Creating an evolving Kearsney Parks archive

Art in the Park: Kearsney interpreted

Drew Burrett’s Kearsney Interpreted project focuses on “creating an archive for all to see, to build on throughout; one that is constantly changing, evolving, re-shaping and re-forming. I want others to engage, add and take away images from the collection. I want the public to touch, view and observe the work. But most importantly I don’t want the work to become stagnant and stale, but instead being in a permanent sense of recreation. I wish for The Archive to grow as the park changes throughout history, enabling us to compare then to now. It’s at its beginning but can grow and grow.

 To collect the archive’s first set of works, I contacted Whitfield Aspen school to see if a selected handful of students would help me with the collection of images, drawings and materials to add to the archive, both a physical moving museum, an online platform and book.

The school were delighted to engage with my project and on the 8th of November 2018 16 students between the ages of 7-10 spent the day from 9-2pm with me at the Kearsney Parks, collecting the beginnings of an ever growing set of archive material.

We began the day by drawing at Russell Gardens using a range of materials from charcoal, to crayon, pastel and chalk. Exploring how we see, but also looking at ways in which we can use material to create a range of marks generating different results on the many forms of surfaces that the children drew upon.

During this section of the workshop the teaching staff and children expressed their enjoyment of using a range of materials to create marks, as the students at school do not have access to such creative methods of drawing. The teachers said: “within the classroom white paper and pencils is all they have access to”. This aspect of the project created material for the archive whilst also teaching the students new creative ways of making, inspiring them to engage with new mediums and surfaces from tissue paper, to black card and coloured card.

There were however a few students that were reluctant to engage in the acts of looking so encouraging them to see and observe instead of drawing from their imagination was a challenge. But after engaging with them in conversation, explaining how to see and not to be afraid of the final outcome of a drawing these students loosened up and began drawing the spaces around them confidently.

The second section of the workshop focused more heavily upon photography, using old fashioned black and white disposable cameras to create images from the eyes of the students, taking into account their different perspectives of the parks. As the old saying goes: “ Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. I wanted to see what the students found relevant and most important about the parks,  focusing on what they saw as beautiful and or interesting.

The students were split up into 4 groups of 3, each having roughly 9 exposures each, in which to capture there favourite part of the park.

Each student photographed very different areas, but also very different features of the Parks. Most of the students interestingly enough saw beauty in the animals within the Parks, such as ducks and birds for example. Some saw beauty in the layout and structure of its architecture. Whilst a few dived deeper into a more abstract view of the parks trees and plants.

I encouraged the students to get down low, bend down on one leg, to lay down on the ground and stretch up high. To play with the cameras aperture to make objects appear bigger and smaller. I explored with students how to crop within the camera thinking about how to make an image more defined, refined and unique.  It’s easy to capture and image, but to make it interesting it needs to reflect the rules that make an image or object stand out for the human view. A photograph must be balanced, contain angles, contrast, definition whilst maintaining a balance between positive and negative space.

 The students where alien to the concept of analogue photography. So I spent 15 minutes alongside the support staff discussing what this process is about in layman’s terms.  The students where excited by this process and wanted me to bring the photos back to the school when the project was fully complete.

The students asked me why we used black and white cameras and not colour. The answer is simple. Most of us see in colour everyday. To me this makes a photograph in colour dull and un-complex. For me Black and White imagery, is romantic, can be edited to increase the contrast, the purity of the image. It’s easier to balance and to make it abstract in its intentions. Also colour photography is used and is accessible to everyone on every device. To make an image stand out from the norm I deduct colour from the equation. Taking colour away is a form of cropping, of abstracting an image making the important areas of the image stand out from the rest.

The second group to engage in the creation of an archive was my Local Whitfield Guides Group. The aim of their project was slightly different from the schools; this was because of the short period of time we had at the parks, which was around 1 hour.  The group consisted of around 11 girls between the ages of 10-13. For their project we focused purely on photography and collecting materials to archive only.

When they arrived at the park at around 4pm we had an hour before dark to collect imagery using black and white disposable cameras which where the same as those used by the students from Whitfield Aspen school. We discussed and followed the same principles as the previous group. Looking at the space and exploring what they considered beautiful and interesting about the parks. I noticed a slightly more mature approach to image collecting focusing more on landscape then the animals. The group were engaging more with what we would consider beautiful when we first enter the park. The first group appeared to be more experimental with their approach to seeing and capturing images. They looked beyond what they could see with the naked eye. Wheres as the older second group took a more literal approach to image collecting.

 I encouraged them as before to get down low, bend down on one leg, to lay down on the ground and stretch up high. Some were reluctant but most of them had a go and got involved with the process at hand.

After this we quickly collected a range of objects which they as participants thought would fit into the collection, thinking about leaves, stones, feathers and pine cones found around the park itself.

We then discussed how we could preserve these objects to last over a long period of time, for all to see. They engaged well with this idea and collected a range of different colours, sizes and shapes of objects to be sifted through and carefully considered.

 The project over the two sessions was a huge success and the materials with which to create the final works have been gathered. I have already created and been adding to an online platform so the images collected are accessible to all to see at and on any device. You can find the archive currently at www.kearsneyarchive.wordpress.com The aim is for this platform to have its own domain in due course, and to be added to by constantly using images collected by local photographers and artists who want to share their joy and love for the beauty of our local parks.  The beginning of a book showcasing images by the students and myself is within the making.

A physical mobile library and museum is currently under creation within the studio. The aim is for this to be taken round the parks for all to engage with. Eventually it will be placed within the new Kearsney cafe development. This museum will contain an array of images, objects and materials for the public to engage with on a daily basis, and will be gifted after creation to Dover District Council and the Kearsney Parks so that everyone can engage with and explore the small archive in which we created as a collective of students and participants.

Alongside the mobile museum and library I aim to gift the Local Library, Museum, Whitfield Aspen School and other local authorities a copy of the book for all and anyone to access. Spare copies of all images in the mobile museum and library will be securely stored in case any go missing. Each photograph will be archived and labelled to make referencing the missing image easier and more efficient to replace.

The final completion of the works is set for the end of February to beginning of April, with a final showcase at River Garage studios River to be confirmed. The exhibition will be open for a short period for the local community to come and see the work and what has been developed over the course of the project.

I have great ambitions for the future of this project. This archive could grow and change every year. I want new material to be added, new views of he park to be discovered, shared and vitally explored amongst the local community. So that all can see the eye of each individual when they look through the lens of a camera into the beauty of our local parks. (Drew Burrett)