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A Blank Canvas

Joe from the Studio Collective updates us on their work on our exciting new Studio project.

It seems like an age since I joined the Studio Collective as a community partner representing St Christopher’s Hospice, basically not knowing what to expect. Whilst traveling to the first meeting, I felt a nervous anticipation of what was to come. I knew I was an open book, a blank canvas, and would be bringing to the table my organisational skills from running businesses, but I also hoped that my basic love for art and a musical background would be an added bonus.

So the journey begins. My early days in the collective were like being a fish out of water, struggling to think where and how I would fit into the process but I sat, listened patiently, and soaked up what extra information I could from my more knowledgeable colleagues.

Personally I think it could be true to say that this fantastic journey has been a massive learning curve thus far and still is for many of us on the project. We are all feeling a certain degree of excitement and anticipation, and this could well be because this is the first time that the Horniman has embarked on creating a studio exhibition in this way.

The process so far has had its twist and turns, with incredibly lively debates along the way but with a respectful tone. We had to select an artist from a shortlist that we felt would be the ideal fit as a partner to the Collective going forward.

The process of selecting an artist was a simple one - it was done by a selection of different colour post-it notes for our first, second, and third choice. Simple, clever and effective. When the post-it notes were counted the successful artist was announced as Serena Korda.

I felt we had selected an artist who would be a welcome addition to the Collective. The prospect of collaborating with her and the ideas she would bring to the table was exciting. I felt a real connection with her, her love of sound creation, and the linking of sounds to various objects. As a musician, this seemed right up my street. Since Serena’s appointment, she has introduced the Collective to a range of her ideas for the studio exhibition. I was especially drawn to Mike - he’s adorable - you may have read about him in another blog, a wonderful bodiless head that records sound all around him. Hopefully, he might find his body soon and could make an appearance in the exhibition.

Since then we’ve been discussing exhibition themes. At our latest meeting, the scene was set with three tables awaiting the Collective. Members were seated in even numbers at each table ready to discuss in more detail and to get a better understanding of each of the three concepts. Each table, led by a facilitator, was given approximately ten minutes for discussion.

When the meeting of minds came to an end it was time to decide on the concept for the exhibition, and oh yes you’ve guessed it, it was time to dig out those lovely post-it notes. In our previous vote we had the luxury of three post-its, this time it was just two, we had to choose only our first and second choice. The vote was close and I am pleased to announce that the winning concept is A******. Well you didn’t really think I was going to let the cat out of the bag now, did you? But stay tuned for further blogs from my Studio colleagues and exciting updates on the concept for the fantastic Summer 2018 Studio Exhibition.

Upon being a Horniman Studio Collective Member

Phil Baird tells us about his experiences so far as a member of the Studio Collective.

  • Phil_1, Phil Baird
    Phil Baird

My name is Phil Baird and I am this artist and a member of the exciting and innovative Horniman Studio Collective.

A decade ago, while recovering from the most serious mental health condition, I considered taking a volunteering post at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, possibly doing some conservation dusting. Little did I know that I was destined to be a part of the multidisciplinary Studio Collective, whose current aim is to curate an exhibition and related events with artist Serena Korda.

It is great to be a small part of what is a large group of about 19  artists, anthropologists, research specialists, publicists, service users and, like me, workshop facilitators for the many and various community groups that are the heart of the process. The project has an egalitarian, forum-style organisation that is new and innovative. It allows Studio Collective members to take part in various levels, and we can leave the areas that we are not specialists in to the other team members.

It is great for me to see behind the scenes of the Horniman and to work with professionals with an incredible vastness of collective knowledge. The whole process for me is a weaving together of ideas, of people in the form of a community, of sounds and their means of production, of places – the whole museum, environment and Gardens, and of objects – Serena's art objects and those from the Horniman Collection both currently displayed and in the ‘secret’ reserve collection.

I feel privileged to have access to hundreds of thousands of objects that we are all custodians of. Had I known anything about anthropology when I was younger I would have certainly considered a career in the profession.

Meet Mike

Meet Mike.

  • Mike - The Studio, Alison McKay
    , Alison McKay

Mike is a binaural recording device, modelled from the head of artist Serena Korda’s friend, also called Mike.

Mike – the model, still with me? – has microphones in his ears, and works by recording and playing back the sounds around him, to create immersive sonic experiences – so the listener hears everything just as if they’d been standing where Mike was.

We met Mike at the first meeting of The Collective attended by Serena, its newest member. Serena was chosen from a shortlist of artists to join The Collective, working together to create the first show in the Horniman’s new Studio space.

She brought Mike along to the meeting as an introduction to some of the ways she works. Much of Serena’s current artistic practice uses soundscapes because, she told us, she’s interested in the healing potential of sound. She wanted to show the group how binaural recording can creative emotive experiences, a sense of space and of the uncanny – what she calls ‘ghost sounds’.

