Mark Titchner opened the session with self-portraiture: how self-portraits are autobiographical and how they help people form a sense of self-identity. Everybody was tasked with creating portraits of themselves based on memory, and how they think of themselves; on how their faces feel, exploring the physicality of a face rather than the image using touch; creating portraits with their non-dominant hand, how drawing a familiar image using an alien method feels; and creating self-portraits with a permanent image of themselves to reference from.

Naomi (17 years old), found the self-portraits created through using touch interesting and says ‘we don’t usually associate touch with what something looks like’. Billie (15) says ‘I enjoyed seeing what I look like versus what I think I look like’. Jasper Howard (20) found the whole activity enjoyable and that he’s ‘never tried drawing like that before’. This exploration of the self encouraged the group to form a stronger sense of their own unique characters. 

Mark Titchner then asked everyone to create text self-portraits – using words to describe their physical features, as well as their personalities. Sarfraz Mahmood (23) used three words: ‘Amazing, Sleepy, Enthusiastic’, whilst Olivia (16) expressed herself by using just a question mark [?]. The group then switched self-portraits and tried to guess each other based on their text, which they were successful at, showing how they have grown together as a group over the series of workshops. Aisha (16) says ‘although we don’t know each other that well, we must know each other enough to identify who’s who’.

The group then explored possible locations for their artwork in Burnley using Google Maps. Mark Titchner, using content from previous sessions, superimposed their artwork into Burnley using billboards and posters to show the group what their efforts could look like.

Titchner also explained how public artwork can be received in the form of sound art, and showed the group a series of examples. Titchner says that sound art ‘has no visual presence’ and because of that, the artwork can feel ‘uncanny’. He set the group the task of recording their own sounds for future use. The group used sounds from themselves – laughing, shouting, clapping – to generate content. Lyndsey (15) and Cordey-Leigh (15) say that they ‘liked the group recordings’ and Sarfraz says that he ‘loved everything’ – in particular, the circular sound performance that Naomi, Billie, Sarfraz, Jasper and Aisha created, where they stood in a circle and repeated phrases whilst microphones orbited them to create a stream of sound where voices overlapped in seamless transition. In one of the recordings, they asked the question they were asked in previous sessions once more: ‘what is it that you want more than anything else?’ and then performed a response recording where they all gave their own answers.

That question is the central to the project, and it will be fascinating to see how the young people from Wigan and Hull also respond to it. Titchner says that he now plans to ‘collate everything – the visual, the written, the audio’ and to explore how the content fits together to form a coherent voice. Unlike his previous projects where he works towards a defined space, the location for this artwork is still yet to be finalised, which, much like the rest of this project, is filled with exciting potential. The young people of Burnley have control over their artwork and control over where in the public realm they choose for it to be.

Networked Narrative Creative Producer, Debbie Chan has seen a huge impact on the young people’s confidence over the last month and says ‘it has been extremely rewarding to watch them grow in self-confidence and observe them expressing their ideas through making’. Cordey-Leigh and Lynsday were so shy and quiet on the first day and on reflection say that ‘everyone should try something new, even if it scares them and even if they don’t know anyone in the group’. This is what Cordey-Leigh wrote in an email sent last week:

“I would just like to thank you and all of the Networked Narrative team for making us more confident with art. We really enjoyed all the sessions with Mark and we have met some lovely new people. Thank you for helping us - it means a lot”. 

If you live in Wigan or Hull and want to get involved, please email nn@fact.co.uk for more information, and check out upcoming events here.