In the last few months I’ve been working on Hidden Families, a project with families with someone in prison. The project, run by by Lizzie Coles Kemp of the Information Security Group at Royal Holloway University of London, was trying to find out how to improve the way information is made available to families, because people sometimes don’t or can’t engage with support services. The hardships families experience are diverse;- travel, costs of visiting, the huge distances to visit,the stress of uncertain weather and travel conditions that might cause someone to be late and miss their visit, bringing children, access to pension, welfare and benefits advice, sentence planning, prisoner safety and welfare, being stigmatised and outcast, and not expecting help or having the ability to improve the situation.
The project has several facets and I was involved in working with Action for Prisoners Families, NEPACS (who provide support services for families separated by prison), performer Freya Stang and visitors to a visitors’ center in a Category A prison.
Action for Prisoners’ Families (APF),
works for the benefit of prisoners’ and offenders’ families by representing the views of families and those who work with them and by promoting effective work with families…
A prison or community sentence damages family life.
NEPACS builds bridges between prisoners, families and communities that they will return to, they
believe that investment must be made in resettlement and rehabilitation to ensure that there are fewer crime victims in the future, and less prospect of family life being disrupted and possibly destroyed by a prison sentence… After all, the families haven’t committed the crime, but they, especially the children, are greatly affected by the punishment
Lizzie’s approach to working with people differs from typical academic studies. Rather than only surveying or asking questions of a community she collaborates with groups to create projects, workshops and events that are independently of value to that group, rather than just to fulfill research ends, she often works with artists, writers and performers to support partners and participants in articulating ideas.
The project partners and visitors contributed to booklets, postcards, conversations and a wall collage gathering experiences of the practical, technical and emotional issues people face. I brought together the stories, experiences and sketches, with a series of sketches I made, into a digitally printed textile hanging based on the idea of a patchwork quilt for the NEPACS Visitors’ Centre. Participants expressed a wish to produce a version that could hang in the Chapel and Action For Prisoners Families have versions which they will using for their training, education and work raising awareness of the hidden issues families face.
Traditional beliefs, customs, stories passed down through generations, superstition; you’ve come across some of these at one point in your life or it may still be a part of you to this very day. My next mind map for the Compendium is about Folklore.
Here I explore the different methods to which groups maintain, share and pass on traditions. It also contains quotes from the New York Folklore Society website, where people expressed what folklore meant to them and how it affected their daily lifestyle.
The cultural aspect is a public good, the knowledge or reasoning of why something is the way it is. A method people use to teach others about experiences expressed as stories, songs, performance, legends, myths and rhymes.
It is something communities strive to maintain as folklore symbolise their identity to themselves and others.
Continuing my exploration into public goods for the Compendium I thought about public spaces; parks, the town square, spaces that doesn’t require a fee to access. In these spaces, we often see people walking around, hanging about, waiting for someone, conversing with each other, and so on; and then it hit me – places to meet and hang out can be considered as a public good. These could be conventional spaces such as the park or places that encourage socialising like a cafe, but there are also informal spaces; ones that are not dictated.
An example of an informal space brings me back to my university days; every weekend when I had to go to the main high street to buy food for my deprived fridge, I would have to walk through the town square where flocks of teenagers would hang out, spreading across the flights of stairs and having to dodge the dangerous skater boys practicing stunts from one side to the other. It was the same every weekend without fail.
I’ve always admired the works of a craftsman, and I definitely feel that their skill as an artisan can somehow be reflected in the Compendium. But can craftsmanship really be considered as a public good? I turn to the Heritage Crafts Association, advocacy body for traditional heritage crafts for some answers. There I find an article by Professor Ewan Clayton, who explains all that I am unable to convey in words.
He talks about the importance of heritage crafts and that “craftsmanship have an interesting relationship to time” the embodied wisdom from the craftsman of a time is reflected in the artefact created, the interaction or activity that may involve the artefact, becomes a cultural resource.
He also mentions the focus in safeguarding traditional craftsmanship should not be made to preserve craft objects but to create conditions to encourage artisans to continue their practice and to transmit their skills and knowledge to others.
