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Syllabus V

November 2019

Syllabus is a national, collaboratively-produced alternative learning programme, delivered by Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge; Eastside Projects, Birmingham; Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts), London; S1 Artspace, Sheffield; and Spike Island, Bristol.

For Syllabus V, Modern Clay devised a workshop with selected artists for Syllabus V and supported by Eastside Projects, in response to the groups provocation “How can we hold our differences and remain quietly radical while working with others?”. Modern Clay members Mark, Joanne and Laurie developed a practical exercise which explored the dynamics of group working using the topics of ‘Values, Tools, Emotions and Economics’.

This involved the Syllabus V participants breaking into four groups, each representing one of the four topics, and crafting a totem from a list of words related to given topic. Groups would then swap topics and totems, and allow the new group to alter, subtract, or build on the existing totem to incorporate their new topic. In the end four sculptures were presented which had been iterated on four times to include each topic.

As a material that’s moldable and reshapable, we used clay in fast-paced making sessions to model how different areas of our working lives, and those of people we work with, might rub up against, support, smother or confront each other. Working as individuals and in groups we took on roles of director, editor and assimilator, to think about being less precious about our own creations and protecting what’s useful for the group.