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About the Art on Tyneside project

In partnership with Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, the ‘Art on Tyneside’ project worked with people living in the North East to explore the interrelationship between art, place and identity through developing digital media content for inclusion in a new permanent display at the Laing Art Gallery, which opened in October 2010.

The new gallery – ‘Northern Spirit: 300 Years of Art in the North East’ – explores art representing the North East and the stories of the artists who were born or worked in the region. The research project is drawing in contemporary perspectives by exploring how the North East looks in the Laing’s collections and asking ‘how does the North East look to you today?’

The Art on Tyneside Research Questions:

  • How is the relationship between people’s identities and sense of place performed, produced, and negotiated through, or in response to, art (with specific reference to the Laing’s collection)?
  • How is sense of place represented and constructed in a display like ‘Art on Tyneside’ and what role can audience perspectives play within this process?
    How can the polyvocality of audience perspectives be represented in a coherent and engaging display?
  • Can the use of digital technology within the redeveloped display fulfill the Laing’s objective to work towards the democratisation of curation?

Involving local people

The Art on Tyneside project has involved people living locally in a number of ways. A review of the Laing’s collections suggested that there were key places in the North East which had attracted artists such as the Tyne, Newcastle City Centre and the north Tyneside coast. We then used this map to decide areas in which we want to work by aiming to draw people from places both ‘on and off the map’, and were especially interested in areas which are key to the iconography of the North East but were not included in the fine art collection (e.g. Wallsend and Newcastle’s West End).

The Northern Spirit interactive map explores the different ways in which the North East has been represented

One method for meeting people was through running stalls in public places which we did in October and November 2009 in Grainger Market, Tynemouth Market, Cullercoats Watch House, Wallsend People’s Centre and Fenham Library.

In addition – and in recognition that public spaces are made up of exclusions as well as inclusions – we used links via TWAM’s learning and outreach teams and via youth workers to expand the pool of people with which we might work. The sixty people involved in the Art on Tyneside project include, amongst others, blind and partially-sighted people, people with learning difficulties, asylum seekers and refugees living in South Shields, women from established black and minority ethic communities in Benwell and young people from Scotswood and Elswick in Newcastle’s West End.

Making media content

Various genres of media content were developed using participatory methods: photography, sound, digital stories and film.

These different genres involve different levels of ‘intervention’ and ‘shaping’ through peer processes of feedback and/or professional interviewing. As a result they also make space for different forms of participation and will therefore give the research team scope for a critical re-interrogation of logics of authority and control within the civic art museum.

The content produced by the Art on Tyneside project is displayed on touchscreens in the new gallery. The aim of the touchscreens are to create multiple routes through the gallery for different audiences.

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