Mis-fitting at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design

This term I’m doing some Visiting Tutor work teaching into a project for the second year BA Art & Design students.

The original idea was ‘Body Architecture’. Here’s what the brief evolved into after my recruitment:

Creative Mis-fitting

Watch the following music video:

We see someone wearing a succession of body sculptures (is it fashion? art? architecture?) as they walk through the city and prompt a variety of responses from the Normal People.

When we work in the bubble of an art school, it’s easy for us to forget the world outside and how our work might be perceived by those who have not encountered similar things before. We’re going to take our work outside.

Starting at the Margaret Street school of art, walk, run, slide, skate or use an alternative mode of locomotion for 3 minutes 50 seconds (the length of the music video). The place where you find yourself at the end of that time period is the place you will locate your work. Make sure you have arrived at your own space and are not within 20 metres of another Mis-fitter’s location.

Your brief is to design, construct and ultimately wear a body sculpture that responds to and in some way fits your location, whilst at the same time misfitting people’s expectations of what they might encounter in that place. Find a niche or other point of leverage at your location for your construction to echo – a bit like how the guy in the video’s costumes echo the things that are thrown at him. You will be wearing your work, so you also need to consider how it relates to your body and how you will move whilst wearing it.

You will document the process of arriving at your location, finding the bit to riff off, constructing your attire and any interactions that arise out of you and your costume inhabiting your location.

The project launched yesterday and I joined them in the afternoon to give a lecture on the-sort-of-stuff-I-do-and-the-things-I-think-are-interesting-about-working-in-public-space. This included: an overview of Dust, leading on to the importance of interfaces; objects as permission-givers; magic vests; triangulation; vibrant social spaces; interactions with/between strangers; Urban Sensation Transformers; silly hats and the implications of different design aesthetics; city as playground; rule-bending and transgression; comfort zones and accumulation of actions.

Following this we went outside into Birmingham city centre (Victoria Square and Chamberlain square for some blindfold work and giving the students a way in to working (and being vulnerable) in front of an incidental audience.

Working with one blindfolded person and one chaperone, they were given the following exercises:

  1. Blindfolded person to describe everything they sense/notice/feel/are aware of as they walk around.
  2. Chaperone curates a series of sense experiences foe the blindfolded person.
  3. Try to facilitate some interactions with stranger by making the first approach – ask people for the time or for directions etc and see if they then come back with questions or conversation.

We’ll be unleashing works in progress and the final pieces onto the streets around the school of art over the next few week, so keep an eye out for any unusual goings on …and don’t be afraid to say “what are you doing?”


Yesterday I went to the festival of Tokyo University of Music and Arts (Geidai) in Ueno.

Part open day:

…part exhibition:

… part car boot sale:

…and part barbeque and music festival:

a good time was had by all!

The students kept asking me how it compared to festivals in the UK, and I had to say that I’d never seen anything like this in the UK. But then maybe my experiences in Bournville aren’t particularly representative.

I tried asking them what the festival was for and who came etc etc. It seems that many students from all the other Tokyo art universities come to these things, as well as families of Geidai students. In addition to showing and selling some of their work, each department has its own batch of beer and food stalls as well as two or three student bands playing throughout the evening. After which, apparently it is traditional for the students to decide to go for a swim in the pond of the nearby park.

Now that part at least sounds familiar!

seven walks

A part of the degree course I’m doing, I have to give a short presentation on presentation methods – we’ve been analysing different exhibitions and the strategies they use to present artists’ work.

When I say a short presentation, I mean a short presentation: 5 minutes.

This is going to have to be focused!

[Update: At 6 pages, the documentation of the preparation certainly is not focused!

The first few pages are basically just thinking aloud including the main points I wanted to make, in response to the project brief and a room-by-room walkthrough.
By page 5 I’ve got to the stage where I’m starting to look at how to make the presentation.]

Over the past few months I’ve been reading the articles over at Presentation Zen. I came across this site through my webdesign work and I’ve continued to read it because it’s very relevant to my webdesign work. How do you guide your audience along a path that transfers to them the information you want them to acquire?

I am starting to write this post on Saturday morning. The presentation is on Tuesday morning.

I’m also going to have to be focussed to get this prepared on time! Sitting here now with the task ahead of me, I have mapped out my plan of attack:

  1. Quick survey of visual resources.
  2. Identify the main points I want to convey.
  3. Structure these points.
  4. Decide how to distribute these points between the presentation and the accompanying handout.
  5. Build the powerpoint presentation.
  6. Build the handout.
  7. Practice.
  8. Present.

I have other, longer, presentations to do later in the year, (and it will almost certainly form a part of what I have to do as a fully-fledged artist) so I thought I would document the whole process here so I can refer back to it and progress.

1. Quick survey of visual resources.

It’s been a few months since I saw the exhibition so this step will serve to refresh my memory as well as give me an awarenss of what I can use for my visuals later.

My main sources will be the book that accomapanies the show; my own notes and photographs; and various webpages.

I’ll list the webpages here for future reference:

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