Our Research Primary schools

Lockdown Lab report – looking back over our summer

This summer has been a huge challenge for educational institutions; thinking about how to maintain social relationships, conversation and access to resources and learning, as much education moves online.  For ArtLab it meant we were no longer able to run our summer workshops where for the last 5 years we have been meeting year 5 and 6 primary school pupils all over the Reading area over the last six weeks of the summer term, making, creating stories and learning from each other. We began to think about the resources we did have and began turning to the things we have in our homes and their creative possibilities, whilst witnessing the incredible pressures on teachers, pupils and their families to continue learning and educating, look after mental well-being and find new routines.  Here the idea of Lockdown Lab was born; sets of resources for people to draw on, simple activities and notions that paid attention to what we have close at hand, for little cost, reducing waste, and rethinking our environments.  This idea is not a new one; it can been seen in huge and wave of open source activities, videos and resources that lockdown gave birth too.  Individuals, groups and organisations finding ways to share and support each other, new communities growing and sharing their voices, and finding new platforms to do so on.  Though the inequality of access to technology and internet access mustn’t be ignored (and is very much unresolved), and lockdown exposed huge disparities between experiences and access, with it came hope and new possibilities as some spaces and experiences became more accessible.  Access became an everyday conversation, gradually beginning to recognise how many have lived without it for their whole lives and the everyday privilege, much taken for granted, in being able to leave your home safely. As we began to make videos, sometimes really paring down and thinking practically ‘do I need this . . . are there other ways around it?’, becoming increasing conscious of language, voice and the way ideas are conveyed between visual and audible realms, we begun to develop new skills and notice the previously taken for granted.  In conversation with our student co-researchers it was interesting to observe how we begun talking more about core and basic needs, reflecting Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and I found this very heart warming.  The role of the natural world, be it in growth seemingly against the odds as in Tehya’s Animation ‘Even in Tarmac Flowers Grow’, in observation, respect, colour, and print in Khadijas review of Camden Arts ‘Camden Botanic Print’ or celebrating and preserving the joyous movement of ‘The Importance of Bees’ of Cerys’ animation, was becoming a daily comfort for many.  The ‘Move Your Bodies’ series travels outdoors to think about the sensation of a tree, of the wind, in mindful exercises, stretching and expressing with the body. The versatility of paper and cardboard, folded, shaped, layered, sculptured, is a repeated presence amongst the videos made; from the many origami inspired animations, where you start with a flat surface and end with a sculpture; Fajar’s ‘Origami Heart’, Antonia’s ‘Origami Eye’ to the Cereal Box Challenge and Kidtronics– step by step make alongs to follow over the weeks. Everyday objects, things close at hand become fodder for transformations; casting shadows, mimicking other surfaces and becoming materials for portraiture.  Or’s ‘Animate Your Self’ explores how the artist and her family use toys and trinkets as material to make images of themselves, thinking about how the materials reflect their identities and sense of self. Transformation is seen in the joy taken in shadows in Cerys’ animation ‘Hand Animals’, made with the slightest of materials but ending up somewhere you cannot predict. Another transformation happens in Jessica’s’ tongue in cheek ‘Ikea Fort’ review, which explores internet Ikea hacks to make dens and homes out of blankets, tables and clothes racks- a kids and adults favourite.  Charlotte takes over a garden to make a map for her ‘Make a Connection review’ out of bricks, paper plates, and wool, exploring the connection between animals and her intuitive understanding of their relationships.  This reflects how we process and make sense of knowledge, and how laying things out can think through ideas and strands of thought. Gratitude and taking time to think about the things that are important to you, is the inspiration behind Jennifer’s’ video animation ‘What inspires You?’ and in its partner video ‘What inspires me?’ she talks in her voice over about how she made it, and the challenges she faced with motivation in Lockdown and the focus that art brought for her.  Lennox’s review of Tate’s ‘How to Make a Protest Poster’ is a message of hope, which asks ‘What do you care about?’ Their choice of words for their poster are ‘We can make a change together’; a rallying call to work together and to believe in the power of care and collective action. Our hope is that over lockdown this resource has been a place to turn to, whether for a moments escapism, or as a way of paying attention and exploring possibilities in the everyday and finding creative inspiration.  For the ArtLab it is a resource we can continue to learn from, and utilise in future activities. We thank all our student co-researchers for their contribution, energies and ideas.

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