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Artis ts in R eside Ania Bas nce p rogra at Sto mme ke Ne wingt on Sc hool

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About 2

Introduction Whitechapel Gallery Education Annabel Johnson

Education at the Whitechapel Gallery aims to provide a platform for the poetic and the political, for conversations around art and ideas, for creative experimentation and an opportunity for audiences to look differently at the world. By brokering long-term relationships between artists and people, Artists in Residence sets out to develop stimulating new approaches to teaching, learning and engaging with contemporary art in schools. The Gallery has a long history of working with local schools. Through changing times, strong relationships with teachers and schools have been nurtured. Pioneering commissions and collaborations with schools and communities through offsite projects in programmes such as Artists in Residence and The Street from the outset, the Gallery has come a long way from the socially improving and didactic function established by its philanthropic founders. Today it takes its lead from artists working within the realm of participatory or relational practice, whose art is akin to research.1

These elements combine to increase the critical consciousness in the students with whom we work, emphasising thinking and making grounded in clearly thought out ideas and processes relevant to their own lives. By placing the Gallery and contemporary art practices at the centre of the learning experience, we also privilege the use of technology and new media.2 Artists in Residence enables artists, teachers and young people to work on parallel creative paths, and to collaborate. It drives young people to actively question their perceptions of art, pushing them to add new layers of meaning and thought into their own work. The programme probes the important life questions they face and helps them to become active questioning citizens – valuable attributes for the 21st century artist.






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Introduction Why Artists in Schools? Annabel Johnson

The Whitechapel Gallery’s Artists in Residence programme stems from the belief that teachers and students gain most benefit from a gallery visit if a more prolonged engagement is sought, one that impacts on the way art can be approached in school. It aims to support teachers’ development of new approaches to contemporary art in the classroom, by unlocking ideas and demystifying the subject. Key to this is teachers having a practicing artist as a ‘critical friend’ for a year. The Gallery acknowledges that teachers are also artists with significant practices at varying stages of development. By partnering them with artists whose work engages with current discourses around art, teachers can reinvigorate their own practice, whilst engaging with contemporary art and impacting on their teaching. This is coupled with the belief, backed up by research, that practicing artists are unique in their approach to education, doing

something inherently different to teachers in formal education.3 Artists are positioned differently to teachers to be self-motivated, self-reliant and critically engaged practitioners. They automatically adopt a student centred approach, encouraging young people to take responsibility for their own learning and work as part of a group. Open ended experimentation that foregrounds process over product presents new possibilities and ways of thinking4, whilst co-constructive learning rather than transmission models are preferred and actively pursued. Artists in Residence incorporates multiple visits to the Whitechapel Gallery by students and teachers and links are made to the resident artist’s own practice. Young people and teachers are actively engaged in the process of interpretation, interrogating the process of art production, using newly found skills to feed ideas into their own making. Artists are crucial in this stage of the programme, for their ability to reveal ideas embodied in the art on show, using knowledge gained through their own art making.5 5

Ania Bas’ work sits within the field of relational and participatory practices. It incorporates playful thinking in the field of site specific performance and in non traditional art spaces. Bas incorporates video, photography, mobile phone technology, text, body and installation in her works. From the outset of her residency at Stoke Newington School, Bas sought to extend the space of the classroom. Initially students developed ideas in terms of personal spatial bubbles. Ideas generated in this session drifted out of the classroom to stairwells, courtyards, toilets and reception areas. Bas’ infectious personality and enthusiasm infiltrated a staff exhibition and school magazine. Those initial small bubbles drifted into every corner of the school, resulting in a week-long 6

