In partnership with Drake Music, artist Rob Olins has developed a new multi-sensory installation using “Sound Mirrors” which is touring ten special schools in the South West of England.
This project is based on an installation titled House of Mirrors that was originally shown at the Mission Gallery Swansea Wales.
The installation consists of several large dishes that reflect and focus sound to certain points, marked by red dots on the floor.
It can be adapted to suit the school, sited either inside, outside (or both) and can be on site for up to 4 weeks.
Rob provides the installation and myself and Luke Turner of Drake Music facilitate interactive workshops, in which the students experience the installation and then create their own soundscapes.
We have worked in four Gloucestershire settings as part of this project, the House of Mirrors Sensory experience in partnership with Rob Olins:
- Heart of the Forest
- Battledown Centre for Families and Children
- The Milestone School
The House of Mirrors tour will continue until 2017, visiting another six schools and then culminating in a show at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol.
The project is starting to feel like a piece action research that is constantly changing and becoming something new, not just from setting to setting, but from young person to young person in each setting.
The challenge, it seems, is in trying to find the consistent elements in the work, a thread that weaves through the different contexts that we are working in.
The work has multiple aspects to it. On one level it is about a meeting of cultures that don’t meet often enough; modern art intended for the gallery, and the world of SEN/D education.
Another aspect is the focus on active listening, which itself is a vital component when we learn about music. This isn’t specifically a music-focused project; in my mind it has a broader reach. However, we are finding that music has been playing an important role in the work.
For some participants this is a piece of work that focuses on identity. For others, it’s an opportunity to explore how they engage with their own voice.
For others it’s about finding out what is important, and developing a personal narrative that illuminates aspects of the individual that are rarely seen in the day-to-day context of school life.
For some it’s an opportunity to explore new ways of engaging with others.
For others it’s about independent exploration and play, an opportunity to explore an activity that is outside of the normal routine, and an opportunity to be imaginative in their play and exploration.
I suspect as the work develops and rolls out in other settings that this list will grow.
For me, so far, it seems that in a overarching sense we have been creating an environment that focuses on active listening, exploring how young people with additional needs engage with their aural environment.
We are noticing that some staff report that their students are able to attend to the work for longer periods than they can do in almost any other context.
Some staff are observing that their students temporarily become more vocally expressive after spending time with the work.
For those who engage well with the work, it appears that it offers a unique opportunity to become immersed in an environment where the focus is on sound.
It is as if the sound mirrors don’t just reflect sound, they also seem to concentrate it for those who are receptive to this.
I have also observed that the young people who engage well with it are accompanied by staff who are open minded and who, crucially, model how to engage with the work.