Young People take over Look Again Festival
credit: Sean Steen
Play gets serious at Aberdeen's city-wide festival of art and design
Look Again, Aberdeen's annual, citywide festival of art and design was set up to encourage people to see the granite city through fresh eyes. This year, to celebrate Scotland's Year of Young People, it transformed through the lens of its youngest residents, under the theme 'Serious Play'. Light-hearted and playful interventions weaved their way through the city: from James Rigler's powder pink Wendy house serving free ice cream – delightfully at odds with the austere gothic courtyard of Marischal College (where it's located for until the end of July) to pop-up 'Playable Pavilions' with mega-sized games like whole body pin-pushes and colourful installations of interwoven telephones and periscopes.
This year's festival was designed by young people, in collaboration with artists and designers, but it was not exclusively for them – so cue slightly nervous adults unsure how to respond to the at times immersive nature of the works, such as Ellie Turner's 'Wonder Chamber' where audiences are invited to fully engage with materials on display, or Amy Gear's 'Mooth o da Cave' where, to engage the work we had to stick out mouth right through it. Young people on the other hand, relished the opportunity – it's a stark contrast and one that this festival does much to confront, encouraging us all to play and to see the value in it no matter our age.
Some works were easier to discover than others – like Rob Lowe aka Supermundane's bold mural on Catherine Street, with the words 'Super Aberdeen' created from patterns and forms designed by local young people through workshops led by STACK Artist Collective. Other pieces were subtler; at any moment you might encounter one of David Sherry's performances through the city centre, with the artist hauling a precariously stacked boxes past amused and slightly confused shoppers. Inevitably the boxes fall, almost constantly, and Sherry looks exhausted with his Sisyphean labour. It's an exaggerated, playful piece, but behind the silliness there is a more serious intent, bringing to mind the precarity of other roles people perform in order to sustain our cities.
Over at WORM on Castle Street artists Catrin Jeans, Nadia Rossi and Rachel Walker presented their collaboration with 'The Imagineers' – a group of young children who have previously contributed ideas to Scotland's Children's Parliament. Inside the gallery they share their ideas once again – filling the white cube space with brightly coloured, painted cardboard placards and sculptures: 'Engage Your Brain', reads one, 'Get over your obsticles' (sic) reads another. Perhaps the most potent of all reads 'Take a Risk to Play' – which really sums up the message of Look Again this year. Play can make us self conscious, it can be challenging too and comes with the caveat that we might fail or 'look silly', but it can also change how we see our cities as Look Again aptly demonstrated this year, as well as how we interact with one another – and for that, it's a risk worth taking.
Look Again ran between 14–17 June 2018.