Mid-Project Report by Hugh Rose
Earlier this year, the GAC Arts Team initiated a project, in collaboration with the Home Department, to encourage conversation and discussion around Difference and Otherness using visual art as a medium. Our idea was to invite the public to contribute to an exhibition at the greenhouse gallery in Guernsey Museum, and we purchased 2,000 small 3” x 3” canvasses in preparation for a programme of workshops and public engagement to collect work for this exciting event.
As the canvasses began to come back into the GAC office, something amazing started to happen; they came loaded with fascinating stories about the people that made them. The Arts Team have been on an incredible journey with this project, and we are all very excited to share our experience on the 2nd July at the greenhouse gallery, when all of the canvasses will be exhibited.
What we began to realize as this project developed was that we were essentially delivering a survey. We asked each participant “Who are you? What makes you different to everyone else?”, then gave them a blank canvas, and the opportunity for it to be included in the exhibition. The twist that made this ‘survey’ different from any other was that the participants were asked to respond visually to our question, and the discussion was framed in the cultural context of a gallery exhibition. We strongly believe in the Arts as a tool to get to the heart of issues that may be hard for people to discuss, and this project has been no exception. A visual, artistic response to a question seems to be more instinctive, more honest and more personal than filling out a questionnaire. After all, who likes filling out forms?!
“In my work I often feel like I’m either outside looking in or inside looking out. Whichever it happens to be I just feel like I’m separate from the crowd”
We are currently on target to produce 2,000 unique works of art made by local people and visitors to Guernsey, and we can tell you at this stage that the canvasses form an overwhelming and vibrant spectacle. Even in its current unfinished state, we can clearly see the many different cultures, values and sensibilities that contribute so much to Guernsey’s identity and prosperity as an island. What is clear to us is that Guernsey is made of interesting individuals, all with something very special to say, even if this contrasts or even conflicts with the canvas adjacent. In fact, we could go so far as to say that these contrasts are what makes our exhibition so interesting.
“This canvas shows a thought process being represented as a pattern:
I work in IT. In my work I like to compartmentalise things and draw connections”
This brings us neatly back to our original aim; to encourage a conversation around difference and otherness. We know that everyone is different, and we can’t always agree, but it is this difference that makes artworks like this possible, and we hope that this exhibition will go some way to visually encapsulating that vibrancy and contrast that can only be the result of many different individuals who feel comfortable just being themselves.
Difference is a serious issue in any community, and can become a dangerous issue when conflicts between identities go unresolved. While we hope that our exhibition captures the benefits of difference, we also need to acknowledge some of the more negative results of difference. To this end, we have invited The Sophie Lancaster Foundation to speak at our A Conversation With Otherness Event on the 29th June.
On August 27th 2007, Sophie Lancaster and her partner were severely beaten in Stubbeylee Park, Bacup, Lancashire, simply because they looked different. Sophie later died from her injuries. This tragic event highlights the need to celebrate difference, and encourage understanding of others through conversation and discussion.
For more information on the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, and the amazing work they do, visit http://www.sophielancasterfoundation.com/
Join us for the premiere of the exhibition on Thursday 2nd July 2015, from 5.30pm until 7pm at the greenhouse gallery at Guernsey Museum, Candie.
Hugh Rose, local artist, is part of the GAC Arts team. You can see some of his brilliant work here: