Future artists seek inspiration from 2317 – with impressive results

I suspect very few people in the year 1717 could have looked ahead 300 years and predicted computers, air travel, space stations, antibiotics, television and Facetime.

Fast forward to 2017 and to the theme given to 300-plus children in a number of Shetland schools – to predict what life would be like 300 years from now.

Artist Amy Gear (left), Children and the Arts project manager Grace Heggs and filmmaker JJ Jamieson (right). Photo: Dave Donaldson

As an ex-creative arts teacher it’s a subject that, in my experience, all kids respond to without exception and one that generates some of the most imaginative ideas; as someone once said “children see magic because they look for it”. And it follows that they will often see a future with amazing clarity and no inhibitions.

That kind of thinking is what the new exhibition at the Bonhoga Gallery is all about. Yes it’s a schools exhibition but not as we know it.

As part of a four-year project and supported by the SIC’s creative links service and Children and the Arts, artist Amy Gear has again gone out to work with Shetland school children and inspire their creativity.

Five schools were involved – Whalsay, Unst, Fetlar, Sandwick and Aith – and the children were taken through a variety of creative experiences including animation workshops, the travelling gallery, and visits to Bonhoga and other arts events.

The Future is the result and it’s very much a collaborative, multi-media show of video screens that looks contemporary and is a visual and aural experience.

On one wall the projection takes the form of a window on Shetland in 2317, the outline of Foula perhaps, interspersed with dozens of smaller animations made from charcoal drawings on tracing paper.

There are ideas of future transport, jet shoes, houses on wheels or under the sea, cars on water, space journeys, flying bubble machines and sometimes just nature, people, or a moving cloud. Inevitably perhaps for island-based kids water does feature a lot.

Another projection is a highly imaginative, ever-changing animated video of future fashions drawn around a basic shape. While it often draws on inspiration from superheroes and other popular culture, it still includes quite funky ideas. Indeed some of the designs go beyond anything Jean-Paul Gaultier could offer.

A much more 21st century approach is found in a video that looks like an up-to-date game of consequences where the top and bottom halves of the children undergo random sequencing.

And it looks like great fun has been had here where local filmmaker JJ Jamieson had his input into the project also helping to create the animations from the children’s drawings.

A further element in this project is the sound that takes the form of both piano music created by pupils at Sandwick, and sound recordings of the children talking about their predictions of a future world.

The music itself is quite miminalist and works well in the gallery framing the voices and proving an ambient background. And those comments are typically direct, sometimes frightening and humorous and often downright bizarre.

But it shows children who are well aware of our current world and the impact it will have on the future for them and their children; global warming is never far from their thoughts.

On the surface then this show is quite minimalist although what you don’t see is the whole wealth of creative processes, decisions, and activities that have gone to make up this exhibition.

That’s both the most creative part and the hardest work. You do, however, see the final results and very impressive and original they are too.

The exhibition runs at the Bonhoga Gallery until 2nd July.

Peter Davis


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