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Annual Report Tate Exchange 2019


ArtLab took up residence at Tate Exchange from 1st – 3rd March considering this year’s theme of movement; physical and bodily movement including migrations of people and diaspora, movement expressed and performed in making art works, and movement in or of digital images. 

The activities included Listen & Draw, Selfie Sphere 360, Making Moves, a sculptural form and movement exploration of the Franz West Exhibition, and pixel stick drawing with light were developed collectively with artlab co-researcher students, Reading School of Art graduates and teaching staff.  These were explored on the Tate Exchange floor by five groups; pupils and staff from Micklands and Meadow Park Primary School’s from the Reading area, general public visitors to Tate Modern, the Purple Stars Team and Reading School of Art and the wider School of Arts, Communication and Design Tate Exchange participants.


The ArtLab floor at Tate Exchange was laid out in ‘stations’; participants followed meandering colour coded tapes from the welcome area to different small group activity areas, each with a coloured circle carpet base, which served a space for pupils in groups of around 10 to begin each activity with a conversation about a conversation about where they had travelled from (school identity, class qualities and values to the wonder of the coach journey, to the experiments and actions they’d made in the day so far) and where we might to travel next in creative experiments.

Development of ‘Listen & Draw’ Station;

The listen & draw station consisted of a large 10 meter drawing surface laid out across the floor, sets of drawing tools, and twelve audio pieces of silent disco headphones made by groups of 1st year BA Art & Joint students in the module Reading Objects, Writing Images. The compulsory module running across the Autumn and Spring terms, explores approaches to drawing, and moves into exploring expanded ideas of drawing in the spring term, considering acts of translation, and drawing through walks, performance and book making.  Students worked in groups of four to develop audio art works to stimulate and inspire movement in drawing.  Inspired by works in the Tate Collection including Finger Gloves (below) and the practice of Rebecca Horne, and the practices of Trisha Brown (It’s a Draw/Live Feed, 2008), Janet Cardiff (Sound walks), Carolee Schneeman (Tracking, 1975 and Up to and Including Her limits) and Lygia Clark (Caminhando, 1963), the project was designed to aid students to consider the performative, live and collective nature of drawing, introducing the notion of art works which require participants and cross over between roles of artist and audience to find form.

Students participated in workshops and seminars exploring artist’s scores, ‘what is sound’ (including collecting and editing sound), and working responsively and collectively, during the 5 week project, supported by group tutorials.

When the Tate Exchange Floor was open to the public, 22 student artists (out of the cohort of 71 students on the module) facilitated the Listen & Draw Station, over the three days (in addition to 15 cross year artlab student co-researchers facilitating across all activities).  Visitors were invited to give feedback on the audio works of the Tate Exchange timeline wall which was shared with those unable to attend after.

The audio is available to list to beyond our time at Tate Exchange here;

Student feedback on ‘Listen & Draw’;

There were two points where students feedback was gathered:

  1. When handing in audio works (before Tate Exchange) using Mentimeter on the following statements:

Reflecting on the group project, I learned… . A summary of responses include: to work with others, compromise and communication skills, editing and technical skills in audio, emotive power of sound as art form, bringing together multiple ideas and modes of thinking, taking feedback

One thing I found challenging was … .Most common word cloud responses include editing, communication, inspiration, group work.

Full results can be seen on the following link:


2. End of module evaluation feedback from students includes the following free text comments responding to the question ‘What did you like most about this module’ relating to the project and wider experience.  There were no relevant comments in the ‘what can be improved section’.

‘I really valued the trip to the tate Exchange and the opportunity to showcase the audio for the public to see.  It felt as if my work were important and enjoyed learning to navigate with this freedom’

‘great opportunity’

‘I like the element of collaboration when working on the sound pieces, this made us better as responding to each others ideas’

‘exhibiting at tate modern and group work’

‘being able to see our art in real life context (tate)’

‘I valued most the chance to exhibit at the tate modern, I think this is a great experience and was really good to start collaborating with other people and working together’

Many students expressed an interest in working with ArtLab on future Widening Participation projects.

To see more images of visitors responding to audio click here: https://readingartlab.com/2019/04/25/artlab-tate-exchange-visual-diary-2nd-and-3rd-march-2019/

Leaving school and campus, being at Tate and the role of changing spaces;

As described above Reading Students appreciated the opportunity to work and exhibit off site, and gained experienced working with and thinking of different audiences.  This change of learning location was all the more profound for the pupils from the two local Primary Schools; Mickland’s and Meadow Park Academy. 

In developing activities we had hoped to open up pupils ideas around the possibilities within creative practice, considering their presence, stories, identity, interests, and sensory experience as integral, valid and central to the activities on the Tate Exchange floor.  By accumulating their experiments, the form of the activities would expand, and be populated by the possibilities they found.

In Listen & Draw groups began seated in a circle on the carpet and discussed, how they felt about drawing (including an openness to share if they found it difficult or stressful) with artlab coresearchers (myself and two students) sharing too.  Pupils shared where and in what spaces they drew; primarily at home and at school, and their strangest and favourite subjects.  The conversation naturally moved towards how pupils felt when drawing when drawing with many expressing articulating how it helped them relax, or to find quiet time to be alone.  Some expressed concern or anxious when beginning drawing and others saying they didn’t feel like they had space at school or home to do so.  The activity was introduced, with pupils being asked if they have heard of silent discos, and some sharing examples of how funny and strange people look moving around dancing with nothing going on!  The activity floor was described as a dance floor, but we would be drawing not dancing. This metaphor appeared to intrigue pupils, the scale much greater than anything they’d experienced before. 

Starting with more musical, gentle tracks, pupils seemed inclined to sit, and drawing in small discrete areas, beginning drawing figurative objects. On choosing the qualities of the next (narrative, strange sounds, journeys, voices and so on) we encouraged them to change positions, and see if they could draw what things sound like, rather than what they were.  With each track groups began to move fluidly over the paper, travelling with tools on sticks and they appeared to skate over the surface.  Pupils carefully navigated the space, moving around each other, and working with each other’s marks.

Observing the groups activities and discussion I was struck by the level of focus, perhaps through the novelty and theatre of the activities, and also from the change of space, away from the usual architecture and activities of the classroom.  An unanticipated consequence of the headphones was that after a few minutes pupils seemed to settle into drawing, with little or no apparent apprehension around skill, finesse nor end point of what they were drawing.  Rather the headphones enabled them to settle into a calm space, seemly unselfconscious or concerned or distracted by the activities around the rest of the floor.

Between tracks we discussed what we’d heard and how it was expressed in mark making, how if felt in the mind (relaxing, tense, scary, strange, confusion were all mentioned) and what kinds of movements came out in the body (floating, being tense, speedy frenetic marks, spikey movements).  At the end, we discussed what they had experienced, and many pupils shared how they felt less scared by drawing, and how it could be a relaxing experience.

Visual diaries from Micklands and Meadow Park can be seen here:



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