The Show Must Go Online: animating Arts at University of Southampton in the digital sphere

hrm199 (Siobhan Coen and Haroon Mirza), Dreamachine 2.0, 2019. Courtesy hrm199. Photo: Thierry Bal

During these challenging times and faced with the new normal, Arts at University of Southampton is joining our friends at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, in pledging that The Show Must Go On(line). 

John Hansard Gallery and Turner Sims are both exploring ways to focus their energies within the digital sphere, seeking to animate online spaces to bring you inspiring art and culture. Alongside this, Arts at University of Southampton’s digital channels will be dedicated to sharing with you the best of the arts to be accessed remotely. We’ll also be inviting the talented creatives and artists in our own team to contribute ideas and showcase their practice.

Many large organisations in the cultural sector have already announced programmes suitable for these times of isolation and lockdown. Most notable in the UK is the partnership between the BBC and Arts Council England who are pledging to bring us Culture in Quarantine, a virtual festival designed to keep the arts alive in our homes during this unprecedented period.

Our own cultural institutions here at the University have also been quick off the mark in bringing digital content to audiences. On Sunday 29 March, Turner Sims celebrated International Piano Day and streamed a family-friendly concert, The Inside Out Piano by Sarah Nicolls. Sarah’s dynamic performance – with the piano being strummed like a guitar, singing like a whale and even swinging in mid-air – is suitable for ages 5+ and can be streamed from the Turner Sims website until Sunday 4 April.

Similarly, John Hansard Gallery want to spotlight the work of Haroon Mirza, who showed with the Gallery earlier this year in a major solo exhibition, Waves and Forms, highlighting Mirza’s ongoing exploration of waveforms. Not only is Haroon Mirza a fantastic artist, but also an incredible DJ. First created in 2019 to celebrate Elephant Magazine’s tenth birthday, here’s a playlist from Mirza to get your (house) party started!

We will be sharing our pick of remote arts experiences provided by local, national and international arts organisations as they come online so keep checking in with us here for updates. 

For now, to kick things off, we’ll share our top 10 cultural resources available right now to be discovered virtually. 

Our Arts at UoS top 10 choice of online cultural resources available now

1. Discover Southampton City Gallery’s collection online, via Art UK

We thought that we should start off proceedings by drawing attention to the work of a local organisation, and what better place to begin than the world-class treasure trove of art that sits on our doorstep at Southampton City Art Gallery? Any Southampton native will tell you that City Gallery holds one of the finest collections of art in the UK outside of London. Get to know the collection inside-out via the Art UK website and maybe, once this is all over, you can put a request in to see your favourite piece up-close in the City Gallery stores? 

2. Online Exhibition: Bauhaus: Building the New Artist, The Getty Research Institute

Learn about one of the most influential art and design schools of the 20th century in this online exhibition from The Getty Research Institute in California, developed in tandem with their physical exhibition Bauhaus Beginnings that took place in their galleries during the latter part of 2019. It’s a rich resource that includes exercises such as: building your own a Josef Albers 3D structure from a single piece of A4 paper, having a go at Vassily Kandinsky’s form and colour test, and creating your own version of Oskar Schlemmer’s The Triadic Ballet.

3. #StoryTimeForHomeTime with James Mayhew

As a matter of pure chance, the final show to take place at Turner Sims prior to the lockdown was The Painted Planets; a collaboration between SÓN – Orchestra in Association at Turner Sims – and artist James Mayhew, in which an exploration of Holst’s Suite The Planets was accompanied by live illustration from James. 

Since the schools closed, James Mayhew has started a new #StoryTimeForHomeTime series. Every day at 3pm (marking the end of the ‘school’ day), James releases a video on his YouTube channel in which he tells a story, often accompanied by his live illustration as he speaks. It’s a very peaceful way for little ones to end a day of home activities.

4. Virtual Tour: Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

Take a tour of Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, and get lost in the ultimate cabinet-of-curiosities. Using your mouse cursor and keyboard direction keys to move around the space, learn about this unique collection notable for the way in which the exhibition is curated; typologically, grouping objects by their use, rather than by their country of origin or age.

