Sunday, 5 December 2010

Lift The Lid: Do You Abstract?

"Find shapes, colours and textures that you like in the exhibition and the building. Use pencils, collage, photography and whatever else you can think of to make an ABSTRACT picture".

The snow and ice were gone and it was a great day to get out of the house, but Bexhill was very, very quiet and so was the Pavilion. The car park outside the De La Warr was free for this pre-Christmas weekend but strangely emptier than usual.

Maybe sensing that they almost had the place to themselves, our compact Lift The Lid group developed an anarchic edge.

Children, of course, take naturally to abstraction (they often just don't know that's a name for it) so I was expecting a smooth ride. Maybe it was some grown ups drawing cartoon figures or quietly doing a little origami, or maybe it was Max's robot that began the shift from making abstract art to throwing paper aeroplanes around the room.

There must be very few people on Earth who have never made and launched a paper aeroplane, it's a universal experience. To do this with children is a lovely reconnection and had the great side effect of making everyone in the room focus on the same thing as watching them fly and commenting on flight style/design/launch technique is irresistible.

Towards the end of the afternoon a gentleman came in who'd been in the RAF in the 1950's. We got into conversation about early jet bombers and abstraction was completely out of the window.

Thanks to everyone for an excellent afternoon. Volunteers were Corin Smith (her last session as part of a Duke of Edinburgh Award) & Ben Wade (who, in a quiet act of resistance to the brief, made an elegantly engineered paper Christmas tree).

Lift The Lid is the De La Warr Pavilion's free drop in session for families on the first Sunday of every month from 2-5pm.

A Journey through Memory and Music 4th December by Irene Mensah

The disruptive weather was not conducive to a busy attendance of the gallery, but today's public although much reduced, were extremely open to responding to my request to conduct a small experiment with their way of seeing. I decided to remain with my theme of seeing through listening, but open to taking unforeseen routes where possible.

My conversation with Matthew John was one such experience. We discussed the value of finding ways of connecting with the person behind the lens. Matthew put his thoughts very succinctly; "People stir up memories, which stir up music". As a collector and artist himself he was interested in knowing more about the mind which created the image, and what their story might be.

Through the personal connections with details within an image, such as William Christenberry's rabbit pen, we agreed that our own memories then evoked a new journey,
which will cause the original image to remain with us long afterwards as a legacy. Matthew's journey went from his childhood collection of postcards from holidays to appreciating his parent's wishes to give him the opportunity to broaden his experience and understanding of other countries, to his love of engaging with simplicity and integrity in art.

One young mother responded immediately to my request, as the music from the film "Deliverance" had already come to mind for her as she went round the exhibition.

A musician couple were delighted to think of the addition of sound, with music already an integral part of their lives. Their responses to the exhibition became more exploratory and questioning of the lives and experiences of the subjects and locations.
They were very interested in the juxtaposition of Walker Evans' work with that of Carrie Mae Weems, both of which were their personal favourites. Our discussion prompted them to observe that the work by Weems represented a true liberation from the time when the impossible injustice of slavery was a reality as documented by Evans.

I will share the different moments as they were presented to me, like stepping stones connecting the personal to communal interpretations of the photography.
A takeaway curry for Christmas day
Potential for a reminiscence exhibition from a carefully curated postcard collection
Keats poetry (to calm the anxiety provoking nature of Susan Lipper's photography)
Pulp fiction and John Travolta's dancing (to lighten the effects of Lipper's distressing portraits)
Feeling too young and British (struggling to connect with the unfamiliar nature of the American South)
Smelling burning smoke (cigarette smoke from Susan Lipper's portraits)
Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan
Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel
Like black and white photography
Don't like black and white photography
Sensory interaction.