Today I was working in the sculpture classes, helping to place and set up all of the recent work ready for next week’s showcase.
In the morning we put out the Nessie sculpture, the painted people and the bagpipes. The Nessie sculpture is now installed in the entrance of TouchBase for all to see! The painted people, made from stuffed and painted old clothes, are sitting comfortably on the sofa at the main desk, and the bagpipes were placed alongside the woodwork displays, nicely framed against the wall.
After all the wondering around we went back to the art room to finish off the painted people (as it is almost Halloween no-one seemed to mind that the people on the sofas were lacking heads). The heads had already been made; all that was required was some faces and hair. The faces were painted on, and the hair was made of ripped, painted cloth and attached with glue. The sound of the ripping was great; one participant who is not usually willing to get her hands dirty really enjoyed the noise and action involved with ripping the cloth. The other participant was happy to paint the faces, but then focussed on her own work.
Some of the participants don’t use much spoken language, which I find often leaves me behind when they explain what they want or what they’re doing. I am interested in finding ways to get around these language barriers so I don’t experience the frustration of not understanding, and the participant doesn’t experience the frustration of not being understood. It isn’t an impossible barrier to break, and I understood (eventually) when I was asked to collaborate on one of the participant’s later paintings.
We worked with a bigger group in the afternoon, placing more sculptures around the building. It was interesting the way participants engaged with different sculptures. One woman was not interested in looking at Nessie, but was very engaged with an interactive sculpture that was placed outside the drama room. I could see the appeal; a number of brightly painted geometric-shaped boxes that could be stacked, piled or laid down wherever the participants wanted. The idea was that people could move the different blocks around as they viewed the sculpture, making it interactive and sharing ownership of the art. The tutor told me that in the summer a similar work had kept the group entertained for a whole day. Watching the satisfaction of knocking down, building, and re-creating left me in little wonder why this type of sculpture was so popular.
One participant walked around next to me in the afternoon, talking to me in Makatan and giving me lots of cuddles (which were very welcome – it had been a long day!) I was reminded of the gifts that come with disability when, whilst we were looking at the woodwork display, the participant put on a pair of ear-protecting headphones. Jokingly I remarked “haha! Now I could say lots of mean things about you and you’ll never know!!” to which a support worker reminded me that this participant both signed and lip-read. Headphones were no barrier for her, unlike they would have been for me.
I had bumped into the drama tutor John Reid on my way in that morning, and our conversation about touch as a communication and developmental tool stuck with me. As part of my studies I want to create a performance that uses touch as its main sense, and the knowledge of the staff at Sense is going to be massively helpful in this endeavour. I hope to keep these kinds of conversations going, as well as tracking the process of John and Adrian Howells as they work towards a promenade performance piece based around touch with the TouchBase Performance Company.