During the recent spring, Circuit Cambridge worked on a collaborative exhibition with artists Juneau Projects. I am the Warrior is a series of open exhibitions developed by Juneau Projects, and Circuit Cambridge worked with them to produce one of the latest editions, held in Amphis at Wysing. It was the third relatively big project the group had worked on together so having an existing exhibition framework as a starting point was a useful guide. Juneau Projects’ role was not to lead or manage but rather to initiate a version of their original idea while supporting the group’s aim to give this particular exhibition a Circuit ‘voice’.
I am the Warrior celebrates creativity in all its forms. Unlike many other exhibitions, there are no themes, or rules, or fees, or a selection process. The ethos of I am the Warrior runs parallel with Circuit Cambridge’s aims to be inclusive and to support a wide range of creative interests among young people. Circuit Cambridge invited 15-25 year olds to submit absolutely anything they had made; be it ceramics, knitting, painting, poetry, sculpture, cooking, film, fashion, mechanical/digital creations etc. Through I am the Warrior, the group hoped to discuss and challenge the idea, among young people, of what art could be and who an exhibition was for.
‘I didn’t think it would be like this – I didn’t think it would be so down to earth. Next time I might give in something!’ – Jess, exhibition visitor
This version of I am the Warrior began as a series of creative discussions and workshops between Juneau Projects and the Circuit group. The group led on the marketing and promotion (making a trailer and designing a poster), exhibition design, constructing the display structures, curating the entries, and hosting the closing event. Working in this way created a sense of ownership within the group and we achieved more by working with Juneau Projects than we could have done independently. Juneau Projects’ willingness to share their own knowledge and contribute their creativity supported our common vision.
The exhibition ran alongside Wysing’s show Hey, I’m Mr. Poetic, 23 artists who have worked at Wysing in different ways over the last 25 years presenting work in all shapes, forms, materials and mediums. Hey, I’m Mr. Poetic was a playful take on what artists do and make and what histories and stories can be told institutionally and artistically. It was important that I am the Warrior was profiled alongside this as it enabled the Circuit group and exhibition contributors to present themselves in a positive way to Wysing’s wider audience. This presented a chance for Kathy Noble, Wysing Curator, to work with the group for the first time.
‘I greatly enjoyed working with the group on I am the Warrior, they were extremely open to different ideas of making and collaborating and gave a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm to the project. I had not worked with the group before and was really interested to see how they interacted with one another, worked as a team and also worked with Juneau Projects – which was a more open and integrated way of curating for me. Each of them has different skills and backgrounds that meant they all contributed in particular way. The live event at the end was great – some really surprising performances and well programmed and organised. And they were also great fun!’ – Kathy Noble, Wysing Curator
The group wanted to make it easy for young people to celebrate their creative achievements and experiments. Some submissions were new creations, some performers hadn’t performed in public before, and Circuit members themselves contributed several works. Wysing is located nine miles outside of Cambridge (on an infrequent bus route) and we don’t receive the high footfall that town-centre based galleries might expect and so this presented a challenge when it came to attracting young people to visit and drop off their work (we also had drop off points at Kettle’s Yard). We quickly realised that we would have to work harder to develop an audience, learning more about the positive impact of tapping into local social media. An effective way of marketing was to research and contact local young bloggers who spread the word for us.
Although this was a collaboration between Juneau Projects and the group, due to exams and other Circuit commitments, the reality was that six members (out of a group of 17 at the time) were able to commit time to working on this project (many more of the group came to the closing event). This meant that there was a bit of pressure on those six, especially as we were working to tight deadlines.
To end the exhibition the group hosted an afternoon of free drop-in printing and sculpture workshops led by Juneau Projects, followed by an evening closing party with performances. 7 young people performed on the night including local dancers and poets who we had not previously worked with. 49 people attended the event (we provided free transport from Cambridge!), many of whom had not been to Wysing before and several who have since joined Circuit.
‘It was a really rich event featuring some really courageous and talented young people! As it happened I spent quite a bit of my time with Nikki and Gus, so it was interesting to see how they (as first time visitors to Wysing) responded to the day and it was great that they decided they would like to get involved with Circuit. You may have seen that the dancers also asked Nikki to perform with them in the future.’ – Nicky Sim, event visitor