CULTURE 03 DECEMBER 13 by OLIVIA SOLON
A Game Boy, Game Gear, pager and a troll doll are among a collection of artefacts collected from 150 different London schools for an exhibition called Confiscation Cabinets.
All of the objects have been confiscated from school children over the last 30 years and they show evolving tastes in toys and other childhood accoutrement. The collection is on display at the Museum of Childhood in London until June 2014.
Among the objects confiscated from girls are Tamagotchis and other “cyber pets”, an Alien Birthpod, calculators and a camera. Items confiscated from boys include a Sikh dagger, a fake mobile phone, rubber band balls, French bangers, Star Wars action toys, a finger skateboard and peashooters. Each item is labelled with the year it was confiscated, the location and the age of the child it was taken from.
The collection has been gathered by Guy Tarrant, a former school teacher and artist. He says: “The objects in the cabinets evidence playful activities that reject and evade rules, activities that are impulsive, free and with a touch of danger. These types of items may often reveal an insight into the elaborate lives of young people.” Tarrant collected the confiscated items from the schools where he had worked as a supply teacher over 16 years. He collected around five percent of the items himself in the classroom, while the rest were donated by teachers he worked with.
He told Wired.co.uk that he had become a supply teacher because he wasn’t sure which type of school he wanted to work in and so he wanted to experience a broad range of different schools. “I gradually became interested in the different types of unsettled behaviours I was encountering. I began to notice small collections of confiscated objects in teachers’ desk drawers who I was covering for,” he said. “I was surprised when teachers allowed me to keep the objects” (none of which had been reclaimed by pupils concerned).
Soon he was actively collecting these confiscated items, finding himself intrigued by the image he could build up of different age groups and genders, as well as the stories associated with the objects.
One of Tarrant’s favourite confiscated items is a homemade set of paper playing cards, which he found when he was sent to cover a GCSE English exam revision class. “I handed out the school lined paper for the pupils to use. Half way during the lesson I noticed an unsettled cluster of boys huddled together at the back of the room and I went to enquire what exactly they were doing. They had taken my lined paper and carefully torn it into rectangles and drawn out a full deck of playing cards and they were proceeding to play Black Jack.”
Another favourite is a charred tennis ball donated to him by a head teacher. The ball had been covered in lighter fluid and set on fire. “They each had an oven glove on and were playing catch the flame ball!”
Tarrant found himself surprised by the “overriding sinister edge to the archive” due to the fact that the objects by their very nature involve aspects of disorder and disobedience and the fact that the objects on show have been involved in “real unpleasant situations which have resulted in heavy sanctions and repercussions for many pupils”.