There is a distinct probability that I could be setting out to provoke this morning… Whether or not this is a good idea, or even if this is the right arena, we shall have to wait and see, but as always for me, this is a forum to test and question my own thinking and sometimes sanity.

I have been teaching a module to my Year 10 GCSE cohort based around Steampunk… the assemblage of different articles and materials based around the industrial revolution when steam power came into its own.

As part of their research work, I asked my pupils to study the work of Robert Gober – (whose work it could be argued, isn’t suitable for this age group… point 1) – instructing them to take ideas from his work and using previous drawings they had created to construct their own piece in his style. What they chose to produce was entirely up to them as had been their sampling of objects for the drawing exercises.

On occasion, I permit my GCSE pupils to work in groups to prepare work, – (point 2; is this acceptable?) – as I would any other Year group. Working in collaboration with another person, as I am finding out for myself, often stimulates and generates new ways of working and encourages further experimentation and risk or chance taking…

Two of my male pupils decided to work together and set about shaping the “Booby Fire Extinguisher” (image 1) as a response to Gober’s work…

For me, I totally “get it”. Despite some flaws with its construction, I think it’s a very clever response to a difficult and challenging subject matter. With reference to adolescent lust and connotations to masturbation, the question really starts coming down to its appropriateness to a formative education establishment… Should I have permitted them to make it? (Point 3).

Place this object in any room, and it’ll change that environment and the conversation within it. It requires no gallery to have impact and will engender discussion – as any good piece of art should…

But should I show it?


At present it is hidden from the younger pupils… but my two students wish to gauge opinion and place it in various locations around the school to photo, film and record reaction…

Should I let them?

Artistic license?

Again the artist and the teacher are in conflict. I know what they both say individually, but I need them to function simultaneously, together… cohesively.

Is my function the same as both artist and teacher; to promote art in all aspects?

I remember when Roland Piche interviewed me for a place on my BA at Canterbury. He asked me about the suitability of adolescents viewing the work of Robert Maplethorpe? Not knowing the work at that time, I stuttered out a response and left the interview convinced I’d blown my chance… I was offered a place… so I know I hold the answer…

But what do you think?

What would you do?

Who takes priority here? Artist or teacher?

What am I supposed to teach as an artist?

What becomes acceptable?