3 September 2019
Earlier this year, our young people’s group, Circuit, curated an exhibition in the Kettle’s Yard Research Space. Circuit members Natalia and Lizzie share their experiences of the project.
Natalia: Beginning a project knowing that the final outcome is an exhibition is a difficult challenge to visualise. The initial stages felt very unclear and hazy as it was hard to make decisions that would shape the project, activities and final outcomes. We worked with the artist Florian Roithmayr to question ourselves and our aims by asking – why, what, where and for whom?
We then decided that we wanted to create a space to have conversations between people with very different jobs (scientists and artists) but who still have similarities in their processes and ways of working. To do this, we created two art activities that would start up these conversations. Myself and another Circuit member created a wooden frame with a pencil inside, where people were encouraged to draw themselves in their research spaces. By being physically limited whilst drawing, they were actively thinking about the way a space can affect their research.
Lizzie: It was very important for everybody to feel comfortable in our conversations in order to get the most out of them, and this was the reasoning behind our first activity. Passing a ball of wool around the circle, participants responded to three simple questions: Who are you and what do you do? How would you describe your research process? Do you think your research connects people?
One of the most challenging aspects of this display was turning our research conversations into something visual. We reviewed the ideas we had come across in discussions bridging the gap between art and science, research and the public across the university, and asked ourselves what did we want to communicate to the audience? We realised it had become clear in the vast range of discussions we’d had that conversation, connection and communication were the keystones of research; that research is interaction.
This all led back to our thoughts and questions about connection, the question we asked in the ice-breaker activity: do you think your research connects people? We felt that there was an appropriate visual connection between the outcome of the activity – a web of connections between researchers – and the ideas we wanted to express. We decided to produce diagrammatic compositions of each conversation we had facilitated, looking at who was involved and the dynamic of each meeting. Each one reflects the different interactions, conversations and new connections we had made.
Once we had chosen the themes of our display, we had to produce it! We worked with artist Ann-Marie James to create paintings that represented each conversation we’d had. We then chose quotes from the different conversations and designed vinyls to display them. We also invited Circuit member Kelly Briggs to display her art piece Rebuilding Connections, as it was a perfect example of our theme of connections between art and science. One group member designed a booklet that helped audiences to think about their own practice, as we’d discovered that everyone does some form of research. We wanted to invite audiences to respond actively, so we also included the drawing frame and space to display the audience’s drawings. Once the exhibition was up, we gave a public talk explaining our process and inspiration.