School workshops at British Science Festival 2013

Posted on 28.10.2013

Invisible Dust’s Secondary schools workshops on climate change took place in September with artists Laura Harrington and Christo Wallers organised by Woodhorn Museum, as part of the British Science Festival 2013 Newcastle’s Satellite programme. 75 young people aged 12-13 participated in 50 min workshops exploring climate change and the formation of coal as a way of looking at one element – fossil fuels.

School Activity 1: “Carbonization Paper”
This activity was inspired by the process of carbonisation, the decomposition of organic matter so that only a thin film of carbon remains, which may retain features of the original organism.  Participants were given pieces of carbon paper to draw and cut out images of organic matter, anything that was around 300m years ago – trees, plants, dinosaurs etc. Each participant then ‘printed’ their carbon paper cut out onto a single piece of paper, each one layered on top of the one before.  By the end of the event, there was a single participatory artwork – 300 carbon paper images superimposed on one another, resulting in a largely abstract image, with detectable elements of single images visible. Again, the layering of the carbon paper 300x symbolised the time span required to form a seam of coal.  Each time an image was layered on the one before, it was captured as a still image, so there is a 300frame timelapse animation of the creation of this work.

School Activity 2: “Under pressure”
This activity was inspired by the levels of pressure under which coal is formed.  It was a simple and fun abstract exercise involving charcoal and plants. Using a portable printing press for etchings, participants made collaged images using lumps of charcoal and other media spray-mounted to paper in a compositionally interesting arrangement and then passed their work through the printing press which compacted the charcoal into an abstract form on the paper, covering the other materials too.  The contrast of recognisable plant matter to the compacted charcoal emphasises the magic relationship between living organisms and coal. Each image was hung between a dual washing line, creating a sense of layering time in the space.

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