Low Residency – what is it?

MA Fine Art Digital is unique in having students based both in London and online living anywhere in the world.

After 10 years of this unusual but hugely successful delivery, in 2014 we enhnaced the model with a ‘Low Residency’ an intensive 10 days in London for all students to attend if they choose.

A ‘Low Residency’ masters in fine art has a long and successful tradition in North America but our offer is a first for the UK.

With a simple and highly effective way of building a ‘community of practice’ for both London and online based students, adding the Low Residency element provides an exciting and challenging strand.

So in February 2017 and new group of students will join together, travelling from as far west as California and as far east as Japan. Joining with the London based students the 37 students in total represent about 20 different countries.

The 10 days include collaborative workshops, group tutorials, lectures, gallery visits, artist talks, hands on making, food and lots of discussion and debate. Check the rest of this blog for a flavour of the activities.

At the start of a time like this it is always good to hear some good advice, here from a recent talk by curator Lucy Day:

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Low Residency 2015 day 9

The final day finished with a great discussion but before that we started with a presentation from Hannah Breslin covering all the activities of SEE – Student Enterprise and Employability. This part of the University of the Arts London is very proactive in exploring innovative support for students and Hannah explained a wide range of funding and advice options.

Next was a group tutorial exercise which built on the experiment tried last year. This lead to some in-depth conversations with students sharing and challenging each other.

The final event of the day was a real highlight as Dave White, Head of Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of the Arts London, led a fascinating and challenging discussion. Dave has developed a very useful way of seeing online engagement called ‘digital residents and digital visitors’. After a mapping exercise we then went on to discuss issues around ‘post digital’. Dave challenged the students to do the work of making visible the dominant ideology that is ‘hidden in the code’ of a digital environment, to find and reveal the cracks, the glitches, to critically dig up the fast disappearing space. In many ways this ‘digital revolution’ is no different to the many previous technology driven changes, but maybe this is faster than ever before. Dave suggested that much of what is happening culturally is hidden under the surface anyway but maybe now it is even more hidden due to the speed of change, leading to the dominant ideologies getting buried in the code and almost disappearing. An artistic critique of this environment is both a valid and important job to be done.

(If you are reading this and like the sound of what happens on this MA course, or simply have some questions about it all, do get in touch. We run regular open days at Camberwell and read here for information on funding and the more than 100 bursaries available.)

Low Residency 2015 day 8

After 2 days based at Camberwell College of Arts doing workshops day 8 was full of visits around London. First was the Stanley Kubrick archive held at London College of Communication one of the other colleges of the University of the Arts London.

Two of the archivists had pulled out some highlights from the archive to illustrate the vast range of material available. Kubrick was known for incredible depth of research a great example of which was some of the preparation for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick produced about 300 files of correspondence with a wide range of companies. He had made contact asking for their vision of what the future would be like in their industry. The files included, letters, telegrams, notes, plans and images and not only from the obvious places like IBM and NASA but also from furniture and make up companies. We also saw a few items from some of the other significant archives such as an extensive comic book archive.

Next was the White Cube Gallery, Bermondsey for the the Christan Marclay exhibition which included a live re-perfromance of a Fluxus event from 1965. A real highlight of this show was the Surround Sounds installation of 4 silent synchronised projected animations.

We finished the day at the Whitechapel Gallery and specifically their exhibition, Adventures of the Black Square. This was an impressive presentation of significant work through the history of abstract art with a focus on the social and political context and impact of the work. The ground floor was full of inspiring and challenging work that still seemed revolutionary even with the passage of time. The second floor felt bit more confused although there was some work that pushed the national boundaries of the usual western European and North American sources, showing work from Iran, Mexico and China amongst others.

Low Residency 2015 day 7

Camberwell College of Arts provides a range or resource centres all staffed by amazing artists and designers in their own right. The digital media resource centre was the focus of todays workshop. The students were given only 6 hours to create a collaborative film using as many of the resources as possible.

The workshop was co-ordinated by Matt Edwards, one of the technicians and also a former student on MA Fine Art Digital. Initially he gave the students 30 minutes to come up with an idea for a film, he suggested they split their focus into 3 areas, film, animation and sound but other than that it was completely up to them what and how they created.

The digital media resource centre includes a large suite of computers, some camera kit, animation facilities, sound recording, mixing and editing, a range of scanners, drawing tablets and some amazing technicians. Students were introduced to hyper lapse, live trace and 3D camera tracking, all potentially fascinating creative tools.

Within 20 minutes an idea had emerged and the rest of the morning was spent gathering material to create the film. In the afternoon everything was edited together and finally an impressive film was produced. Not bad for 6 hours work with 21 people contributing various elements. Some of the animation was taking too long to render so couldn’t be included but could appear in a later edit.

