Scarborough Museums Trust’s lockdown digital commissions stay at home online

Estabrak’s Homecoming: A Placeless Place

SCARBOROUGH Museums Trust’s lockdown-launched series of New Digital Commissions from leading British artists is complete and available online.

The project was introduced by the trust in response to the first lockdown in March as a “dynamic new approach to its collections, learning and exhibition programming during the Coronavirus crisis”.

Key to the series was a commitment to diversity, inclusion and equality of access and innovative ways to promote this message. A diverse range of artists – Lucy Carruthers, Estabrak, Kirsty Harris, Wanja Kimani, Jade Montserrat, Jane Poulton and Feral Practice’s Fiona MacDonald – created digital artworks for release online over the spring and summer across social-media platforms.

Lucy Carruthers’ Animal Archives. Copyright: Scarborough Museums Trust

Trust chief executive Andrew Clay says: “It’s been so important this year for people to have access to the arts and culture: for many people, they’re a thought-provoking lifeline and have a proven positive effect on our mental health.”

Curator Dorcas Taylor says: “Museums and galleries have a social responsibility to support communities, now more than ever before. We can provide a platform for creative expression that enables artists to share their messages to communities in lockdown. Their artworks can support personal wellbeing or become an opportunity to consider some of these wider issues.”

Scarborough Museums Trust has provided a range of access tools to accompany the digital content to support as many people as possible to connect. Among them have been visual guides, in the form of “social stories”, by Scarborough illustrator Savannah Storm that give audiences downloadable information on what to expect before accessing digital content. Subtitles and audio descriptions have been used wherever possible.

Kirsty Harris’s Whispers From The Museum. Copyright: Scarborough Museums Trust

The New Digital Commissions all can be found on YouTube at http://bit.ly/SMTrustNDC, other than Jane Poulton and Kirsty Harris’s projects at https://www.scarboroughmuseumstrust.com/stardust/ and www.scarboroughmuseumstrust.com/learning/family-resources/ respectively.

Lucy Carruthers’ film, Animal Archives: Rewilding The Museum explores how we forge connections at a time of distancing. Interested in the relationship between inside and outside, all the more pertinent during lockdown, she asks how social isolation affects museum objects.

Estabrak’s Homecoming: A Placeless Place is a multi-layered touring and participatory project that uses community engagement, film, sound and paint for cross-cultural exchanges around home, identity, and displacement.

Jade Montserrat made a film with filmmakers Webb-Ellis for the New Digital Commissions project

It started in 2019 in Brighton and Hull and saw the social experiment, which invites honest expression and participation through ultraviolet light, invisible ink and dark spaces, introduced digitally to communities in Scarborough. 

Kirsty Harris created Whispers From The Museum, a six-part online and immersive adventure for children and families, inviting them to read George’s logbook, discover amazing museum objects and take part in art and craft activities. 

Wanja Kimani made a film, Butterfly, that follows a walk from a child’s eye view as she spent more time noticing the world around her and sensory experiences became amplified.

A still from Wanja Kimani’s film Butterfly

Jade Montserrat produced a film with filmmakers Webb-Ellis that explores the impact of lockdown and chronicles the process of making, and new ways of being, that encourage mutual support and acts of care.

Jane Poulton produced a series of photographs and text called From Stardust To Stardust, focusing on personal objects she owns as she considers whether those that mean the most to us are often acquired at times of crisis and what comfort they may bring. 

Feral Practice’s film, The Unseesables, explores themes of extinction by focusing on three “unseeable” birds: the great bustard, the corncrake and the great auk. Examples of all three can be found in the trust’s taxidermy collection.

A still from Feral Practice’s film The Unseeables

What next?

Some of the New Digital Commissions artists will be participating in What If? at Scarborough Art Gallery and the Rotunda from April 24 to August 30 2021.

Next year’s exhibition will explore “the civic responsibility of museums and their collections and how we could introduce wider narratives into our spaces to make our institutions relevant to both the world and our local community”. 

Jade Montserrat confronts Government response to Covid-19 in frank digital film

Jade Montserrat in a still from her Covid-19 lockdown film Chronicle ia. Picture: Jade Montserrat/Webb-Ellis

JADE Montserrat’s lockdown film, Chronicle ia, goes online from July 7 as the latest digital commission for Scarborough Museums Trust.

