When I was in fifth class, we had a visit from a poet. He, for it was a he, stayed with us for an entire morning. He read some of his work and spoke to us about how he made a poem. He explained what prompted this act for him, what it was like to read his work in public, and what it was to be a poet. His clarity, enthusiasm and way of thinking intoxicated us. We were transfixed. He was in our classroom, but he wasn’t our teacher, we were learning from him, but not in a way we knew before. There were no specific outcomes, and something new emerged for us – how an artist might engage with the world. This encounter, brief as it was, was on reflection a site of change.
Change is an arc of transition from past, present to future. While in this instance I recall a memory from my time in primary school, we must acknowledge that school is a temporally rich site. It builds on knowledge that has gone before, its daily timetables and schedules frame our present, and it must also be future orientated, creating an environment that prepares students for the future. Using the moment of the Dublin 7 Educate Together National Schools own transition and change to a new site The Masterplan creatively and directly poses three important temporal questions; What is school for? What was school for? And What will school be for?
What makes this collaborative community-based project so compelling is its creative weaving of these stages though the mediation of curator Jennie Guy, the engagement of artists Ella de Búrca and John Beattie, and importantly the commitment of the teachers and pupils from Fourth, Fifth and Sixth classes. Guy’s curatorial ethos, to provide a platform for schools to meet artists and for artists to meet schools in an unmediated encounter is special. The governing principle here is that the artist does not have to go outside of their practice and ‘become a teacher’. Instead they provide a sustained exposure to contemporary art practices and theories for the pupils, presenting modes of performance work both non-verbal and choral, creating temporary sculptural works, writing and scripting works for film. The Masterplan provides a collaborative and dialogical space for the pupils to forge their own voices.
One Dictionary definition of a Masterplan is ‘an organized set of decisions made by one person or a team of people about how to do something in the future’. This succinctly describes the future orientated nature of participants on The Masterplan. As Jennie Guy in her extensive work with Schools has observed ‘The gestures we make now make a difference’, and the works and gestures that comes from The Masterplan will make a difference in how we frame change and how we can employ new languages in the future.
While The Masterplan will produce many outcomes and artefacts perhaps the real legacy is in the new thinking it will produce for all the participants and for the new ecology of Grangegroman itself. It certainly will provoke excitement, enthusiasm, action and in time to come further reflection. Similar perhaps to the reflection of the impact one poet, Brendan Kennelly, had on a classroom a long time ago.
Brian Fay Artist and Head of Fine Art, DIT Grangegorman.
This piece was written in support of the screening of ‘The Making of the Masterplan’, which took place in the Lighthouse Cinema on Monday 4th October 2016. ‘The Masterplan’ was commissioned under Pathway 2 of ‘…the lives we live’, Grangegorman Public Art Programme. For more information see our public art page.