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Something Plastic to Fight the Invisible

Mark Titchner's 2001 sculpture, Something Plastic to Fight the Invisible (English Language Golem Perimeter), is made from round wooden boards with circular weavings and working lightbulbs which have been attached to five metal stands. Titchner works across a wide range of media and his artworks are sometimes multi-sensory. His art often explores communication, perception and tensions between different belief systems.

Something Plastic to Fight the Invisible (English Language Golem Perimeter)

Something Plastic to Fight the Invisible (English Language Golem Perimeter) 2001

Mark Titchner (b.1973)

Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre

 

You may wish to show your students a short clip from the following video (0:39–0:55) to familiarise them with the sculpture and the creative activities which follow.

 

Activity 1: Discuss the artwork

Show images of the artwork to your pupils. It might help to lower the lights in the room and open each image full screen.

The sculpture glowing in an otherwise dimly lit room

The sculpture glowing in an otherwise dimly lit room

You may wish to ask them variations of the following questions and/or ask them to raise their hands in agreement:

  • Do you like this artwork?
  • What do you think it is made from?
  • How is it different from other artworks you've seen?
  • Where would you display it?
  • If you could touch the artwork, how would it feel?

In connection with the sculpture's use of working lightbulbs, you could also switch the lights on and off in your classroom and reflect on how the different levels of light make your students feel.

A close-up view of the woven panels with glowing lightbulbs

A close-up view of the woven panels with glowing lightbulbs

 

Before they move on to the activities, discuss the woven elements of the artwork in particular:

  • What colours can you see?
  • What do the patterns remind you of?
  • Why might the artist have included these weavings?

 

You may wish to discuss these other examples of weaving in art before you move on to the creative activities which follow:

Activity 2: Create a large-scale weaving

For this activity, you'll need multiple lengths of ribbon in different colours, each around a couple of metres long. You should have at least one length of ribbon per student.

Ask your students (including teaching assistants) to arrange themselves into a circle in the middle of the room. You may want to split students into smaller groups if there are more than 10.

Artist Bethan Hughes and students take part in the large-scale weaving activity

Artist Bethan Hughes and students take part in the large-scale weaving activity

 

Ask each student to choose a colour of ribbon. Once they or their assistant are holding it, ask them who they would like to hold the other end, and pass the other end to that person. You may wish to ask why they have chosen a particular colour or direction for their ribbon to go.

Students create a large-scale weaving together

Students create a large-scale weaving together

Repeat this as many times as possible, ensuring to weave the new ribbon under or over the existing ribbons each time. Reflect on the colour combinations and patterns that appear in the middle of the circle – what do they remind your students of?

Once you've run out of ribbon, you may wish to repeat the activity and allow different students to take on the role of the weaver.

Activity 3 materials

  • a round weaving loom made of card for each student. You can buy these premade online, the ideal diameter being 15 cm. We'd recommend purchasing ones with a hole in the middle as these are particularly easy to weave with
  • lots of different colours and types of yarn, pre-cut to around 60 cm lengths. Tip: you can often find cheap bundles of yarn in charity shops
  • you may want to keep a pair of scissors and masking tape at hand for cutting loose ends and/or taping loose ends to the back of the loom

Activity 3: Weave a sensory sculpture

Now it's time for your students to create their own circular weaving inspired by Titchner's sculpture.

In advance of the task, you may wish to explore the different colours and types of yarn you have available with your students:

  • How do the bundles of yarn feel on our hands and faces? Soft? Fuzzy? Itchy? Warm?
  • Which colours do you think will work well together? Why?

Demonstrate to your students how to weave a length of yarn through the circular loom by wrapping it around the edge and through the centre multiple times.

A student is supported to weave on a round loom

A student is supported to weave on a round loom

Now give your students plenty of time and support to experiment with weaving on their own loom and allow them to experiment with different ways of weaving with the yarn – the focus of this task should be on trying out the process, rather than a finished product. However, you may wish to support students with tying knots or taping down the ends of their wool at the back of their loom if they are keen to create something more finished.

Students weaving on their individual looms

Students weaving on their individual looms

Once everyone is happy with their creation, you could display all of the students' work on a sheet hung up in the room, celebrating their different designs. You could also string fairy lights through the centre of the looms to create an interactive, glowing sculpture similar to Mark Titchner's!

One way to display your students' work together

One way to display your students' work together

Tip: once you're finished displaying the artworks in your school, you can reuse the looms and yarn by unknotting and un-weaving the wool.


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