“When 60,000 people are dead and a disproportionate amount are disabled, elderly and black and brown people, that’s a eugenic project,” says Montserrat in her 13-minute film as she considers the impact of lockdown.

Filming during a period of physical and “social” distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, she chronicles the process of making and the new ways of being that encourage mutual support and acts of care as Montserrat searches for a methodology to apply Eve Sedgwick’s theory of “reparative reading in a visual form”. In a nutshell, that means envisioning the interconnectivity of art practice, public space, responsibility and care.

Working with art film-makers Webb-Ellis, Montserrat interprets reparative reading as a “process of decoding, describing and discussing imagery, visual and human relationships, to interrogate and challenge political structures and frameworks”.

“With a title that plays with processes of recording and documentation, Chronicle ia explores the personal and inter-personal impacts of lockdown through the documentation of a collaborative making process, emphasising new ways of co-existing that are based on support,” explains Montserrat, whose films reveals the process of making through making, using the online platform Zoom for a series of digital conversations.

As Montserrat says in the film, in response to the Corona crisis: “When 60,000 people are dead and a disproportionate amount are disabled, elderly and black and brown people, that’s a eugenic project…When is it that we rebel? When is it that we say ‘No’?”

Here’s one she made earlier: Jade Montserrat, working on her The Last Place They Thought Of installation, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania. Picture: Constance Mensh

Within the film are references to Scarborough Museums Trust’s collection of photographs by James Harrison, taken during numerous hunting trips in Africa and India between 1892 and 1910, in particular Harrison’s “debasing images of atrocities towards local peoples and the slayed bodies of innumerable animals”.

As Montserrat prepared to research this collection of photographs, diaries and taxidermy animals, she asked British/Canadian filmmakers Caitlin Webb-Ellis and Andrew Webb-Ellis to explore this with her to sustain her through the trauma of engaging with the material as an act of mutual care. 

“Reflecting on the geographic, experiential, cultural and social spaces inhabited by the artists – filming is located in their respective isolations within Scarborough Borough – the film presents a discussion aiming to define global imaginaries that traverse histories, nations, ideologies and time to help us conceive a new world that is built on principles of equality, support and social justice,” says Scarborough Museums Trust.

“The film’s imagery demonstrates glitches in communication, revealing how reparative reading involves a gradual – and sometimes incomplete – piecing together of practices and subjective viewpoints, but that, ultimately and beautifully, a common goal can be achieved.”

As Scarborough Museums Trust continues to improve access to its online content, Chronicle ia includes audio descriptions embedded in the film as part of the creative process, along with subtitles. Please note, the film contains photographic documentation of colonial atrocities and explicit images of violence and nudity. Consequently, the trust strongly recommends viewing for adults only, or those aged 12 and over with parental or guardian supervision.

Montserrat’s film can be seen on the trust’s YouTube channel, www.bit.ly/YouTubeSMT, from Tuesday, July 7. Chronicle ia is one of a series of new digital commissions from Scarborough Museums Trust as part of its response to the pandemic crisis. The trust has asked artists Kirsty Harris, Jane Poulton, Wanja Kimani, Feral Practice, Jade Montserrat, Lucy Carruthers and Estabrak to create digital artworks for release online across social media platforms throughout the summer.

Scarborough museums to commission digital works from artists in lockdown times

Feral Practice: Queenright, Ant-ic Actions, 2018-2021, work in progress

SCARBOROUGH Museums Trust is introducing a dynamic approach to its collections, learning and exhibition programming with a series of new digital commissions from artists nationwide in response to the Coronavirus crisis.

The trust, in charge of Scarborough Art Gallery, the Rotunda Museum and Woodend, has been working with Flow Associates to develop a new way of working across the organisation.

This will involve using a method called the “Story of Change”; in a nutshell “defining the change you want before choosing the tools to achieve or measure it”.

Homecoming, A Place, by Estabrak

Andrew Clay, the trust’s chief executive, says: “We want our work to make an impact. Defining that impact before we plan our exhibitions and wider programme means we can ensure we are relevant and responsive to our communities all the time.”

Key to this progression is a commitment towards diversity, inclusion and equality of access, leading to the trust finding innovative ways to promote this message.

A wide range of artists, among them Lucy Carruthers, Estabrak, Kirsty Harris, Wanja Kimani, Jade Montserrat, Jane Poulton and Feral Practice, have been asked to create digital artworks, to be released online over the next four months across myriad social media platforms.

