Puppets for Refugees 5

20×20 – The Travelling Shadow Puppets

The puppet workshops with refugees were going really well and we were working towards putting on our first proper show. Meanwhile, back in Sheffield it was approaching submission time for my all time favorite exhibition, 20×20 – an open-call show hosted by Access-Space, the UK’s longest running open access media lab. 2016 being the 11th year running. What I really like about 20×20 is that it’s a show accessible to all – regardless of whether someone considers them self an ‘artist’ or ‘good at art’ or whether they have exhibited before or not – anyone can submit a piece – so long as it measures 20×20 inches and can hang on the wall. The shows are ever diverse and eclectic collections of brilliant individual pieces.

But this time I was hundreds of miles away in Athens! I couldn’t believe I’d miss it – I’d exhibited every year for the last 6 years! Then it dawned on me that perhaps I could submit a piece after all…

I’d modified a discarded shoe box. By using the tissue paper found inside the box as a screen and fixing an LED torch inside, I had a portable mini-shadow puppet theatre and made small card puppets on chopsticks. This is when the idea struck to make an inter-active light box with shadow puppets that I could show in the exhibition.

I researched ways of making shallow light boxes – the best by far I found was by Get Hands Dirty. I made a few sketches and contacted some friends back home. I consulted Gary about puppet technicalities and presentation, Gareth on LED lighting and collaborated with John Feeley on the light box design and production; commissioning him to create and assemble the light box and reproduce the puppets using his ‘noisy boy’ router.

The puppets had to be copied from actual puppets made by the children in the workshops at Khora.

Puppets without borders!

Over the next days we exchanged ideas and developed the piece; sharing updates of designs and progress.

Collaborating with John was brilliant; a real pleasure. The fact that we were hundreds of miles apart didn’t deter us at all. We communicated directly, clearly and efficiently – by messaging and sending pics of the progress. Gary, Gareth and John all came together at Access on the day of the deadline, none of them having met before. The light box was fixed to the wall, the puppets were displayed by its’ side and the title and details were printed out and placed in position.

‘The puppets here are direct copies taken from those made recently by Syrian and Afghan refugee children in Athens – in workshops run by Sara Gray, Kitti Jankovics and me. This exhibit is a collaborative piece constructed by John Feeley 
It’s for sale: £220.00 – Proceeds to continued work with refugees’

The opening preview was the following Friday. Leading up, I’d been keeping in touch with my sister Sarah who I knew was going to the preview, but she didn’t know about my submission. It was anguishing not to be there – but wonderful to receive the messages and photos through the night!


Sarah playing with ‘The Travelling Shadow Puppets’ and with John (below)

Some of the other exhibits in 20×20 – 2016

My Dog Is Red by Lisa Wallace
My Dog Is Red by Lisa Wallace