A two-day workshop was held on 21 April and 28 April 2012 at Tate Britain to test some of the concepts pertaining to our relationship with place/space/landscape/environment and art that we have been exploring in our Art Maps project since January 2012.
The workshop, which was part of Tate’s public events programme, was led by independent participatory project manager Hannah White with Tate staff Rebecca Sinker, Curator: Digital Learning, Madeleine Keep, Curator of Adult Programmes, and Kirstie Beaven, Producer: Interactive Media. Chocolate Films generated some video documentations to help us to evaluate participants’ findings.
The workshops were advertised on Twitter and Facebook, where they sold out within two hours, as an event for those with an interest in mobile technology and landscape. The aim was to use photography, video, audio and text functions on users’ mobile phones, to explore and respond to the area between Tate Britain and Tate Modern by documenting, editing, recording and creating en route, to evoke and share a sense of place.
Taking inspiration from the Tate Collection and Patrick Keiller’s new commission The Robinson Institute, the first workshop aimed to encourage users to familiarise themselves with a number of documentation tools and online sharing to map their physical and mental meanderings, by setting a series of steps, or tasks, that had to be carried out within a period of time. Participants were at the same time mapping (i.e. exploring the territory) and map making (i.e. capturing, documenting the journey), through different techniques (e.g., drawing, sound maps) and technologies (e.g., googlemaps, trailfinder), utilising art as a strategy for motivation (e.g. as a point of inspiration to explore an area), comparative tool (e.g., as a means to look at the contemporary in relation to the past), or even transportation (e.g., as an instruction to be distracted by).
The second workshop encouraged users to develop their own journey, taking inspiration from an artwork in the Tate collection. Whilst participants were again given tasks, the overall frame of the second workshop was looser, and encouraged participants, many of whom had arrived very prepared, with a planned route in mind, to make their own way and, if anything, use the tasks as a distraction from their pre-planned journey.
We learnt a lot from both workshops as to whether participants enjoyed following the set steps; shared their journey with others through social networks; used art as a way to map their route through the city; talked to strangers, etc., with several participants being particularly interested, for example, in seeing their search terms in relation to the paths and processes they triggered, or seeing how different people responded to the same image or task.
On both occasions participants showed their work at the end of the session, sharing with the other Art Mappers the aims, strategies, findings, and surprises they had experienced during their journeys. Interestingly for us, a community seemed to have formed out of the exercise and in under two days about 200 contents/objects, among which 94 photos, 25 videos, 9 maps, 19 audio and 34 textual files, were uploaded, a process which is still taking place now, over two weeks after the event.
We learnt many things, among which, most importantly perhaps at this stage, is that we need to add the following research question to our original set:
‘to what extent was the fact that this was an organised event significant?’
This is because participants talked about rehearsing, preparing, sharing, in a way that is reminiscent of a performance event. Participants also felt protected by the event framing, branding even, and, perhaps, even the timing of it. This made us wonder about possible relationships between mapping, map making and performing that we will need to explore further over the next few months.
Last but not at all least, we, Tate, University of Exeter and Nottingham University with Horizon, are profoundly grateful to all participants for their commitment, insight and generosity in sharing their creative experience of Art Maps during our two workshops.