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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!

Join The Studio Collective

We are looking for people to help us create amazing things in one of our new spaces planned for 2018: The Studio.

The 10 people chosen will become part of our Studio Collective and help us create exhibitions and events alongside an artist and Horniman staff.

What is The Studio?

The Studio is a new space which will be opening at the Horniman in 2018. This new space has given us an opportunity to run an exciting engagement project where the Horniman will work in collaboration with artists, partners and the local community.

What are the criteria?

You need to be over 18 years old, involved in a community organisation and be based in south London to take part. You would need to be available once or twice a month for a period of four months, for a minimum of two hours per session.

What are the benefits?

Successful applicants will receive a partnership allowance equivalent to £12.50 per hour to attend meetings, and expenses to attend meetings will be covered. You will also receive training and support along the way, as well as a unique insight into the Horniman.

Why are we doing this?

The Horniman has an excellent track record in building community partnerships, as well as expertise in creating well-regarded exhibitions and public programmes.

We want to take this a step forward to create challenging and thought-provoking exhibitions and event programmes with artists and our communities.

Learn more about The Studio and The Collective:

How do I apply?

Download and complete the application form below and return this to communitylearning@horniman.ac.uk or give us a call on 020 8291 8690.

Places will be awarded based on the answers you give in the application form.

Deadline for applications is 9am Monday 27 February 2017. 

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