#WearExperimenting is an ambitious photographic project devised by Jo Howell and commissioned by The Cultural Spring and NEPN. The project seeks to engage the people of Sunderland in a series of experiments, intended to explore the cross-currents of creativity shared by photography and science and to invite the public to share their experience of life in the city. Experiments will ask questions relating to the natural and physical environment; social, domestic and work life; health and well-being of the city and its residents.
Residents of Sunderland, and those who work in the city, can participate in workshops in Pallion, Millfield and Hendon and there will also be opportunities to encounter the project through a pop-up community darkroom which will appear over the next few months in community and social green spaces.
A key strand of #WearExperimenting will be online participation, an invitation extended to the public to create specific images relating to life in the city between June – November 2018. Each month, a photographic ‘recipe’ or directive will be issued to the city’s residents and the resultant images shared across social media, building up a rich image bank and data set from which we can observe ourselves.
Statement by Jo Howell
My interest lies in how we express our collective and individual human experience. There are many cultural aspects that make up our common assumptions and opinions. By working directly with people to create artworks I am aiming to create art that challenges my own preconceptions and those of others.
Sunderland is my home town, and a perfect example of a City that is viewed by outsiders as many unfavourable things. It is viewed as an impoverished area, as an area of high unemployment, an area with poor health, and many more things that have been said about our City in the media. Some of these issues are based on statistics and information collected by the government. I don’t see my lived experiences as being reflected wholly by these statistics. I find these ideas reductive, in the sense that it reduces our agency in in the broader societal context. That we are maligned by presumption.
As an insider I want us all to really explore these assumptions about our area using photography in its many different forms. Like a science experiment we will create photographs following a systematic method. When given the same instructions or parameters for investigation, what will happen? Will we create something totally unexpected? Will we create very similar images, or will there be deviations throughout due to how each participant interprets the instructions? Will this project help us to understand our place in the world, or perhaps help us to redefine it?
The Cultural Spring is the Sunderland and South Tyneside Creative People and Places programme, funded by Arts Council England to raise participation and engagement in the arts amongst local communities. Since 2014, The Cultural Spring has produced innovative and award-winning large-scale projects that include community engagement as a key part of the commission. Past major commissions of The Cultural Spring have included WildWorks’ A Great Night Out, the Summer Streets Festival and Inventors led by Sunderland born Dominic Wilcox, which has subsequently become ‘Little Inventors’ and continues to inspire young people to develop their own invention ideas.
NEPN was established in 2009 to promote and develop photography in the North East of England and beyond. Working with photographers, artists, curators and a wide range of cultural partners, it aims to create a lively and informed context for photographic activity and to encourage new audiences for photography. NEPN is hosted by and is an initiative of the Northern Centre of Photography at the University of Sunderland.