Dr Becky Shaw Researcher Blog – Becky Shaw and Emma Bolland (PhD candidate and Fine Art Associate Lecturer) report on participation in the National Association of Fine Art Education (NAFAE) annual conference, and their paper on oHPo Radio
NAFAE explores and champions the changing terrain of fine art education in the UK. The focus of this years’ conference (May 29th) was Making Communities and Making with Communities, looking at the significance of community both within fine art education and in the communities that fine art education interacts with and builds. The day was intense and packed with really rich accounts of educational delivery and experiment, accounts of structures and forms of organising, and theoretical analyses, all operating within awareness of the commodification of education and civic engagement. Presentations that were particularly relevant to us were Jenny Walden’s challenge to easy definitions of community, drawing on Jean-Luc Nancy’s ‘Inoperative Community’, Jackie Goodman’s reflections on ‘The Feral Art School’, Carlotta Allum’s amazing account of prisoner’s narratives, Steven Paige’s account of the difficulties of forming interdisciplinary postgraduate communities, and Andrew Bracey and Martin Lang’s critical project exploring changing staff- student relationships when staff made their own studios alongside the students.
oHPo Radio was conceived by Emma and Becky, and also fine art staff, Penny McCarthy and Col McCormack. Emma and Becky focused particularly on how radio could be used to generate a sense of proximity, presence, and shared learning for PhD students while studios were inaccessible during lockdown. We asked how the unique sensory and spatial qualities of radio could generate an inclusive community across and beyond the boundaries of the University. We wanted to explore the extent to which radio might function like Deleuze’s ‘crystalline image’ in film, bringing together discontinuous times and spaces into a sense of now.
Emma, and also PhD student Anton Hecht, established a website, live streaming, and archival platform for oHPo, and led a series of workshops and listening spaces with masters and PhD students in our newly joined humanities, communications & media, and art & design research institutes. Careful, sensitive and responsive working by Emma grew four broadcasts: the first with an individual student, Phil Waterworth using radio space to explore the intersections of disability and class; the second exploring the nostalgia and strangeness of a degree show via a broadcast recorded live at from S1Artspace. The third broadcast was a programme curated by Julia Calver (PhD candidate) exploring the ‘coarticulate’- the joint in speech. This included submissions from across humanities and art and design students including Hannah Taylor, Max Munday, Julia Calver, Joanna Dobson and Julia Schauerman, Roland van Dierendonck, Erin Kavanagh, and Emma Bolland,
Finally, within 2021, we undertook a spoken word collaboration between Glasgow School of Art and the University of Glasgow, that developed a community of alumni and students from three institutions. All are available at links below including names of all participants. We will continue to develop oHPo responsively to contexts and relationships.
Through making and listening, the broadcasts questioned strategies of structured delivery that posit the radio space as a platform for outcomes (a ‘shop window’) and instead foregrounded a process whereby content emerged from (and created) relationships. Emma worked closely with all participants, allowing us to think about the rich space where relationships of curator and artist overlap with that of teacher and student, and of collaborator.
Radio offers opportunities for diverse and shared interests to come together not just in the flattened screen space, but also in the sonic materiality of a listening space that fused the material space of home with the scholarly artistic community ‘space’. It gave PhD and masters students a material space—a studio—to consider ‘audience’, and to resist the isolated space of lock-down. The capacity of radio to bring the individual time of the listener into the shared experience of the specific times of listening (the scheduled broadcast) created the sense of ‘event’ that was missing from pandemic life—you had to be ‘there’. Head of Research Degrees, Kathy Doherty, describes this as ‘convening power’.
When we reflected on the project we realised that oHPo had enabled us to bring together masters and PhD students, and to fuse the PhD students into an identity that included the art school. PhD students belong to different communities: the University PhD community, and the interdisciplinary PhD institute community but unless they are teaching in HPO it is hard for them to feel they belong there. This has been exacerbated by the pandemic. oHPo helped us to do the work of forming an art and design PhD community that considered the important presence of art school identity.
We are excited by the amorphous identity of the project: its edges are fluid—they oscillate with the different frequencies of the communities it draws together. Its developing processes and funding (from a Learning and Teaching ELTSE award, Department teaching and PhD training budgets) intersect teaching, research, arts practice, and disciplines and levels of students. oHPo is gentle, responsive and critical, making broadcasts when ideas and relationships are developed enough, rather than to fill air-time. It is a space of liveliness and productive ‘indistinction’ which give a sense of possibility about other ways to learn and be together through and beyond the pandemic.