School of the Imagination, 2013

School of the Ima­gin­a­tion, 2013

Work­shops, per­form­ance, digit­al video,
HD video, 16:9, 33:00 min
Filmed in Lon­don, UK
Dir­ec­ted by Mar­cus Coates and Michael Smythe
Cam­era by Annemarie Lean-Ver­coe and Per Tingleff
Sound by Sam Night­in­gale and Dav­id Briggs
Edited by Ariadna Fatjo-Vilas
Post-pro­duc­tion sound by Gernot Fuhrmann
Pro­duc­tion assist­ant / DIT: Lucía Montero
Med­ic­al advisor: Isa­bel Valli
Addi­tion­al sound by Geoff Sample
Assist­ance and sup­port from Card­board Citizens
Pho­to­graphy by Michael Smythe
Pro­duced by Nomad Pro­jects: Michael Smythe, Piera Buckland
Com­mis­sioned by Cre­ate Lon­don, Sup­por­ted by Bank of Amer­ica Mer­rill Lynch

Loc­al res­id­ents, mem­bers of the pub­lic and Great­er Lon­don Author­ity City Hall 

Beth­nal Green and Great­er Lon­don Author­ity City Hall, Lon­don, UK 

How can we inter­vene to help end the war in Syria?
What can I do dif­fer­ently to get a job?
What stops me from start­ing my own business?
How will the world cope with the ever increas­ing population?
How can I approach this job inter­view differently?
If people know if some­thing is bad for their health, why do they carry on doing it? 

Celeste, Errol McGlashan, Lena Pamphile, Zvi­ad Sokhadze, Ben­jamin Smith­ies, Trish Walsh 

Applic­a­tions were sought from the gen­er­al pub­lic and loc­al com­munity groups to attend a week-long work­shop devised and led by Coates in a com­munity centre in Beth­nal Green, Lon­don. Six par­ti­cipants were selec­ted to attend this one-off course. The group were encour­aged to devel­op the scope and use of their ima­gin­a­tion. They trained to cre­ate and sus­tain ima­gined worlds in which they could immerse them­selves. They went on to use these exper­i­ences to gath­er rel­ev­ant inform­a­tion from their ima­gin­a­tion, to help answer ques­tions for them­selves and oth­er people, i.e. strangers on the street, loc­al res­id­ents and policy advisors at City Hall, London.

Pass­er-by on the street
Beth­nal Green, Lon­don, UK
How can I approach this job inter­view differently? 

[The group per­form their ritu­al on the street and report what they have seen to the client.]

Celeste: I was look­ing at a tree from dif­fer­ent per­spect­ives but I couldn’t see it prop­erly, then I looked inside myself, then I could fly. When I flew I could see every area of the tree.

Zvi­ad: I’ve seen a hedge­hog and then it trans­formed into a lion.

Mar­cus Coates: How did it trans­form into a lion?

Zvi­ad: I gave him a moment, a chance to crawl, crawl, crawl away and he dis­ap­peared, he came back as a lion.

(Tran­script excerpt)

Loc­al res­id­ent, Irene
Holly­bush and Tees­dale Com­munity Centre, Beth­nal Green, Lon­don, UK
Ques­tion: What stops me from start­ing my own business? 

[The group per­form their ritu­al in the com­munity centre and report what they have seen to the client.]

Ben: I saw a field of golden corn and I knew that it was my land, my field and in par­tic­u­lar I heard that amaz­ing sound of rust­ling, the rust­ling of the corn in the wind. I stepped out into the field, but the corn was actu­ally high­er than I was, so that it wasn’t pos­sible to see how large the field exten­ded. I could only see what was imme­di­ately in front of me, it wasn’t pos­sible to see the degree of success. 

Irene: I think that’s it. I am really good at what I do at work. I get good eval­u­ations, people enjoy my train­ing, I get good res­ults from my medi­ations, so I am suc­cess­ful where I am already.

Mar­cus Coates: I was singing a song and came across a ledge with a huge drop. As soon as I felt this edge, my song star­ted to dis­in­teg­rate and became abstract sounds. I wanted to go for­ward but my voice wouldn’t let me, so I changed my voice into a very high opera-like voice to make a new song. As soon as I had this song, I could fall off the edge.

