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Toys of Innocence and Experience

Sat 22 Jul 2023


Other Information

Suitable for all ages from 8 years upwards


Free | Booking Essential


Exhibition of toys by Paul Cooper: 11.00am - 5.00pm | Multimedia presentation ‘Joseph Beuys’ ‘Social Sculpture’ at 1.30pm

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Toys of Innocence and Experience

It’s not every art show that WANTS you to come and play with the exhibits!

‘Toys of Innocence and Experience’ unashamedly carries a title borrowed from the English poet, painter and visionary, William Blake. His illustrated ‘Songs of Innocence and of Experience’ is, perhaps, his most popular book of poems. In it he uses child-like verses as a vehicle for satire and social comment.

Here, toys take on that role. Either by playing with them, or on close inspection, participants discover that these toys aren’t so innocent. Indeed, some of the twenty-five toys in the show might possibly be found to be disturbing, or even shocking. At the very least they cannot be described simply as sculptures. They are more like stimulators for the formation of thoughts – thoughts about society and the world we live in.


The German artist, Joseph Beuys coined the term ‘social sculpture’. He passionately believed that art must have social value. Indeed, incorporated into the exhibition are various posters, leaflets, and memorabilia associated with this influential performance artist, sculptor, teacher, and social activist.

His art and ideas changed and expanded the way art is perceived today. He considered thinking and speaking to be sculptural processes and that we all have the power, and even the responsibility, to shape or sculpt these ‘invisible’ materials both for our own self-development and for the betterment of society. He called this process ‘social sculpture’, of which ‘Toys of Innocence and Experience’ is an example.


The designers of the show, Paul Cooper and Cliff Gorman, will be on hand throughout the day to discuss issues that arise either from engagement with the toys or, indeed, from the Beuys’ ideas that underpin the show.


For those wishing to learn more about Beuys’ work, Cliff Gorman will be giving a multimedia presentation which focuses on Beuys’ concept of ‘Social Sculpture’ and its significance for the world today.

Paul Cooper created the toys on display in ‘Toys of Innocence and Experience’. After training as a sculptor at Newcastle University he went on to become a lecturer in Art and Design at the University of Lancaster and participated in major exhibitions both in Britain and the U.S.A., culminating in a visiting professorship at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. He later became a contemporary garden designer winning the Sword of Excellence for the best garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 1992 with ‘The Greening of Industry’. Examples from his broad body of work can be seen at

Cliff Gorman studied Physics and Chemistry at the University of Exeter. He has worked with Paul for over 30 years and has studied the art and ideas of Joseph Beuys for most of those years. During that time, he has amassed a library of well over 400 books on Beuys. He has arranged and organised talks on Beuys at the University of Wales Institute (coinciding with the “Artists Rooms: Joseph Beuys” exhibition at National Museum, Cardiff), the School of Art, Oxford Brookes University, and Stroud Valleys Artspace and has co-lectured on aspects of Beuys’ work at the University of the West of England.


*Subject to a £1.50 ticketing system charge. We don’t charge this to make a profit. Find out more >>

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