Hybrid Practices @ Urban Room

Hybrid Practices @Urban Room

Friday 7th June, University of Reading, London Road Campus

Exploring space through hybrid practices of movement, design and theory

Please join us for a series of dialogues exploring notions of collaboration and exchange in action. We ask: What do ‘hybrid practices’ mean to you? How can we think in different ways?

12–2pm Dialogue I: Movement-Lab

What is the relationship between choreographic movement and architectural design? What if we designed a building on the basis of a dance score? How do you experience space around you on a daily basis? Led by choreographer Adesola Akinleye and movement director Struan Leslie, this interactive workshop will invite us to use movement and choreography to explore our relationship with spatial architectures in action.

2:30–4:30pm Dialogue II: Inter-disciplinary Lab

What happens when we use different practices to explore one set of questions? How can we change habits of interacting and of thinking? Thinking through practices of movement, design and theory we will consider different and interlocking approaches to the spaces around us and how we inhabit them. A hands-on dialogue with conversations from guest speakers.

5–6pm Dialogue III: An Auto-biography

Following three weeks of artist micro-residencies, this session looks back at the life of the Urban Room, with presentations and provocations from participating artists. We ask: what did the space propose? What invitations did it make? How did people respond to and interact with the space? How did spatiality and temporality impact on experience and event?

Followed by drinks reception to celebrate the Urban Room programme.


Participants are welcome to attend the full day or individual sessions.

REGISTER: Please email Miranda Laurence on m.c.laurence@reading.ac.uk to register your place on any or all of the sessions.

Hybrid Practices@Urban Room is co-organised by Dr. Carolina Vasilikou (School of Architecture), Dr. Anna Kontopoulou (School of Art) and Miranda Laurence (Arts Strategy, University of Reading).

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Urban Room : Arts Programme 14 May – 7 June

Be curious, be adventurous, be welcomed!

image by Piers Taylor

Second-year students from the University of Reading’s School of Architecture have collaborated in the design and build of an Urban Room, a temporary timber structure which carries the potential for enabling conversation and encounters between people and communities across Reading as a town and the University.

The Urban Room is situated on the University’s London Road campus, on the grass quad behind the School of Architecture, and is open access to everyone. As part of the University’s arts strategy, it will host a programme of arts-based activities, stimulating thinking and conversation about the significance of place to the feeling of community and belonging.

The arts programme will run from 14 May – 7 June. We welcome all members of the University and the general public to engage with the programme. Most events and activities are open to the general public on a drop-in basis.


Urban Room: Artist ‘micro-residencies’ (Arts Strategy with jelly)

Wednesday and Friday lunchtime ‘encounters’ 12-2pm, 15 May – 4 June

Scroll down for further information on artists and residencies…

We have collaborated with Reading arts organisation jelly to invite seven Reading artists to take over the space for a two-day residency, exploring an aspect of their own practice in response to the Urban Room. Each artist will host an ‘encounter’ to which all members of the University, and general public, are invited. You may drop in briefly or stay as long as you want. Please see below for further information about each residency and the encounter dates.

Urban Room: School of Art 

Monday 20 May, open all day, Lunchtime Conversation 1pm-2pm

What does it mean to take part? How do we value participation? How do we evaluate group work? What is the role of feedback in your research/ practice? Looking back at the School of Arts and Communication Design’s presence at the Tate Exchange, Tate Modern, March 2019, please join us in an open conversation on some of the themes and ideas we worked with at the Tate, back here in the context of Reading, including a re-working of the ‘Archive Wall’ and live re-runs of ‘Listen and Draw’.


Urban Room: Hybrid Practices (Arts Strategy, School of Architecture, School of Art)

Friday 7 June, 12-6.30

To culminate the Urban Room arts programme, we celebrate by exploring ‘hybrid practices’ through an arts-architecture lens. Co-conceived by staff from the Arts Strategy, School of Architecture and School of Art, this event will offer opportunities to move, discuss, think, experience and explore modes of interdisciplinarity with guest artist and architects.

