Sophie Mahon, Guest Artist – blogs about her experience working with a group of 15 – 25 year olds at Nottingham Contemporary.
Throughout September I had the opportunity to work with a group of young people aged 15-25 at Nottingham Contemporary. Each week I ran practical workshops with the group exploring different ways of making and displaying art. Workshops ranged from messy making using unusual materials to creating sound and film. All of the workshops stemmed from processes I use when creating work and It was great to get young people excited about some of the things that interest me.
When planning the workshops I felt it was important to introduce ways of working that the group would be able to carry on developing after the project. I used a variety of open source programs to introduce various ways of producing digital artwork such as VPT, a free video projection mapping software.I think there can be a misconception when viewing digital art that it has to be incredibly complex or cost a lot of money to produce when in actual fact I think many of the best digital artworks can come from the simplest ideas. I also believe that digital art can be done well on a budget so running open source workshops on processes such a video mapping was a good way of engaging people with this. The group responded really well to this workshop in particular and later went on to produce a really fantastic piece of work for a social at the gallery which consisted of a digital version of ‘exquisite corpse’ being mapped onto mannequins.
I also ran workshops in more niche areas such as data bending. I am constantly trying to develop new ways of using digital processes in my work whether it be new ways of presenting film and sound or producing new forms of interaction and data bending is something that fits in with in this. In my first workshop with the group we turned high contrast images into sound by using flaws in already existent sound editing programs. I like the idea of changing and transforming data into unrecognisable forms and I think this workshop worked particularly well with some members of the group going on to produce other data bending work. At the end of the project there was an opportunity for the group to show some of the work and processes they had developed at a gallery social. The group invited young people from Nottingham to come and see their work and also taught visitors some of the things they had learnt in the previous weeks. It was a really great to see the group passing on new ways of working so confidently and ended my time with the gallery on a high.
Having worked with groups of young people in other galleries across the north west it was interesting to see how the gallery approached working with young people and the effect that had. The group seemed confident and engaged and very dedicated to not only to the workshops but also to their place within the gallery. Some of the group were part of the galleries core group of young people who program regular events within the gallery and for some this was a first time on a project like this. I think the very fact a gallery like Nottingham Contemporary has a core group of young people with genuine scope to shape the programme speaks volumes. It reflects not only in the confidence and ambition of the group but also in the quality of the events they produce. To me it seemed like an obvious snowball event of quality engagement, something clear to see at their social event which was planned in under three weeks and attracted over 50 young people. I hope that galleries such as Nottingham Contemporary continue to give opportunities to young people and work with them in this way as I really do think the outcomes can be quite spectacular.