This is a Voice – Writing Teachers workshop @ MAAS

Our final Writing Teachers meeting of the year was held at the Powerhouse Museum and was, for me, the fulfilment of an email query from when I first saw this exhibition as part of my scholarship research in 2016: there was a small sign stating this show would be appearing at MAAS in 2017. This is a Voice comprises 60% from the original Wellcome Collection and 40% commissioned works or MAAS objects.

Our group was joined by three volunteers who would be leading student writing groups, and Karolina Novak, Education Program Producer. We began our day with an overview of the exhibit by co-curator Tilley Boleyn who explained the broad range of displays covering artistic, historical, medical and legal aspects of ‘voice’.  Tilly also introduced the artworks and items in the exhibition foyer and entrance, before being left to wander through This is a Voice. I had developed a range of different writing prompts and activities, published in mETAphor Issue 3, 2017) and adapted these into a handout: This is a Voice writing teachers workshop.

Entering the exhibition through an anechoic hall, the lack of sound deeply contrasts with an ongoing sound bleed and transition from one area to the next. In the first small chamber, as Tilly discussed Nef (ship-shaped table centrepiece), I was captivated by Anna Barham’s Liquid Consonant and gathered words and ideas for my written response. Hopefully, I’ll publish my final draft soon.

                  the harsh choir director in Sing

We met back in the writing room and shared our initial responses before lunch. We resumed our workshop with a private screening in the Kings Theatre, a re-created art deco cinema, of Sing an award winning examination of silent, powerful voices. Although this short film was advertised as part of the program, Benjamin Cleary’s Stutterer was a complete surprise.

This film examines the everyday communication difficulties experienced by Greenwood, the young protagonist. A beautifully crafted text, there are distinct teaching possibilities for many English Textual Concepts. I found the ‘snap judgements’ expressed by Greenwood as examplar opportunities for students to express and examine their own perspectives on a variety of issues.  Consider how shot compositions could offer writing opportunities, too. Find out more about Stutterer:

There was less writing time as usual due to the screenings, but we concluded the day with a robust discussion on the multiple layers of ‘voice’ as examined through the five different exhibition spaces of:

  1. Voice is the Original Instrument
  2. Melodic Contours
  3. Strains of the Voice
  4. Voice and Identity
  5. Unlocated Voices

Overall, participants thought This is a Voice was really interesting and full of rich experiences even though it was, at times, sensually overwhelming. Another teacher found the day challenging and she would approach teaching voice differently – less of a one dimensional character attribute.

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