A student-led experiential post-studio practice

Holly Sandford, Arts & Communication Design

Overview

Students in the Department of Art created a student-led experiential post-studio practice, DISCOMFORT, for Part Two students and teachers that challenges boundaries and restrictions within our art course (and ourselves), and encourages participatory, experiential sessions and activities, within and outside of the studio.

Objectives

  • Build two-way working relationships between students and teachers.
  • To provide a forum for the development of key research skills relating to the capacity to generate original knowledge.
  • To provide a forum for the development of key skills relating to the presentation of ideas in written form.
  • To encourage collaboration.

Context

We decided to create this module as a group of friends who used the studio a lot, with the hope of creating a more familiar and social working environment that people could use to their advantage within the course. We felt the studio had a lot of potential that wasn’t being taken advantage of, and wanted to use the opportunity to start student-led, student-chosen experiences and art.

Implementation

We planned four reflection/discussion sessions, and four workshop/activity sessions that reflected our philosophy of discomfort. This did not necessarily mean something that was ‘uncomfortable’, but something that pushed boundaries or was an alternative way of working; such as durational activities with restricted senses, collaborative sculptures made by groups of 3 people tied together with found objects in the studio, a water floating experience and a trip to watch court cases. We created posters to advertise the module and emailed teachers within the department about taking part, as the sessions ran weekly. We altered days and times according to when the majority of people were free, and contacted outside organisations about trips and activities. We also exhibited work in the Rising Sun Arts centre at an exhibition ran by an older student.

Reflections

Positive outcomes were the level of participation from the students and teachers who did attend, and their positive feedback and experiences they gave/had in the sessions. Everyone enjoyed themselves, as well as actively joining in with discussion and reflection is an interesting and engaging way, as well as taking their own time to record their thoughts on their own blogs.

The biggest difficulty we faced was advertising and widespread participation, as the module was at first held on a Monday, and wasn’t a compulsory or officially graded part of the course. In future, we would approach and work with more teachers, as well as the Fine Arts society, and advertise the sessions less as ‘a module’, focusing more on activities and experimentation. We feel that the sessions were successful, but would work even better and benefit even more with more participation from more students and teachers, as well as people outside of the department, and the university.

Follow up

Whilst the sessions ended when term did, the exhibition was held during summer, in which we did a collaborative piece within the exhibition itself. By encouraging people outside of the department to become involved in our project, we were reaching a different audience, engaging in different ways but to the same purpose. This took the project even further, and developed it into a wider discursive project.

Links

DISCOMFORT website

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