5. Chocolate paintings, quizzes and more with Tate Kids  

If you’re a regular at John Hansard Gallery’s weekly Space to Create sessions, this one might be for you. Though *technically* intended for children, the Tate Kids website is an explosion of virtual art related fun for all age groups. Get stuck in to a creative activity in the ‘Make’ section – our favourite task has to be making a chocolate painting inspired by Jackson Pollock – or play one of their many games and quizzes. 

6. Free online courses from MoMA

If you’re craving something a bit more in depth, the Museum of Modern Art in New York offers a range of free courses online via Coursera. MoMA provide nine courses in total covering a range of subjects through fashion, photography and fine art. Our recommendations would be the What is Contemporary Art? course – swot up on your contemporary visual art knowledge ready for when the John Hansard Gallery opens its doors again – and 透过摄影看世界 (Seeing the World through Photography), a course given entirely in Chinese.

7. Local archive video and audio: explore Wessex Film and Sound Archive on YouTube

In a shout-out to another amazing local resource, we recommend delving into the Wessex Film and Sound Archive on YouTube. The archive itself is held at Hampshire Record Office in Winchester and their YouTube channel provides an easily accessible window to the past. Get to know your local history and see if you can spot any places or faces that you recognise!

8. Free online concerts: Always Playing from London Symphony Orchestra 

If you’re missing your Turner Sims fix, and whilst venues remain out-of-bounds, the London Symphony Orchestra are keeping us entertained by streaming full-length concerts from their archive twice weekly, on Thursdays and Sundays. They are even providing digital programme notes for each concert, offering viewers at home a more authentic concert-going experience.

9. BBC adaptation of Noughts + Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Streaming services are a lifesaver at the moment and, if you’re a lover of literature, Black History Month UK have recommended the six-part BBC One adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s Noughts + Crosses novels as essential watching during this downtime. The series, based on Blackman’s books for young adults, is now available to stream in full via BBC iPlayer. 

10. National Theatre at home 

One of the more high-profile offerings made available to the public so far is the National Theatre at home programme. Each Thursday, the NT will stream a National Theatre Live production in full on their YouTube channel, and each play will be available for the whole of the subsequent week. Starting on 2 April, first up is One Man, Two Guvnors featuring a tony-award winning performance from James Cordon.  


Keep up to date with news from our venues:

John Hansard Gallery: Mailing List | Twitter Facebook | Instagram
Turner Sims:  Mailing List | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


Kindred: Thoughts on a Work in Progress

by Thea Hartman, Arts Ambassador

A well-known figure in the Southampton arts scene, as well as an Artist Facilitator for the University of Southampton-led project Connecting Culture (focused on understanding the impact of the arts on Southampton-based young people aged 5-25), Anna Carr is a theatre maker who works across different platforms to create autobiographical theatre experiences.

Kindred is one such experience. The self-produced show, exploring the story of Carr’s grandparents and seeking to understand the harrowing experience of abuse undergone by her grandmother, was part of the a celebration of Sotonian theatre, the Make it SO Festival. The festival took place in NST City’s Studio space across most of February and showcased 19 ‘work-in-progress’ productions, proving just how much exciting theatre is being made locally. 

It’s undeniable that both the premise of the festival and of the show bring a sense of hope to the theatre goer in search of local art. However, alongside this sense of hope, watching a work in progress production brings about a new set of questions for someone who has never seen one before: what do you expect from an unfinished product? Have I even ever sat through a theatre production with no conclusion?

I definitely had not; and whilst I found myself imagining a conclusion, the satisfaction of having watched the production was still very much there. Seeing a show that never pretends to be anything else other than what it is – a work-in-progress – is a refreshing, authentic experience, very well-suited to what the show was actually about: Carr herself working towards finding and understanding the story of her grandparents.

Kindred shows that sometimes our stories themselves are works-in-progress: real life doesn’t work with plot points and dramatic techniques, no matter how much we crave them as listeners to a story. Carr clearly stated at the very beginning of the show that she still did not have all the puzzle pieces of the story due to her grandparents’ secretiveness and the general taboo-mentality surrounding abuse.

