I have been developing my performance practice working with families & children in public & private, domestic spaces. In 2016 I performed #work a performance that involved my family within a domestic set where I first used a spinning plate. This was developed further at Z-Arts, Haphazard family friendly performances & Neuro Aesthetics event facilitated by Ellie Griffiths & Greg Sinclair supported by Live Art Development Agency for a class of SEN children, Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry, 2017. Manchester Art Gallery invited me to research and develop a new strand to their 2018 Open Doors Programme that is specifically designed for children with autism, SEN & their families. From my experience of working at The Herbert Gallery with SEN children it was clear that this particular group benefit from relationships developed over time within their school environment with an opportunity to experience the gallery’s public spaces.
From my experience of spinning a plate and working with children as young as 3 years old highlighted the potential accessibility of this simple gesture & prop. Autistic children can respond to repetitive movements and it can have a feel good factor giving a sense of grounding. Neuro typical and neuro diverse people can enjoy watching objects spin, I know for me personally I feel a sense of peace walking with a spinning plate and it can offer a visual focus. The aim of the proposed performance for Autism Awareness Week is to enable participants marginalised from arts activities by promoting self confidence & shared experience with a high quality aesthetic. My artistic enquiry is: How accessible is the plate & stick prop? How can we work together to make a performance? Is this work suitable for a public gallery environment, performed to camera or a combination of the two?
This week myself and Katy McCall the Gallery Learning Manager visited the school to meet some of the children we will be working with and for the children to see us for the first time. From our classroom visits it was clear that there where some children who where happy to sit in a focused setting and others who wanted to roam freely with individual separate activity. I learnt the importance of trays, a resource I hadn’t really thought about before these particular ones where colourful for one child’s needs that where filled with different textured wet materials such as cooked spaghetti, liquids, small gel shapes.
We where shown the 4d room to work in and I set-up a focused space to start introducing the idea of the plate and stick with simple actions around the theme of ‘spinning’. The first half of each mini session with 2 small groups of 4 would start in the set space and then leak out to the rest of the room. By pure chance the background of the computer projected screen was blue which set a really cool aesthetic with some of the plates glowing in the dark. I had lovely dual moments with a few of the children and I was surprised that at some points in the session there was a line of us spinning plates, moving in our own way near each other making a very loose but connected structure.
Group 3 in my later session was completely different and I worked with two children who where slightly antagonistic but had a playful relationship with each other. One boy only wanted to move on the floor and was not interested in the plate and stick although he was fascinated with a roll of masking tape, which he continually moved across the room. The second boy I worked with found it difficult to focus or spin a plate independently although liked to echo singing the word ‘spinning’ and intermittently we sang this to each other. For a while I thought the session was falling apart however all three of us ended up passing different roles of tape to each other which felt like we somehow came together even if it was for a few moments.