Vickerstown School on Walney is new to the Artspace project, and their boys and girls have had a varied introduction through their work with Barrow based Textile artist Karen Hall. So far they've made matchbox collages, postcards- (which were sent through the post , gathering stamps and "contributions 2 from the Post Office)-, Split pin puppets, fabric collage ( they learnt how to sew, a really useful life skill as well as a tool for creativity) and a printed t-shirt bearing an image of their own making.
On arrival at the Armitt Museum the group were interested in the objects from the Merzbarn in the museums display cases, wanting to know if Schwitters had made them, as well as wanting to know how much work he had made in life and how much of it was on display. Again, the paintings were popular and we felt the children get an idea of the breadth of Schwitters' practice and his relationships with people and place. Throughout this project we've made it clear that Schwitters is an urbanite, a city dweller in an unfamiliar environment, and a highly skilled and sophisticated artist. Rather than allow the children to see him as a rural eccentric working in a barn, we've been careful to remind them of the facts of his life. Again, our conversations with the boys and girls suggest that while the work we ask them to do might be tailored for their age group, we can stretch their imaginations best by giving them the facts, rather than an idealised picture.
After following the Langdale group Trail with great interest and excitement the group again visited the Merzbarn an dlistened to the Ursonata and made some clay relief work after a talk about Schwitters' merztechnique. This time we introduced some contrasting manmade objects into the mix, and encouraged the children to work with the surface of the clay itself.
Karen discovered the display around Schwitters' Snake Stick, which used to hang in the MerzbBarn until it was stolen. The boys and girls have collected sticks in the woods which they will decorate and send back to the Merzbarn as a contribution to Littoral's Dada Centenary celebrations.
We then introduced a Sound activity, asking the children to find a quiet spot and store sounds they heard in their heads, before vocalising them as a "choir" conducted- or rather "played" by a member of staff. The results are funny and full of energy. We recorded the pieces, and were about to listen to them when McKenzie asked if we could listen to them in Schwitters' studio. That seemed very appropriate, and so we did. Listen here...