Click here to find out more. You can register by contacting m.c.laurence@reading.ac.uk

**In very bad weather, some events may be cancelled as the structure is not entirely water and wind-proof**


Urban Room Artist Micro-residencies: further details


Linda Newcombe



Wednesday 15 May 12-2pm

‘Silent Book’

I have produced a limited edition of a hand-made and precious illustrated silent book. It contains no words except a sub-title. It has symbols, special papers and page turns.

I am interested in the complexities of emotional responses that a book can produce. I want to know if my book can transport readers into another world.

Philip Newcombe



Friday 17 May 12-2pm

‘The Sound of this Space’

a table, a typewriter, a sound recorder, headphones and a ream of paper.


Philip Newcombe is an artist based in Reading who exhibits nationally and internationally and is represented by Å+, Berlin.


Oren Shoesmith







Wednesday 22 May 12-2pm

‘I once was and now am’ – A sketch in radical vulnerability


In this temporary space there is no door, apart from the ones we create. Radical vulnerability is the practice of keeping ourselves open, for a shot at communion, honesty and care, for real connection with others. In intimate one on one discussions that mix what it is to be emotionally radical (or radical at all) with personal memoir, we will create a brief sketch in the political potential of vulnerability. Together, we will map out the doors that we need.

Lisa-Marie Gibbs





Friday 24 May 12-2pm

“We will all visit the same space and have that human connection within the Urban Room but each one of us will take away a different sense of place. You just couldn’t remember, I just couldn’t forget.”


Lisa-Marie Gibbs reaches outwards to the viewer for stories to be uncovered. The stories are suggestive of danger & innocence, fear & longing, secrecy & emotion, a place somewhere between dusk & darkness. Always in search of the immeasurable beauty in what it is to be human.



Reside Dance






Wednesday 29 May 12-2pm

‘Communitas’ and Place: A Celebration of the Transient


Reside Dance C.I.C. questions if a transient place can be celebrated. Often places that are considered transient are perceived as unhomely, unsettling and lacking identity and a sense of community. During this residency, Reside Dance C.I.C. will design and facilitate the Urban Room so that visitors can find their own togetherness and celebration of a transient place.


Reside Dance C.I.C. are a Reading-based, professional dance company that aim to bring individuals and communities together by developing connections to places and others through dance.




Mark Webber




Friday 31 May 12-2pm

‘Drawing from simplicity to complexity’


Mark will invite you to give him input into his drawing process, whether that is an idea, a conversation or even starting a drawing for him to continue later.


Mark has shown his work internationally and has had pop up shows in Reading, taking over a shop in the oracle for two months back in 2015. Mainly known for his typographic maps, he also works on other drawing ideas, mainly though the thought of complexity from simplicity.



Emily Gillmor






Tuesday 4 June 12-2pm

‘Past Present Presence’


The Urban Room inhabits a space that has known the presence of Emily’s family through five generations. Emily will use her residency of the Urban Room to explore the connection and affinity she feels towards the place – an unconscious link extending back through the generations, her own experienced memories, and a curiosity about the way the Urban Room allows her to reach out beyond the personal into the community.

During her encounter, Emily will welcome visitors to add a mark to a collaborative screenprint.


Emily was born and brought up in Reading. She is currently Printmaker in Residence in the IoE Art Department – a building next to the Urban Room where her Great Grandfather A.W. Seaby was Professor of Fine Art and her father Robert Gillmor studied for his undergraduate Fine Art degree.








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Tree Conversations: Artist Micro-Residency

Artist Rachel Barbaresi invites you to take part in her micro-residency at the University, as part of the ‘What is Public Art?’ series of activities this March.

Rachel will lead a series of creative research walks in the campus grounds, exploring their potential as spaces that invite university members to be outside their normal frame of reference and encounter new connections. She will then create a pop-up ‘studio exhibition’ in the Cole Museum, inviting further interaction from visitors, through creative responses to found items and considering different ways of categorisation and display.

