We’re delighted to share a collection of work by students at the School of Humanities at the University of Dundee, bringing together work from their third-year Creative Practice Research module. With a focus on connecting their own practice to critical perspectives on cultural politics and the cultural and creative industries, students studying creative subjects within the Humanities (such as writing, film, comics and performance) were tasked with crafting a response to the Dundee Cultural Recovery Report.
Each student was asked to consider how their work connects to the cultural landscape of Dundee, and steered to centre their response around themes including support, precarity and working collectively. The results include audio, script, poetry, illustration and short fiction, and offer encouragement to imaginatively consider the ecosystems we exist within, and how we connect to where we live and those we live alongside.
What do we mean by ‘creative practice research’? In the module, we think about how arts and culture can help generate new knowledge about the world. We examine the concepts of ‘creativity’ and ‘culture’ and how these have shifted over time. We also look at the ‘cultural industries’ (arts organisations, publishing companies, comics studios, etc) and cultural policy, at local and national levels; we think about how these affect and are affected by the work artists make. The students are then asked to put all of this knowledge into practice, creating their own ambitious, independent creative projects to a specific brief.
This year, the students and I spent time reading and thinking about the Dundee Cultural Recovery Report, written by Dr Lauren England about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the creative and cultural sector in Dundee. In the face of this catastrophic event, we talked about the kinds of strategies artists and institutions will need to develop to survive and thrive, and what they would like to see as a potential future generation of creative practitioners. For their final projects, the students were asked to consider the three recommendations England makes at the end of the report, and to make a creative response to the themes underpinning one of these recommendations. These included ideas about:
The students were tasked with thinking rigorously but also creatively about these ideas, and encouraged to attempt inventive and surprising interpretations. The teaching team was delighted with the range and quality of thinking displayed in the projects. These include an experimental audio work about the 1959 Mona Lifeboat Disaster, created through extensive and sensitive archival research; a poetic sequence in the voice of an iconic piece of Dundee public sculpture; a piece of graphic poetry that excavates recent newspaper coverage of the cultural sector to reveal new possibilities; and a lyric exploration of the movement of water undertaken on site in the Dundee Botanical Gardens; among other accomplished works of imagination. The header image is taken from one of the projects, Renée Dumenil’s Solistalgia, which takes the Portuguese man-of-war as its central metaphor. As Renée explains, this aquatic creature ‘is not one being but a colony of many polyps, which work collectively, dependent on each other for survival’.
Taken together, this collection offers a demonstration, in practice, of the kind of critically engaged and creatively adventurous work that a thriving cultural sector should aim to support.
Muck-Ross is a sound art project which explores the events of the 1959 Mona Lifeboat Disaster. It features music and production by Nathan Fordyce-Wright and voice acting by Daniel Beaton, Sarah Keiller and Nathan Fordyce-Wright.
The COALESCENCE project was inspired by the pond in the tropical glasshouse of Dundee’s botanic garden. The series of poems follow the journey of water as it moves from the bottom of the pond to the top of the waterfall and explores the limits of perspective within an ecosystem.
Solistalgia is a project that asks you, the viewer, to reflect upon the importance of solitude and socialisation. In mirroring spaces, experiences of isolation and community are conveyed through a range of scenarios, both audio and text, aiming to invoke recognition of the value found in both modes of living.
A short piece of weird fiction that questions the nature of our connections to others and the way we exist in the 21st century. Inspired by Ray Bradbury’s The Crowd.
This is a poem from the perspective of the dragon statue in Dundee. It explores the misrepresentation of the dragon’s legend, and its displacement around the city. It questions the relevance of contemporary capitalism, and the potential instability created through artistically representing experiences that we don’t fully understand.
A play set in 1930s England. The play centres around a family which has been torn apart after the death of a family member by suicide. The play opens with the return of the son to his family home after years of absence. The play deals with trauma, grief, mental illness, and guilt.
The Otter Philosopher – a project for the over-thinkers – is a fictional exploration of philosophical questioning. It utilises the character of the otter to investigate the importance of questions, as well as their consequences, and the format of an illustrated children’s book, to invite children into philosophical conversation.
This project shines a light on the significance of support throughout the trials of instability in the creative and cultural world. Using newspaper articles which commented upon today’s cultural climate, a series of found poems were created which celebrate the support within cultural communities, showing strength and togetherness above all.
A short story in the form of an interview showcasing the benefits of creative collaborative work, as well as providing samples of the three main characters’ art.
My project explores the history and importance of the seven chakra system that sits within the subtle (energetic) body. I explore how this directly impacts the creative individual, which in turn influences the creative collective that is found within creative and cultural businesses. Through the medium of poetry, I discuss how practicing yoga and meditation to open these chakras can positively impact the system of trust within said businesses, and I also how explore the chakra system itself can be said to replicate the system of trust which is needed within creative and cultural businesses.
An exploration of the importance of the arts and humanities, looking through the eyes of the three Norns of Norse Mythology; Urd, Verdandi and Skald. This project considers how artists influenced Viking and modern culture, how positions of authority have overlooked the humanities, and the potential consequences of this.
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