Low Residency 2015 day 6

Today was a full day of experimenting with arduino boards and a wide variety of input sensors, including light, pressure, movement, temperature etc. The morning was a step by step introduction with some challenges like trying to remember stuff about electrical circuits at school! The workshop was expertly led by Romain Meunier and the afternoon included lots of experiments with each group of students managing to produce some effective interaction.

For most students this was simply about exposure, exploring something outside of their normal experience. For other students these lessons will feed directly into their practice as their MA course develops.

Low Residency 2015 day 5

Following last year’s highly successful tour of galleries in Hackney, this year we visited Deptford an area of south east London very close to Camberwell College of Arts which is full of intriguing art spaces. South London Art Map lead the tour starting at Bearspace Gallery.

There were several spaces in the enclave projects development:
news of the world gallery:

Divus London – the UK base of a Czech publisher, with a gallery/reading room:

lubomirov easton was installing a show with a rolling call for limited edition artworks – currently more than 100!

Next we walked past the now empty Faircharm Estate which was previously a centre for a wide variety of creative activity but now earmarked for demolition and new buildings.

APT Gallery‘s huge space was next:

Number 57 is housed in an old chemist and they have kept the beautiful old sign:

Next was Lewisham Art House and an amazing exhibition by children from the local Myatt Garden Primary School. An obviously incredible teacher, Karen Vost, had coordinated a week long creative project inspired by a single work of art, ‘Mr and Mrs Andrews’ by Thomas Gainsborough. Some of the work was simply stunning and it was hard not to think of the Picasso quote, ‘It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.’ (Quoted in: Peter Erskine, ‎Rick Mattingly (1998) Drum Perspective, p. 73):

Sadly the final gallery MMX was closed so we concluded with a group photo of those who had made it to the end of the tour:
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Low Residency 2015 day 4

saw a continuation of the letterpress workshop with students asked to bring in anything with a texture. These were used as source material for more experiments.

(Here is a short film made by former Camberwell students in the letterpress facility.)

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The morning and afternoon saw more 1–to–1 tutorials. Organising 30 tutorials – delivered by 4 different tutors, across 2 days, fitted around the letterpress workshops, mostly in London but with some online for those unable to attend in person – proved to be a planning challenge (admittedly not much of a challenge for a skilled administrator but certainly one for an artist, as in the course leader!) This picture reveals a little of the process!
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Friday evening was a talk organised by Isaac Julien, University of the Arts London, Chair of Global Art. It was billed as ‘Isaac Julien presents: Jean Fisher in conversation with Mark Nash’ looking at issues of ‘indigeneity’ and global post-colonial art. However, despite the presentation of some fascinating material and the promise of an indepth debate the event never lived up to that promise and seemed to drift with some abstruse language and unrealised potential. Nevertheless the event generated significant discussion afterwards amongst the students and continued on to the following day…

Low Residency 2015 day 3

‘If you are willing to do something that might not work you’re closer to being an artist’
Seth Godin
Whether this is true or not day 3 and 4 gave the opportunity to work in the letterpress room at Camberwell College of Arts, something none of the students had done before. James Edgar runs the letterpress workshop but instead of a structured typography workshop everyone was encouraged to play and explore textures.

Alongside the letterpress workshop everyone also had a 1 to 1 tutorial mostly with someone they had never met before, challenging but useful.

Low Residency 2015 day 2

Began with a visit to the V&A museum to meet Melanie Lenz the Patric Prince Curator of Digital Art and Digital Programmes Manager. Melanie made a selection from the V&As growing collection of work that comes the very broad and contested titles of ‘computer art’, ‘digital art’ or simply work that engages with the digital environment. She led us on a fascinating walk through history with some great examples of work by Roman Verostko, Mark Wilson, Ben Laposky,and many others.

We then returned to Camberwell College for a choice of seminars that crossed over the 5 different MA courses offered. Students could choose between ‘Sequential Narrative in book arts’, ‘Curatorial thinking’, ‘The exhibition is a slippery thing’ or ‘Investigating narrative in illustration’.

The day ended with a meal for everyone at course leader Jonathan’s home, lots of good food, including a sprout couscous that even those who hated sprouts actually enjoyed!
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Low Residency 2015 day 1

There is always a great sense of anticipation at the beginning of the Low Residency times. First and second year students join together, mixing online from across the world join with all the students based in London what could possibly go wrong!

Before we had even started I realised that the White Building in East London had moved their planned showcase and panel discussion on ‘self versioning’ in art to the end of March so the afternoon and evening plans for day 1 had to be changed.

We started with an opportunity for some students to present their work, all of which produced some lively and useful discussion.

Our hastily rearranged afternoon started with a visit to the South London Gallery to see their latest exhibition by Isabelle Cornaro. We then planned to visit Beaconsfield Gallery only to realise on the bus travelling there that it was closed! So we stayed on the bus to visit Tate Britain to explore part of their ‘walk through British art’ taking in a election of work from the 1940s to 1990s. Rounded off with a drink and fascinating discussions in a local pub. Hopefully no more sudden date changes or closures!