Anyone who has seen Hiromi Tango‘s work before knows that they beckon to be touched and felt. In the confines of the gallery space, your hands are firmly for gesturing and your eyes the primary senses stimulated. In the Museum of Contemporary Art’s (MCA) Bella Room (situated in the National Centre for Creative Learning ) however, gallery visitors are drawn into feeling their way through Hiromi’s artwork Dance .
The Bella Room is dedicated to students with specific learning needs and commissions a contemporary artist each year to take over the space to make it more welcoming to these students. Last year Emily Floyd developed The Garden (here small gestures make complex structures) for the inaugural commission, stacked with wooden blocks and letters with varying raw and polished surfaces. Refined in its colour ways and structured in its form, Floyd’s work is at the opposite end to Hiromi’s technicolour textile wonderland. When entering the space of Dance the enticing smell of peppermint beckons you into a green room filled with woollen trees, foam masks, bells and ipads which ripple when poked and play music. It’s a wonder to watch not only kids delighted by the space, but also to watch adults tentatively touch the furry wall and then begin to run their hands along the soft sculptures, squeezing and shaking as they go.
Hiromi researched and worked with health and brain development specialists, disability sector representatives and educators, as well as families of children with specific needs to ensure that it engaged all senses and enabled young people with intellectual, emotional, physical and behavioural disabilities to participate. The iPads are embedded into fabric and feature a specially-designed app.
Hiromi describes her work as a joyful learning artwork, which will evolve over the 12 months it is installed at the MCA. At the launch of the work, the joy was certainly evident from Hiromi’s own energetic performance and the musical performance of The Sylvanbeats. The Sylvanbeats are an ensemble of musicians with disabilities playing high energy rhythms on drums in the Cajon style. Cajon drums offer an accessible way into music which doesn’t require a high level of dexterity and specialised skill.
With a history of community engagement, Hiromi believes that the creations of participants are essential as ‘the continuous layers of thoughtfulness, caring and emotions that each participant invests in the work builds and strengthens the structure.’ With an evolving focus on different senses and as those that visit the room make contributions, the installation is set to continue with colourful momentum.
Dance by Hiromi Tango has been funded through a Visual Arts Board New Work- Early Career grant.