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By Kate Davis on

Out and about: Rock, Paper, Scissors

At the end of July, Kate Davis visited the October Gallery in Bloomsbury to see Rock, Paper, Scissors, an exhibition co-curated with the Gallery’s Youth Collective. Made up of young people aged 14-24, the Youth Collective meet each week to explore contemporary art, meet artists and each year, create an exhibition.

Overall, it was a hugely enjoyable experience, incorporating techniques that gave visitors the freedom to choose their own path and encouraged interaction both with the exhibits and each other.

The content was themed around games and play with Rock, Paper, Scissors forming the nucleus of the exhibition, a game chosen for its simplicity, renown, and the fact that it can be played anytime, anywhere. Using Rock, Paper, Scissors as their inspiration, the Youth Collective created new artworks, that were displayed alongside exhibits designed by local schools and community groups and art contributed by the Gallery’s artist-educators who supported the whole programme.

choice and control

On entering the exhibition, visitors had a choice whether to follow a linear path, taking in one artwork at a time, or whether to roll a large, yellow dice that indicated a different start point depending on the number rolled. We chose to roll the dice, and each spread out to find our designated piece of art.

Three different trails, named ‘Rock,’ ‘Paper’ and of course, ‘Scissors’ were then available to help visitors explore in a way of their choosing. Initially I followed the ‘Rock’ trail, guided by brightly coloured post it notes on the wall. These led me to specific artworks but also included a challenge to build ‘the tallest rock tower that won’t collapse.’ Each trail included three or four artworks and a challenge to complete.   



sparking discussion

Some of the exhibits were thought-provoking and some sparked detailed discussions. I was particularly struck by a large art piece called ‘Exploding Maps,’ inspired by the work of Jukhee Kwon and formed using old maps, tape, sticks and string. There was real poignancy here as the school group who created it described how they had explored what must be destroyed in order to create, which extended not only to the maps that were cut up and reshaped but also the trees that the paper was made from.

open for all

Whether you were a frequent gallery visitor or a first timer, all were made to feel welcome. From the entry point to our final departure, the staff were friendly, helpful and provided orientation and support for us and other visitors. We shared the space with a family with young children, who spent a long time interacting with the artworks, drawing and cutting out shapes, playing games and showing off their work to the gallery staff who were indulgent with their responses. The freedom they were given to run around and enjoy the gallery as they desired was really heartening to see.

Throughout the exhibition there was evidence that the Youth Collective had really thought about the visitor experience and there were really strong examples of those elements we know can support both people who regularly visit these environments and those who perhaps don’t feel as comfortable in gallery spaces. Whether it was encouraging discussion, providing opportunities to control your experience or using simple, everyday materials to create exhibits, Rock, Paper, Scissors was engaging and a positive experience for us all.

The October Gallery’s Education exhibition occurs every year in July, and I would recommend you catch it if you can.

If you have seen any examples of effective youth collaboration or exhibitions that use a similar approach, please share them in the comments as we’d love to hear about them.

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