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Posted 23.07.20

Plymouth College of Art partners with Counterpoints Arts & OU to bring hip hop pedagogy to Tate

By Naomi Girdler

In the House of My Father 1996–7, © The estate of Donald Rodney

How might a hip hop practitioner-turned-artist reimagine the Tate Archive? Can hip hop as a genre-defying art form re-translate and reconnect archival histories, stories and objects to wider audiences?

These are the questions posed within the collaborative residency Hip Hop Pedagogy and Power: Re-Imagining the Archive, in which Plymouth College of Art partners with Counterpoints Arts, The Open University Citizenship and Governance SRA, Tate Exchange and Tate Archive at Tate Britain as part of the Who Are We? Tate Exchange programme.

Focusing on decolonizing, re-imagining and exploring this year’s theme of ‘Power’ at Tate Exchange, the point of departure for Hip Hop Pedagogy and Power is the Tate Archive, an extensive collection of over one million objects on artists, art world figures and art organisations in Britain documenting the history of fine art practice in the UK. Resident artists Shay D, AWATE and Big Zuu have been invited to speak back to the archive, inserting new perspectives and retrieving silenced voices and cultural viewpoints. 

Refugees of Rap at Tate Exchange 2019 with Shay D, Mohammed Yahya and Sashwati Mira Sengupta

Running from the end of April until late 2020, the residency comprises working in the online archive in addition to a mentoring programme and facilitation by playwright and dramaturge, Hassan Mahamdallie. The project team, including digital anthropologist Kat Braybrooke and colleagues from Studio Molga brings a unique mix of skills and activities together, ultimately producing a website that offers a living archive of the pedagogies developed by the commissioned artists.

In addition to a series of cross cultural dialogues about power, displacement and social justice, the residency will conclude with a set of performances of new and existing tracks at Tate Exchange and elsewhere and a commissioned documentary film from creative agency Superimpose.

This creative, learning and investigative process underpinning the residency and the final performances will form the backbone of a new creative arts curriculum titled ‘Youth Activism, Hip Hop, Power and Pedagogy’.

"Our project with Counterpoints Arts and Tate Exchange comes at a key moment in the decolonisation debate and the foregrounding of the Black Lives Matter movement - the project in fact anticipated the present situation and our work with the Archive at Tate Britain started six months ago -  and it has an immediate relevance with current events. For us it is also a means of expressing our focus on the decolonised curriculum and the wider socially-engaged mission of the college.”
- Dr Stephen Felmingham, Head of School Critical + Cultural Studies

Elements of and the timeline for this project have been adapted to the digital sphere, allowing the project to continue despite the physical distancing imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Tate Exchange is a space and program at the Tate Modern and Tate Liverpool where everyone is encouraged to debate and reflect upon contemporary topics and ideas, get actively involved, think through doing and make a difference.

Head of School Critical + Cultural Studies at Plymouth College of Art Dr Stephen Felmingham said: "Our project with Counterpoints Arts and Tate Exchange comes at a key moment in the decolonisation debate and the foregrounding of the Black Lives Matter movement - the project in fact anticipated the present situation and our work with the Archive at Tate Britain started six months ago -  and it has an immediate relevance with current events. For us it is also a means of expressing our focus on the decolonised curriculum and the wider socially-engaged mission of the college.”

“The focus for our students will be on working with a Tate Exchange curatorial project this year during a challenging period, but also for them to bring their concerns around what is remembered or valued in culture, to articulate their opinion of what should be part of the Archive through working with the commissioned artists Shay-D, Big Zuu and Awate."

From left to right: Shay D, Big Zuu and AWATE

Plymouth College of Art is one of the founding associates of Tate Exchange which was established back in 2016. Since its inception, Tate Exchange and Plymouth College of Art has collaborated on numerous projects including Making Learning and Light Up in 2017, Factory Settings in 2018 and Propositions for Change in 2019, all of which have involved inviting members of the public, students and staff to explore creative learning and unconventional making through workshops, exhibitions, talks, discussions and activities.

Responding to an annual theme, and to the question ‘what happens when art and society meet?’, Tate Exchange works through collaboration with colleagues from across Tate, the visitors and a community of Associate organisations which has included Plymouth College of Art since 2016. Tate Exchange was the first of its kind in an art museum anywhere in the world. It holds true that art, and the ideas inspired through art, can be the catalyst for change and exchange. Tate Exchange questions the role of art in society and the issues shaping the world today.

Counterpoints Arts is a leading national organisation in the field of arts, migration and cultural change, with a mission to support and produce the arts by and about migrants and refugees. Their aim is to seek to ensure that their contributions are recognised and welcomed within British arts, history and culture, with the belief that arts can inspire social change and enhance inclusion and cultural integration of refugees and migrants. Working alongside Plymouth College of Art, Counterpoints Arts are developing a piece of learning that sits outside the academic structure, to be accessed by a displaced person or refugees.

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