Posts tagged ‘london college of communication’

What it means to be ‘female’ in…

….Peru, Italy, Pakistan, China and Iran. They might come from very different places – but each face a similar battle. Here, these UAL women share the very personal stories behind their art.

ANDREA: “I shared my most private thoughts.”


Andrea Vargas, London College of Communication, UAL Image ©Lewis Bush

“I love this person and yet she is such a mess.”
“I can’t be nice all the time.”
“When I was five years old I wanted to be a boy.”
“Be smart but never show it”
“Outsmart the patriarchy”
“Today I’ve decided not to pull out that white hair.”
“Question at all times that biology is destiny and that “genius” is only male.”
“I find it so weird to bleed once a month and not die.”
“I must call my mother”
“I’m going to be 30”

For most girls, the idea of publicly revealing their weight or the number of stray grey hairs is enough to render them speechless. But photographer, Andrea Vargas chose to turn this fear into a (very) public visual diary – layering secret thoughts over ‘honest portraits’. Here she shows what she, and perhaps most women of her generation might be going through.

“Girls are always coming up to me and saying: ‘You’re in my head!’ It shows how similar we all actually are – how we are driven by the same fears and vulnerabilities about our body and our choices. By revealing each thought – I shed a layer of anxiety and fear.

I deliberately took 31 photographs of myself. This was to challenge the idea that women need to fit into a 28-day cycle as dictated by things like the Pill. Again, women are forced into this tiny box. Instead, I wanted to dismantle that notion and show how we should define ourselves and also to show how my turning 30 and getting older is something to be celebrated.

I’m from Peru and at my age, my mother was already married and had children. And here I am, on the cusp of turning 30, and I’m childless and unmarried. My mother already knows I’m not following a conventional path (or whatever she might think conventional is).

Perú, itself, is far away from equality in any sense, let alone gender equality. There is a lot of pressure for women to be this perfect human being. She must know what she wants, have a Master’s degree, make money, stand up for herself, get married, have children, raises them right, be a good wife, and with whatever strength she has left, tackle all her own personal issues. It’s exhausting.

I want my work to show that girls can and define themselves in whichever way they wish. You can choose for yourself and be whoever you want to be.” In La Luna, Vargas combines photography and text, exploring ideas of societal pressure on women in Latin American society. Using her body as the main subject, she has made a series of what she calls ‘honest portraits’, investigating issues of self-acceptance and perception of her own body. Creating a visual diary, in which she includes these self-portraits and her own thoughts poured on the wall, she tries to help the viewer understand what she, and perhaps most women of her generation, might be going through in some determined part of her life.”

LICHENA: “It took my parents 15 years to accept our relationship.”


Lichena Bertinato, London College of Communication; UAL, Image © Lewis Bush

In ‘The invention of the family’, Lichena Bertinato traces the evolution of her family through old family portraits, raising questions about LGBT rights in Italy, where there is not yet any legal recognition of same-sex families.

“This series shows three generations of what ‘family’ looks like in Italy. From my grandparents, to my parents, to me and my pregnant girlfriend, Elisabetta. Three relationships, equal in measures of love, but each recognised so differently.

It took my parents 15 years to accept our relationship. It took Elisabetta’s family 10 years. It hasn’t been easy, but placing my relationship next to my family’s history was a cathartic experience. It was a mix of fear and the need to feel brave for when Elisabetta and I become parents ourselves.

I will teach my child that there is not just one family model but all kinds that share the same values, regardless if there is a single parent, or if parents are two men or two women.

The Church and society expect women in Italy to raise children, take care of the house and keep her husband happy. Society doesn’t help us to fulfil our potential, except from gaining a realization as mothers. I think that mothers in Italy forgot that they are also women. And when women speak up, they are labelled as feminists or subservient.

Here in the UK, we will both be legally recognised as parents of our child. Both of our names will appear on the birth certificate. But once back in Italy, we do not exist: I won’t exist as a partner and even worse, as a parent.

Last summer The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italy was violating human rights in not recognising any form of civil union or same sex marriage. So while I wait for the law to catch up on my family status, I am inventing one, for which I claim my own rights, The invention of the family.

SAMIYA: “I felt inferior to my brothers because I was born a girl.”


Samiya Younis, Wimbledon College of the Arts, UAL

She had endured too much to remain silent. For Samiya Younis, the answer was to pour her frustrations, fears, and ultimately her self-acceptance into her art. Here she opens up about overcoming her past.

“I am one of nine children, born in the UK to Pakistani parents. Growing up, I always felt inferior to my brothers because I was born a girl. It’s different for the girls in the family. My mother was married at 13 and had her first child at 15. Many of my sisters have been forced into marriage.

When we turned 15, my twin sister and I were promised to our first cousins and we were engaged. By 17, we would be their wives. My sister and I were forced to leave home and we’ve been estranged from our family ever since.

Being raised as a Muslim has impacted me severely. All my life I have felt alone, scared and unloved. I have been repressed, controlled and suffered mental, emotional and physical abuse from my parents and elder siblings.

My parents threatened us into believing if we didn’t follow Islam we would go to hell. I was told to befriend only other Muslim females. I had to attend Saturday school and read the Quran every day. If I got any of the words wrong, I would be beaten.

