Tuesday, 14 April 2015


It's great to be able to take Artspace to the Langdale valley, home of the Schwitters Merzbarn, Littoral and Langdale School.  Lead artist John Hall and Outdoor Education specialist Amy Boud spent two days at the school in March, providing the children with an introduction to Schwitters' work and a familiar context within which to view it; that of  his relationship with the Langdale valley.

John and Amy created a trail through the woods on Cylinders estate to the Merzbarn, asking the children to be aware of the fragility of the environment, the value of quiet (although perhaps not silent) spaces to our well-being , and the idea of sound as material for making art. The children collected material to make postcard collages and larger 3-D pieces, listened in the Merzbarn to to Schwitters' own reading of the Ursonata, and performed their own sound pieces based on vocalising the sounds they heard in the woods around the Merzbarn. The older group collected small objects to creating pocket assemblages in matchboxes with collaged labels, and made small works to be placed along the trail for the Barrow schoolchildren to follow when they visit in April and May.

We were impressed with the children's knowledge of local flora and fauna, and with their ability to understand and appreciate the poetry and playful wit within Schwitter's work 
along with the  tenacity and determination required  to continue to produce it. We left further convinced  that the most advanced concepts of modernism can be made accessible through the provision of context, the opportunity to explore technique without fear,and the avoidance either of  "dumbing down"or  mystification when describing the creative and intellectual processes behind the work.

We were again made welcome by Ian and Celia from Littoral, and hope that this is the first step in a rewarding relationship with Langdales,  exploring sound, visual art and using the school's extraordinary setting as an aid to creative exploration. For us this project is proving to be an exploration and a redefining of some of the edges of our  practice; for John the conversations and planning process is  refreshing his approach to arts education as a means of responding to locale and environment, and for Amy in the use of arts practice to underscore and inform her  work as an outdoors specialist.  We are very grateful to Langdale School and its staff for the chance to put some new ideas into practice.

The illustrations show the children at the Merzbarn, and some examples of their work.

Above, mounted small collages, trailmarkers fro the Barrow children to follow. 
Above left: Amy working on  a sound poem with the children n the Cylinders Estate.
Left: Collage using charcoal dust, feathers and metal found on site.
Below left: Work in progress.
Below right: Postcard from an imaginary landscape?
Below: Looking at ways of working with sound, and discussing the Merzbarn wall

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