Always looking for contrasts and parallels, amusing juxtaposition, differences and connections, I found plenty today.
As we joined the end of a snaking queue that led up the stairs and wove around the mezzanine coffee shop in the Sainsbury’s superstore at Monks Cross, it was blindingly clear that Lego Trading Cards trump ‘Art’ as a Saturday afternoon pastime for most young families. No surprises there. However, we had just come from a really interesting and enjoyable visit to York City Art Gallery which is, as ever, filled to it’s glorious victorian rafters with wonderful works of art. The collection houses contemporary, colourful and innovative pieces alongside some of our nations most important and evocative historical works, and ceramics. Not wishing to look like a total hippie weirdo, I had to bite my lip to not spout on about it to our fellow card traders. (Occasionally ’embarrassing mum’ status goes up a notch into the Fiona, from ‘About A Boy’ level, only not always with suicidal tendencies)
It was The Day Of Clay at the gallery, and we were there to watch my friend Ian in an interactive performance with his creative partner Chris Beale. They placed themselves seated back to back in the middle of the beautiful first floor CoCA mezzanine space. Barefoot and dressed in black they began a conversation with each other, and with clay. In turn they grasped handfuls of the soft grey stuff and let their hands (and feet) sculpt and model them into abstract, absent minded forms while they asked each other questions and talked comfortably about ideas, goals, and motivation, occasionally swapping the pieces of clay to alter each others work. In the bright, open, hushed space of the gallery it felt at first like we were eavesdropping on an intimate exchange, but gradually the audience began to settle on the floor around them and soon Chris and Ian drew us in by offering out lumps of clay in their outstretched hands. Before long there was a contented circle of adults and children pummelling, poking, smoothing and squeezing the clay into unexpected shapes and textures.
For me and Rose it took a moment to realise that we didn’t have to make a ‘thing’. It was liberating to know that making a recognisable or useful item was not necessarily the object of the exercise, but instead to just talk and play. Our offerings were then arranged on the boards like sacred offerings around Ian and Chris and we slipped away. I am intrigued to know what happened after we left, as the performance was due to continue for another hour, but the mega Lego Trading Cards Swapping event was beckoning.
In the noisy shuffling queue at Sainsbury’s the tired looking mums and dads soon realised that we could all save time if we started trading amongst ourselves, and in an effort to speed up the process of completing our children’s albums we regressed into childhood, playing swapsies: Got, got, got, got -Want! About 40 minutes later Rose and I reached the front of the queue to collect the last six cards needed to complete her collection, which was in itself much less fun than all the banter and trading we had enjoyed with fellow queuers, and like-minded strangers.
I so enjoyed the comparisons between the two events. The range of demographics. The pushy mothers proudly wielding re-purposed takeaway boxes of shiny, meticulously ordered lego cards: target driven and acquisitive, versus the inquisitive, quietly spoken families, gently squidging clay and getting dirty hands in an unexpected piece of performance art. In both, we shared a heart-warming sense of community, of talking and laughing with strangers, and finding common ground.
As we left Sainsbury’s feeling flushed with success, I pointed out that our Lego quest was now complete and there were no more cards to swap or hunt. We looked at each other and instantly felt sad.
There is evidently a national OCD when it comes to completing collections, the joy of hunting out and then placing the final missing piece in it’s place: Jigsaws, Match Attacks, Moshi Monsters, Pokemon. On the way home in the car, as she sorted the last card into its album slot, Rose discovered, to our mutual delight, that number 135 was still missing…
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