Monday, October 22, 2007

Hooray for the Tate

I ended up at home this weekend, and therefore ended up London town. After watching Have I Got News For You the week before and finding out that several people had fallen down into the current exhibition in the Tate Modern, consisting of a crack in the floor, I decided to go, and dragged Tim along with me. The piece is called Shibboleth and it's by Doris Salcedo.
Looks impressive doesn't it? It's really not as vast as it seems in that picture. The crack is only about as wide as a person's leg in the widest sections, so to fall down it you'd have to be pretty determined.
I've seen some really amazing exhibitions in the Turbine Hall, and a piece has to be incredibly powerful to hold its own in the space there. I don't think Shibboleth really did it for me. The crack seems very unnatural, it has regular spacing and you can see the chicken wire holding the two sections apart. It does make sense as the piece is about separation in society, and therefore man made divisions, but it seems to distract from what should be a powerful reflection about nature. Tim spent the whole time trying to figure out how it had been created.

But even though Shibboleth was not all I was expecting, there was another nice surprise. This monstrosity, sitting outside the Tate Modern. Maman, by Louise Bourgeois. It's an amazing sculpture, alien yet so very rooted in the familiar. Kids were saying to their parents that they wished it were real while Tim and I just widened our eyes in horror at each other.
We also saw some people having to shield their view as they walked past along the river, probably due to arachnaphobia. It seems almost insensitive to have a sculpture which for some people is horrific, out in full view in a popular area. Even worse is the face that there are posters all over the London Underground with the spider on, advertising the full Louise Bourgeois exhibition.
Art is supposed to provoke a response, but if it is involuntary, and people don't want to be exposed to the art in the first place, is that fair? Should art be concerned with what is fair anyway? It's certainly not concerned with what is legal in many cases.
But anyway, the sculpture was certainly unexpected, and even helped me out with my drawing project a little bit.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


OK, so this is the start of us revisiting the issue of creativity. After the interesting video shown to us by Mr P about creativity being stifled by the school environment, I decided to look into that a bit more. I work with kids in the summer so I feel like I have some vague connection to the issue.

I found this on the National Assosciation of School Psychologists website, which was very interesting to me:

The personality traits which some creative children develop are often viewed by others as strange or unproductive:
(a) Free Thinking. Toying with ideas may appear undisciplined and lacking in goal orientation;
(b) Gullibility. Creative children get excited about "half-baked" ideas and may not see the drawbacks or flaws that an adult would easily see;
(c) Humor. Creative children find humor in ideas which adults consider to be very serious. This ability to question and see other perspectives may be interpreted as mocking and obnoxious;
(d) Daydreaming. Creative children learn through fantasy and solve many of their problems through its use. Letting one's mind wander can help imagination to form new connections but may be seen as being inattentive or spacey;
(e) Aloneness. Creative thinking develops from delicate, unformed ideas. Children need to be alone while their ideas emerge, but society's emphasis on togetherness makes this difficult; and
(f) Activity. Ideas often come at times of "doing nothing." But once the idea comes, the creative child will become absorbed in the activity. This fluctuation, from what may seem to be laziness to over commitment to only one thing, is confusing and frustrating to others.

I wonder how many of those are familiar childhood traits of people on this course, and how of us didn't even realise what they were indicative of? Thinking back, I was certainly gullible in many situations because I wanted to believe in things that I thought were exciting.

I also found a few lists with Do's and Don'ts for encouraging creativity when planning activities with children.
Don't: Constantly watch over them, evaluate their work, offer rewards, over control, encourage competition, restrict choice, give examples.
Do: praise work, remember that the creative process is more important than the final product.
OK, most of those make sense but some of them are just impractical. Restricting choice is often a necessary evil, especially with things like equipment. If you get all the art equipment out for every session, you'll spend half your day getting it out and putting it away and all the kids' work will be coated in an inch thick layer of glitter which will never dry. And glitter gets everywhere. For their choice of what to do with their own work, sure they can do whatever they like.

The one I did really take issue with was 'Don't give examples'. Kids copy stuff, it's what they have always done. I drew a dinosaur on a whiteboard once just to make the art room a bit more interesting. There was extra time at the end of the activity so we let the children draw stuff. At the end I collect up 12 drawn copies of my dinosaur from the board.

When we offer a choice of activity, being able to say 'you can make a hat like this one' and demonstrate the hat, is far better than just saying 'you can make a hat', it captures their imagination more and gives them more ideas. Children do have brilliant imaginations, but they also draw a blank on so many occassions it makes you wonder.

In the morning on playschemes, we have a big roll of wallpaper for the kids to draw on. They're meant to draw stuff to do with the theme of the week, things like Summer, around the world, history, but they can do whatever they like really. A lot of times you would tell them what the theme was, and encourage them to draw things and they would have no ideas or enthusiasm at all. Around the world especially stumped them completely.
So I guess my main point from all that was that children are unpredictable and you can do everything articles tell you to and still get it wrong.

I also found this poem, called The Little Boy by Helen Buckley. It illustrates brilliantly the problems stifling creativity creates. And the sad thing is, this was written in the 1960s and not much has changed.

On an entirely different note, I found an article about how the height of ceilings affects creativity. The article is here, but the basic summary is that people think in more abstract terms when in a room with a higher ceiling. However, this does not extend to being outside, without a ceiling. Perhaps we should see if we can apply to have the graphics floor removed entirely so we could have a nice high ceiling in the lab? Maybe that storm last year was trying to tell us something.