Review: Collaboration: Out of the Blue, the story so far

Collaboration: Out of the Blue, the story so far

Words, Shaneka Williams

Collaborative practice in art is nothing new. During the renaissance, masters and apprentices worked side by side. Since then we’ve seen the likes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera, and Gilbert and George engaging with collaborative practice. The saying “two heads are better than one”, seems to be an apt phrase.

This exhibition at Bluecoat utilised the same principles of collaboration as a vehicle for art production. In this instance it was also a vehicle for social change, making work accessible to people who have often felt excluded by the arts, and its intricacies.

Out of the Blue, is the celebration of the creative union between children, their families, and disabled adults across Liverpool. For the children the opportunity lies in a greater understanding of art as cultural production, for the adults the aim is to develop their confidence through social interaction. The children and the Blue Room adults with the help of sculptor, Dave Evans, have produced all of the work in the exhibition.

It consists of two spaces. The main room on the ground floor is an abundance of colour where game play takes place. The bland grey walls have been given a much-needed uplift by the dynamism of the space. There are three cardboard figures propped up against the walls, these are accompanied by audio-visual instructions that explain the next steps.

The main attraction resembles a DIY obstacle course. Using standard chairs, blow up rings and shapes made from tape on the floor; a physical game of sorts has been created. This is accompanied by a video, which explains a bit about the project and its participants.

The second space on the first floor is signposted by mono-prints of the participants; it leads into a workshop area. During the course of the exhibition there have been family workshops in this space. The monoprints reflect the personalised nature of the project, using simplified lines to capture each individual.

I was fortunate enough to witness a young girl and her mum navigate the room, genuinely enjoying interacting with the art; throwing balls through hoops and gradually following the path. It was at this point that this work came to life. Often the experience of looking at art is quite passive, even when we feel engrossed there seems to be a barrier in place. In some cases this barrier is physical, as well as mental. They were unafraid to interact, because they felt that they could. That this was something made for them. Ultimately that is where some exhibitions fail, but not this one.

Out of the Blue, is a breath of fresh air. In an environment filled with turmoil, this child like approach to art is just what we need.