Writing for the Whitechapel


I have written an educational resource for the Wilhelm Sasnal exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery.

It’s called Conversations and Actions and it follows three conversations between myself and Emily Butler, one of the curators at the gallery, the painter Charles Hustwick and with Fatima, Natasha, Novuyo and Tanha, who are all involved with the youth forum Duchamp and Sons. The format is that the artist / writer leads conversations in the gallery with the exhibition curator or with another artist to introduce the main themes or ideas in the exhibition and then suggests Actions, which might be activities or discussions that you as a visitor could set up or do.

When I was invited to do this, I knew from the start that I would want to use these conversations to explore the act of looking itself, by considering both the physical and mental positions that we take when we are in front of an image that we want to make sense of. I also knew that I would want to interview as many people as I could.

I love those situations when you catch yourself seeing something through someone else’s eyes and and a large part of my pleasure in this, is coming out of that experience and back to my own look, and suddenly feeling hyper aware of it.  In my questions, I was interested to what extent we could draw out those moments, where maybe because of the order that they see the detail or the references that they make, or just how they come to understand what it is that they are looking at, the reader of the resource might then become aware of how they themselves are looking, and the nature of that perception.

It’s also probably why the final part Reflections was so special to me and why I chose to end with that fragment of the conversation with Emily. It was a real surprise to me to find that connection in his work, but the play between blindness and sight, and what is shown and not shown, felt very fitting with how we were thinking about the way that we were seeing within the conversations.

The exhibition is on until the 1st January 2012,  and if you haven’t already seen it, it’s well worth a visit, with or without the resource, but if you give it a go, let me know what you think.