Unravelling our memories

17 October 2014

We recently displayed the results of Unravelled in an installation at Wellcome Collection: a collaboration between art and psychology students from St Marylebone School. Fifteen Sixth Form students worked on the exciting project with artist Sarah Carne entitled ‘Archiving our Memories’. Birte Meyer tells us about the process and work involved.

 Unravelled

In the first session in May we were introduced to the Wellcome Library’s fascinating archive and the role of an archivist. Alice Mountfort introduced us to personal diaries from the archive that document experiences and the multiple ways in which people record these. After the talk and handling session the students shared something from their own memories and histories to consider how we archive our own lives. In order to understand how we use our brains as an archive, how we store our memories, and how we retrieve them, we had a talk by Dr Gursharan Virdee, a Clinical Psychologist.

 Students looking through the archive.
[object Object]

Students looking through the archive.

Through workshops run by artist Sarah Carne we further investigated the idea of memory, with an emphasis on how and what we remember. Students brought objects that hold a memory to the first workshop, e.g. letters, photos, their own scrapbooks and other ephemera. We discussed how we remember, what do we choose to remember, which senses we use in the process and which materials the students thought appropriate to work with to convey the memories related to their brought object.

 Some of the work produced by the students.
[object Object]

Some of the work produced by the students.

In the second workshop we explored and experimented with tools and processes to record memories. We sculpted with plasticine to examine how we can create sculptures that take the memory object as a starting point and find a visual language that conveys the memory that the object holds.

Then we started to experiment with copper wire inspired by the work of Alice Anderson. We wanted to include writing in the collaborative process and suggested that monoprinting and the use of tracing paper would be an appropriate tool for referencing memories.

 Experiments with monoprinting on sugar paper.
[object Object]

Experiments with monoprinting on sugar paper.

In the next session we discussed the process of monoprinting and how it can be used to trace and visualise memories. We decided to print on sugar paper referencing the students’ memories of scrapbooks from nursery and primary school. Each student wrote a sentence evoked by the objects they brought in. We decided that these sentences should be incorporated into the final sculptures.

 Some of the work produced by the students.
[object Object]

Some of the work produced by the students.

In the final session we refined the copper wire sculptures and drawings, came up with the title “Unravelled” and discussed how our collaborative art installation should be displayed at Wellcome Collection. Everyone involved realised that we could have done with more sessions and that we found it quite challenging to work to such tight deadlines.

 Some of the work produced by the students.
[object Object]

Some of the work produced by the students.

This programme provides our students with invaluable experience outside of curriculum time and has given them an insight into what it takes to create a commissioned collaborative art piece and exhibit an artwork in a professional exhibition context. In addition, all students gained an understanding of some of the work of the Wellcome Trust.

Birte Meyer is the A-Level art teacher at St Marylebone School, whose students took part in the project.

 Some of the work produced by the students.
[object Object]

Some of the work produced by the students.