Elastic Octopus

Durham Wharf Residency project led by Laura Gordon

Working with five schools across London, Laura aimed to identify techniques to help young people alleviate fear of failure. Laura hoped that by taking part in the project the young people would have an opportunity to experience different parameters for success within the classroom, value happy accidents and quick experiments, and work alongside process-led practitioners.

Session 1

The first session comprised a series of abstract exercises designed to help students explore and overcome their fear of failure. The session was split loosely into three sections — Fear of Failure (changing the parameters for success and embracing failure through quick-fire exercises), Divergent Thinking (coming up with lots of possible answers to a question and lots of ways to interpret the question) and being Effectually Minded (considering the tools you have at your disposal and using them as a springboard for imagining new possible directions).

Session 2

Each group was encouraged to build on their experiences of the first session and work alongside creative practitioners Bea Wilson, Nadine Shaban and Jake Evans.

The groups working with Bea were invited to think about the positives and negatives of their current environments and use these ideas to create a future island. Each group worked as a team to produce a model to present to the class.

Jake’s session focused on four recurring elements in his own work: drawing with the wrong tools, not representation, the mundane and disassembly. Using commonly found materials – fruit, office stationary and school supplies – the students produced as much 2D and 3D imagery as they could in the time given, prompted by a range of short tasks. Then the students created a series of images inspired by this experimental way of working.

Nadine’s session was inspired by her own experiments with photography, paint, fabric scraps, geometric shapes and letter forms. By setting the students short tasks and removing the artwork from them when it seemed complete, Nadine removed an element of control and introduced chance and happy accidents.