Errol: You were say­ing that you had to change your tune to change. For me that’s quite sig­ni­fic­ant: if we are going to take on anoth­er role or anoth­er chal­lenge, it’s best to at least see your­self as the per­son who can do that, which might be dif­fer­ent from the per­son you are now. So maybe it’s a case of see­ing your­self as a busi­ness­wo­man rather than an employee.

Irene: And do you know what, you might have put your fin­ger right on it. I was a busi­ness­wo­man and I hated it, it abso­lutely drained the life out of me. If I went into busi­ness by myself I’d be a busi­ness­wo­man wouldn’t I? So thank you all very very much because you have actu­ally answered my ques­tion. What stops me from start­ing my own busi­ness? It’s me, I don’t actu­ally want my own busi­ness! [Laughs.]

(Tran­script excerpt)

Loc­al res­id­ent, Pawla
Loc­a­tion: Beth­nal Green, Lon­don, UK
How will the world cope with the ever increas­ing population? 

[The group per­form their ritu­al on the street and report what they have seen to the client.]

Mar­cus Coates (TO PAWLA): We’ve all just seen and exper­i­enced things, and most of these jour­neys will be quite com­plex. We are going to sum­mar­ise what we’ve seen, but it will be quite a lot to take on. Bear in mind when you are listen­ing that you are the one that will have to find mean­ing and con­nec­tions to your ques­tion. Who wants to go first?

Errol: I will. There was a light that people, but not only people but also things, were try­ing to put out. So shad­ows were try­ing to put out this light, people were try­ing to climb over this light and drag this light down. But this light just shone through everything no mat­ter what they tried to do, it nev­er ever went out, there was a sense of futil­ity to it, it was so clear that this light could not stop being a light. Can I expand on this? My light wasn’t a nor­mal light, it was going in a cer­tain con­fig­ur­a­tion, it was mov­ing in a fig­ure of eight on its side and it was every­where. There were places you thought it wouldn’t be, but when you looked, it was there. It was in eyes, it was in stars, it was in blood. It was every­where, but what was quite telling was that there were things hanging on to the light. This is all my ima­gin­a­tion, yeah. [Laughs.] Instead of them slow­ing it down, the light car­ried on going and the things hanging on to it dis­ap­peared. There were many ways of try­ing to stop this light, to block it, cov­er it, drag it down, but this light just car­ried on going, on and on and on, it was every­where. Once I star­ted expect­ing to see it, I saw it much quicker.

(Tran­script excerpt)

Great­er Lon­don Author­ity, City Hall Health Team
City Hall, Lon­don, UK
If people know if some­thing is bad for their health, why do they carry on doing it? 
And how can we help them to not do this? 

[The group per­form their ritu­al and report what they have seen to the client.]

Trish: I was an old dog and I saw a large white cliff and a wide set of black stairs going up the side of this cliff. I don’t think my object­ive was to reach the top, because I didn’t feel that was pos­sible. Every few steps there was this reward of water that was really refresh­ing and that made me feel, even as a dog feel­ing really tired, a feel­ing of achieve­ment because I man­aged to get to the next few steps and to my drink of water.

Errol: There’s a load of balls and they’re cas­cad­ing down this assault course or obstacle course. I was one of these balls. I felt very flustered at first, but after I got used to it, it was fun. There was this idea that they could do whatever they wanted, some of them were boun­cing, some spin­ning, some just lying there, and then a net came and just gathered them all up no mat­ter what they were doing. Liz (CLI­ENT): The hec­tic­ness: I’ve got so many choices, I’ve got to change this, I’ve got to change that, I don’t know what to do and they’re col­lec­ted in a net and it’s like you’ve found the solu­tion of what works for you.

Errol: I don’t see it as that, I see the huge net as death and that we are all going to die any­way, maybe that’s the ques­tion to answer. If people know there’s some­thing bad for their health, why do they do it? They keep doing it because they know in the end they are going to die any­way and it doesn’t really mat­ter. I don’t want to sound neg­at­ive. Maybe there’s a way to word things to say to people. While you are here, why don’t you enjoy it a little bet­ter, maybe there’s some­thing there.

Helen (CLI­ENT): So health isn’t the aim, but enjoy­ment is the aim and your life will be more enjoy­able if you are healthy?

Errol: It seems that way.

(Tran­script excerpt) 

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