However, the puzzle pieces that she did have were put together onstage thoughtfully and authentically, acknowledging that they did not represent a whole. From her grandmother’s letters acted out, to audio interviews with other members of her family, to photos and videos of the pair, her own childhood memories and, most significantly, pairs of old shoes bringing her grandparents to life, Carr’s story showed a multi-dimensionality from which she did not run away. Instead, she embraced it by using a multitude of media, making Kindred an auditory, visual, and even tactile experience (by passing a plate full of chocolate around the audience).

It definitely takes a huge amount of bravery to share this deeply personal story through a visceral, powerful, unfinished theatrical experience. Unravelling the skeletons in one’s family closet is always a painful journey, and Carr’s Kindred brings that to light, prompting members of the audience to think about their own families and their own discoveries.

What is most admirable about her undertaking, however, is how she is constantly looking for the right way to tell this story authentically, with the next sharing of the show being scheduled for May this year. Even if theatre does not require factual accuracy, Carr doesn’t jump to fictionalise a conclusion to satisfy the audience and cut short the journey of writing and producing Kindred. Instead, she allows her creativity to turn the journey itself into the main story – something inspiring to all of us whose stories have no satisfying conclusion in sight.

Kindred by Anna Carr was part of Make It SO 2020 and took place at NST City Studio on Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 February.

To find out more about the Connecting Culture project, led by University of Southampton with a large consortium of cultural organisations and child-focused services, visit the project website.

VIDEO: Arts Ambassadors attend John Hansard Gallery Opening

Two of our University of Southampton Arts Ambassadors – Kate Briggs-Price and Thea Hartman – were in attendance at John Hansard Gallery’s bumper opening event on Saturday 25 January 2020. Join them as they explore the exhibitions, mingle with the artists, interview some of the people behind the shows and generally have a good time.

Three exhibitions opened that night, as follows:

Larry Achiampong: When the Sky Falls
25 January–21 March

Many voices, all of them loved
1 February–11 April

Lindsay Seers: Every Thought There Ever Was
8 February–11 April

Video by Kate Briggs-Price for Arts at University of Southampton.

University of Southampton Lecturers Find their Voices in the Gallery: Introducing Many voices, all of them loved and Interruptions/Disruptions at John Hansard Gallery

Willem de Rooij, Ilulissat (2014), installation image, John Hansard Gallery, 2020. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne/New York

by Thea Hartman

Although we have been telling you about how much there is to see at John Hansard Gallery and teased you with a few snippets of what the new exhibitions within the Spring Season have to offer, we thought it’s high time we introduced these exciting events while also answering a question that I know I had been wondering about before this job illuminated me: what is the link between the gallery and University of Southampton?

The internationally renowned John Hansard Gallery (JHG) is part of University of Southampton, aiming to provide a platform for a variety of exciting contemporary artists, events and community-based research projects. Our lecturers themselves collaborate with the gallery to explore and develop ideas they have been interested in for their research in ways that go beyond academic articles – across departments, across disciplines, and across media.

One such example is one of the three current exhibitions at JHG, Many voices, all of them loved (1 February – 11 April), curated by Dr Sarah Hayden, a lecturer in the Department of English whose background is in experimental writing and the relationship between literature and visual art. The link between her research and JHG seems intuitive enough. However, the journey from her research to Many voices is much more intricate than that – so intricate that I spoke to Dr Hayden herself about it to understand it fully.

Many voices is part of the two-year project Voices in the Gallery, developed by Dr Hayden to explore how the voice operates in contemporary art. Her research, so far culminating with the carefully curated exhibition, beautifully encompasses how much more the voice represents than just people talking.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Conflicted Phonemes (detail), 2012, installation image, Kunsthaus Hamburg. Courtesy the artist

 “In the works brought into conversation here, the voice is made present as rhythm, as visible pattern, and as carrier of meaning that extends form, and extends speech”, Dr Hayden explains. “The works gathered together in Many voices invite us to reflect on some huge themes: migration, displacement, legacies of colonialism, climate crisis, bio-surveillance, disability, and the role of art in resistance.”

