Who are you? Where are you going?

Review by Jenny Thompson

Answering these two questions initially seems easy. However, if we consider our social and emotional histories, we begin to uncover a plethora of information and feelings. Who are you? Where are you going? Emotional Learning Cards are the latest product from Iniva and A Space, designed specifically to stimulate and challenge our views on identity, cultural belief systems, values and attitudes.

Twenty stimulating cards feature artwork by established and emerging international artists, providing thought provoking images behind what seems to be relatively simple subject matter. But, this is precisely the point. Think of them as a creative and intelligent take on the glass half full…or empty? Each card triggers the exploration of personal and cultural transitions, furthering our understanding of who we are and where we come from. These cards are suitable for individuals, group therapy work, schools and colleges, galleries and museums, or at home, making perfect for a wide range of situations.

As well as providing deeper insight in to our personal backgrounds and discovering the importance of emotional responses to life, these cards are also interesting from an art historical point of view. Today it is almost unavoidable to be bombarded with theoretical, over-complicated art criticism – these cards offer an exciting and refreshing way of reading images.

Recognised images by artists such as Donald Rodney’s In the House of my Father, shows the artist holding a tiny house in his hand, made from his own skin. This compelling image draws upon numerous aspects of home life, our surroundings, family, and the significance of using the body to create symbols of personal space.

The diversity of images and artists selected allows for a wide range of topics to be questioned. Zineb Sedira’s image, The Lovers grabbed me as being one of the most captivating. A photo of two rusty abandoned ships rest against each other, they appear to stand still, or have helplessly become stuck. The ship on the left has what looks like a huge bite taken out of its side. On a basic level it visualises the inevitable decay of even the strongest of objects, chunks of them crumbling in to the ocean that has literally supported them for the majority of their active lives.

The image also encapsulates the fragile balance of life – two identical objects that carry with them unknown journeys. The boat on the left is obviously disadvantaged (the huge hole in its side), compared to its complete companion, yet ironically it seems to be providing more support. Do we assume that these boats have travelled together, and ended up together? Or were they separated shortly after their production, until re-united in their failed and derelict states? A result of these learning cards is that we ask so many questions, and crucially, relate them back to ourselves. Rendering an image of two useless ships no longer, quite so straightforward.

Sifting through the cards, in an attempt to be more critical, there was only one image that didn’t immediately appeal visually or contextually. Shiraz Bayjoo, SA2 appears to be an abstracted image of the globe, or Ying and Yang, with random dots and lines of paint haphazardly applied to the foreground. However, after closer inspection (and before looking at the questions on the back) the image includes the most intricate and rather beautiful diagram of a map, which subtlety melts into the image – stimulating ideas of our own location. It also seems obvious to try and make the bright paint marks into a face, the two yellow dots as eyes, and the red line as mouth – but the image doesn’t allow it. What other ideas do we have that can only be fulfilled in our minds, and when greater ideas emerge what’s stopping us from acting upon them?

The beauty of these cards is that there is no right or wrong way to read them. Each idea projected on to them can be reversed in order to explore and discover our own emotions and journeys. Combining the concept of learning cards with artist’s work may seem obvious now, but only because the result of these is surprisingly interesting and successful.

Who are you? Where are you going? can be picked from Natural History Museum, Rivington Place, Tate, Arnolfini and directly from Iniva.