School’s (Not Quite) Out for Summer 2014
Jul - Aug 2014

Artists Damien Robinson, Katriona Beales and Larry Achiampong delivered this year’s programme of practice-based workshops with Yr6 children at The White Building.

350 children who were transitioning from Primary to their new Secondary schools participated 

The Urswick, Hackney

Willowfield, Waltham Forest

William Morris SEN, Waltham Forest

Bow, Tower Hamlets

St Pauls Way, Tower Hamlets

Bishops Challoner, Tower Hamlets

Sarah Bonnell, Newham

Eastlea, Newham

Chobham Academy, Newham


Rich Mix youth group, Tower Hamlets

The programme supported creative learning through a range of innovative workshops in SPACE’s artist studios and explorations into Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Participants were able to learn about how artists get ideas, face challenges and are inspired to make new work.

Outlining her plans for the Summer School, Katriona Beales said: “I know (transition) can be a very disorientating experience; the challenge of adjusting to navigating a much bigger building, filled with older children. Rather than shy away from this disorientation I propose to claim it as a deliberate strategy, working together with the participants to plan and build labyrinths.”

The artists talk about their Summer School projects here:

Katriona Beales

‘I am a sculptor who also makes moving image, performance and installation. My work responds to the experience of slipping between offline and online worlds, information overload, experiences of the technological sublime and notions of a Digital Baroque, stressing the continuing role of the object post-internet.

For the SPACE summer school programme I was interested to take the notion of disorientation and explore it as a productive state. In 2012 I made an artwork on Second Life in collaboration with some students at the University of Southern Californian Long Beach. We constructed a maze online in Second Life and in the walls embedded a series of my moving image works. It was a temporary intervention but embodied some important ideas for me to do with a sense of being at sea in waves of images.

During the summer school, we started by looking at this work and historical examples of labyrinths and mazes. Working individually, we then learnt a technique for drawing a simple labyrinth and devised our own. Some of these were incredibly complex, and demonstrated the spatial skills many young people have learnt with games like Minecraft. Working together in smaller groups with rolls of electrical tape we created a giant maze on the floor of the Studio at SPACE. Later this large-scale drawing helped inform our intervention in the park itself. Using banner tape we worked together, weaving in park furniture and trees into a three dimensional web-like drawing. This ‘maze’ was then used as the basis for pair work, in which one partner was blindfolded and the other guided them through the complex structure. Together we filmed the banner tape, and each other interacting with it. Taking these films back to the studio we overlapped them using simple screen-casting software, similar in technique to works of mine such as ‘This isn’t a normal Sunday’ (2012)[1].

It was interesting for me to observe how many young people, despite living in close proximity to the Olympic park, were not familiar with it. I felt that the overwhelmingly corporate nature of the park and the continuing Olympic-style security procedures with an accompanying surveillance culture, all went against the notion of the park as a public space. One of the things I found exciting about our interventions, was we were not just creating structures that were disorientating for us to experience, but in a sense, in our interactions with park staff and other members of the public seemed to disorientate the park from itself. And in that space of unknowingness it felt like a bit more autonomy could emerge.’

Damien Robinson

‘I work with digital and found media, collaborating with other artists and participants using real and virtual materials. My practice developed through new media experimentation, but also draws on low-tech and participatory techniques, with outcomes inconsistent by size or medium, from large-scale public art to tiny pocketable card assemblages.

My Summer School strategy involved building on how we experience and navigate spaces we live and play in, using themes of mapping and avatar making to explore the park and our connections to it. Maps were developed from memory following exploratory park walks, sometimes using additional GPS tracking, but often with more traditional compass navigation assisting route finding and landmark placement. Our resultant maps showed the individuality of memory, with routes combining colour, text and images, as well as references to plant and animal life, weather conditions and even smells.

By mixing digital photography and hands-on making (using discarded book imagery), we also created park avatars - combining real and imagined characterisations as a basis for our projected and remembered journeys. Collage and montage techniques can democratise creative approaches; not everyone is confident about drawing, but using collage both in the map mix and avatar making helped the young people find a starting point a step forward from 'blank page' inertia. 

Mixing high and low tech approaches can be a useful way of stretching resources as well as individual/group creativity. Using outputs from single digital devices in large groups becomes viable with sufficient low tech resources for everyone to put their own stamp on them, whether images, text, or GPS tracks. Additionally, discarded or outdated technologies – particularly if they'd otherwise be thrown away - are ripe for experimentation, removing the underlying caution inherent in using expensive equipment. Pre-digital technologies can have a particular fascination for children who have grown up with an app for everything; the exploration required to understand and make use of a compass in the real world can be more exciting than the known quantity of sat nav. But combining approaches can draw together the known and unknown of digital techniques, actual materials, and the outdoor world.’ 

Larry Achiampong

‘My practice uses live performance, imagery and sound to explore representations of identity in the post digital age and the dichotomies found within a world dominated by cut-copy-paste facebook/tumblr/youtube-based cultures; in doing I too become absorbed by this phenomena. As a ‘Data Thief’ I crate-dig the vaults of history, splicing the audible and visual qualities of the personal and interpersonal archive-as-material. 

The project that I devised titled ‘The Ego and Alternate @ Play’ highlights the changes that the participants are about to experience as they embark on a new journey by completing primary school education and beginning secondary education. The Olympic park was considered in relation to the overall design of the project as I became intrigued by the park as an open space to take risks, to invite the actions of play-as-performance and to experiment with art-based ideas in a way that cannot be achieved in a conventional studio.

I approached the participants with the following questions to help frame the direction of the project: ‘what might another version of yourself be like if they existed, what would they sound like, how would they look and how might they act?’ As I decided that the project would involve both tactile approaches to making and performance the Olympic Park became a suitable space to introduce games that I played as a child (such as ‘Bulldog’ and ’40-40’) as momentum builders to get the young people in an active mood by thinking about performance and it’s links with prop making and functional objects.

The project space at The White Building was utilised as a think-tank space to devise ideas relating to the participant’s alternate egos, a place to manifest production as well as presentation both of our findings and of the final results of the alter egos we had created. The Olympic Park was also (re)used to bring the participant’s alternate identities to the park.’

The Summer School 2014 was delivered by SPACE in partnership with The Legacy List, and was generously supported by Action for Bow.

Claire Cooke, Project Manager

Fran Copeland, Beth Forde, Project Assistants

Prof David Buckingham, Evaluation

For more information please contact Fiona Fieber, Head of Learning