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occupation of the main courtyard and running deep into the school infrastructure. This became a visual manifestation of a meaningful collaboration between all involved. To the credit of everyone, a programme of events was delivered that harnessed the complex political and social context of the school, whilst also meeting the equally complex agendas of a residency programme that strives to meet numerous, often conflicting objectives. The Gallery acknowledges that when commissioning education projects, tension can exist between process and outcome, especially when working within the constraints of the National Curriculum. However, it is committed to ensuring that art made is not predetermined and that art, artists and audiences are not instrumentalised. Open dialogue, consultation and collaboration enable wide ranging access to the Gallery and

the work of resident and exhibiting artists. Staff and students at Stoke Newington School embraced these beliefs, giving Ania the trust and freedom to develop a project in line with her own practice. Students were free of preconceived outcomes, took risks and with Ania’s guidance and support, followed their own ideas into new territories. Schools are an increasingly popular context for making new art. However, as an exhibition venue they are in many ways cut off from the landscape. This publication is a record of the exciting new work achieved by all involved in the Isles of Silly. It celebrates its ephemeral nature and gives extended life to a project that was about process and had no ‘object’ as its outcome. The Whitechapel Gallery foregrounds work beyond the institution and is proactive in disseminating ideas and new work generated through our collaborations. We are committed to finding spaces to interrogate current thinking and to become an experimental platform for event based, live and participatory practice. This includes creating space to present research and curatorial perspectives from beyond the institution. Annabel Johnson


Case Study


Case Study The Isles of Silly Artist: Ania Bas

The Isles of Silly emerged from a joint investigation with young people into contested spaces around the school. Isles were constructed from the students’ dreams, desires, fears and wants, and from spaces lost to large scale schoolrefurbishment and health and safety laws. They were, mischievous, funny, fuming, angry, soft and fluffy. Isles were developed over a prolonged period but only emerged in full glory for a week. This year of exploration culminated in a series of lunchtime events and one performative tour open to the general public. The isles were revealed for only a short time, but released pent up energy and imagination that I hope will continue to appear within the school and other contexts. The Isles emerged thanks to collaboration between students, teachers, myself and the Gallery providing us with an open framework and ongoing support. Ania Bas


Case Study The Residency - Stoke Newington School Teachers: Fiona Gerrans, Becky Moll, Audrey Mullins

The Isles of Silly was a fantastical group exploration of conceptual art; playing in, and with a school context. Students investigated the school space, its inherent politics and systems through a series of playful tasks involving footprints, islands, Astroturf, pens, lipstick, walls, counting, traffic lights, doodling and performance art. Students created work where process dictated outcome rather than the other way around, thus, allowing students to really play with their ideas, take risks and learn from working in groups. Fiona Gerrans, Art department technician, Stoke Newington School Over a period of six months The Isles of Silly culminated in an after school event - a performative tour of the school. The subject matter was ‘place’, more specifically the school environment and the students’ perspectives of it. What did different places in the school mean to them? What changes would they like to make? 10

of Silly Isles

The performative tour was the culmination of pupils’ exploration into what it is like to be in school, and their imaginative propositions for what school could be. Becky Moll, Art Teacher, Stoke Newington School The project theme was Contested Spaces - What makes a contested space and how can it be a site of activity and enquiry? Ania worked with two whole class groups , a total of 48, year 9 students, exploring their own ‘geographic, spatial and social territories’ in and around the school grounds. These identified sites within the school, some hidden, some calm and some smelly, were given the name Isle, and denoted an area of significant importance for students to inhabit, during break and lunchtime. Collaboration and negotiation,

between artist and students, artist and teachers, and between the two classes was central to the success of the project. Everyone involved remained totally engaged as events unfolded. Ania’s residency substantially enriched students’ learning, and helped them become more responsible and confident both inside and outside the classroom. Audrey Mullins, Head of Art, Stoke Newington School


Case Study The Students

“Isles of Silly – a big bowl of fun!” “It was cool and new! We made places within places and we played in them!” Year 9 students: Stoke Newington School

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Diar y & Actio ns 14

Diary The Isles of Silly

Who: Two groups of Year 9 students, 2 teachers, 1 teaching assistant, 1 artist, 2 curators (core team) When: October 2009 – July 2010 Where: Stoke Newington School, Hackney, London What: An investigation into contested spaces. We concentrated on the school site as a space for our explorations. Why: We wanted to create artwork that was process driven; we did not want to work towards a prescribed final product as is often the case in schools. How: We explored the spaces through a series of tasks that used nontraditional art materials: footprints, lipstick, string, traffic lights, doodles, chewing gum and more. Outcomes: We created 4 lunch time events for students, school staff and local residents and one performative public tour open to a wider audience.


