Monday, 21 February 2011

Used to say I’m running away but I never actually got round to it

Ryan's seated self portrait

The installation of the Bubble Project pieces was both a change up in gear and a race towards the final conclusion of the work. Installation is always a process in which the artist has one eye on the clock and this was no exception. We had only two hours with the group to decide where the pieces would work best in our chosen location the indoor market. Lois, Derek and I then had a further four hours to wallpaper the life-size pieces in position, fine-tune the placement of the training shoes and postcards and find a home for the bottled poems.

The rush is sometimes a valuable one because it cuts out dithering and requires intense focus. Our group all rose to the occasion, scouting out the best sites for their work, helping to blutac them on the walls, shuffling pieces around several locations until the best height and angle was found. Finding the right space, the right moment for a piece is as fine a craft as the making and can transform work utterly, for good or ill.

Ryan's action man' self portrait

Ryan was as ever afire with ideas and enthusiasm – he steered the placing of several pieces, cackling gleefully as he did so. 

Luke's Fireheart

Luke dived deep into the whole process, working with Derek to build up bits of bric-a-brac around his ‘portrait’, choreographing the space to great effect. 

Lauren's Egyptian self

Lauren was decisive and direct, as she is. 

Len's jumping self portrait

Len found an excellent point for his basketballing self to leap into space. Finally, Kitty positioned her pair of contrasting ‘selves’ so that they linked but weren’t visible at the same time – one introvert, one extrovert. She also tried out arrangements of the training shoe text piece and the star poems. The works became powerful in the environment, it was a living frame for them. As we glued and cut and pinned, the excitement ran between us.

Kitty's Rabbit brain

The fact that the market is a hangout for local teenagers put the group on their mettle – they seemed determined to make the best of their pieces, especially when being judged by their (possibly unforgiving) peers.  The acid test of public reaction can sting, but it also brings insight – the perspective of others. As it happened, all of the teenagers we spoke to were enthusiastic about the work (‘Good things aren’t they?’). The pieces ask questions about how we care for each other as humans – and if the cost of caring is the freedom to be yourself. And freedom is a favourite subject for all adolescents everywhere.

Lauren and Lauren's falling figure

A particular hit with the audience were the training shoes – half-drawn, half-written customised trainers. On one set of training shoes is written the title of the show, a passing comment made by one of the young carers -  ‘Used to say I’m running away but I never actually got round to it.’ I’m so glad that the group stayed the distance with us to make this work. I felt burstingly proud of them. When we said our farewells, it seemed impossible to me to explain how far I thought they’d travelled on this creative adventure with us – and how much inventiveness, humour, courage and sweetness they’ve shared.  

used to say I'm running away but I never actually got round to it
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