Mysterious Light Workshop and other experiments – Reflection on study project at EMMA Museum

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“We started by searching lines in artworks and ourselves. We continued with exploring lights and shadows around us, and we proceed with visually expressing our interpretations of idols. We ended up with examining movement in contemporary art and turning on disco lights.”

By stepping into project called Art Break (Taideloma – in Finnish) I knew my skills and art educator’s practices will be challenged. I chose this project as an elective part of my NoVA studies at Aalto Arts – School of Arts, Design and Architecture. The study project was organised in collaboration with EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art located in City of Espoo in Finland. The project offered for university students an opportunity to design and implement art workshops for children during school autumn holidays in October 2019. Even though I am experienced in running workshops for children and I really like that, the museum environment was new teaching environment for me.

Surprisingly, I realized that when collaborating with me, also EMMA Museum was learning something new. It was the first time for them to have an English speaking art educator involving to Art Break workshops which are usually held in Finnish.

Being behind the scenes in the EMMA museum reminded me of my motivation, why I applied for NoVA studies in the first place in the late 2017. My interest in educational curating was reborn. Working together with EMMA museum’s educator Maria Vähäsarja was inspiring and influencing to reflect on and expand my personal teaching methods. As part of the project, Riikka Haapalainen, Aalto University lecturer, introduced me to museum education and offered basic concepts to consider in order to meet outcomes of art education and museum as learning environment. 

Implementing Art Workshop

I should highlight that process of preparation of art workshop started a long time before actual school holiday break in Southern Finland. Me and my teammates – two other Aalto students from program of Art Education, we had regular meetings with getting to know each other and our personal approaches and experiences in teaching. We spend hours on brainstorming and wondering about crazy ideas. We have so much fun with sharing forms of creativity and putting together the program of art workshop. We defined us as a team and it also set the way, how we approached things and dealt with situations. Each of us had a one day to be in charge of workshop and last days of holiday week were days for experimentation for all of us. By coming up with fresh ideas we wanted to invite participants to expire and investigate new artistic methods. By including diverse art forms into our whole workshop we planned actions for every day to be different as well. The workshop methods were changing from freezing our bodily movements to drawing a collective artwork in exhibition space.

For the first time I met challenges of intertwining artworks and justifying my choices during the workshop.  Being part of EMMA Museum I still had the ability to find my way of interpreting contemporary artworks and to use personal observations for workshops. I believe each of us, me and my teammates, we ourselves created unique narratives that became part of EMMA Museum’s story. In my opinion it was important to provide a participatory space for families in EMMA where experiences can be shared between kids and parents. 

Service plan for Mysterious Light workshop. Photo: Vivita Kaupere

The workshop day I was responsible was all about lights and shadows, and it was called Mysterious Light.

By walking around the EMMA’s current exhibition from the Saastamoinen Foundation Art Collection me and participants explored the secrets of light by observing artworks that could not exist without the presence of light. In the center of the exhibition were Visuaalinen pyörre (2010) (Visual Swirl) by Hans-Christian Berg and Sky of Time (2019) by Tatsuo Miyajima. Participants were invited to engage with artworks by catching reflections of light on their skin or wondering about the universe and numbers. Daily phenomenon – light and shadow – were observed and things experienced in museum were brought up as visible footprints in the following workshop’s part.

In the next phase the main colour participants were working with was the white. Participants were encouraged to play with their favourite shapes and forms. Each participant had a possibility to transform an ordinary object white paper bag into a light source. The goal was also to get participants familiar with the idea of re-using materials.

Choice of using only white materials was new for me but it worked remarkable well in the Mysterious light workshop. White colour allowed participants to play with shapes, design and creation process itself. Nothing was disturbed by the possible mismatch in tones. The outcome was visually plain but exciting. Despite of age differences within the group, each transformation of paper bag gained unique look that was fully experienced when all lights were turned off and little flashlights were turned on.

On the last day of Art Break my part of exploring movement was to invite participants to observe artwork P.Y.T. (2009) by Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom. I turned to one of contemporary artworks that brings together interpretations of Michael Jackson’s phenomenon and is visible in the exhibition Michael Jackson: On the Wall. Participants were examining representations of movement in contemporary art and experimented with their bodies, how to capture and freeze the movement. Altogether, every design made in workshop showed our impact on personal experiences for participants. By adapting methods according to group we managed to involve all participants and to keep their curiosity of exploration on going. By interacting with artworks and asking clear questions we provoked the self-expression and self-awareness of participants.

In terms of language, offering workshops in two languages Finnish and English, made participating for non-Finnish speaking families easier and showed EMMA Museum more attractive visiting destination for them. As well as inviting new visitors, we can also talk about personal development of a child. Repeating things is important support of learning. By having a talk first in English and then in Finnish offers the practice of repetition, but in a new way. I see this attempt also as an experience for EMMA Museum – taking a step closer topical issues of ensuring inclusion of participants with different cultural backgrounds.

“What moves you? What moves you in art?”

Designing a template for Mysterious Light workshop. Photos: Vivita Kaupere

I truly appreciate this gathered experience of museum education and will keep it as vivid part for my professional growth. 

Written by Vivita Kaupere
NoVA student from Aalto University

Mysterious Light Workshop and other experiments – Reflection on study project at EMMA Museum

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