5/07 Monday: Isle of Babel

10 native speakers of 10 different languages entered the schoolyard and offered free and instant language lessons to students during lunch times.


6/07 Tuesday: Isle of Spelling

Students were encouraged to wear a letter and spell words of their choice by positioning themselves next to each other.


7/07 Wednesday: Isle of Music

One Man Destruction Show performed a gig in the school courtyard – live music for lunchtime!


8/07 Thursday: Isle of Silly

This performative tour of the school revealed the school environment from new persepctives – featuring a Formula 1 style race in the school corridor, human traffic lights, synchronised desk-dancing, lipstick toilet drawings and an exhibition of forbidden items in lunch bags. All activites took place while audience members secretly overdosed on chocolate and chewing gum!


9/07 Friday: Isle of Pests

200 noisy, furry mechanical toys were released on the school link bridge. (Performance by Laura Trevail, Pests)


What are Isles of Silly?

PLAY tension between visible and possible A NEW LANDMARK





















Actions How to find an Isle of Silly in your school/classroom/office? Use one of the actions below and explore your own Isles of Silly

Action 1: Mix & Stick by Edward Cross (student at Stoke Newington School) You will need: Strips of Velcro, each about an arms length Divide groups of people into two at random (Make sure each group has a mixture of people in of various ages, gender, cultural backgrounds etc.) Group 1: Attach one side of the Velcro to the outer edge of one arm. Group 2: Attach the other side of the Velcro to the outer edge of one arm. Let people mix and stick! After a while people will be stuck to people with whom they would not normally be with and talk to! Take your group to places that you usually like to go


Outcomes: Potential new friendships Getting to know different people Broadening your horizons Play Go to places that you would not normally go to Potential mischief and great fun

Action 2: Other Worlds by Gus Maude (Student at Stoke Newington School) You will need: Coloured Chalks Use coloured chalk on pavements and courtyards around the school and create images of alternative worlds: convert boring pavements into rivers with stepping stones, draw doors that may lead to a haven or parallel reality, draw animals big and small that are forbidden in school - maybe a huge lion or a little mouse? Outcomes: More colour on grey pavements and walls Pavements and walls can be seen as massive canvases for large scale drawings Here is the potential to create an escapist land or an alternative reality where we are all clever, pretty and busy with fun things – where you can be whoever you want.



Action 3: The Intelligent-Guy Mask by Tobi Panatti (Student at Stoke Newington School) You will need: Scissors, photocopies of the Intelligent-Guy Mask, elastic or string.

Outcomes: Experiencing well known spaces in a new way Letting your senses direct you Discovering areas that are normally overlooked. Fun!

Photocopy the page and cut out the Intelligent -Guy Mask Attach string or elastic using the holes marked on the mask Wear it while you are walking around a chosen space The mask blindfolds you, whilst making you look intelligent Restricting the eyesight heightens all the other senses letting you engage with the space and people who use it in a new way, without visual bias.


Action 4: Handprints Trail by Elliot Dent (Student at Stoke Newington School) You will need: Scissors, a selection of materials (paper/fabric/foil etc), tape/Blu tac. Make a minimum of 50 handprints in your chosen colour and material - 50 different handprints for each person. Choose a route that you normally take around the school. Move around the space using your ‘everyday’ route and secure handprints on door handles, walls, banisters, desks, taps that you come across. Leave your mark around the school with no further information attached – so it is open for interpretation. Photograph your trail.


