The educational department at ARKEN Museum in Ishøj, situated south of Copenhagen, has over a number of years explored how to make participants of educational programmes engage themselves in dialogues with the artworks through visual and sensory methods. Each different input from participants (whether visual/verbal/performative/other) is seen as a valuable contribution to the common production of meaning in the specific educational situation.
The programme Identity and community takes place in the museum’s collection of contemporary art and aims at opening up artworks and making them become “dialogue partners” for the participants through a variety of methods. An example of a method is the following exercise staging a meeting between the participants and The Walthamstow tapestry by British artist Grayson Perry. Here the participants are invited to explore the artwork from three different perspectives/positions.
The first two positions include positioning of the body and verbal dialogue: Positioning themselves on a physical distance from the artwork the participants share their impressions of the totality of the artwork and the connotations it arises in each of them. Secondly approaching the work, thus experiencing the details of the rather complex tapestry, they share the new perspectives that the closer encounter with the work arises.
The third perspective takes place within the artwork, so to speak. The participants are invited to comment on the artwork visually by creating a digital collage where they stage themselves in an excerpt of the tapestry. They are asked to work deliberately with body posture and expression and how to make their own body connect to or comment on figures and objects in the tapestry.
It is ARKENs experience that letting participants visually become part of artworks by means of user-friendly apps, allowing open-ended outcomes, can be a strong tool for building a relationship to art.