Walking the Gallery


Words at The Black Swan, Peter Hayes Exhibition.

The opening of each new exhibition at Frome’s Black Swan Arts Centre is followed by Words in the Gallery, bringing writers together to explore the work and respond in writing.

This month’s workshop was  inspired by Clare Hind and Clare Qualmann’s Ways to Wander the Gallery, a project hosted by The Tate Modern, using rule based ambulatory experiences to encourage people to re-imagine ways they could encounter art.Research shows most people spend between 10-30 seconds looking at work in galleries. Habitually, we hold our gaze at eye level, stand at a ‘comfortable’ distance, in a practiced walk-stop-glance sequence.

In WtWtG, Hind & Qualmann pose the question: what happens if we walk differently in a gallery? If we change the way we approach the artwork, vary the distance between ourselves, consider the artwork as only one component of a social space?  Drawing on  disruptive walking practices favoured by Dadaists and psychogeographers, they explored ways to bring these method into the gallery.

We developed these ideas to produce our own score, inviting writers to interact and respond to local Ceramicist, Peter Hayes, whose work has been variously described as ‘playful and experimental’.

In keeping with Hayes’s themes of playful construction; breaking and remaking, writers captured ideas, thoughts and feelings on notepaper folded in three columns: NEAR. FAR. FEEL. At the end of the activity, writers were invited to assemble their notes, disregarding the linear writing process, randomising their work to create a word collage poem or prose. 

Comments from writers included: ‘I never realise how different work looks from different angles and distances.’

‘It really made me consider the whole experience, I’ve never spent so long looking before.’

The  poems and prose they created were rich and diverse in meaning and metaphors, linking personal recollections with mythology war and Zen philosophy in another). To see writers work go to Facebook: words in the gallery.

SCORE FOR WALKING THE GALLERY (IF TOUCH IS NOT POSSIBLE/SKIP STEP THREE) Use a piece of A4 paper divided into three columns to take notes: NEAR FAR TOUCH.  Take 5 minutes on each step. 

  1. Walk slowly to a piece that catches your eyes and study it very close (don’t touch)…
  2. Walk away backwards as far as you can – what do you see? What changes? make notes
  3. Walk forward towards the piece – what comes into your field of vision?
  4. Touch it with your eyes closed, using all your fingers. * How do you feel?
  5. Assemble your notes/thoughts/feelings/randomise them/cut them up/mix them together/reassemble

*Omit this step if you cannot touch the artworks.

Peter Hayes at The Black Swan,  2 Bridge St, Frome BA11 1BB until March 23rd.

Ways to Wander the Gallery, Qualmann C, Hind C, Triarchy Press

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