“Watching Things We Hate Burn” – Thoughts on Artsadmin Youth
In this blog Mohammed Z. Rahman reflects on “Watching Things We Hate Burn”, the workshop he delivered with Artsadmin Youth.
“Watching Things We Hate Burn” was a zine drafting workshop I designed for Artsadmin Youth and delivered on 15 September 2021 as part of my residency at the Apocalypse Reading Room an installation in the Arts Bar & Cafe curated by Ama Josephine Budge.
As a resident of the Apocalypse Reading Room, imagining beyond ecological collapse was on the forefront of my mind. Having read visionaries like Donna Haraway and Audre Lorde in the Reading Room, I learnt that sometimes the portal to new worlds lie in the things we’re familiar with and can do without. I also thought of how the Reading Room contained established academics and artists and saw the Artsadmin Youth workshop as an opportunity to engage with younger voices less shaped by institutions. I felt joyful to use the workshop as a way of introducing zinemaking practice to young artists, through a fun and rageful imaginative world-building exercise.
The task consisted of a playful ideation session where we moaned about the things we’d like to see burn and rise from the ashes in our utopian visions. This was followed by a practical where I encouraged the young artists to engage with four interchangeable prompt storyboard frames, to be filled in any order and bind them into small draft zines. The prompts were fairly open ended:
1) I was meant to be [doing something] but daydreamed instead.
2) I saw the [thing/s I hate] burn.
3) I felt…
4) I watched [new world/possibility] rise from the ashes.
Knowing how labour intensive zinemaking can be, I stressed that this was a drafting session. As zinemakers know, it’s no small feat to be the writer, illustrator, producer and editor all at once- let alone in the space of under one hour. A non-perfectionist approach is key or else paralysis sets in and nothing gets done or imagined.
On reflection, as a teen I took an art class in college which thoroughly put me off going to art school later on. As unfortunately cliché as it was, we were encouraged to worship a canon of dead pale male and stale artists from 20th century Europe, who spoke so little to my lived experience and less still to the universes I wanted to create. Learning from this, I took the opportunity to shout out my influences to the young artists that were global and across time periods including Emory Douglas, Olivia Twist, Blk Moody Boi, Salman Toor, Frida Kahlo and Utagawa Kuniyoshi.
I also could have benefitted from knowing in an educational setting that arts practice is not necessarily bourgeois. In presenting zines as a cheap, tactile, DIY and community form, I hoped to challenge assumptions which develop into imposter syndromes when pursuing the arts. I myself got into zinemaking as a way of coping with going to university where I felt quite alienated as a working-class person. It was highly rewarding to share my journey with other young East Londoners.
I was glad to work with such an engaged group of young artists and the reception the workshop got was very positive. It was a pleasure to see the young artists run with their ideas and get stuck in. One said they enjoyed how free the ideation and activity were, something they weren’t experiencing in school as a Sixth Form art student, where the lessons were much more prescriptive. The mark of success for me came without words- when it was time to stop, nobody put their pencils down and we ran delightfully over. The young participants seemed very pleased and engaged with the task. They burnt everything from feelings to expectations to school.
Artsadmin Youth is our free creative arts programme for 16-21 year olds who live/study in East London. Join us on 19 January for our next workshop: Doing things with (a body) of stories with artist Barbara Lehtna.
Produced by Artsadmin, with support from BE PART through the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, The Simon Gibson Charitable Trust and the Allen & Overy Ben Ogden Memorial Fund.