Many Voices came out of a place of curiosity. Dr Hayden’s perception of the meaning of voice was widened by paying attention to it; and with this exhibition, she opens up the idea of voice to the Southampton audience:

I noticed how often I was listening to voices in exhibitions—particularly in video art and installation. I wanted to understand how the presentation of the artist’s writing as an audio track rather than, say, on a wall, changed how audiences experienced the text. I was also interested in how artists were departing from the traditional format of the voiceover as we know it from documentary film and TV, and in how they were pushing vocality in a range of other directions, for purposes other than description or explanation.”

Artists Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Kader Attia, Willem de Rooij, Laure Prouvost, Liza Sylvestre and Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa all work with voice in different ways to explore a variety of themes; a voice can be a dog’s howl, a name on a screen, a person with auditory difficulties subtitling a film, a voice-over that seems to have little to do with the visual sequence of a short film.

Many voices, all of them loved, installation image, John Hansard Gallery, 2020.
Photo: Steve Shrimpton

As Dr Priti Mishra expertly summarises it, the idea of voice has a lot to say about power dynamics: “Sarah’s exhibition has enabled us to think about the ways in which dominant power is being contested by artists from different subject positions.”

Alongside her Many Voices exhibition, Dr Hayden has also worked in collaboration with Dr Priti Mishra in the Department of History, and Dr Eleanor K. Jones of Modern Languages and Linguistics, on a public programme devised to generate conversation around the themes of colonialism and its representations, as well as how states manage people by managing their voices: whose voices are being heard first, or at all?

The programme of events, entitled Interruptions/Disruptions, consists of two strands of workshops: Interruptions workshops are led by various guests with various perspectives on the aforementioned themes, whilst Disruptions is a set of creative writing workshops led by the writer-in-residence for Many voices Nisha Ramayya.

Liza Sylvestre, Captioned: Twentieth Century, film still, 2018. Courtesy the artist

Dr Mishra and Dr Jones ellaborate on the importance of the public programme experienced alongside the exhibition:

“We’ve recently seen a resurgence of eugenics in mainstream UK politics, an increased glorification of our colonial past and present combined with a denial of its most brutal aspects, and continued inaction on climate, so talking about these things is more important than ever – and it’s also important for us to talk about creative ways to resist them, and learn from people who have been doing so for a long time. We hope our programme can offer the space for this creativity!”

Many voices and Interruptions/Disruptions have a lot to offer to any audience, especially students. Not only do they tackle themes relevant to our political climate, they also help us to think about concepts we are familiar with and which we may have studied in a completely new setting, or, if you are not a frequent gallery-goer, in a completely new place as well.

It’s true, the thought of going to a gallery can be quite daunting for some people, but the colourful sign at the entrance of John Hansard Gallery is more persuasive than I could ever be: “You belong here.

Asten Holmes-Elliott and Breakout Youth, You Belong Here (2018). Photo: Kate Briggs-Price

As with all exhibitions at John Hansard Gallery, Many voices, all of them loved is free to attend and the accompanying Interruptions/Disruptions events programme is also free of charge.

For a list of events, times, and sign-ups head to the John Hansard Gallery website:

Women Leaders South West – CALL FOR APPLICANTS

Are you interested in the arts? Do you enjoy problem solving or making things happen?

Women Leaders South West is a project run by eight arts organisations and Southampton Business School at University of Southampton. The project also involves the WOW foundation

Women are under-represented at a leadership level across all art forms in theatres, festivals, galleries, and museums. Racism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia, economic constraints and caring responsibilities also create barriers to career development. We want to understand these barriers and develop tools to tackle them.

Women are invited to apply to take part in a 10 month leadership programme that includes work placements, mentoring and training with Southampton Business School. It will take place between June 2020 and December 2021.

Click here to find out how to start your leadership journey.

Deadline for Applications – Monday 20th April at 9AM