Who am I?

7th September 2007 at 01:00
Strip away the layers and find the real you: the challenge of self-expression for Year 10s, says Andrew Medd

Having thought long and hard about how to interest my Year 10 GCSE art class I decided to introduce a new unit of work, a twist on self-portraiture, entitled "Me, Myself, My World".

I had tried this with success at my old school and it appealed to all pupils as it provided them with an opportunity to explore their inner self, expressing their emotions, fears, worries, lives and interests.

Using PowerPoint, I initially discussed with them how traditional portraiture had changed over time; why people had portraits commissioned; the major artists who were fascinated by recording themselves over time and how the introduction of technology, such as the internet and mobile phone, had changed the face of self-expression.

In the first lesson I showed the group a multimedia piece I had produced. This film of photographs from my life accompanied by a personal soundtrack showed the pupils I am a person just like them.

Overall the pupils spent a term working on this project and produced a range of individual outcomes using mixed media, including sculptural dresses with a commentary on the fashion industry, resin head-shaped casts filled with personal objects, dolls' houses representing the diverse aspects of a pupil's life in room scenes and a set of boxes containing the present and future of a pupil.

The key for me was the topic's positioning. I encouraged the pupils to see themselves as onions, with layer upon layer of external influences such as society, parents, teachers, media making them all what they are.

The question was "who are you?" Strip away all layers, and what makes you you? What is the essence of you? When they thought about it in those challenging terms a real sense of personal expression started to appear in their work

Andrew Medd teaches art at Trinity Academy in Doncaster

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