‘Open Books’, Paula Roush

Working within the framework of CoolTan Art’s support for therapeutic art workshops, Paula Roush established a collective under ‘Open Books’ as a participatory photo book project. ‘Open Books’ explored the narrative development of how a photographic collection can be viewed and interpreted through the different media of hand made editions, printed editions, and public exhibition. The photo book project was developed to address a sense of time and place through the incorporation and display of images, consisting of home, personal identity, memory and a sense of history.

The participants worked with a mix of found, sourced and individual photographs with the outcomes incorporated into a collective exhibition of photo books.

The photo book is an ideal medium by which to express one’s individuality and also enter into a dialogue with others. The visual juxtaposition of newly made images with personal memorabilia enabled the participants to develop personal narratives with both an artistic and therapeutic value through the exploration of memory, autobiography and cultural identity.

The process of creating the photo book project encompassed a variety of skills, from image making and composition, to the study of personal archives and family albums, the selection and editing of the material, including writing and drawing, and the physical construction of handmade book proofs that included sewing and other craft-related skills.

The final outputs of the photo book project included the creation of artist newspapers and a case bound book. For the exhibition, loose pages from all the publications were stitched and mounted into frames to evoke the physicality of the publications. The process of decision-making and selection was part of the working process resulting in both the personal/private books and a collective public exhibition of both books and prints on the wall.

‘Open Books’ was commissioned by HS Projects and funded by the Insight Community Arts Programme (2002 – 2015).

The project ran from January to June 2013.

‘Choose Your Character, A Documentary’, David Blandy

‘Choose Your Character: A Documentary’ celebrated a particular sub-cultural obsession, the computer fighting game, by looking at the community that surrounds this activity. What drives people to seek to find themselves in these products of global culture and what authenticity and the underground mean in the internet-driven world.

A small group of selected participants, aged 18-25, many of whom not in formal education, employment or training, were taught all the skills necessary to craft their own documentary projects, from planning, filming, recording sound, and editing to publicity and the final presentation.

‘Choose Your Character: A Documentary’ built on David Blandy’s ongoing research into identity and its relationship to consumer and underground culture, highlighting the slippage and tension between fantasy and reality in everyday life.

The participants concentrated on making a video self-portrait, using their games-playing as a central motif. The films that were produced were edited in a series of group workshops, to form a film that creates a picture of a community through intimate portraits of individuals. For the final filming session all the participants converged for an evening of competitive games playing.

This project transformed the participants’ outlook on their lives. It showed them that not only are their lives and passions worthwhile, but that through dedication and hard work, change in the real world and in their daily lives, is achievable.

‘Choose Your Character, A Documentary’ was commissioned by HS Projects and funded by the Insight Community Arts Programme (2002 – 2015).

The project ran from April to September 2012.

‘Defined Change’, Shiraz Bayjoo

HS Projects commissioned ‘Defined Change’, a collaborative project between Shiraz Bayjoo and CRISIS. Six ex-homeless individuals were selected because of their success in reclaiming their lives, and because they presented a variety of habitats and spaces. The project aimed to explore their everyday living situations, how they act as metaphors for the past and suggest our anxieties for the future.

Working in collaboration with lead artist Shiraz Bayjoo, the participants explored key situations within their domestic lives, leading to a visual language that is expressive of both individual and collective experiences.

In analysing past traumas, the participants entered into a dialogue with Shiraz Bayjoo, discussing how present day living habits have come about, from the decorative and functional objects of the home to the interior domestic routines, such as making breakfast. This presented a voyeur like view of the habits one develops over time.

The project investigated hoarders who are compelled to catalogue every aspect of their existence, past and present. This contrasts with the entrenched rough sleepers who after a lifetime on the streets, and having finally come to terms with domestic living, reside in pristine, empty apartments, with modest acquisitions and taste.

Through the course of the discussions, the participants identified how these spaces and objects also came to signify the choices and changes they made to try to improve their situation. This was also explored in the activities and responsibilities they had chosen to take on in the outside world.

‘Defined Change’ was funded by the Insight Community Arts Programme (2002 – 2015).

The project ran from July to December 2009.