The art of messaging

For Open House, Kettles Yard with Grove Primary School, Virtually There Studio, Cambridge Amateur Radio Club

Special Thanks to Centre for Computing History, Community Workshop and Tim Welton for loans of old communication devices

‘How will I meet up with my mates in London on a night out with no mobile phone?’ A chance enquiry from my son that sparked an almost obsessive interest in old and new communication technology and led to an opportunity to spend 5 weeks investigating how well we communicate and message with a group of Year 4 and 5 students.

My own children are questioning their reliance on mobile phones but will the generation after them will still be able to ask those questions? What came before, how well do we communicate with the devices we use now and how will communication tech develop in the future?

Over the 5 weeks we explore messaging through words, images and body languages; investigate a wide range of historic devices; communicate using a microbit; try our hand at coding; build morse code buttons and send messages via 2 way radio and finally write actual letters to the future our thoughts on communication. We share our research and findings with the rest of the school and parents using Bare Conductive paint and touchboards.

Be patient for the following slideshow.

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An exhibition in a Pye Radio suitcase to share the ideas and art that emerged from the five workshops at Grove Primary School. Pye Radio were a pioneering Cambridge company who, historically, made an impact on the North Cambridge community we were working with as well as on Kettles Yard founder Jim Ede.

During the workshops questions about communication and messaging were explored through a combination of artistic and scientific approaches. The final artwork, in keeping with the rest of the project, communicates with its audience through old and new technology: images accessed through a 1970s slideviewer; handwritten letters to the future; morse code greetings and chatty, interactive drawings using conductive paint and touchboards from Bare Conductive.

Through this exhibition I was able to think through the process of sharing a long term project. The suitcase acted as a small immersive space where the audience are invited to become part of the process, ponder over the same questions and listen to and read the student’s thoughts. In a future situation I’d consider how the audience responses could alter the artwork particularly through the use of new technologies.

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