Cross frontiers with an artistic passport

8th August 2008 at 01:00

Ask a group of teenagers what the term "border control" means to them and no two answers will be the same, as visual artist Audrey Grant has discovered during an Edinburgh International Festival education workshop.

For one girl, it conjures up happy thoughts of holidays and passports; for another, the lines dividing spaces in comics; while one boy says it is "the line you can push your ability (against)". Other responses, scribbled down at Raploch Community Campus in Stirling, include: "No entry", "your (sic) are stuck somewhere", "keeping within the space provided" and "line of power".

The brain-storming exercise was the starting point of a three-day visual art workshop exploring ideas around border controls. Nine groups are taking part, garnered from schools and youth groups in Edinburgh, Stirling, Rutherglen and Cumbernauld. The aim is to produce photo-montage posters to be exhibited on a specially built wall outside The Hub in Edinburgh during the festival, which opens today and runs until August 31.

Using a wall - symbolically meant to contain and control - for creative expression taps into one of the festival's main themes, of artists transcending boundaries and taking journeys along Europe's cultural, religious and political divides.

Ms Grant says: "I was asked to come up with a visual art project which could be exhibited outside The Hub and I thought making posters using photo-montage would be a good way for young people to explore a range of ideas."

The 13-strong Stirling group, whose ages ranged from 14 to 17, spent the first day looking at the work of the Dadaists. "We looked at some Dada art and poetry," she says.

"The Dadaists wanted to shock people. They were radical young artists who put down their paints and brushes and picked up scissors and glue to make pictures. They wrote poems and performed them.

"It was a good way to introduce the group to ways of juxtaposing images and text."

The group has also looked at different walls and partitions around the world, such as the Berlin Wall, and experimented with language by writing a Dada poem from random words cut out of a newspaper.

"My role has been a balance between not imposing an idea on them, and giving them encouragement, or helping them see a way forward," said Ms Grant.

"What I like to get across is that making art is not easy, but it can be fun and interesting when you get inspired."

Sean Hughes, 14, from St Modan's High in Stirling, has explored truth and falsehood in his poster, which featured the late Kurt Cobain, a guitar hero, and carried the dramatic message: "Corrupt society which believes what the media portrays." The words, cut unevenly from newspapers, are reminiscent of a blackmail note.

A poster by Lauren Bremner, 14, from Wallace High in Stirling, carried lots of can-do messages arranged around a picture of the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.

Lauren was in a car accident a few years ago and had to learn to walk again. "I have a positive outlook on life and I want to put happy things in my poster. It's about how I fit in," she says.

Sally Hobson, head of the festival's programme development, says the Bank of Scotland Connecting to Culture education and outreach programme this year is the biggest yet, involving 1,400 children in art, drama, dance and music workshops.

"This is part of a drive to share the festival and go outside Edinburgh," says Ms Hobson. "The Border Control exhibition will bring different parts of Scotland together to explore Festival 08's central themes of artists without borders."

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