An exhibition by sound art collective Ultra-red with students and teachers from St Marylebone Church of England School in London. Together they reflected on how rules, regulations and social norms affect learning and visions of life beyond school.
The Serpentine Gallery's Edgware Road Project presents RE:ASSEMBLY, an exhibition by sound art collective Ultra-red with students and teachers from The St. Marylebone Church of England School in London.
Since 2009, Ultra-red have worked with students and teachers across many subject areas. Embedded into the curriculum, they have developed sound walks, audio recordings and listening sessions departing from the question, "What is the sound of citizenship?".
Like most other schools in London, the St Marylebone student body is diverse. Many of the students are refugees, asylum seekers or new immigrants to the United Kingdom. Consequently, the legal issues surrounding state citizenship have a particular urgency within the school. This is not, however, the only form of citizenship students must negotiate. Schools are essential to the production of social citizenship, which involves preparing the young to participate actively and productively in civic and community life.
Responding to these issues, Ultra-red led students through a set of actions in the classroom and sound walks through the surrounding neighbourhood. They listened to the school, the city and each other. Listening situated groups in the present and brought the big questions of citizenship into the everyday activities of the school and the city. Together they reflected on how rules, regulations and social norms affect learning and visions of life beyond school.
Throughout the project Ultra-red invited other artists and activists into the school. During a Year 8 'Citizenship Day' where the school might have invited in police officers, councillors or businessmen as guest speakers, Ultra-red invited trade unionists, housing activists and migrants' rights organisers to be interviewed by the students. Working with 150 students in Geography and History, Ultra-red brought artists and activists to redevelop a special unit on migration, based on listening exercises in the neighbourhood and the school.
The works exhibited in RE: ASSEMBLY draw from the archive of student and teacher responses to a number of issues: the relationship between the school and the neighbourhood, the relationship between state and social citizenship, issues of private property as well as the contradictory demands society places on young people and their role in developing the future.
Providing a glimpse of four years' work, RE: ASSEMBLY presents installations and performances at three locations.
This Orientation, a downloadable audio walk made by Ultra-red in collaboration with Year 11 students, departs from the school's Blandford Street location and situates the students' observations about their education in a broader historical context. Possible Conversations presents the school's head teacher, arts faculty members, students and local activists on nearby rooftops listening to the city and making statements about its future, referencing the angels on the church's cupola.
Mapping the Political Economy of Edgware Road includes composites images and texts created with Year 11 students in response to four areas of the school's neighbourhood. In Hymnal, religious texts are replaced with the students' analyses of citizenship in the local area and school and then embedded into the fabric of St Marylebone Parish Church. In the church's crypt, Songs for Edgware Road presents five students interpreting songs from Hymnal through choreography developed with the late Gill Clarke and projected at life scale.
At the school's Marylebone High Street location, Songs for Getting Through displays concrete plaques marked with the lyrics and song titles that help students survive exams and daily pressures in and out of school. In Lessons, the teachers' own thoughts are inscribed into six framed textiles.
The exhibition is not the project's end point. As members of Ultra-red state: 'Our listening is an act of respect and caring, and it manifests a certain vision of what it might mean to see each other as citizens. While the works exhibited in RE:ASSEMBLY represent an outcome of our collaboration, they are starting points for the next phase of the investigation. They are not only a response to the question "What is the sound of citizenship?" but they are also an invitation to others to come together and explore the question within the context of this city. This is a process described by Paulo Freire, the Brazilian popular educator, as "people's thinking about reality and people's action upon reality."'
Exploring acoustic space as enunciative of social relations, Ultra-red use sound-based research to directly engage political struggle. With ten members working in North America and Europe, Ultra-red pursue a dynamic exchange between art and political organising, from which they produce radio broadcasts, performances, recordings, essays and installations. Founded in 1994 by two AIDS activists, the collective has expanded to include artists, researchers and organisers from different social movements, including the struggles of migration, anti-racism, participatory community development and the politics of HIV/AIDS. Their recent explorations, undertaken as the School of Echoes, have shifted the group's work from composing sound to composing listening, inviting groups to listen to and record what is already there and respond to the question, "What did you hear?".
The St Marylebone Church of England School, founded in 1791, is a successful, multi-faith comprehensive school for girls aged from eleven to eighteen. It is among the country's first 100 National Teaching Schools and cites the presence of the performing arts throughout its curriculum as central to its resurgence and a key driver for its achievements. The school places a high premium on arts education. Since 2009 teachers and students in Art, Geography, History, Performing Arts and Citizenship have been working with artists and activists from the collective Ultra-red to develop a cross-subject, socially-motivated arts curriculum. Led by teachers and students from the School, this roundtable will develop this curriculum.
Ultra-red's residency on the Edgware Road Project was commissioned by Sally Tallant, Artistic Director Liverpool Biennial (former Head of Programmes, Serpentine Gallery. It was undertaken in collaboration with The St Marylebone Church of England School and Raven Row.
RE:ASSEMBLY is curated by
Janna Graham, Projects Curator
Amal Khalaf, Projects Assistant Curator
The Edgware Road Project is a Serpentine Gallery Project undertaken in collaboration with Ashkal Alwan: The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, Beirut and Townhouse Gallery, Cairo.
Serpentine Gallery Projects challenge expectations of where art can be encountered and by whom.
Wednesday 17 April 2013
Songs for Edgware Road: A choral performance
St Marylebone Parish Church, 17 Marylebone Road, NW1 5LT
This opening event for RE:ASSEMBLY is a performance of choral works from the Hymnal, a work written by the students in the style of the song book used at St Marylebone Parish Church.
The performance is followed by a reception at The St Marylebone Church of England School.
Saturday 20 April 2013
Educators Forum: What is the sound of critical arts education today?
The Front Room (Room MG14), University of Westminister, 35 Marylebone Road, NW1 5LS
In a climate of economic austerity and cuts to the arts, what kind of arts education is possible? Join artists and educators for lsitening sessions and round-table discussions.
The event is free of charge, but booking is essential. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opening Event: 17 April, 6pm, St Marylebone Parish Church
Site 1: The St Marylebone Church of England School
14 Blandford Street, W1U 4A
Site 2: St. Marylebone Parish Church
17 Marylebone Road, NW1 5 LT
Site 3: The St Marylebone Church of England School
64 Marylebone High Street, W1U 5BA
Image: Ultra-red with Year 9 students at the St Marylebone C. E. School
RE:ASSEMBLY: Civis Sum 2009
Photography: Mark Blower
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