Fifteen Fascinating Discoveries Revealed Through Co-Creation
For the 2022 Trellis exhibition, six groups of artists, researchers and east London community members have collaborated for a year to co-create six spectacular of public art projects. Here, some of the creators share their insights into the surprising things they discovered by working together.
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, UCL Institute for Global Prosperity
“I learned a lot by observing how Johann approaches a topic. As an artist, he fully immerses himself in a topic, looks at it from all kinds of angles. I loved how generous he was with his time and talent. Our conversations were enlightening because we were sometimes struck by similar observations - for instance, how the NFSL’s packing lists reflect an ethos of care towards their patrons, you can almost imagine the person behind the address just by reading the instructions. At other times, we noticed entirely different things - for instance, Johann said that workshop participants’ statements about feeling shame when eating in public and thus mostly eat alone still reverberated for him weeks later. This hadn’t stood out for me at the time, but when we discussed it I understood why it was so meaningful for him.
“When I started speaking to my collaborator Hanna from the Institute of Global Prosperity I was intrigued to learn about the model of Universal Basic Services as a more practicable alternative to the idea of a Universal Basic Income. Throughout the process of working with the National Food Service I was impressed to see how she applied these conceptual frameworks to a life situation and how people and their personal stories informed her research practices. It encouraged me to sharpen my own conceptual thinking and to let social observations shape my politics and choices more directly.
Hanna Baumann and Johann Arens
“We worked with the National Food Service in London, a food activist network with the aim of eliminating food insecurity and tackling the interconnected issues of social isolation and food justice. We were struck by how the NFS transcends the mere functionality of a food bank by facilitating critical discourse and enabling former patrons to cook big-batch meals for their own communities. We share their deep interest in communal food infrastructures and the implementation of ethical and low-waste food chains, as part of a political vision of Universal Public Services, free to all at the point of access.
“Working with a researcher, I’ve learnt different aspects of the AI and machine learning but also that it operates slightly differently in the academic field compared to that of commercial businesses. There is also so much potential to make the digital world accessible to groups outside this industry with the help of art and design techniques.
I’ve only worked with Hackney’s Quest in East London, and learned how different age groups respond to creative materials and making. The younger groups seemed to be more curious and open to experimentation compared to the older age groups that strived for perfection. I also realised a lot of the groups aged between 14 and 16 are aware of the careers that they want to go into and they’ve had the benefit of social media and access to information that is available online however, there was limited awareness of industries crossing over or collaborating, which I hope this project will illustrate.
Ayse U. Akarca
Research Fellow, UCL Cancer Institute
“I have insightful collaboration with Kassandra; I become familiar with different jewellery techniques, learned about the process how the idea/story transforms into a piece of wearable art as well as the challenges present in this field. During my special visit organised by Kassandra to the Goldsmith Centre, I was amazed how completely different cross disciplinary areas like science and art had similar equipment’s and approaches in both settings. As an example, I prepare two-micron thickness tissue sections to carry out my research work however Kassandra uses 2-micron thickness gold if the jewellery piece requires to be gold plated.
“During my childhood, I felt that talking about cancer was forbidden in society. This social taboo about cancer passed-through generations that created an uncomfortable statement in our life. Through this project, I was fascinated by the individuals’ unique life changing stories in relations to cancer, that are incorporated with intensive emotions felt during their journey, set the ground to awake their creativity. I learned that such environment could support the challenges faced without traumatized. It was a humble self-reflection to look closer beyond what is known.
Kassandra Lauren Gordon
“I have learnt a few things working with Ayse. I learnt how intricate her work is in preparing the cells of her research. I understand tangibly what cancer research is. I learnt how important it is to make science accessible as possible so lay people understand the importance of cancer research.
“Working with the community group, I found it took time to build relationships and trust remotely and to be sensitive to people's health situations.
“Working with a researcher, I have learnt to consider physical creative outcomes with greater care and to afford more attention to their effect, impact and potential for application. In my studio, I follow a path that is open ended and exploratory, where fabrication leads ideas. I know my practice is both excitingly open but in a research context, can stray away from the project aims. This has meant I have returned more frequently to the project aims and revised my direction on a few occasions accordingly supported by the research team and their perceptive questioning. I hope I have improved my communication and project management skills. I feel my knowledge of research processes and approaches has been extended, including ethical and methodological concerns. I have begun to learn how the researchers conduct analysis of material, and hope this can continue as the project continues to collate the gathered material.
“Working with Beyond Sight Loss I learned, the vital need not to make assumptions and to have a better, more staged process in workshops that share information and aims with participants in a clearer manner. Through meeting the people in the group we worked with I have realised I work from assumed knowledge in everyday life and have been shown by the group how to experience things differently.
Honorary Research Scientist, The Ear Institute, UCL
“Working with Marysa, I learned to: develop a framework for creation; collaborate with people from traditionally under-represented groups; get others behind a shared purpose and vision; balance plans and schedules with the unexpected
“Working with Shpresa, I have been amazed at how open and curious the community was about the weird activities we proposed, and how eagerly people of all ages engaged with the project. It was an absolute joy to witness the things people came up with during our co-creation/production day, and see them empowered to take our ideas to places we couldn’t have imagined. It took a few meetings for us to get to know each other and understand each other’s’ incentives, but we quickly built a beautiful trust that allowed us to explore together in a safe and non-judgemental space. This has been a strong demonstration of how much every person brings to the table, and how working with others magically becomes so much more than the sum of its parts.
“It’s been fascinating to share practice with two such dedicated and open minded researchers. Catherine and Liam have been willing to always push ideas, be involved in the creative development and have new experiences. The experience has given me a completely new way to approach research, confidence to collaborate across disciplines. We developed a way of sharing our practices early in our collaboration. Our ‘Trellis Teachings’ became a way to get to know each other’s practice, methodology, recurrent themes and interest. We’d share previous projects, finding where ideas intersected to push our project forward. Developing a language and understanding of each other’s work was vital to start our creative work together. Working with two researchers encouraged a supportive and open process. It gave me a new found confidence to ask questions about their research and methodology by linking to my own practice.
I have worked with community groups for many years, personally working with the community on Trellis was more about learning and sharing with our specific families. The Shpresa project supports Albanian migrants and refugees, mainly women and children. Working with such a strong and supportive community has enabled me to reflect more personally on resilience and the importance of connection and communication, particularly between women of different generations, and between mothers and their children.
The powerful Trellis exhibition takes place 29 April – 8 May at The Art Pavilion, Mile End Park. It’s free to visit and everyone is welcome. Find out more and plan your visit on the Trellis website.
From communal meals and audio walks, to interactive photography, art workshops and more, discover Trellis’ fascinating free events and activities programme. Find out more and book your place.