“Are the hands more intelligent than the brain?”
In 2016, unu O unu ran their first initiative, bringing together Daniel Silver with pupils from the Joseph Clarke School in London – a specialist centre for children with visual impairment and additional needs. Daniel Silver is a London-based artist best known for his figurative sculptures, deeply influenced by the art of ancient Greece, Modernist sculpture, and Freudian psychoanalytic theory. His works stand in concrete, bronze, marble, stone, wood and clay, serving as monuments or totems, as if belonging to an archeological excavation. Like a modern Pygmalion, even within the formal constraints of the stone or clay, his figures seem to speak of the humanity of touch and memories inherited through material.
In discussions with unu O unu at the beginning of project, Daniel said he wanted create a process where pupils could explore form and material, working instinctively in a manner where the omission of sight would heighten the experience. He recounted a conversation he had more than 20 years ago with his tutor, Phyllida Barlow, where he asked, “Are the hands more intelligent than the brain?” In a testimony to this idea, the workshop he ran for the pupils at the Joseph Clarke School began with this question.
Initially, he brought examples of his own work for everyone to feel and discuss, and then he gave out clay to the children, who were aged between 8 and 11, to work with. They began to construct self-portraits through touch and response – first feeling their own faces and then transferring the form to clay. At first it wasn’t straightforward as some children needed help to understand their relationship to the clay, but under guidance this was achieved and they spoke to each other while they were working, describing what they felt and what they were making. After that, they touched and made the face of a classmate, at the same time an intimate yet funny process, and finally they worked independently, making things important to them; Meyrem made a sculpture of her mother, Sam made a black cab from the memory of a toy he had at home, and Kevin worked with Daniel to produce 20 different pieces.
Daniel said at the beginning of the day that watching the children play outside, and the confidence and freedom with which they ran and moved, was empowering for him to see. And then, in the same way that they knew the boundaries of the playground, once they began to work with the clay they had the same natural self-assurance and sensitivity. Their innately tactile understanding of the world translated into form. Whereas sighted people making objects are often very aware of what they are doing and how ‘good’ it is, for the visually impaired children this problem of judgment was immediately bypassed. Throughout the process the staff at the school were incredibly supportive and didn’t interrupt the children’s work, and the children took a great deal of pride in what they made. For both pupils and staff the experience was fascinating and hugely rewarding, and for unu O unu and Daniel, it exemplified that these kinds of participatory activities were meaningful and could lead to genuine exchanges.
After the workshops, 5 of the children’s clay pieces were selected by Daniel, and have been cast in bronze. All of these will be sold with the profits (hopefully £30,000) being used to buy Braille machines that the school currently requires. They would need 7 machines at the cost of £3000 each, so there will be additional money left after the sales to feed back into the school.
Text by Lindsay Sekulowicz
£960 incl VAT
Daniel Silver and Reece01
Large bronze head finisihed with a classic warm brown bronze patina.
16 cm high × 19 cm long × 9 cm wide
£960 incl VAT
Daniel Silver and Sam
Large bronze head with holes finised with a classic warm brown bronze patina
19 cm high × 13 cm wide at base
Diameter: 14,5 cm
Daniel Silver and Reece02
Large laying bronze body finished with a classic warm brown bronze patina.
4-8 cm high × 17 cm wide × 26 cm long
Daniel Silver and Reece03
Small laying bronze body finished with classic warm brown bronze patina
4.5 cm high × 19 cm long × 10 cm wide
£960 incl VAT
Daniel Silver and Shanee made Reece
Bronze standing body finished with a classic warm brown bronze patina. (Can be sold as a pair with Reece made Shanee)
15cm high × 20cm long × 12cm wide
£720 incl VAT
Daniel Silver and Reece made Shanee
Bronze standing body finished with a classic warm brown bronze patina. (Can be sold as a pair with Shanee made Reece)
13 cm high × 8.5 cm long × 6 cm wide