I also stumbled upon Richard Sennett’s book titled Craftsman, which mentions how medieval workshops provided a communal atmosphere and a social space, that bound people together forming a community of masters and apprentices.
Both Professor Ewan Clayton and Richard Sennett made insightful points about craftsmanship in the past and in our current lifestyles, it was also a sad reminder of craftsmanship that have become so rare and at risk of being lost forever that it made me want to learn more about them.
I wrap up this post with a quote from Professor Ewan Clayton’s article “So this intangible cultural inheritance that crafts carry is not only about our past – it’s about the vision of what it means to be human. It’s about now, and its about our future as well.”
Branching out from the idea of social transactions; mentioned in a previous post about Stefan’s reunion over the holidays, led me to the topic of communication as a public good. How do we carry out these social transactions? Why is it so important to convey our thoughts and opinions to others and how will this result as a public good?
Communication fits the description of being both non-rival and non-excludable; words used from an economic point of view to define what a public good is. Thanks to conventional methods and modern technology, sharing ideas and thoughts have become widely available. But the point I am trying to make here is how we use these ‘props’ to communicate and share information.
The internet itself is not a public good, rather the communication and information functions it provides is. As a result the internet has given opportunities to create online communities that allow social connectivity of diverse groups, sharing information and knowledge that led to the creation of open source applications.
Taking these thoughts and ideas for the Compendium, I illustrated and brainstormed examples of our methods of communication through traditions; stories of experiences, songs, and visuals. Also thinking about the different outcomes created from the act of communicating such as social groups and communities linked through common interests, open source materials, data and information.
As part of my explorations into the notion of Public Goods for the Compendium, I’ve been creating some sketch maps that explore how to define public goods. What are they? Public goods come in many forms and their meaning and values vary among different groups of people.
Whilst preparing to have lunch with the team, Stefan began telling us a story about his family feast during the holiday season. The social transactions he had during the reunion, the reminiscing of traditional dishes. It sparked the thought that it wasn’t just the act of sharing food that was a public good, but everything that evolved around it. Where and how we get our food; the agricultural skills and knowledge needed to grow our food; the market place in which people come together not just to buy goods but for social interactions and where communities share stories; the history and culture, our traditions and sociology behind food, and ‘Foodways‘ – a term used to describe any piece of food culture which once existed in a time and place that tells a story about who we are.
Hello! It’s been a while since my last post and what have I been up to you ask? Well, I’ve been honing my skills in advanced Pictionary! Or at least that’s one way of looking at it as it takes on the same principle of visual interpretations from words. For the past few weeks Giles and Alice have been throwing words, concepts and phrases at me to create sketches visualising the meanings behind them.
Below are a few examples I have created which illustrate some of the many different projects Proboscis have accomplished over the years and key outcomes from them:
Perception Peterborough – valuing citizens’ voices in city planning & regeneration.
Navigating History – creating new awareness of rich local archives and resources.
Sensory Threads – revealing value creation in cross sector collaborations.
Snout – using play to inspire people and make complex issues more accessible.
With Our Ears to the Ground – connecting council depts to work together for the first time for cohesive community development.
Lattice – providing the catalyst for new creative collaborations.
Having been a part of Proboscis for a fair amount of time now, trying to describe the type of work Proboscis does can be a little tricky. So the best way around it was to look at what Proboscis had accomplished in the past, giving me a new perspective on the kinds of projects and themes Proboscis had undertaken and the different types of people they have worked with.
This part of the project had given me an great opportunity to exercise my conceptual skills, visualising complex activities and abstract ideas and presenting them in the form of a single sketch.
It was challenging creating a sketch that would capture and reflect the sense of a complex project and required a lot of conversation – to which I would carefully listen to pull out keywords that may best describe the process, outcomes and achievements of a project, then further researching to finalise sketches.
Throughout the process I’ve developed the ability to visualise concepts using a single word or string of words and sketching to reflect the meaning behind the words or the ideas conveyed, giving me new confidence as a concept artist to visualise something quickly and to use my imagination to give some of the sketches a touch of humour and a new perspective.
It has been an enjoyable experience, and given me a new insight to the type of work a visual interpreter/ graphic artist does and I look forward to more work like this in the near future.