Rachel writes:

“Using trees on the site as a focal point, we will work with a range of tools to record and collect data through experimental drawing processes (drawing ability is not necessary). Reading University campuses are renowned for the diversity and quality of its tree specimens and these will provide rich source material for our visual investigations.”

Each participant will be given a set of tools and materials for drawing and recording data. Guidance will be offered, but participants are invited to invent their own approaches to working with the tools and selecting data to record. Activities may include drawing, taking impressions using plasticine, photography, collecting (sound recordings, found objects), measurements and estimates.

On Wednesday 6 March you can join the research walks on campus. Walks take place at 10am or 11.30am in the MERL gardens (meet at MERL), and 2pm or 3.30pm on the Whiteknights Campus (meet at the Library Foyer). Please sign up in advance by emailing Miranda on m.c.laurence@reading.ac.uk stating your preferred time. Everyone is invited to take part – no experience is needed, just curiosity! (Please wear appropriate clothing and footwear for walking outdoors. In the event of bad weather the walks will be rescheduled.)

Rachel then invites further visitors to join her in curating the archive of drawings, which will take place during a ‘studio exhibition’ at the Cole Museum. Visitors will have the opportunity to respond to the archive through creative activities including monoprinting, casting in plaster, drawing, written reflections and creative writing. Guided by Rachel, visitors may also consider different approaches to categorising, displaying and interpreting the found and created items in this museum setting.

The studio exhibition will take place at the Cole Museum, during the day on 21 and 22 March and visitors are welcome to drop by for a short or longer period of time.

If you are interested in attending the studio exhibition at the Cole Museum, please email Miranda on m.c.laurence@reading.ac.uk to register your interest and you will then be sent further information about how to take part. Or you can drop in on the day.

Rachel will also invite responses to the research at the MERL Late event on 14 March ‘More Than Human’; to book for this event please visit the MERL website

Rachel Barbaresi’s previous projects have involved a range of approaches to participatory practice including reminiscence, working with archives and making. Taking urban spaces and architecture as starting points, her approaches to collective research incorporate the diverse voices of participants and a socially situated reading of place. 

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On the Fabric of the Human Body: Creative Action Lab with Centre for Health Humanities


It’s strangely mesmerising, cutting and sticking. Particularly the cutting out part. You find yourself drawn into the smallest focus of outline on the paper that you’re cutting, on the way the blades of your scissors can turn into sharp corners. It also induces a cramp in my hand. As I rest and shake it out, I consider how long it’s been since someone has sat me down in front of glue, paper, paint, scissors and drawings and told me to make a collage.


The attentiveness of focus is a common thread that has linked the activities during the two-day workshop that I am running in collaboration with Andrew Mangham, co-director of the Centre for Health Humanities here at the University of Reading. We chose two beautiful early modern anatomical textbooks from the Cole Collection as our centre piece – Vesalius’ De Humani Corporis Fabrica, of 1543, and Govert Bidloo’s Anatomia Humani Corporis, from 1685. These books sit weightily on a central table in the middle of the room, showing off their extraordinarily detailed drawings of semi-dissected human bodies.

Kelley Swain, Fiona Millward and Eleanor Crook inspect the Bidloo text with archivist Fiona Melhuish

We constructed this workshop to invite people to apply their focus to these texts in unusual ways. Our core participants are five artists working in different art forms: Eleanor Crook, a sculptor and anatomical artist; Fiona Millward, choreographer and Rolfer, Kelley Swain, a writer specialising in medical humanities; Simon Hall, artist and doctor (and dentist), and Agi Haines, a designer and artist. Each of these artists was invited to lead an activity in response to the anatomical textbooks, inviting us in from different perspectives, different ways of knowing, seeing, hearing, moving and touching.


