from two metres : by Joanna Fursman, COVID-19 Responses

from two metres

Joanna Fursman is a Birmingham based artist, academic and educator. Her research combines the distinct fields of the photographic image, art practice and pedagogy to examine contemporary appearances of school. Collaborating with schools and students in Birmingham on the days they returned to the class room in 2020 she makes the experiences of young people in school more visible and explores how returning to education in a landscape newly shaped by the pandemic looks and feels.

from two metres
by Joanna Fursman

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Project Statement
This year, the suspension and re-opening of school has been debated and argued in parliament, across radio and televised news media. But for teachers and managers, teaching assistants, caretakers and administrators, the covid-19 pandemic has seen an extraordinary re-thinking about how school can happen. Adapting school on the outside and inside, well-known spaces have had to be re-negotiated in new ways.

Before their reopening, I photographed how schools in Birmingham had adapted to the pandemic. Signs addressed to pupils, parents and visitors were visible in car parks, stuck to doors, tied to fences and gates. While each school’s guidance on the outside depended on its context; arrows, yellow strips, red and white tape produced a new space of emergency. Exploring what the reopening of school looked and felt like, my workshops placed the telling of this story into the hands of the students. They direct their own images, exploring how their responses might explain what it feels like to be back at school.

Both schools I worked with have visitor restrictions, so my workshops happened online. At home, I stand at my desk, working with the teachers to guide and direct how students might explore with the camera. I can hear the tight clicks of shutter releases and see the students peering into the camera screens, studying and discussing the images they take. Telling their story, the images are quick observations of how they think and feel. The camera, the hands and the eye gradually define what’s in-between two metres. School is the same but different; images demonstrate a distinct familiarity with the sites, but also a developing familiarity with new objects, spaces, directions and their negotiation. Made with thanks and in collaboration with students and staff at James Brindley School and Cockshut Hill School, Birmingham.

About the Artist
Joanna Fursman is an artist-educator studying a practice-led PhD at the School of Art, Birmingham. Between 2012 and 2019 she started lecturing for the MA and BA Art and Education Practices and since 2016 on Initial Teacher Education courses across Birmingham City and Newman University, Birmingham. She has taught Art and Design Technology across key stages 2 – 5 in the UK and has experience delivering workshops and lectures to students in Ireland, New York and Amsterdam. Between 2001 and 2003, she taught Art and EFL in Madrid, Spain. She has been a co-director, curator and fundraiser at Catalyst Arts, Belfast; a collaborator with Factotum publishing collective, Belfast and Source Magazine, Ireland. She is associate artist for Milton Keynes Gallery and has an ongoing residency and exhibition practice. Her research website can be found at

Image Credit: Joanna Fursman

Copyright 2016 GRAIN.