Visitor at Locomotion Railway Museum, Shildon
Stepping Out of The Box
Our original artistic exhibition - which has toured at Locomotion, Washington Arts Centre and St Aidan's College, Durham University - aims to develop a dialogue and initiate conversations around gender roles and aspirations; empowering audiences to question destructive cultural and social pressures and seek healthier alternatives. The work is a culmination of a series of workshops in which young people from Secondary Schools across South West Durham began to question destructive social pressures and explore healthier alternatives together with our lead artist Polly Turner, in response to our original exhibition, Men’s Voices.
Beginning with the question “What does it mean to be a man?” Men’s Voices (an earlier display of work produced by Changing Relations) started out as a series of participatory workshops with groups of men and boys across the North East, exploring the positive and negative stereotypes that surrounded their understanding of masculinity.
What emerged was a fragmented world full of mixed messages; with observations of cruelty and kindness as participants explored their life stories. By sharing memories, role models, hang ups and histories the groups started to weave together a collective experience of masculinity and a dark reality permeated the work.
What does this all mean?
Stepping out of whose / what box?
The new content sets out to question today's relevance of traditional masculine and feminine labels in our modern world, and the impact of trying to fit into these prescribed ‘boxes’; examining the messages we recognise, receive and share.
The supporting art workshops - delivered with groups of boys and girls across the Northern Heartlands - explored themes of gender equality and identity, how childhood toys shape adolescence and the destructive or limiting impact that cultural norms and social pressures can have on mental health and wellbeing.