Last week I did some work with an MA (Brookes, Oxford) student as he tried to create an atmosphere where muons can be detected and recorded. It was interesting to see how the experiment was conducted, and how the process of creation for detection purposes wasn’t, and perhaps never could be, foolproof. The experiment was conducted in a small chapel, and whilst we did see evidence of Muons, they were too quick and infrequent to be captured by the camera. The muon revelations were quite astonishing and very beautiful, and I shall return again to repeat the exercise when the experiment is repeated in a laboratory environment. My role was to provide documents to substantiate the research notes, but nevertheless it was interesting to watch a fellow artist at work. Other artists on the same MA programme came to witness the work and I enjoyed discussing the work and the purpose with one or two of them.
The day after the experiments I travelled to Barnsley in preparation for the Level Three Photography residential weekend I had helped to organize with fellow student Penny Watson. In the time I was in Barnsley I didn’t make one photograph! Though other students did and any that I use I gratefully acknowledge their contribution to this note.
I remember three years ago I suggested students try and organize a residential and Penny (again) and Eileen organised an event in Leeds – which as far as I know is the only other residential for Photography students there have been. At the two-day event in Leeds I made contact with a few fellow students and have remained in contact with them all ever since. Interestingly about half of the Barnsley participants also attended the Leeds residential. This development of a pseudo cohort has been a vital component of my studies with the OCA, providing me with a number of avenues of discussion and interaction that I would have struggled with otherwise.
The agenda for the two days was always going to be tight – Penny and I had set the focus of the weekend on tutor-led crit’s of all attending student’s current work. We had also scheduled talks by two practicing artists – John Davies and Laura Pannack, a photo-book session, a discussion on the new Level Three Photography course, a Pecha Kucha session for all students and plenty of opportunity for socializing. The Pecha Kucha sessions were a great way to ‘break the ice’ and give a perspective into the photographic histories of the participating students and we are grateful to Jesse for suggesting it – despite the work involved in putting them together prior to the event!
In retrospect I think that the two artist talks perhaps could have been culled, whilst it was interesting to have ‘outsiders’ at the event, their presence was felt best at the crit’ session, this was especially true for John Davies who has been involved in teaching for many years – Laura Pannack could only stay for a short while post talk. The crit’ sessions were also a bit short. I think it is true that student’s unused to these type of events may have felt nervous about having their work discussed in this way, but we would all have benefitted from longer sessions, perhaps twice as long at around 40-45 minutes per student. I attend regular crit’ sessions at the Thames Valley Group meetings, and there the level of interaction is slightly more sophisticated due to the familiarity of both the students to each-other and the progression of the work; something only time can help. Several of the L3 students now attend a regular ‘Hangout’ and their work was at least familiar to an extent to those students.
I felt the ‘Photo-book’ session was slightly disappointing. What Penny and I had hoped for was a discussion into the editing/sequencing issues associated with photo-books; whereas we had a discussion into which books we thought were good and which we though were not so good. There were a lot of books at the event supplied by tutors and students alike and the range was exemplary; however the time available for this session meant that the value of the discussions wasn’t as good as it might have been in my view.
The crit’ sessions were generally received quite well, and despite some very obvious nerves, some severely frayed, the general response to the process was very well received. Penny and I had asked that the students bring printed work, however, for whatever reason a couple were unable to and I think their feedback was much less nuanced than those with physical work, which was disappointing I suspect to them, but also to their fellow students. The feedback and thoughts I have about my presentation will have to wait for another post.
The session on the new course structure seemed to focus on the SYP element and there was a good deal of discussion on whether the students felt that there reason for undertaking the degree was to alter their employment/career direction, and I have to say that I have a lot to think about in this part. I don’t have to make any quick decisions, which is perhaps a good thing, but I am regarding this element of the overall degree course with some concern.
It was an exhausting event, with several students staying up late into the night talking about work, freed by the circumstance the residential enabled. And judging by the traffic of emails subsequent to the event the advice to keep in touch has been taken in!
This week I was invited to the OCA Graduation lunch and award ceremony in London. The lunch, hosted by the OCA, was in the ‘Vaults’ at the RSA and the award ceremony afterwards at the Festival Hall. It was really interesting to meet graduands at the lunch, to see them at the end of a significant phase in their intellectual development and the general ‘buzz’ in the air was great to be part of. I met several fellow students and caught up with them, several tutors I haven’t spoken to for a long time and made contact with others whom I had never met, and perhaps never will again. And I was reminded about the Leeds event, how meeting those few students three years ago on a similar journey has sustained me, to a certain extent, whilst studying. How, when working with the MA student in Oxford last week provided an opportunity to develop network possibilities is such an exciting prospect about this phase in my life. In business all network opportunities are about the potential to develop business – after all, the clue is in the name – however building a network, when the potential is to find openings for co-operation, co-development and collaboration is something I find particularly exciting. I hope the Barnsley residential cohort find ways to develop relationships that are likely to sustain them through the latter stages of the course. I know I now have several colleagues to whom I can turn to for advice, collaboration and honest and open critical feedback which I now fully appreciate will be vital as I enter the final phases of this degree course. I hope I find a way to continue to course to the end, and I shall bear in mind something that Carol Smith said to me in the Vaults of the RSA earlier, which was to develop the structure and bearing of the SYP module to where I want it to go, as I start to think where my practice might stray to, should I eventually make an appearance at the Festival Hall. Something that might be stressed by the college I think.