BEYOND THE BALCONY
2015-6 Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
After an eight month campaign in 2012, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford saved Manet’s "Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus", 1868, for the public. With lead support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and gifts from The Art Fund and hundreds of individual donors, the painting is now on permanent public display and provided a series of events; ‘Me Myself & Manet was Phase 1 and Beyond The Balcony, Phase 2. This offered a competitive tender for a ‘Digital Artists in Residence’ position for a year. We were selected and invited to make a contemporary artwork in response to Manet's painting of Fanny Claus, for The Impressionist Gallery and to devise and facilitate an outreach project working with community groups from MIND and Young Dementia UK and Oxford Youth Arts Partnership and Young Leaders.
Over a period of 6 months, starting with visits to local centres and meeting rooms we developed conversations with participants and carers. Two projects ran in parallel, with five workshops for each group. Participants explored the conceptual space behind and in front of the balcony painting, imagining themselves looking out, and looking in. Participants created digital collages incorporating poems and self-portraits in imaginatively depicted scenes of their lives, using the balcony as a device, looking back into their past and domestic world, and looking out to future and wider landscapes. These were combined into animated narratives, one for each group.
We and the participants developed these workshops using collage, paint, music, poetry, digital photography and video, developing collaged imagery and animated narratives that reflected our thoughts on visiting the Impressionist gallery and the works it contained, whilst, all the time, considering our past and present lives.
We were assisted by two young volunteers from Oxford Young Arts Practitioners (OYAP) giving them opportunity to develop their own knowledge and experience to help them develop professionaly.
The participants works and our commissioned artwork was opened as part of White Nights celebratory late night with over 2,000 attendees to the museum.
Gallery: The Impressionist Gallery, Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archeology, Oxford
Funding: Heritage Lottery Fund Acknowledgments: We would like to thank Dr Xa Sturgis, Director of the Asmolean, Colin Harrison, Senior Curator of European Art, Helen Ward, Education Officer, Nicola Bird and Sarah Mossop, all who helped steer us through this work. We would also like to thank Oxford Youth Arts Partnership who helped us deliver the White Night museum opening celebration.