Once your trail is up, look for somebody else’s trail and follow it. Outcomes: See your everyday journeys in a new light! Following other people’s footsteps while walking their trail. Adding colour to plain surroundings. Printing your presence in the space you use


View Points


Artists in Residence The School’s Perspective

Having an artist in the school presented students with a new perspective on art, its significance and possibilities outside the classroom. Ania focussed on the project and prioritised it in a way that is often impossible for a teacher to do within the restrictions of school timetables and priorities. Because the project was realised by an artist, the explorations and performances produced were regarded as something beyond the school’s capabilities - more significant and exciting.

“I saw the benefits of students producing work that would not be assesed in terms of levels, helping them to take risks and play” I benefited from being involved in an exciting project from which I could learn; the way Ania managed group tasks, how she introduced conceptual art into the classroom and took risks, I saw the benefits of

students producing work that would not be assessed in terms of levels, helping them to take risks and play, and the way in which group tasks and more physical activities could engage less motivated students. The project also highlighted how students work could be documented through other media rather than through a ‘finished final product’. Fiona Gerrans, student teacher As a teacher – I know that the critical thinking, risk taking and group working aspects of the Isles of Silly are all key elements of the new curriculum which aims for all subjects to teach students to be successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens. The open ended nature of the project opened up discussions about live art, led to group explorations and negotiations and ultimately a collective piece of work. New skills were learnt which students will use and develop throughout their lives. Having Ania in the classroom and visiting the Whitechapel Gallery brought Art as a subject to life, allowing students to experience artwork in new contexts. 29

“As an artist - the project reaffirmed for me, the importance of art teachers being ‘artist teachers.’”

As an artist - the project reaffirmed for me, the importance of art teachers being ‘artist teachers’. As a practicing artist who is also a teacher, you can inspire students with your artwork – at Stoke Newington School the art department hold regular exhibitions for students and parents. By maintaining your art practice you are able to empathise with students’ creative processes and plan lessons that more effectively meet their needs. Working with a professional artist was also inspiring on a personal level, reconnecting me with the ever changing contemporary art scene. Becky Moll, Art teacher Stoke Newington School A visit to the Whitechapel Art Gallery to see the Sophie Calle exhibition followed by a well planned sequence of activities resulted in a successful and inspiring series of performative tours of the Isles of Silly, through corridors and hidden places in the school during the summer term. 30

During her year- long residency, Ania brought new ideas into the classroom. In lessons there was an emphasis placed on giving students new skills in being able to discuss art, whether it was live, installation, or conceptual. I remember the first lesson in which Ania asked students to create ‘Personality Bubbles’ out of string, which at times overlapped into another students’ space. Students were exploring, negotiating and disrupting. Ania challenged students to think for themselves, ask questions, explore different ways of expression and investigate relationships with an audience. At times we felt that life itself was art. Students were encouraged to work

“Students were encouraged to work outside their comfort zones, take risks, learn from mistakes and to be creative.’”

outside their comfort zones, take risks, learn from mistakes and to be creative. There were opportunities for students to express their own ideas and feelings about live art, students opened a critical and creative enquiry into the role of the artist as performer. This was a new way of working for them.

Another visit to the Gallery to see Where Three Dreams Cross, and further discussions about the work of artists in the exhibition, proved extremely valuable for enriching students’ knowledge and understanding of artists’ work. Not only did the project broaden students’ experience of art, but it also strengthened my own practice. It was very important that I worked closely with Ania in the planning stages and there was always a sense of not knowing what was going to happen next, and what the ‘finished piece’ would be. Ania worked with the ideas of process, presence and

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experience and the final tour certainly tested the limits of the possible and permissible. Students were influential in helping to create a new language for the final representation of ideas. Audrey Mullins, Head of Art Stoke Newington School