The collage session is Eleanor’s, the final one of the two days, and there is a satisfying sense of glee as we get to work on photocopies of some of the more gruesome engravings of dead people that were taken from both books. As my focus centres on the intricate details of these artworks, I notice a completely different appreciation for the work than I’d had in previous sessions, whether that was moving my own body and responding to the pictures of the human body’s muscles, spine and organs; or listening to myself and others reading aloud poems that make our tongues writhe around unfamiliar words and startlingly emotive images. Simon previously led a session in which we were invited to play with lumps of modelling wax while he read passages from a memoir about the experience of blindness. Many people closed their eyes and let the sense of touch guide them.


During the two days, we welcomed different academics and staff members into the room to join us in discovering these different perspectives on our collection items. We banished the Powerpoint presentation in favour of occupying the room in different ways, talking in small clusters, sitting on the floor, clearing the tables away to move around. We gave time for conversations to meander, and sometimes tail off; for anecdotes to be shared and offside connections to be made. Themes emerged around (multi-)sensory perception; medical narratives; truth, fakery and authority of knowledge; the dark delight of the macabre, and much more.


Writer Kelley Swain fed back that ‘This multi-media, multi-genre, and multi-sensory conversation, over two days, allowed me to think about the Vesalius and Bidloo, and their relationships with contemporary Medical Humanities ideas, with much more depth and nuance than I might otherwise have had through a straightforward lecture on the texts.’


The workshop was a pilot ‘Creative Action Lab’, supported by the Heritage and Creativity Institute for Collections, and so we were keen to experiment with a new method of sharing ideas across disciplines. As a Health Humanities event we welcomed colleagues from English, History, Pharmacy, UMASCS (Special Collections), Art, Typography, Psychology. Those who attended welcomed the slowness of this type of discovery, allowing for questions to be asked, contrary to the often more outcomes-focused pacing of such events.


PhD student Amie Bolissian McRae said: ‘One of the extremely valuable outcomes from the workshop’s format was that every person attending had an entirely unique experience and journey through the art and source materials. This meant that, when bringing all our thoughts and perceptions together at the end, there was a wealth of related innovative ideas which drew from the knowledge, experience, and research interests of each attendee.’ This was reflected in artist Agi Haines’ experience: ‘Dipping in and out of people’s practices and then reflecting on them to find shared topics and concerns was a really fruitful format. It seemed to shift the lens away from habitual ‘home’ disciplinary ways of working.’

We are now exploring continuations of this approach and some emerging themes. We are thinking of pairing artists with academics in different disciplines to follow up ideas about the relationship between doing (or making) and thinking, taking inspiration from the great early anatomists, and illustrators of anatomy, who paid such close attention to detail in their pursuit of new knowledge to help cure disease.

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Lunchtime Encounters

The PER[form] space is a temporary wooden structure sited on the main campus, designed and built by second-year architecture students, in collaboration with the School of Arts and Communication Design, who acted as the ‘client’ in this replica real-life architectural brief. Students also worked with the School of Architecture’s academics, Piers Taylor of Invisible Studio, and Charley Brentnall of Carpenter Oak.

The structure was built in just three days, and was then the home of a programme of varied activity by students from the Department of Film, Theatre and Television, and the ‘Lunchtime Encounters’ programme led by the Arts Strategy. Over two weeks, University staff and students were invited to visit the structure over lunchtime, encountering a variety of ideas, activities, knowledge and discussions drawn from across the University’s activities. These ranged from a performance of musical saw playing, to introductions to our campus museums, from provocations about food wastage to an insight into essential oils.

Find out more about what happened during the Lunchtime Encounters programme by scrolling through the slides below. You can also watch a documentary video about the process of designing and building the structure.


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Invitation: PER[form]

Did anyone notice a greater than normal occurrence of students wearing hi-vis jackets and hard hats recently? Did you hear the noise of hammering drifting through the trees as you enjoyed the sunshine-drenched routes across campus? Did you glimpse a wooden structure gracefully rising between some of our beautiful trees on the Meadow?

Has your curiosity been piqued?

This is your invitation to come closer. Smell the pinewood scents as you approach. Listen to the sounds of nature, and watch shafts of sunlight falling through the honeycomb of the per[FORM] structure. What might you encounter when you come?

