Wednesday October 14th 2015
For this session, we met at school and walked up to Beresford Place to look at the James Connolly memorial. The children were very excited to be out of school.
I invited them to move around the work and to look at it from all angles. This led to them climbing onto it and touching the work (otherwise known as exploring the work!)
When I asked â€œwhatâ€™s going on in this artwork?â€, I had a range of different responses:
They thought that it was a man who had some power; a boss or the boss of the military. The evidence they gave for this was his â€˜strictâ€™ expression, his stance, which they thought was â€˜strongâ€™ and his clothes- they noticed that he was wearing a suit.
They thought that he was old because of his balding hair and the fact that he had a moustache.
They then noticed the text around the sculpture and there was some discussion about what â€˜labourâ€™ meant. They thought that it was something to do with work and being paid.
They noticed the stars at the back of the work, but didnâ€™t pick up on the plough shape.
They thought the medium was some kind of metal, and they thought it was hollow because of the sound when they touched it. They also noticed the texture of the bronze (we had established the type of material through discussion at that stage)- that it was rough and also that it has some small cracks in the surface.
We then moved on to Jim Larkin. They made a comparison straight away between the two because â€˜they were wearing the same clothesâ€™- they said things like: they could be brothers, or friends and one child pointed out the dates on the plinth and said that they were around the same time as James Connollyâ€™s dates, so they must have lived around the same time.
We talked a little about the text but the two passages from Patrick Kavanagh and SeÃ¡n Oâ€™Casey were too long and dense for the children to understand (plus they are placed too high up to read) so I read out the sentence â€˜the great appear great because are on our knees: Let us Riseâ€. They knew that it was written in three different languages but did not understand it. One of the children thought that it might be something to do with prayer because of the reference to being on your knees.
I had a volley of questions about who the artists were, when the works were made, why the people were famous. This led to a discussion about the idea of commemoration (we used that wordfor the first time) and why people might have statues erected in their memory. They commented on the fact that there are so many statues on the streets of the city.
Reflections for next time:
The session was not able to progress in a structured way because of the noise- the children were not able to hear one anotherâ€™s comments, and so, it was practically impossible for them to engage as they would in a VTS session in the classroom or in a quieter gallery space.
I think that it was really good to experiment and to take the children to look at some public sculpture, but it wasnâ€™t really possible to have a good VTS session because of the inability to hear each other, and this meant that some of the children lost interest and turned off the session (which was something I had not seen them do before- normally they are so engaged).
I am interested to see how the other sessions go- I am mindful of the fact that, unlike our last project, we have set ourselves the agenda of learning something about 1916 in these sessions and the process of uncovering the information needs to be carefully managed. I have to think about this.