Dust, mixed media, by Wanja Kimani, 2019

Clay says: “It’s so important to have access to the arts and culture at this difficult time: for many people, they’re a thought-provoking lifeline and have a proven positive effect on our mental health.”

Simon Hedges, the trust’s head of curation, collections and exhibitions, says: “Museums and galleries have a social responsibility to support communities, now more than ever before.

“We can provide a platform for creative expression that enables artists to share their messages to communities in lockdown. Their artworks can support personal wellbeing or become an opportunity to consider some of these wider issues.”

Ave Maria Gracia Plena, by Jane Poulton

As part of its commitment to access, the trust has been working with artistic producer Sophie Drury-Bradey and disability activists Touretteshero to ensure people with diverse minds and bodies can become more engaged in its work.

Hedges says: “Before the lockdown, we started to explore how access can be a creative stimulus for our projects and how to extend a warm welcome to our disabled communities.

“We’re now looking at the lockdown as an opportunity to continue this work and find creative and imaginative ways of ensuring people can access our digital content.”

Shhh, Did You Hear That, by Kirsty Harris. Picture: © National Trust, Sutton House

The trust has committed to embrace a range of access “tools” to accompany the digital content to support as many people as possible to connect. Scarborough illustrator Savannah Storm, for example, will create visual guides, or “social stories”, to provide audiences with downloadable information on what to expect before accessing digital content.

Alongside this, subtitles will be used wherever possible, with audio descriptions to follow. The first Gallery Screenings Online event this evening at 7pm will incorporate a live Q&A session being accompanied by live captioning.

Audio descriptions will support children and families with visual access requirements for the first digital commission by Kirsty Harris, narrated by 11-year-old Ruby Lynskey, from Scarborough.

Shadowing Revue – Ecclesiastes v Watercolour, gouache, ink and pen on paper, by Jade Montserrat, 2017. Collection of York Art Gallery

Supporting children and families to access content is important to the trust’s learning manager, Christine Rostron: “We’re looking at a range of ways to help families engage with the learning activities we’re about to launch online in fun, age-appropriate ways,” she says. “Using a local child to produce audio descriptions is much more relatable than the voice of an adult BBC presenter!”

The trust’s intention is to continue this work for the long term, as Clay reasons: “Being inclusive and accessible is not an add-on: it’s becoming part of our DNA.”

The artists involved in the New Digital Commissions project all will be participating in exhibitions at Scarborough Art Gallery and the Rotunda in 2021.

“We want our work to make an impact,” says Andrew Clay, chief executive of Scarborough Museums Trust. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Lucy Carruthers will explore how we forge connections at a time of distancing. Her interest in the relationship between inside and outside is all the more pertinent during lockdown, wherein she asks how social isolation affects museum objects.

Estabrak’s Homecoming is a multi-layered touring and participatory project using community engagement, film, sound and paint for cross-cultural exchanges built around home, identity, and displacement.

The project started in 2019 in Hull and Brighton and now Estabrak will conduct the social experiment Homecoming: A Placeless Place, inviting honest expression and participation through ultraviolet light, invisible ink and dark spaces, introduced digitally to communities in Scarborough. 

Estabrak: One of the artists taking part in Scarborough Museums Trust’s New Digital Commissions project.. Picture: Ali Al Sharji

Kirsty Harris is constructing a new digital project for children and families during social distancing that imaginatively will bring to life objects in the trust collection to connect with children struggling with social isolation.

Wanja Kimani will be creating walking journeys from a child’s eye view as she spends more time noticing the world around her and her sensory experiences become amplified.

Jade Montserrat will consider the socio-political impact of lockdown and “encourage us to discover new ways of being based on mutual support, rather than a model that exacerbates existing social inequalities”.

Jade Montserrat, working on her The Last Place They Thought Of installation, Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania. Picture: Constance Mensh

Jane Poulton’s series of photographs and text will focus on personal objects she owns in order to consider whether those that mean the most to us are often acquired at times of crisis and what comfort they bring.

Feral Practice will develop a digital artwork leading to a major commission on the theme of extinction for 2021.

The new digital works will be available to view shortly via Scarborough Museums Trust’s:

Website: scarboroughmuseumstrust.com

YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8-gck0CM7gVFcsZHMAIcDw

Twitter: @SMTrust

Instagram: @scarboroughmuseums

Facebook: @scarboroughmuseums

Floodproof, Travelling Series, by Lucy Carruthers