Art de la terre. 2018

On the 31st of January, Nirox held its first Not A Single Story workshop of the year. A group of 90 Grade 2’s from the French school were invited explore the grounds with a playful and energetic guided walk, followed by an afternoon of land art activities; after snacks and bathroom breaks of course.

The workshop was developed by myself and facilitated by Anni Snyman, Khumo Sebambo, Lloyd Smith and Stephan Du Toit. Questions around the differences between Outdoor Sculpture, Land Art, Site Specific, Ephemeral Art and Performance Art were added to the vocabulary and imaginations of the young school children.

We visited works by Richard long (UK) Humankind Ring, 2011, Hannelli Coetzee (ZA), Glistening Demoiselle, 2016, Jessica Doucha (ZA), hole(w)hole, 2017, Rebecca Chesney (UK), Irrational constant, 2014 and Willem Boshoff (ZA), You never know, 2017. 

As the workshop was designed to fit into the minds of inquisitive children, the morning began with a series of performative, activities. We pretended we were statues, played harmonicas, told each other stories, all while looking at and contemplating art. We walked through a poplar forest, over some hills, next to a river, ran through a sprinkler and climbed on top of a resting stone giant. The guided tour allowed the groups to collect natural materials along the way, as a tactile form of discovering the landscape and engaging with selected art works.

The walking activities were intended to bring the children into a state of presence, receptivity, playfulness and embodiment. Our aim was to give way to a new understanding of how ones body can experience open space and engage with the immediate sculptural landscape. 

After our lunch break, we set back out into the park in our allocated groups and created a space for the art making activities. Before we started, my group made a big circle where we proceeded to sit crossed legged and still. We did a short breathing exercise. In the key of C, I would breathe into my harmonica and out again, for the duration of 2 minutes. The kids were instructed to listen to the instrument and mimic my breathing, as the sound of the in and out breath was more tangible though sound. By stilling their minds for a few moments, this encouraged the children to be more open in sharing their experiences, ideas and thoughts about what they learned from the walk and how they could adapt and translate this knowledge into their own artworks. They decided amongst themselves whether they preferred to work in groups or solo.

Many of the learners shared their found materials with their classmates, collaborating and working together in small groups. Twigs, grass, stones, leaves, flowers, rocks and branches were the preferred mediums and the earth a common substrate. These natural materials were drawn with, grouped by colour or shape or size or texture. Some were balanced, stacked, suspended, woven together and buried in the ground. 

A large focus of this activity was on the temporary aspect of nature art and as the day drew to a close, the fleeting moment arrived to say goodbye to our new friends send and them off with new ways of engaging with the world.