Thinking Space with Spare Tyre

// Mar 2019 //

We spent a fascinating and full-on Thinking Space weekend with the Spare Tyre Associate Artists last weekend.

Over a series of presentations, workshops and discussions we learnt about new ways of working with people with Learning Difficulties, varying abilities and skills and what are now called Protected Characteristics. The associates generously gave their time sharing problems, tips and tactics that they use.

There were enjoyable sessions involving non-verbal communication, showing how difficult and frustrating it can be but also potentially rewarding when contact is made. Also there was a singing workshop demonstrating techniques for improvised harmonisation without an obvious conductor.

Of particular interest to us was a session on Flow and creative thinking. Flow is particularly talked about in relation to video gaming – it is that sensation when you are fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus – ‘in the zone’ – commonly you lose track of time – maybe play your video game all night. Often you excel. We were encouraged to look at blocks to our own Flow. After the session we started thinking about how Flow can be engendered in others, what type of stimuli need to be present. People in our workshops often get into the zone and carried away with excitement with what they are making the computer do. And interactive immersive art invokes similar feelings in an audience – if it is working well. We’ll be researching this area in the future.

For our part we introduced the Limpet Experience. This piece is an experimental immersive space with ceiling projections and sound, simulating what it is like to be a Limpet. The associates were lying on the floor on mats looking up at ambient abstract washes of light, wave effects, and sweeps of colour.

The experience lasted about 15 minutes. We read out some relaxing texts relating to a day in the life of a Limpet … from its rock to hunting for food and then returning to exactly the same place it started from – its home.

The piece was well received and considered calming.

Before the piece we talked about what we do and discussed this new genre of immersive experiences and how they relate to existing spaces including art installations, sensory rooms, immersive theatre and selfie museums. We also ran a finger tactility exercise with groups designing finger journeys across a range of fabrics and materials.

Various ideas came up about how to make the Limpet Experience more immersive:

  • The use of materials could be increased – with fabrics being lowered and raised above their heads. The large discs of fabric worked well and netting proved interesting as people could cover themselves with it and also see through it.
  • Increasing use of interactive sound effects – people spontaneously raised their arms and legs.
  • The use of more enveloping bean bags possibly filled with sand, and other materials which could also make noise as you moved on them.
  • The use of non-english words like Dada poetry, less lingual although some people loved the words we used which was an adapted hypnosis text.
  • The group were comfortable working closely together on the ground but we’d need to think about how strangers would work together.
  • People liked the idea of being able to stay as long as they liked – with possible dual use of the space for special structured performances.
  • Sound could be used in a more 3d way – above and below the mats.

Running this piece for the first time with such an engaged group was a useful exercise. We will be looking to see how we can raise funding to develop the piece further. This could require working with other experts in sound, tactility and 3d design. The piece will be running in some form later this year at the Margate Festival in October. The group were interested in using the piece as a venue for a future Thinking Space.

On the Sunday the Associates talked about facilitating learning in a range of situations and shared our experiences teaching thousands of kids over the years. We finished the Thinking Space with a creative group activity where without words everyone turned an empty studio into a play space with a mix of objects and fabrics. There was improvised music and sound making and an encompassing tent like floating structure made with suspended dust sheets. The resulting happening reflected much of what we had learnt and really brought the event together in our minds.

Thanks to Spare Tyre for organising this space.

Light experiments for the Limpet Experience