Manifesto for Tomorrow empowered Western Sydney youth as operational researchers and strategic advisers for the Art Gallery of NSW’s multi-million dollar expansion project, Sydney Modern (to be opened in 2021). Across October-November 2017, students from Granville Boys High School and Auburn Girls High School established a Manifesto Headquarters at the Gallery, they were given unprecedented access to the Gallery staff, the building, Sydney Modern plans and the Gallery’s archives, and developed their own Manifesto for the Gallery’s future. Both Granville Boys and Auburn Girls presented their Manifestos to the Gallery in May of 2018.
Below, Hassan from Granville Boys High School details his experience of the project and the opportunity to present their research.
How would you describe Manifesto of Tomorrow?
Julia and Jonathan from I.C.E. asked me, along with a group of other boys from my school, to be part of Manifesto For Tomorrow. It ran for two weeks and within that time my friends and I were tasked with developing our own manifesto for the future of the Art Gallery of NSW. We were given access to a vast number of places and sources of information, which all set the foundation for the ideas we sought to introduce to the new gallery expansion. As a group we decided to make our manifesto in the form of a VR (virtual reality) game, which the assistance of a VR artist named Josh Harle who played a major role in creating our manifesto.
What were the major changes to the Art Gallery of NSW your group came up with?
My friends and I brainstormed many ideas, most of which revolved around the desire for more digital artworks. The focus on digital art came about after viewing the “Flowers and People – Gold” artwork displayed in the Lower Asian Gallery. We couldn’t help but be captivated by this beautiful display and, even though we could look at all the artworks in the gallery, we couldn’t help but return to this one display of which other artworks seemed to pale in comparison. It was apparent to us that as the next generation whose lives have been spent in a digital age, we would want to view more digital-oriented artworks.
Another thing that one of my friends wanted to see was more Middle-Eastern art. Sydney is known to be a culturally diverse place and my friend believed that, yes, we want more Middle-Eastern art, as well as more artworks that come from all over the world.
What was it like delivering your manifesto to the Art Gallery board members and Deputy Director Maud Page?
To say I was nervous to deliver the manifesto is an understatement. I was sweating even before I entered the boardroom. I sat down after greeting everyone in the room and Deputy Director Maud Page introduced the people at the table. After getting acquainted with everyone we viewed a presentation about what we had done during the project. After the presentation stopped all eyes are fixed towards me… I started by addressing what the Manifesto for Tomorrow project did for my friends and I, then I began speaking about the vast number of ideas that we came up with.
Can you describe your Manifesto?
We wanted something special as our manifesto and it doesn’t get any more special than a VR game. Inside the game is a replica of the Art Gallery with characters created by my friends and I. Each character has its own in-game dialogue (voiced by us) about their wishes for the Art Gallery. As players interact with each character they are shown something to help visualise the character’s idea. For example, one of my friends wanted to change the colours of the walls, so their character appears with a colour-mixer that allows the player to change the colour of the walls.
I had a ton of fun making the manifesto, but it was strange to hear my character in game. I had put a lot of work in making my character and thought he would sound and look cool but when reality hits, it hits hard.
What impact do you think your manifesto had on the Gallery?
I think that what my friends and I had to say will greatly influence the future of the Gallery. To hear from Deputy Director Maud Page’s own mouth that what we did is greatly appreciated, and that the ideas we came up with will be explored, is proof of that. When I next visited the Art Gallery I saw more colourful digital artwork being displayed, which I take as sign that what we did will change the Art Gallery for the better.
What did you get out of the project?
The most valuable thing I got from the Manifesto for Tomorrow project was that I met and made friends with many people because of it. These people do amazing things every day and I am grateful for this opportunity to have met all of them. I think this project has revealed a side of me that I didn’t even know I had, that has opened a new world of possibilities. I can explore for my own future.
Do you want to say anything else about the project?
I am very grateful for being part of such an important advancement for the Art Gallery. I would also like to add that I am thankful for the kindness that I was shown throughout the project. Thank you to the people at I.C.E who organised this project.
PS The only reason I haven’t mentioned more people’s names is because I’m horrible at remembering things and so I have forgotten most of everyone’s names, I mean no disrespect and, of course, thank you for your hard work.
PSS I am grateful for the food they gave us but can someone tell the guys at the kiosk to tone it down with the hummus or even better don’t add any hummus at all, thank you.
Words by Hassan
Read more about the Manifesto for Tomorrow project here: https://ice.org.au/project/manifesto-for-tomorrow/