If you’re anything like me, you might know the feeling of being a bit at a loss when wandering around an art exhibition, trying to take everything in and simultaneously figuring out what is being communicated and how that makes you feel. I have left exhibitions unsure of how I felt about what I’d just experienced. This wasn’t the case a couple of days ago, when I had the fantastic opportunity to join a group of GWL Front of House volunteers for a guided tour of the current exhibition Home Where Home Is Not by Sogol Mabadi and Birthe Jorgensen.
A collaboration between the artists and two groups of women, who gathered at both Platform and Glasgow Women’s Library, the exhibition is spread across both venues, creating a unique sense of both interdependency and separateness. As the exhibition’s title suggests, this collaborative project explores what it means to be from several places and how people build new homes.
While most of us volunteers had already explored the GWL part of the exhibition by ourselves, we all agreed that it was a very different experience to interact with the artworks as a group. Not only did Katie from GWL and Anna from Platform provide us with interesting background information on the collaborative process and on inspiration behind the pieces, but they also gave us time to interact with the art and, more importantly, with each other.
For Mary, a fellow volunteer, “it was the group experience that was really important.” She elaborated: “Everyone’s thoughts added to mine and helped me to understand the work a little better.” Annie, another volunteer, enjoyed her first visit to Platform very much and agreed that the opportunity to visit the exhibition as a group “was an added bonus. We sparked each other off, and individual reactions raised some thought-provoking responses.” Apart from the group experience, Annie was also convinced by the concept of having the exhibition spread out across two venues: “It was fascinating to see how the two halves of the collection worked together. I think we were all intrigued to see how the pieces at GWL are reflected in the displays at Platform. It’s as though you’re seeing two sides of the same person or maybe two versions of a single episode or encounter.”
Thought-provoking input like this made our group tour of Home Where Home Is Not an invaluable experience for everyone involved. Aileen, another volunteer stated that she initially found some of the artworks quite challenging to grasp, which is why she appreciated our group conversations. She added: “I probably have a more traditional outlook when it comes to art so it was good to challenge my outlook of what art was and what I thought I would enjoy. […] It has opened my mind to different kinds of art and also challenged me to think more about the emotional impact of migration and the trauma that many women and their families face around the world.”
Similar to Aileen, the experience inspired me to dig deeper and think differently. Our conversations also reaffirmed to me that it is important and valid to have different opinions; after all, we perceive art subjectively. My main takeaway, however, is that exchange is fundamental. Whether it’s the artists exchanging ideas and stories to create meaningful art, or the viewers sharing their thoughts on the finished pieces to create meaning for themselves and each other, collaboration is always fruitful and wonderful to witness. During periods of political uncertainty, which the exhibition reflects, it is a beautiful thing to share experiences like this that make us feel connected.