Once Upon A Moment in Time
Earlier this year, Creative Partnerships, Hastings & East Sussex the Government's flagship creative learning programme, approached Brighton Photo Biennial and three other cultural organisations, to work with a number of primary schools to raise standards in literacy. Brighton Photo Biennial worked with artists Annis Joslin and Lisa Barnard to devise a project using photography and video to inspire and motivate Year 6 pupils at Stafford Junior School in Eastbourne. BPB 2008: Memory of Fire: The War of Images and Images of War, and the concept of a recent exhibition by artist Steve McQueen titled Once Upon a Time were used as springboards for generating and developing creative ideas using video, creative writing, photography and performance. McQueen’s exhibition incorporated photographs chosen by NASA in the 1970s to describe life on earth to aliens. These images, including newborn babies, skyscrapers, and fresh supermarket produce, presented a ‘rose tinted’ view of life on earth, where war, poverty and disease are notable because of their absence.
The participants were also reading HG Wells’ War of the Worlds as part of their work on space for Literacy, so the artists fed this into the process to explore evacuation and displacement through the genre of science fiction as an alternative way of engaging with the devastating effects of invasion and conflict.
Imagining a mass evacuation, the pupils arrived at school in survival clothes and created a series of photographic portraits, wrote letters home and recorded whispered video messages. Finally all ninety pupils worked together to plan and perform a group video work of the mass evacuation in the school playing field. This process encouraged pupils to think of other children around the world and consider what life might be like for them living in a war zone. Pupils developed skills in all aspects of video making and digital photography, taking all the photos themselves and working together as a video production team. The project developed pupils’ visual and language skills, increasing literary skills by inspiring story telling and creative writing linked to the pupils’ artwork.