The Serpentine Gallery’s Edgware Road Project presented RE:ASSEMBLY, an exhibition by sound art collective Ultra-red with students and teachers from St Marylebone Church of England School in London.
The outcome of four years of collaborations, the exhibition was presented as an opera that explored the school’s wider community in the Edgware Road area.
Since 2009, Ultra-red have worked with students and teachers across many subject areas. Embedded into the curriculum, they have developed sound walks, audio recordings and listening sessions stemming from the question: What is the sound of citizenship?
Like most other schools in London, the St Marylebone student body is diverse. Many of the students are refugees, asylum seekers or new immigrants to the United Kingdom. Consequently, the legal issues surrounding state citizenship have a particular urgency within the school. This is not, however, the only form of citizenship students must negotiate. Schools are essential to the production of social citizenship, which involves preparing the young to participate actively and productively in civic and community life.
Responding to these issues, Ultra-red led students through a set of actions in the classroom and sound walks through the surrounding neighbourhood. They listened to the school, the city and each other. Listening situated groups in the present and brought the big questions of citizenship into the everyday activities of the school and the city. Together they reflected on how rules, regulations and social norms affect learning and visions of life beyond school.