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Be site-specific
Dance / Drama / Art

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"Embrace your space: become site-specific!
By Anna Wexler.

"When an art work is described as site-specific it means that it couldn’t be transferred to another place: the space it belongs to is a part of the overall experience. In site-specific work, the content of the art and its location work together to tell a story, and improvisation is often used to generate initial ideas.

Inspire your pupils
Creating site-specific work encourages pupils to engage with spaces at a detailed level and can also be a great way to celebrate a particular place in your community. Pupils find this new way of working very inspiring, because the location offers new starting-points for their imaginations.

With drama and dance the traditional distance between audience and performer will not exist in a site-specific performance, so pupils should consider how to use the audience as a part of the work itself. However, sometimes sites are not amenable to an audience. If this is the case then videoing performances can work well as an alternative.

Site-specific art
With site-specific art work it’s possible for pupils to experiment with incorporating aspects of the real world into their art. For example, the way light falls on an area at particular times of the day could be used to great effect to create mood. Pupils could also be encouraged to consider how the materials and textures found in a particular place could form an intrinsic part of a design, or as in the case of Jim Lambie’s Zobop Stairs, pupils could use the shapes of buildings to help them create something unique


Site-specific drama
If you’re working in school ask your pupils to think about places where certain events might happen. For example the toilets might be the location for some bullying or a car park could be the setting for an illicit meeting. The students need to spend time in their chosen places considering what features of the environment could influence the direction of their drama. Maybe a noisy door could alert a character to action going on elsewhere or the positioning of windows could allow a character to see something they weren’t meant to see.

The creation of the drama needs to happen within the space. After their initial thinking, pupils can script a short piece which uses the location it is performed in to help tell the story.

Site-specific dance
The symbolic nature of dance lends itself well to site-specific work, where the place becomes part of the way the story is told. If you are able to take pupils out of the school grounds it is possible to really experiment with the way they perform. For example, large spaces such as parks can be used to inspire feelings of freedom, or perhaps loneliness. Street furniture – and everything used to divide or organise spaces – can become props or tools in creating dances. Venues with interesting histories and unusual layouts can form the basis for really exciting work. The key is to encourage the students to apply their imaginations to the possibilities offered by the particular site.

Embrace your space: become site-specific! By Anna Wexler, Education advisor CABE | 26 April 2010





Top 5 heritage resource sites

1. www.createascape.org.uk
Create-a-scape is a creative learning resource that will help you to engage students with their local places and spaces. Through recording sound, images and video and then compiling into a digital map of their local area, students create their own ‘mediascape’.

2. www.lotc.org.uk
handout arts & creativity
The organisation believes that every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development, whatever their age, ability or circumstances. Very inspiring stuff.

3. www.engagingplaces.org.uk
The leading guide to using buildings and places for learning. Lesson plans, teaching resources about architecture and design, great places to visit or learn about, organisations, events and inspiring features. Whether you’re teaching in a classroom or learning with the family – Engaging Places has something for you.

4. www.mylearning.org

Free learning resources from museums, libraries and archives

This site is for pupils, teachers and all those who enjoy stories and storytelling.

5. www.vam.ac.uk
The V&A Architectural Style website © Victoria & Albert Museum



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