UCA staff, alumni and students’ hard work and creativity were showcased at the Royal Opera House’s High House Production Park in Thurrock in early July as a part of an ongoing project to explore new territories for the meeting of sound, sculpture and light. This project, as with many other student projects taking place across UCA, was made possible by support through Interreg funding. The work produced was also showcased at the FUSED Festival, a three-day festival of concerts, workshops and exhibitions run by the Royal Opera House.
Using Verdi’s Requiem as the starting point, students from two courses at Rochester and Canterbury campuses investigated ways in which the piece could come alive visually using light and sculpture whilst still maintaining an integral relationship to the sound.
The animation course in Rochester visited a November performance of the Requiem and using motion sensors attached to the conductor’s body, captured the movements over the 90 minute performance. Through a series of technical processes, the data was transformed into seven pieces of sculpture. Phil, Course Leader on the CG Arts and Animation course called upon the skills and talents of his existing students, alumni and colleagues to conceive of and develop the project. Jonathan Simms (Lecturer in Photography at UCA) described this as a ‘community of learning’.
Although many hands and minds came together to bring this work to fruition, there were two key individuals who played significant roles in the development and actualisation of the work. Ethan Shilling provided a high level of technical know-how and research to take the original data from the conductor and transform these into digital curves, which became the building blocks for other students to develop ideas from, and Tim Hall, a UCA alumni, who now successfully runs his own business, willingly took on the project and single-handedly fabricated all seven sculptures from sheet metal.
The sculptures were exhibited in the Walled Garden at the Royal Opera House’s High House Production Park in Purfleet, during two festival performances of the Verdi’s Requiem on 3rd and 4th July, conducted by the celebrated Arie van Beek with Thurrock Community Chorus and Brighton Festival Chorus joining forces with Orchestre de Picardie and Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne.
Over at the Canterbury campus, Hugh Harwood, Course Leader Graphic Design: Visual Communication and sessional staff member Hala Georges embedded the project into their Level 1 programme and involved almost 40 students in the production of visual and typographic responses to the Requiem. These unique and individual responses were digitally stitched together and came together as little moments that illuminated the large outer wall at the Backstage Centre from where the performance had just taken place. Hala Georges, a UCA sessional staff member working with Hugh said “We were thinking about whether the projection would work on the concrete or the grey wall. We tested it on various surfaces, and seeing it now, it’s very satisfying.”
Richard Brittain, Head of Thurrock Music Services, remarked about the projections; “They are creating a very evocative mood. A great deal of creative thinking has gone into the designs and as the darkness is falling in, they are peering through the light.”
The project enabled some artists to step back from their normal practice to focus on a new direction. Jordan Buckner, a graduate teaching assistant at UCA and CG Arts Alumni said, “I worked on generating ideas for the sculptures in the early phase of the project. Through it, I’ve managed to break away from doing the same thing that I might normally do. It’s allowed me a lot of artistic freedom during the design process. I think my new works will be influenced by this project and allow me to move into new directions, and away from what people might typically expect from a CG Arts graduate”
It also enabled students to learn more about the process of commissioned art. Jonathan Simms, Senior Lecturer, Photography at UCA, said “The value of these external projects to our students, the work that goes into working with external partners and the work that the students do is incredible. These projects join the dots with the academic world and the professional world of commissioned art.”
Members of the audience were invited to put their own slant on the sculptures and showed their enjoyment of the exhibition through their animated conversation. Audience members described the artwork variously as “Those lampshades that we used to get in the 70s that were pre-packed and you had to put together”, “a horses mane” and “a double doughnut,”
Gabrielle Forster-Still of the Royal Opera House said, “It’s interesting to see how the Requiem can inspire art – I really like that.”
UCA’s involvement with the performance and the festival take place as part of ACT – A Common Territory, a European partnership between 12 different organisations. ACT supports creative and collaborative projects with local and European partners and is co-funded by the ERDF Interreg IVA France (Channel) England programme
To view the Images of sculptures, click here.