Tate Exchange Liverpool, Italian teenagers and HMP Liverpool
Tate Liverpool is one of my favourite places. My Perfume Stories collaboration with Tate Exchange gave me the opportunity to present my project to a bigger audience. The first floor gallery is a quiet, reflective space. The surroundings offered me the opportunity to rethink, reframe the project and importantly, hide from the mayhem of Christmas shopping.
I ran two workshops with the help of Hibah Annam – who is in her final year on The Graphic Design and Illustration Programme at Liverpool School of Art and gave a lecture. All events were open to the public. The small workshop sessions, the thoughts and reactions of the participants were all recorded with sound engineer, Charlie Warhurst. These sessions revealed some interesting and profound stories. Smell is not like flicking a switch, the peripheral activity about how we react is really complicated.
All human experiences were shared and discussed. Family, childhood memories and mortality. I also discovered that groups of Italian teenagers should be banned from all Art Galleries. They’re either talking on their mobiles phones or working out how to get to third base with the opposite sex. Very very annoying. Vasari would not have approved.
Over the week, I met lots of lovely, new and intelligent people. You can read about my Lecture In Vanessa Musson’s blog
Before the Covid -19 lock down, I was invited by Novus to run my workshop with inmates at HMP Liverpool.
I had to keep this latest version of Perfume Stories under wraps. My new nickname inside HMP Liverpool is ‘ The Perfume Man ‘. This was such a profound and humbling experience. I met lots of interesting people who at some point in their lives, made some pretty bad choices. Despite all the stories, about how awful Walton Prison was, it was bright and full of light. It was a really sunny day. I was introduced to support workers and staff who are trying to make a difference to the inmates lives and help rehabilitate them. One of the aims is to explore how these memory experiences may offer a different voice to examine adult literacy.
I was nervous. Who wouldn’t be ? I wasn’t sure the inmates would get my project. The staff were friendly and relaxed. After four or five doors, I was a little shocked to see the prisoners, standing around in groups. This first encounter, they looked like a group of young teenagers. Some of them looked much too young to be in prison. The conditions were much better than I expected. I felt sorry for the prisoners. On leaving one of the last sections, there was a yoga session that had concluded, the yoga teacher stood outside. There was a lovely smell of burning oil and calm. This piece of the normality, seemed like a beautiful exotic visitor.
The individual prisoners made a great impression on me. I didn’t think it would make me reflect so much about my own individual life choices and decisions. Statistics state that 50 percent of UK prisoners have reading skills at or below the level of an 11 year old child.
I’ve been invited back – more soon from The Perfume Man.