The Place We Imagine is a group show commissioned by Nottingham Contemporary. It is a collaboration between Assemble and Schools of Tomorrow, a situated education programme directed by the gallery’s education team.
Over a three year period we worked closely with the gallery’s Associate Artists, each placed in different schools across the city.
The exhibition is inspired by a drawing of the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, made by the Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi in 1968, the year of the museum’s opening. The drawing depicts an impossible reality where children play freely under the belvedere of the building itself, bringing the life of the gallery onto the streets. However at this time, such activity was impossible due to the military dictatorship (1959-84), which in 1968 was at its height.
At the centre of the drawing is an unusual looking slide come musical instrument, which we have called the Big Red. Adjacent, children are shown playing among a range of creatures arranged in a circle on a rainbow painted floor. To the right, a series of tunnels seemingly disappear underground, while in the background, a large ball hovers in the air, which on closer inspection one can see is in fact made from foil, collaged onto the drawing.
Everything is oversized as if seen through the lens of the child, creating a benign and joyful perspective of this contested public space. For ‘The Place We Imagine’, we have reimagined these unbuilt sculptures at 1:1, bringing them into Nottingham Contemporary’s gallery spaces as a way to rethink the role of the institution as a public facility in Nottingham’s city centre.
A third sculpture is the product of workshops at Robin Hood Primary School conducted in collaboration with Associate Artist Laura Eldret and teacher Kerry Whiting. We also worked closely with Gillian Brent, artist at Jubilee L.E.A.D Academy and Sian W Taylor who is based at Nottingham Nursery.
Our workshops investigated different approaches to play, considering the role of curiosity in loose parts play and schema, which describes the various ways children engage with play allowing them to take charge of their own environments.
The Fun House was primarily inspired by a clay sculpture that captures different elements that students at Robin Hood describe as important to their own experience of play. The Fun House was fabricated at Assemble’s studio, Sugarhouse Studios, utilising all of the facilities that we have on site.
Comprising a green Valchromat frame that slots together with minimal fixings and large stuffed ripstop fabric bags designed and made by textile designer Georgia Bosson, the Fun House is crowned by a large green inflatable ball that can be removed from the main structure. The Fun House also includes a sound piece and neon illustrations by Associate Artist Sian Watson.
Ongoing work produced by the Associate Artists at Nottingham Contemporary is displayed on the gallery walls ranging from Charlotte Tupper’s subversive piece which encourages visitors to rethink and challenge rules in the gallery to Peter Rumney’s elegant and subtle use of disappearing narratives that can be found on surfaces across the two spaces.
The Place We Imagine forms part of a series of projects undertaken by Assemble to investigate the role of childhood in producing architecture and its occupation. This includes our new organisation, Assemble Play, directed by playworker Penny Wilson, which facilitates play to happen in public space through the provision of guided activities by playworkers.