Can memories live in objects? Are things important? How do you remember?

Artist links: Joseph Cornell (3D), Guy Denning (drawing), Goya (painting), Tracey Emin, Kaarina Kaikkonen, and Christo (conceptual).


Key Stage 2

Before visiting Glyndebourne for the performance of Belongings, discuss favourite things; first ask pupils what is their favourite thing/s, then, what would they save if they had 5 minutes to leave their house forever.

  • Did they choose the same things? What type of objects are they? Can you group them?

Discuss any differences/ similarities in small groups.

Photo: Evacuee Memorabilia, Glyndebourne Archive

After looking at Joseph Cornell's boxes; ask pupils to describe what they see, then make a prediction about what they think the box is for. Explore the meaning behind the boxes e.g. this particular one is an archive for his dad but doesn’t contain any images of his dad purposely.

  • Ask students to bring in a shoe box to create their own memory box to take with them on an imaginary new life somewhere else

  • Decorate the inside with cut out or ripped images/ maps/ pages of old books/ magazines that represent their family.

Collect objects that represent their family and are meaningful. However, everything must fit in the box together as this is the only space they have to keep memories of their family. Explain that evacuees from the WWII and refugees would be able to take very little personal property with them so everything must be carefully considered. Students could deliver a small presentation about their box in front of the class or make an exhibition of the boxes like Joseph Cornell.

Key stage 3

Compare Guy Denning’s drawings from the Disasters of War 2016 exhibition to Goya’s paintings of war.

  • Discuss Guy Denning’s choice of women and children as subjects;
  • Explore how the poses convey emotions and feelings of belonging or alienation.
  • Students can then take full face black & white photos of each other with directional light.
  • Create a divided portrait using their photo and a front view photo of modern refugees; photographs by Steve McCurry would work well as they are mainly full face portraits.  Draw on newspaper and use conte pencils/ compressed charcoal or graphite sticks to create the tonal range in Guy Denning’s drawings.

Key stage 4

Begin by asking students to share what they know about WWII evacuees and the current refugee crisis.

  • Discuss the practical function of tents, moving onto discussing bigger themes: homes/ homelessness/ transience/ flexibility/ light/ shelter/ darkness/ threats.  
  • Introduce the work of artists using fabric in symbolic ways in their large scale installations: Tracey Emin, Kaarina Kaikkonen, and Christo.

Make an installation of recycled white school shirts in the classroom:

  • Ask students to choose one photo from the current refugee crisis that represents one of the themes above;
  • Either project the images on the shirts and record by drawing and photographing them in the installation or experiment with directional light making shadows of hands and figures that represent one of the themes above and photograph.

Homework extension

Ask students to watch this Newsround clip about Ruth’s journey to the UK

  • Ask them to be ready to discuss: what surprised them about her journey? How did the illustrator visualise that she was alone on her journey? How would they cope with starting at a new school, in a new country?
  • Sketch their favourite still from the animation, write why they have chosen it.

Photo credits

Archive images courtesy of The Glyndebourne Archive 
Belongings rehearsal photos by Sam Stephenson