Your Views with Gillian Wearing

Gillian Wearing’s Your Views global open submissions project invites anyone to “film a very short clip of either curtains or blinds opening to reveal the view from a window”. A mutual friend suggested to Gillian that Oral Testimony Works might be able to reach new contributors through its international network.

Your Views resonates with a number of Oral Testimony Works’ interests and values – it’s inclusive, global, and celebrates the diversity of human experience. Also I like the notion that much as everyone has a different story, everyone has a different view.

Although filming your view sounds straightforward the instructions are necessarily very precise and a bit fiddly. For contributors living in places without good internet coverage there was the added challenge of uploading their large film files. I was amazed at the number of people wanting to take part and the number of final submissions.  To me the resulting film is a delight, celebrating inclusiveness, participation and networking. There is no cherry picking here, all contributors’ films are included.

Thank you Gillian Wearing for a great concept and for inviting us all to participate in the Your Views project. Thank you to all the contributors. And thank you to those of you who shared information about the project to others, in particular, Sarah Oughton from International HIV AIDS Alliance who spread the word through their Key Correspondents network of citizen journalists.  All 33 contributors were entered into a prize draw: congratulations to Chris Obiero from Kilifi, Kenya whose name was drawn first and will receive $100, and to Hussn Bibi from Hunza, Pakistan for second place who will receive $50.

Gillian Wearing on Your Views

Why did you start the Your Views project? 
GW: I had been thinking of the window as a viewfinder in a camera and the curtain being the shutter release. What we see out of our windows is limited to the location we are in and the level of floor we are on, it is not always an ideal view you would choose but it is none the less a view.  I like the fact that views from windows are governed by these aspects.  I really wanted to see what people’s views were from around the world and have this very large collaborative project, a document of as many views as possible. I love the idea that it is bringing a lot of people together under one umbrella and everyone who submits a film is credited as one of the filmmakers.

What do you enjoy about the process of Your Views?
GW: I always enjoy the surprise of watching a new view, because when the online form with a view is sent you have a brief description of the location and you build an idea from what you already know about that place. But the view is never what you can image in your mind as it is not the usual mediated view of that city, town or village that you see and that is one of my favourite parts of the project. It is the reason why I have the name of the location on the curtains/blinds before they are opened so viewers also get that moment to expect a certain idea of what they will see. What I also didn’t expect was the level of how personal each film feels even though there is a set of instructions – and many other aspects that unite each clip – what the view is filmed on, the time of day, how the curtains or blinds are opened even sometimes the angle of the camera lead to this injection of personality from the participants.

Some artists would find your approach to risky – you relinquish control to members of the public to produce content for your concepts.  What do you find appealing about that approach and its results?
GW: I don’t see it as risky at all, I love the idea of chance and not knowing what results will be.  A lot of my work has been like this dating back to 1992/93 with my Signs series where I asked people to write something on a piece of paper.  You always will find something you don’t know when you open up to inviting other people to partake in an idea.

Does Your Views have an end date? Is there a plan to share all of the views that have been submitted?
GW: So far there are over 260 views from over 60 countries. So nearly a third of the world’s countries.I am going to show all the views so far in a solo presentation of my work at the The Institute of Modern Art Valencia (IVAM), Spain in September of this year.  The completion date for the whole project will be when I have at least one view from every country in the world then I will stop.

 

 

 

 

Let’s not talk about the project

In November 2014, myself and OTW associate Jane Martin were commissioned by Theatre for a Change to carry out a needs assessment with sex workers and sexually exploited girls in Malawi.  Jane Martin is founder/director of Creative Social Change and has a background in evaluation, programming, participatory arts and theatre for development.  Theatre for a Change (TfaC) works with groups of women and girls in Malawi and Ghana who are at high risk of having poor sexual health and who have limited opportunities to assert their gender and sexual rights.

The needs assessment was a brief assignment and we worked with TfaC Malawi to review and revise the terms of reference.  We were not assessing targets or measuring outcomes; our task was not to evaluate TfaC’s activities or programming.  Our approach, methods and questions reflected our joint priorities of listening to representatives from their two target groups share their problems, concerns and priorities.

