Aspex Portsmouth

Week 10, Futurators, 40 Stories

Vicky Chapter, Learning Programme Manager

Futurators was a Young Curators project 2010-16. Four groups of young people took part in artist-led supported activities to curate their own exhibition, residency or event. The programme used contemporary art, culture and curation as a tool for encouraging debate and the development of transferable life skills. 

All projects began with a series of masterclasses, led by industry professionals, leading on to the young people designing their own projects around a subject that was of interest to them. Our first cohort in 2010/11 curated the exhibition ‘Tomorrow?’, which featured work by Roy Brown, Leo Murray, Jane Ward and The Hungry Men, focused on the theme of sustainability, inspiring visitors to take responsibility and imagine an alternative future in a fun and relaxed way. “Although a group of young curators, helped by Aspex, sounds suspiciously adult-led, it is not at all. It surprised me just how much control we had over the exhibition” Participant 2011. 

In 2011/12 another group of young people developed the project ‘Portshhhhmouth’, a multi venue exhibition featuring the work of Bermingham & Robinson, Hannah Blackmore, Susan Collis, Sean Edwards and Ben Wilson, and included a trail and mp3 work created by participants to engage the local community. 

Our third group took their project in a different direction. They decided to ‘Overthrow’ the old Futurators model and for one-year redesigned it as a youth-led discussion and curatorial group. Through discussion and debate of artist work, exhibitions, film and literature proposed by the participants, they developed a shared interest in the psychology of visual representation. From this the group proposed to Aspex the idea of inviting an artist and a psychologist to work together, and use their debates as a stimuli for creating new work. Artist Suki Chan and psychologist Skaiste Lincevicute collaborated for three days at Aspex in 2014 as a mini-residency and produced a handmade book and sound piece which documents their conversations in relation to the resources provided by The Futurators. This material was on show during the residency as an exhibition documenting their conversations and debates throughout the project.

Finally, in 2015/16 participants developed ‘People of Portsmouth’, an exploration into the Portsmouth City Archives. Through a partnership with Portsmouth Libraries and Archive Services, we had special access behind the scenes in the archive, and the group were able to explore materials and subjects that they were interested in and wanted to know more about. Ultimately, they decided to explore what they felt was missing and the people they felt were under represented within the archive. From this, they commissioned artist Ania Bas to create a mail art exchange project and deliver a public symposium to share their learning.