From September to January 2018 we were artists in residence at the Gilberd School in Colchester, Essex – working with year 11 Art students, investigating issues of identity and Britishness in the context of the recent European Referendum. The art works we made are presented in an exhibition ‘The Britishness Project’ at Firstsite, Colchester until June 17th 2018.
During the residency we devised a series of workshops centred around discussing and expressing personal identities and perceived notions of Britishness, drawing on cultural symbols and histories of British youth cultures, and how they interlinked with developments in art, performance and music.
For ‘The Personal is Political’, students developed unique designs, and used screenprinting, appliqué and other techniques to customise clothing. The students were photographed wearing their personalised garment by photographer Hydar Dewachi. Together they created poses that reflected and performed their identity for the camera.
The Personal is Political (Jade)
The Personal is Political (Shemaiah, Eunice, Emerald)
Throughout the residency we recorded group discussion, and devised writing excersizes using manifestos, political slogans and autobiographies. These became starting points for students to express the political and the personal through writing. This work led to ‘Do you feel like your voice is heard?’ – a series of 8 t-shirt designs, articulating the student’s voices, including: YES to difference, YES to change, NO to isolation / We are impressionable / Spend more money on the NHS.
At the opening event in the gallery the students presented a performance ‘Dear Mrs May…’ which took on the momentum of a demonstration or political rally, as students spoke through a mega phone shouting the slogans from the t-shirts alongside other political messages and personal feelings about being a young person in Britain today.
Two editions of the t-shirts are currently available to buy at the Firstsite gallery shop.
More information about the exhibition can be found here.