Resisting the urge to evaluate:  A very good evaluation had been carried out earlier by Sarah Middleton (see http://www.tfacafrica.com/how-we-do-it/monitoring-evaluation-and-learning/) and there was no need to repeat this exercise. In the beginning we had to keep reminding ourselves of this, as the temptation to assess and evaluate things is strong!  Understanding that this was NOT an evaluation helped us to refine and focus our question areas and to prioritise who to include in the research. This prioritising was critical given the limited number of days available and our choice of participatory methods.

Theatre for research: TfaC use forum, image and legislative theatres, developed by Augusto Boal as a central part of their methodology, hence the ‘Theatre’ in Theatre for a Change.  Jane is trained in these approaches so it made sense to use them in this needs assessment: participants were familiar with them, and we all believed in their ability to generate reflection and discussion.  Chikondi, from TfaC translated for Jane during most of the sessions. Jane and Chikondi enjoyed their shared vocabulary of methods and the research benefited from Chikondi being able to smoothly co-facilitate in Chichewa, the participants’ native tongue, rather than requiring everything to be interpreted during the workshops.

JoeBlaggFSWSalima

Workshops and interviews: We organised three workshops (4-6 hours in length) with female sex workers in Lilongwe and Salima and with sexually exploited girls in Lilongwe. We also carried out small group interviews with TfaC staff working directly with these groups, with Queen Mothers (women who support sex workers) and with a Community Child Protection Team.  Women, girls (and a few men) shared their time, knowledge, experience and ideas, and we used different techniques to generate and document these discussions. Most interviews and workshops were recorded, translated and transcribed, and the report which shares our learning, is made up of many first-hand accounts.

The obvious and the unspoken: We thought it important to focus not on what was known and already easily accessible in reports, and funding proposals etc, but also on the things that are under the surface and not necessarily announced to NGO staff in formal interviews and workshops. Image theatre, body sculpting and interpretation, role plays and the development of fictional characters, enabled participants to share what they needed and wanted from TfaC. Other techniques used included ranking exercises and a video booth for individual expression.

Reality check: Creating opportunities to listen to programme participants or potential programme participants, talk about the priorities and concerns in their lives, in addition to documenting their experiences in relation to a particular project is important.  An individual’s relationship with a project may only constitute a relatively small part of their lives and so enabling them to talk about their lives beyond the project can reveal new, and sometimes, urgent priorities for programme strategies and activities.  In short it can provide a vital reality check without seeing everything through the lens of “the project”.

Listening to staff too: Open discussions with staff are also valuable: asking staff what they would do if they were in charge and how they would change the way things are done, provided many practical suggestions for approach, activities, monitoring and financial issues. Staff on the ground, have lots of ideas for change and should have regular opportunities to share these formally with their senior managers.

“We enjoyed working with Oral Testimony Works on the needs assessment for our Community Programme. It is always valuable to have someone external coming in to do the listening and offer a fresh perspective. The methods used were particularly interesting and the findings were well presented in country for our members of staff. The report enabled us to learn new things about our participants’ interactions with the police and health care providers as well as reinforcing our existing knowledge on the subject.”

Patrick Young, Chief Executive, Theatre for a Change

Here’s our report: Listening to female sex workers and sexually exploited girls

For more information about Theatre for a Change please visit their website: http://www.tfacafrica.com/ You can also follow them on facebook and twitter:

https://twitter.com/tfacafrica

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Theatre-for-a-Change-Malawi

“Stigma is still my most serious challenge”

coverEveryday from 1st to 21st of July, OTW shared first hand accounts of HIV stigma from 21 men and women from Ethiopia, Mozambique and Swaziland.

Today we are very pleased to be able to share with you a joint IPPF and OTW publication featuring 12 of these oral testimonies and calling for a holistic and multi-levelled response to address HIV stigma and discrimination to ensure people living with HIV everywhere can enjoy a stigma-free and dignified life.  Siobhan Warrington introduces the publication on IPPF’s website,

“Stigma is still my most serious challenge”: People living with HIV share their experiences is available as a PDF just click on the link here:

 

21 stories 21 days: 20th July

The stigma was within me

‘I had difficulty in disclosing my status at home because I thought they would discriminate against me. But luckily my mother was able to make me feel comfortable enough to tell her, because she was very close to me…we sat down and talked, she asked me about the results. Continue reading