Every lunchtime between 12-2pm, from Monday 4 June to Thursday 14 June (weekdays only), all members of the University community are invited to drop into the per[FORM] structure for a programme of eclectic activity. Prepare to meet people you don’t yet know; to encounter new ideas, to touch and hear, see and smell.

You can drop by for 5 minutes or stay for two hours. Have a conversation; listen to the birdsong; take time to see your surroundings in a new way.

The Lunchtime Encounters programme initiative is part of the University’s new Arts Strategy and aims to bring people across the University together. You are invited to interact or experience imaginative and creative windows into some of the ideas, activities and events that stem from our researchers and students.

Bring a picnic, come along, see what’s going on. Feed your curiosity – what have you got to lose?

See you there!



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Artistic Practice, Health Humanities and Collections Workshop

Andreas Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica

It’s quite difficult to describe the frisson that went around the room as everyone realised that in front of them, to look at and indeed touch, were original copies of some of the most famous books in medical history.


Full of painstaking engravings illustrating the very minute details of the human body in all its layerings, the copies of Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica and Bidloo’s Anatomia Hvmani Corporis provided a huge source of fascination for the artists and scholars gathered for an afternoon’s workshop, jointly organised by the Health Humanities Research Network, and the Arts Development Officer as part of the University’s arts strategy activity.


We invited four artists from different disciplines, with an interest in medical humanities, to join the director of the Health Humanities Centre Andrew Mangham, University Art Collections Curator Naomi Lebens, Research Officer: Cole Collection Verity Burke, and Arts Development Officer Miranda Laurence. The artists were Simon Hall, doctor, visual artist and dental trainee whose work explores art and medicine collaboration; Fiona Millward, a dancer, teacher and choreographer and Rolfing practitioner; Kelley Swain, a writer of science poetry and literature reviews, and teacher of medical humanities; and Eleanor Crook, a sculptor with a special interest in mortality, anatomy and pathology who exhibits internationally in fine art and medical and science museum contexts.

Image from Govert Bidloo – engravings by Gerard de Lairesse

Naomi Lebens and Verity Burke began the session by introducing us to chosen items from the University Art and the Cole collection, respectively; the theme of ‘movement and stillness’ underpinned their choices. Our discussion ranged from the different visual and haptic interactions experienced when dissecting preserved body parts as opposed to conducting an operation on a live person; to how the illustrations of dissected bodies in the two anatomical text books varied from classical to grotesque, and what effect that had on the viewer; to how sketches of performing dancers related to a drawing of a woman on her death bed, and a woman mid- conversation.


These eclectic conversations led us to an exploration of how each of us might unlock an unfamiliar object – whether that might be a work of art, a book, or anything else – from our different discipline perspective. Eleanor wrote: “these responses ranged from it being a kind of physical empathy, to it being a teasing out of stories, to it being a relationship to the hand and the haptic, to it being , in my case, a kind of séance.”


The different disciplines in which everyone worked might have given each person a different starting point, but as conversation flowed, the approaches described by one person drew sparks of responding imagination from another. For Fiona it was illuminating “to recognise the mutuality within our approaches of opening oneself up to the making process, but also the diversity bred of our different forms and so how the steps beyond that spiral out into different directions.”


We are hoping to be able to follow up this stimulating workshop with more opportunities for scholars and artists to exchange knowledge and processes, and indeed be collective in their un-knowing curiosity. As Kelley said, “it was a rare treat to be invited to get together to think about a collection, with artists and academics, all of whom have related points of interest.”


We feel that this is a delicious opportunity to approach the University’s amazing collections in a new and unchartered way. Naomi speaks for us all in saying that the workshop gave her “renewed belief in the power of collections as a tool for opening up dialogues between academics and creative practitioners on an equal footing; helping them to understand one another’s processes and, in turn, to incorporate new ideas and ways of thinking into their work. Fostering true interdisciplinarity.”


Posted in collections, creative writing, dance, health humanities, history, interdisciplinary, literature, sculpture, Uncategorized, workshop | 1 Comment