Artists in Residence The Artist’s Perspective

{site-oriented practices}1 context-specific thinking (?) situations aesthetics live art (smile and nod) hosts {unworkable locations}2 agreement solutions contracts {the social structure of reality}3 (nod no smile) visits / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /extended stays / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /ongoing dialogue / / / / / / research / / / / / / / / / / / / practice socially engaged relational & research based (being lost) (!) talking more talking C- words (collaboration, creation, creativity, connection, cultivation, communication) (coffee ) {‘artwork’ is not the end product but the whole process}4 authorship / ownership sharing (£) 32

no to {prestandardised responses}5 {separations}6 E- words (engagement, expression, evolvement, excitement, experience experiment, empowerment) (e-mail) (waiting)

artists {independent agents of social processes}7 {artists repair the weaknesses in the social bond}8

(more coffee)

art work

1 Miwon Kwon 2 Adrian Piper 3 Peter Weibel 4 Ian Breakwell 5 Adrian Piper 6 Lucy R Lippard 7 Peter Weibel 8 Nicolas Bourriaud

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Artists in Residence Get Involved

Each year the Whitechapel Gallery broker three, year long artist residencies in Primary and Secondary schools in east London. We are also piloting new Continuing Professional Development programmes for teachers to extend the reach of our residency programme. If your school would like to take part in this programme please contact:



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Education Programmes


Artists in Residence Credits & References References: Howel, C. (2009) ‘Space: The Final Frontier’ in A Manual for the 21st Century Art Institution 2009. Whitechapel Gallery p.147 1

Downing, D and Watson, R. (2004) School Art: What’s in it? Exploring Visual Art in Secondary Schools. Slough: NFER


Pringle, Emily. (2009) The Artist as Educator: Examining Relationships between art practice and Pedagogy in the Gallery Context. Tate Papers. tateresearch/tatepapers/09spring/ emily-pringle.shtm (accessed Jan 01 2011) 3&5

Taylor, B. and Houghton , N. (2008) Inspiring Learning in Galleries


Credits: This publication has been developed as part of Isles of Silly, Ania Bas’ residency commissioned by Whitechapel Gallery as part of their Artists in Residence programme. Ania Bas / Contributors: Stoke Newington School Year 9 (2009/2010) students, Audrey Mullins, Fiona Gerrans, Becky Moll, Annabel Johnson, Ania Bas.

Edited by: Caro Howell, Annabel Johnson, Ania Bas, Selina Levinson, Marijke Steedman. Artists in Residence is run by: Annabel Johnson:Assistant Curator: Education Programmes Selina Levinson:Curator:Education Programmes Design by: Nicola Price, Saffiya Lea & Jon-Ross Le Haye Published by: Whitechapel Gallery The Isles of Silly 2009–10 was Supported by: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation General Public Agency Paul Hamlyn Foundation The Equitable Charitable Trust LCH.Clearnet London Borough of Tower Hamlets MLA Worshipful Company of Fan Makers Ania Bas would like to thank all students involved, Annabel & Selina, Jon-Ross, Audrey, Becky & Fiona, Helen Wood, Michal, Adam / One Man Destruction Show, Mullins of Europe, Laura Trevail & all the brilliant volunteers who joined the artist during lunch events.


Whitechapel Gallery Artists in Residence Isles of Silly. “A big bowl of fun!” Visitors to Isles of Silly events said: ‘The Isles of Silly were amusing, intriguing, interactive, entertaining and fleeting!’ ‘I went to the Isles of Silly today and had such a fun time! We got to break all he rules and got rewarded with chocolate… next time I will bring you with me!’ ‘The Isles of Silly are a fantastic place to go and visit! you can be yourself, you can be free and can say what you want and do what you want. It’s fun and a bit scary!’ Whitechapel Gallery 77-82 Whitechapel High Street London E1 7QX


Isles of Silly  

The publication created as part of Ania Bas residency at Stoke Newington School in London. Project commissioned by Whitechapel Gallery, part...

Isles of Silly  

The publication created as part of Ania Bas residency at Stoke Newington School in London. Project commissioned by Whitechapel Gallery, part...