Can you describe the thinking behind the project and the artworks that have been created?
Mark: Through a series of workshops in Burnley, Hull and Wigan I asked groups of young people to respond to the question ‘What is it that you want more than anything else?’ These responses varied from the deeply personal, to everyday wants and global concerns. Using the groups handwritten versions of these responses I have created a series of artworks, including large scale banners and murals, videos, soundworks, flags and bookmarks that are placed back into the young participants’ towns and cities. Here these unique voices become a visible point of discussion, comparison or agreement for the public, with the young people’s disparate and forceful voices at the centre.
Were there any surprising differences and similarities you found between the young people from the three locations?
Mark: Some of the individual responses were surprising but I think that before posing the question, I was fairly sure that some responses would be deeply personal and others would be more general and global in scope. I tried to emphasise that there was no correct response and all of their thoughts were equally valid.
After working with the young people in the workshops did anything become more obvious or confusing in terms of deciding what artworks to make?
Mark: After the workshop process was over and we had amassed quite a lot of material I felt it necessary to step back and find an aspect that could connect these parts together. The obvious answer was to think about how I could visually represent the individuals in the group and at this point I was sure that I wanted to work with their handwriting. This was only really clear after I had been able to look at all the material that we had collected during the workshop process and to think about what connected the individuals involved.
When taking guidance from the participants about the form and location of the work, did you find that they came down overwhelmingly in favour of a particular medium or location, for instance was there a desire to do something more online or were they more keen on on the banner format?
Mark: I don’t think that anyone mentioned an online presence during any of the workshops and the emphasis was always on making interventions in the physical public realm. Through the workshops I gave presentations on varied examples and forms of public realm art. In terms of the locations there was a certain level of compromise in terms of what we could practically access and there was a reasonably low level sites suggested.
You talked about your reasons for using the young people’s handwriting, “taking the works away from a simple naive approach and to mess with the idea that handwriting is some form of authentic signifier”. Can you explain this is more detail?
Mark: A way to think about this is that handwriting can be used as a way to signify the idea of a pure or unfiltered voice. The project operates on several levels: One as expressions of the group’s responses to a question they were given, and another which is more critical, which looks how the idea of an ‘authentic voice’ is employed in a more general cultural sense, be it politically or socially.
In what way do you feel that the use of 'I want' gives the participants a sense of ownership?
Mark: ‘I want’ is specifically the inversion of what is implicit in all advertising that is ‘You want’ or ‘You need.’ (It’s also an inversion of that most famous assertion of individual control, The Ten Commandments, thou shalt….) Whether these references are consciously read by the viewer, I used, ‘I want’, because it’s a powerful assertion of the self. Of course most people will not know who the ‘I’ that is speaking is, which is interesting to me. Who is it that this voice belongs too? Who is making this demand and why?
What I want more than anything else will be exhibited at Hull Central Library until Sunday 31 December 2017. For more information about the opening launch for Wigan click here
Find out more about the project, participants and artworks here or download the HULL Brochure (PDF).
What I want more than anything else is a public art project by Mark Titchner, involving young individuals from across Burnley, Wigan and Hull. It is commissioned by FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), in partnership with Hull Culture & Leisure Ltd, Inspiring healthy lifestyles and Lancashire County Council.
Networked Narrative is a four-year project made up of four key partners: FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), Hull Culture & Leisure Ltd, Inspiring healthy lifestyles and Lancashire County Council.
For What I want more than anything else, we are working with supporting partners: APOCA Parking, Artlink, AGMA, Burnley Central Library, Burnley College, Burnley Council, Burnley Youth Theatre, Fleet Dynamic, GMCA, Grand Arcade, James Reckitt Library Trust, Leigh Sports Village, The Turnpike, Wigan’s Youth Voice and Engagement Team, Gateway, Wigan Council, Wigan Libraries, Wigan & Leigh College, WigLe Dance and Wigan’s S.T.E.A.M.
With support of public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England's Strategic Touring fund, Networked Narrative uses art and technology to empower and inspire young people, working in libraries and communities across the North.