  • Mike - The Studio, Alison McKay
    , Alison McKay

So we had the chance to create our own immersive soundscape while chatting in our circle around Mike – randomly making noises such as chairs scraping and pens tapping, then moving around the space, singing, chanting and even making chewing sounds into Mike’s ear.

Listening back to the recording was fascinating – some of us listened with eyes shut; some laughed out loud or jumped in surprise.

We don’t know yet know what role sound might play in The Studio’s first show but, now we’ve met Mike, we’re looking forward to working with Serena to find out!

Refugee Week: Horniman Youth and Museu Imigracao

As part of Refugee Week 2017, our Horniman Youth Panel worked with Museu Imigracao - the Museum of Immigration in São Paulo - to consider some of the things we share. 

 

Have a look at the #RefugeeWeek and #quebrandomuros tags to see more posts.

Let's go fly a kite

Ahmadzia Bakhtyari has been hard at work over the last few months, making kites which will go into our World Gallery in Spring 2018.

Watch this video below to see how he has made these kites.

You can meet Ahmadzia at our Refugee Week event on Saturday 24 June, and take part in his free kite-making workshops. Once you have made your kite, come and fly it with us in the Gardens at the end of the day.

Find out more about Refugee Week 2017 at the Horniman or the World Gallery.

Celebrating LGBTQI refugees in the UK

It is Refugee Week from 19 - 25 June. The week takes place every year across the world and we spoke to Rainbow Pilgrims about their work with LGBTQI immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

  • Rainbow Pilgrims, Rainbow Pilgrims at the Horniman, Mary Humphrey
    Rainbow Pilgrims at the Horniman, Mary Humphrey

Many wonderful and talented people have had to flee their country of origin because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Research shows that 76 countries still prosecute people on the grounds of their sexual orientation – seven of which punish same-sex acts with death.  Still, even in countries that have supportive legislation, many LGBT people feel unsafe. DJ Scotch, now based in Manchester, found it too risky to come out as lesbian in his Zulu community and was only able to transition from female-to-male safely here in the UK. He reflects on how his life would look like these days back in South Africa,

Walking in the street, what would I be inviting? I would be so insecure about why people are looking at me and what they’d be thinking. I would be uncomfortable, basically. Let alone to transition, it would be dangerous… Already people there are confused about lesbians, and how then would I even start explaining myself as being transgender?

We believe there’s generally still a lack of awareness how amazingly diverse the UK’s immigrant population actually is, and that some refugees and asylum seekers are lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer/questioning or intersex.

  • Rainbow Pilgrims, Rainbow Pilgrims at the Horniman, Mary Humphrey
    Rainbow Pilgrims at the Horniman, Mary Humphrey

The project Rainbow Pilgrims: The Rites and Passages of LGBTQI migrants in the UK aims to fill this gap and give LGBTQI immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers a platform to tell their stories and celebrate their diverse identities and backgrounds.It is supported by The National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and hosted by the charity Liberal Judaism.

Learn more about DJ Scotch’s experience, listen to other LGBTQI migrant stories and watch our new trailer #shareyourRPstory on Rainbow Pilgrims.

We are extremely excited to be working alongside the Horniman on various events around the heritage of LGBTQI migrants in the UK. In fact, our great collaboration already started earlier this year at the annual Crossing Borders Day in March. We invited our friends from Micro Rainbow International to explore the concept of storytelling using museum objects. Micro Rainbow International UK works with LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees to heal through the arts and combats isolation.

  • Rainbow Pilgrims, Rainbow Pilgrims at the Horniman, Mary Humphrey
    Rainbow Pilgrims at the Horniman, Mary Humphrey

Together we can create better understanding between different communities and to encourage successful integration, enabling LGBTQI and indeed all refugees to live in safety and continue making a valuable contribution.

For more information and to get involved please contact project manager Shaan Knan via rainbowpilgrims@liberaljudaism.org or contact the organisation via their website

SEND schools programme shortlisted for award

We are very excited that our SEND school programme has been shortlisted for a Museums & Heritage award this year. Here to tell us more about the programme is our Schools Learning Officer, Maria Magill. 

'The question I get asked most is, 'What do you do when you’re not teaching?' Among other things, I get to work on developing our offer for schools, particularly for special educational needs schools. This is one of the most fun aspects of my job.

Our programme of sensory sessions and resources has been shortlisted for a Museums & Heritage Award this year in the category of Education Initiative. The Schools Team couldn’t be more excited!

SEND Sensory Session: A Musical Adventure was developed as part of the legacy of a project with Peoplescape Theatre Company. It is a music session using instruments from Brazil and Nigeria. Pupils help a character ‘Rebecca’ and travel to each country to collect instruments to bring back to the Museum.

