Today was the last day of sculpture, and so there was a final push to complete the bottles and be ready for their installation next week. We had a very large group in the morning, as photography was not on, leaving the room buzzing with energy. I sat next to a participant who I’ve struggled to communicate with before as I don’t know much sign and don’t catch her words easily. However, I felt today I was slowly begining to get the hang of things, aided by the occasional point, tap or drawing to aid a point.
At the end of the session Certificates of graduation were handed out, and everyone and their picture taken with scroll and graduation hat to boot. One participant was so excited by his certificate that he ran out of the room to start showing people downstairs. I’d chatted to Alison about the idea of certificates, and she had mentioned that at first they seemed a bit too school-like or resonant of exams and objectifying learning. This is something I can very much relate to, as I despise education systems that aim for products and targets as opposed to investing in the learning journey of each individual. Despite our reservations, we both had to agree that the participants got a lot out of the certificates with many being very excited and proud about them. It’s useful to be reminded every now and again that no-one can predict the people, and that to ever really know what works and what doesn’t you just have to try it.
In the afternoon we had a quieter session, but still very productive. One participant from the morning came back because she had enjoyed it so much, which was good to see. I was once concerned that people at sense would have difficulty expressing what they did and didn’t want to do, and that they would be forced to do art as it’s ‘good for them’. I had no need to worry though, as I have become very aware that ethos of sense is that you do it if you want, you don’t if you don’t, and no-one seems to have any problems letting you know one from the other.
Two of the participants spent the session holding hands, which as well as being incredible cute reminded me of the problems caused when adults with learning difficulties are put in the same category as children. If the service users at sense are seen as children it gives no room for them to develop romantic/sexual relationships, agency over their life choices (such as wanting to go to work) or living independently. I feel this is incredible dangerous and am always uncomfortable when participants are compared to children. However, I know this is not a new problem, people with learning difficulties have faced barriers around these issues for years, something I would like to investigate and research further. Could performance and art be a way to develop society’s thinking around these issues?