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Coal on Cotton Workshop and the Strange workings of Nikhil Chopra

This morning we were introduced to Sara and Paul who were running a workshop based around the spoken word.

Entering the darkened gallery we sat down in a ring, apprehensively waiting to begin the session.  In the corner of the room sat a man; he was clothed entirely in white and was muttering ominously about the metamorphosis of language and it’s effect on the world.  The activity continued in it’s theatrical tone as the man in white whose name we later discovered was Paul asked us various questions.  He involved us and invited us to question the development of the English language and through the medium of a long strand of string we took these ideas further.  We used the string to construct our names on the floor and began to question to what extent they reflect our personalities.  The string featured heavily throughout the session and we found this an interesting and quirky new use of a medium that we had paid little attention to previously.  We were asked to look closely at the stories behind our names; the naughty children within us rejoiced as Paul encouraged us to express ourselves, shattering the quiet of the gallery by shouting out these stories.

We analysed words such as, “gay” and, “cool” thats meaning had developed and changed over time.  We then spelled out the words in string across the floor in a strange kind of calligraphy which Paul said he could use to tell our personalities. Then getting into pairs we created freeze frames or living sculptures using the string to help create motion and reflect on the multiple meanings of the words.

We were asked to create a flag symbolising the words using the positions of our bodies and the string during our freeze frames, mostly created by drawing dark abstract shapes onto sections of white fabric, then being made to think of a name for the words in our hieroglyphic new language such as “caah” and “fae” meaning things like “cool” and “bird”.

Paul and Sara then escorted us outside into the park surrounding the gallery, telling us to find somewhere symbolic of its meaning to place our flags choosing a variety of places from trees to scaffolding where we left them for the public the wonder about.

We were also taken to visit our resident artist  as part of the workshop as it was based on his work. It was a strange rather eery experience as Nikhil Chopra had chosen a rather odd setting for his work. Early this morning he pitched a large tent in one of our unfinished galleries that filled the whole room. For ten minutes we watched in silence as he drank and set up his bed for the night before simply walking out on his own piece, eagerly followed by a curious Paul.

Some of us returned to his stark white lair later in the afternoon to find him serving tea and biscuits to visitors and the builders this was a much friendlier atmosphere than earlier in the day though still just as silent.


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