Warrington Museum 4 June
We've been working with a group of carers, investigating the objects in Warrington Museum (the oldest public museum in the country) and using poetry and art to re-label them. We're interested in bringing the personal stories of participants and those they care for into this process - so that the objects truly are symbols of affection.
How do you encourage a fresh look at objects in a museum? I find myself drawn magpie-like to the shiny and the bizarre and the familiar too – but what do I miss, and others like me? Today's exercise at Warrington faced this square-on. We asked participants to view the collection looking for images of stars, moons, suns, constellations. These could be direct representations like the sun and moon-faces decorating a grandfather clock. Or much looser connections like a collection of starburst-shaped medals, a heap of cannon balls or seed pods from long past.
Participants carefully made pencil drawings of these little interplanetary symbols scattered around the museum. The drawings were brought back to the artroom and reworked into visual poems, using pen and ink and brushes,
Poems are often the answers to a series of questions. Here are the questions we asked for this exercise. Can you describe your friends and family as stars, planets, moons? Use the language of astronomy to depict their personalities and relationship to you?
Today's pieces were affectionate, funny, sensitive portraits of loved ones.
Today was totally different for me – I like structure and order – it's not the way I think about things. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that this writing was a good description of my family. It was my family. Sometimes it helps not to think of people as themselves but to be a bit more abstract.
It's different to being taught it in a right or wrong way. Today I'm feeling scribbly. I see things and experience them as I am today and the process you use is subtle enough to not get in the way. I was completely gone, totally absorbed in the drawing. I can be away with the fairies, not have any concept of time when doing stuff like this. If you're a carer, you're away from that role.
My mum the bright yellow star. Liz is glittering in the darkness. Edward, this is just him, fiery. Full of energy and yet that little dark bit he's got to keep to himself. I always try to see beyond what's in front of me. In the carer's group its not what you see at face value. We have a lady who comes I the group, bossy, you can take her literally. And yet if you stand back you can see her in a different light. This exercise gives you another outlook.
My daughter like the sun, strong, motherly. Warm and strong. Richard my son trailing through the universe, occasionally crashing to earth. Shooting through life. I've enjoyed it, takes you out of the comfort zone a bit which is stimulating. It's made me look in cabinets I wouldn't have looked in, that was really exciting. You always think when you're at home you've got time to do creative things, but don't get round to it. This has made me excited again.
I enjoyed looking around the museum but matching the words to the pictures was hard. Its made me use different words to describe the people in my life, rather than the everyday. No swearwords! It changes it from just being a picture, makes it deeper. It's not just my picture any more, it's going under the surface.