Session Five: Marking the Boundaries

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Artist: Helen Barry, School: The Muslim N.S.

Once again we were based in the school hall that allows us the freedom to really move about and work on a large scale. I had taken the work created in the last session back to the studio for two reasons. The first on a practice basis I needed to re-glue the cut outs onto the lengths of transparent plastic and the second was to spend time looking and playing with the pieces in the hope that this would further inspire an idea of how the piece could develop whilst retaining the ideas presented by the children through what they said or through my observations of them.

In the studio whilst the glue was drying I layered each length of transparent plastic on top of each other. A very practice solution to space saving presented a view of how a city should look. When we observe a city from a distance the streets and buildings seem to be positioned in a very almost ad-hoc way. The building of a city takes centuries thus gives a wonderful monumental if chaotic sense about a place. This idea I took back to the children.

Back in the school we used some of the cardboard tubing to attach the lengths of streetscapes to. Each cardboard tube would need to be clustered with others to ensure that the walls of streetscapes would not fall over. The taller cardboard tubing resembled iconic structures similar to steeples, minarets, spires and towers. The children started to play with their voices by talking into the tubs that presented an idea to use the tubes as a vessel to host the recordings of the children’s voices. Another idea that has been another constant throughout my conversations with the children and has been present in their drawings is the concept of a maze.

Once we had made our decisions and I agreed to figure out some of the logistics we concentrated on the main task of the session. The class was divided into several groups of four. Each group was given a different coloured ball of wool and several pieces of sticky tape. Using the entire floor area of the hall I invited the children to divide up the space, marking out streets, blocks of buildings, green spaces etc. Ideally this would give us a birds-eye view of the city layout. It was quite a difficult concept to explain to the children but once understood they fully engaged in the process. A lot of negotiation was required as each group was eager to extend their plot to overlap other areas. The wool was used like a pen to mark the boundaries and the sticky tape enabled the wool outlines to change direction and stay in place. Most of the groups identified the specific buildings and how and why each building would be used. More and more of the children’s buildings include free accommodation for people who have no-where to live, especially those who have just arrived in a city. Childcare facilities also feature frequently as do mosques and football arenas. Each group were invited to talk about their section of the city and I recorded what they said. I will make frequent recordings of the children as this will capture much of the content of what we are doing. I would like to create a sound piece rather than just document the process but as yet we have to figure out and define the reason behind our audio piece.


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