Encountering storms on the sea (making wave sounds with our ocean drum), visiting the Brazilian rainforest to be surrounded by butterflies and birds (fluttering tissue paper shapes), and helping to pack a suitcase, as well as learning a Yoruba song of welcome, all form part of this fun session.

SEND Sensory Session: Ancient Egyptian Mummification was developed due to teacher requests. Pupils engage with a sensory story exploring how Mr Horniman collected artefacts from Egypt.

They explore the process of mummification through a range of sensory experiences and objects. They have a go at bandaging, exploring the spices and tools used in mummification (salt, frankincense, cedar oil, beeswax) and handle real Ancient Egyptian objects including a mummy mask.

Alongside the sessions, we’ve worked to make the Museum visit more accessible and inclusive.

There is a social story on our website showing the rooms schools will visit, the things they will see and who they will meet.

We’ve had training to help us incorporate Makaton signing into our sessions and we’ve got software to enable us to create Widgit flashcards as another communication tool.

We’ve had a rethink about how we set up our workshop spaces, changed our tablecloths to make objects easier to see and made cushions available to sit on the floor.

  • SEND schools programme shortlisted for award, Widgit cards
    Widgit cards

Next steps involve creating a new science sensory session linked to our Aquarium and creating a day schedule using Widgit cards which we can share with schools before they visit.

To be shortlisted for a Museum & Heritage Award shows us that we are on the right track, and gives us a renewed burst of enthusiasm to keep improving our offer, making it more accessible for all participants, and to keep improving our professional practice. We’ve just started and we’re excited to keep going!

If you would like to find out more or book a session please contact us at 0208 291 8686 or email schools@horniman.ac.uk.

For more information visit this SEND group page on our website.'

Redstart Arts Discovery Box

Redstart Arts have been running creative projects at the Horniman for several years. Here, artist Cash Aspeek describes their current work on the Discovery Box project.

Over fifteen different community partners are helping the Horniman create new boxes that will be used by visitors and groups for years to come. They are like mini museums, selecting a group of objects that follow a theme chosen by the group.

Redstart Arts are making their own Discovery Box for the Horniman. The objects the group are choosing are from the Horniman’s Handling Collection as well as handmade objects by the Redstarts (artists with learning disabilities) themselves, made especially for the project.

Redstart Arts’ theme is ‘Protection’.

During the past two years, the Redstarts have become familiar with the Horniman's galleries and many of the objects displayed in them. Each Redstart artist has had been allowed the time and space to select objects that they are particularly drawn to and make studies of them. These objects all had the common theme of protection.

All the sessions for this project involve a group activity where we come together to look at and experience a selection of objects.

Each Redstart is able to connect to different areas of the Horniman's collection and show their interest in the form of drawings, photographs, and conversation, which may come about through storytelling and dramatic scenarios.

The artist educators and Horniman staff are excited with the way the project has developed and are captivated by the incredible focus of the individual Redstart artists. 

  • Redstart Arts Discovery Box, Kimberly is making objects inspired by shells that create incredible and varied protective environments for sea creatures. Kimberly is using model magic and milliput.
    Kimberly is making objects inspired by shells that create incredible and varied protective environments for sea creatures. Kimberly is using model magic and milliput.

  • Redstart Arts Discovery Box, Byron is making his own protective mask and talisman pendants working alongside Hannah who is using plaster and modeling materials.
    Byron is making his own protective mask and talisman pendants working alongside Hannah who is using plaster and modeling materials.

  • Redstart Arts Discovery Box, Uduehi enjoys drawing and is particularly interested in how animals protect their families.
    Uduehi enjoys drawing and is particularly interested in how animals protect their families.

  • Redstart Arts Discovery Box, David is embroidering images from the Natural History Gallery onto blue satin discs. This will become a protective cloak to be worn. Each disc has a drawing by all the Redstarts.
    David is embroidering images from the Natural History Gallery onto blue satin discs. This will become a protective cloak to be worn. Each disc has a drawing by all the Redstarts.

  • Redstart Arts Discovery Box, David is embroidering images from the Natural History Gallery onto blue satin discs. This will become a protective cloak to be worn. Each disc has a drawing by all the Redstarts.
    David is embroidering images from the Natural History Gallery onto blue satin discs. This will become a protective cloak to be worn. Each disc has a drawing by all the Redstarts.

  • Redstart Arts Discovery Box, Colleen is designing fabric inspired by African figures. The fabric will be used to protect the Akuaba doll. This doll was given to women to look after as if it were a baby in order to aid their fertility and allow them to be ready for motherhood.
    Colleen is designing fabric inspired by African figures. The fabric will be used to protect the Akuaba doll. This doll was given to women to look after as if it were a baby in order to aid their fertility and allow them to be ready for motherhood.

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