Work that involves participation by way of contribution is there because it has been created collectively. When working with people who are in isolated or vulnerable situations the artwork becomes a catalyst for change. Its linage is of activisim and dialogical art practices.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Be Yourself

Once you put it down on paper it's a message that can be read by others or passed around in secret but it's out there now, expressed ink on paper whether you meant it or not.

I was in Bradford when the BNP had organised a demonstration. Just outside the city centre I was working at Toller Youth Cafe and we were talking about protest and human rights. On my way there I saw groups of men in balaclavas and police everywhere. It was rather unsettling and I wondered how I could have a conversation with these young people about respect for other cultures when the adults around them were behaving so badly.

Most of the young people had booked themselves on a coach to visit Old Trafford for the day so when I got there it was just a handful of them waiting around to get all the relevant paperwork signed off. While they were waiting I showed them some of Gillian Wearings "Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say" and also some work by FREEE.

Inspired by this newly reconfirmed right to freedom of speech the young guys came up with some of their own signs. One of which was "Be Yourself, Cos no one else can". I was really impressed with this as often when I work with young people they just want to write their own name or the name of an Xbox game, but these guys said something. It doesn't fit into Wearings classification of signs, nor is it on the scale of FREEE's work but it's there, an honest and confident response to an otherwise appalling day for freedom of expression.