprising how well the open-minded children managed to decipher the messages they were presented with.

The children had a lot to take in.  It's not an easy exhibition because of its subject matter.  The class did incredibly well to understand the art and interpret the meaning.

After a tour of the exhibition, there was a workshop where the children were asked to consider artistic representation and meaning in Art.  They were given the question ‘If you could change anything in the world, what would it be?’.  Their written responses were pinned on a Wall of Descent and they were then asked to think how their responses could be graphically transferred to a print-tile so that everyone could interpret it. 

The exhibition certainly prompted the children to think about the question they were given.  Many of the responses represented issues very close to their hearts.

The print-tiles were created on polystyrene sheets.  The children were encouraged to consider lines, texture, symbol and colour to convey their messages, simply with imprint and paint.  With the experience of the exhibition fresh in their minds the children confidently produced their work and came up with some very direct ideas with clear interpretations in the graphic tiles.  This produced lots of areas to discuss and explore at the review at the end of the session.

As always, the children presented their work and ideas with confidence.  

Groups of children printed out their tiles in sequence on lining paper which were hung up for review.  The resulting product was a prototype wallpaper which could be repeated as a decorative finish with a strong personal message, similar to Ai Weiwei’s Surveillance wallpaper.

From an architectural perspective it raised a reminder that there is reference and meaning hidden behind everything we see in the built environment around us, be it social, political, technical, decorative, etc., to a greater or lesser extent.  It is very easy for us to become desensitised to this, but we have to keep looking, questioning, interpreting and challenging with an clear mind.

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