The Nottingham Trent University (NTU) annual Art and Design Degree Show is one of the largest, and most diverse, simultaneous exhibitions of work by graduating artists and designers in the UK. Taking centre stage in Nottingham’s creative calendar from 3 to 10 June, the week-long event is completely free to the public, and takes place in the Bonington, Newton, Arkwright, Waverley and Barnes Wallis buildings on the NTU City Campus. Julie Pinches, Dean of the School of Art & Design, discusses shifting consciousness amongst emerging practitioners and the endurance of culture as a means of understanding.
A: From fashion to film, this year’s NTU Degree Show promises to bring together works from prints to prototypes. What kind of case do you think the show makes for the importance of culture, and how it’s changing in the technological age?
JP: The show is an essential affirmation of the importance of culture, making a strong, visual, collective statement to our city and beyond. It allows us to showcase the talent of our graduating students and display the culture of the art school as whole. The show is all about what is happening right now, what our young people are interested in and using right now, with much of the content only made possible by advances in technology, such as 3D printing, laser cutting, digital modelling / rendering, image manipulation and digital art creation. Through their work in a technological and digitally preoccupied age, the students are making a case for the new value of creative culture, human empathy and serendipity, developing their confidence through an understanding of how this collateral will have an ever increasing worth against the accelerating technological backdrop.
A: Are there any works which touch on contemporary issues, such as sustainability, digitalisation or globalisation?
JP: During today’s digital revolution, the presentation of ourselves not only takes place materially but virtually, through the burgeoning fascination with selfie culture and platforms such as Instagram. Some student projects in fashion marketing, for instance, have also looked at the ways technology is affecting the marketplace and have created projects linked to virtual reality and artificial intelligence, whilst others have used the technology to create apps which tap into consumers’ desire for convenience, instant gratification and global networking. Specific trends that are emerging this year do therefore tap into the key themes such as instant gratification, digitisation and globalisation. Global collaboration and the impact of international creative partnerships are at the centre of the students’ work, both in their analysis of the retail landscape, and in their own future career ambitions.
A: How do you think that the students are touching on multi-disciplinarily, collaboration or experimentation?
JP: Our students develop an enormous quantity of transferrable skills, affording them broader career choices and facilitating collaborative work. The courses encourage experimentation and risk taking throughout, resulting in unusual project choices and process. Team work and collaboration is embedded into every project experience, and cross-departmental exchange of both ideas and outcomes are at the core of the students creative practice.
A: Does this year’s show include any particular milestones for the university?
JP: Yes, particularly at a course level, it’s an important year. BA (Hons) Photography marks its 21st successive year of exhibitions in the city with the XXI festival. BA (Hons) Design for Film and Television, a course with impressively high numbers of alumni now working in the film and television industry, also turns 21 this year. Last but not least, BA (Hons) Decorative Arts celebrates its twentieth cohort of graduates with a richly diverse exhibition of contemporary and traditional craft forms, making it one of the most established 2D and 3D design and craft-based courses in the UK.
A: How have your alumni made an impact on the larger arts ecosystem?
JP: We’re proud of all of our graduates, of course. And we’re very proud that so many of them leave NTU and are successful in landing the careers they’ve always wanted and the art and design industries. Amongst our better-known alumni are artists such as Wolfgang Buttress, Jon Burgerman, Simon Starling, Noble and Webster, Mat Collishaw, Keith Piper, Rob Ryan, director Jonathan Glazer, actor Paul Kaye, comedian Matt Berry, designers Pearce Fionda and All Saints founder Stuart Trevor.
The NTU Degree Show runs 3-10 June. For more information: www.ntu.ac.uk
1. Courtesy of Sarah Watts and NTU.