I was made to believe women were second class citizens, only good for obeying, bearing children and being confined to the home. Women are made to wear traditional Pakistani clothes with head-scarfs and when occasionally they are allowed out, they must be chaperoned. Education is not encouraged.

I have struggled with my identity and confidence as long as I can remember. Not knowing where I fit in this has affected me in adult life. I struggle to trust and build relationships. But my work helps me create awareness of these practicing on women’s repression, and how they can affect an individual.

I want my work to highlight the secret repression that is still happening and remains hidden – for all girls everywhere.”

WENDY: “We are expected to get married and bear children. This is ingrained into us from when we are kids.”


Wendy Lee-Warne, London College of Communication, UAL

In ‘A Woman’s Fate’ Wendy  Lee-Warne explores gender identity in a traditional Chinese family in Singapore. She records some of the future pathways that were open to her as a child.

“Once a baby is identified as female in Chinese culture, she is expected to fulfil a specific role – to get married, bear children and serve her family. This is ingrained into us from when we are kids. We must act our part.

Instead I took a different path and trained as an architect. But even then, I didn’t belong. It’s unusual for women to be on a construction site – they are out of place.

My mother, who comes from a long line of traditional Chinese families, just wants me to find a good man, get married and have a family. Instead, I quit my stable job to pursue photography. My parents are not happy with me. They see my choice to pursue a ‘physical’ job as a waste of their investment in me.

But I am so much more fulfilled right now. My work is about women to pursue the life they want. Women are capable of being who they want to be. Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex said it for me. ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.

We should not conform to conventions just because of expectations but in fact, allow ourselves to grow and become comfortable in our own skin, deciding for ourselves what we want to be, how we want to act and who we want to love.”

SHADI: “By dressing up as and acting out their lives – I became these women.”


Shadi Mahsa

Meet the woman with a thousand faces. From chance meetings with strangers , Shadi Mahsa channelled their beings and immortalised them into her art. Here, she unmasks her inspiration.

“I am an Iranian woman and have lived in exile since 1991. In my journey, I’ve encountered characters that are forever seared into my memory. Real women, from all classes of Iranian society, whose personalities show a fine balance between an imposed subservience and the natural strength of their gender. From time to time, I still think of them and wonder how they are coping with their lives.

By dressing up and acting out their lives – I became them. Whether it’s Farzaneh, or ‘Ferri’, the woman dressed as man, living a homosexual life, to a veiled woman driving a car in the public eye. These are challenging characters, but all their stories deserve to be told.

There are so many burdens placed on women in Iran, from style of dress to their legal rights, spanning divorce, travel and inheritance.

Women in Iran must obey the husband. The man is the leader of the family – it is he who decides. A man can marry up to four wives, and have unlimited short marriages, ‘sigheh’. These rules do not apply to women.

My work is about sharing the truth. To highlight a universal issue regarding women. It is not an issue just in Iran, it is global. In some countries more and some less. The detail is different, but the injustice is everywhere.”

Meet: Alan Gubby

Alan Gubby studied BA (Hons) Digital Media Production at London College of Communication, graduating in 2008. He teaches media and film studies, but has also set up his own record label, Buried Treasure

Alan Gubby

What were you doing before UAL? What made you want to study at London College of Communication?
I was a music producer for several electronic and jazz music labels and also working as a part time music lecturer. I couldn’t progress further in my teaching career without a relevant degree. Because of the massive growth in the internet in the 2000s I decided to focus on digital media production and UAL / LCC was highly recommended, plus perfectly located in terms of industry and creativity.

Did you enjoy your time at LCC? What were your biggest challenges/achievements?
I found the academic environment inspiring and the resources at LCC were perfect, either using Apple Macs for design work or the library archives for endless research opportunities.
My biggest challenge was going through a divorce during my studies, but UAL was very understanding and supportive whilst I got my personal affairs in order. I had to work hard for my degree and got a 2:1, but my lecturers were understanding and supportive wherever they could be.

What have you been doing since? What advice would you give to UAL graduates wanting to find work in music?
After graduating in 2008 I went on to do a PGCE at Reading University and have been teaching media and film studies ever since.
I also set up the Buried Treasure label and have been releasing music by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and other experimental electronic, folk and psychedelic sounds from the 1960’s and 1970’s.
My advice to students would be to soak up everything! Utterly absorb yourself in the university environment, go to as many lectures as possible, even ones not directly related to your course (if you are allowed). Make as many friends and contacts as possible because these people will help you throughout your future career and vice versa.

What are you working on now? And do you have any future projects in the pipeline
I’ve been writing a screenplay for a psychological thriller loosely based on the lives of Delia Derbyshire and John Baker, two hugely influential British electronic musicians. I’m putting on a musical version of the story at South Street Arts centre in Reading on November 14th. There are lots of performers involved including Pete Wiggs from Saint Etienne and Jonny Trunk. It’s pretty cosmic visually due to the occult 1960s subject matter. You can get tickets here.  I’m also about to release an album by The Dandelion Set featuring cult writer / graphic novelist Alan Moore who wrote V For Vendetta, The Watchmen and so much more.

What inspires you?
Musically I love film soundtracks that combine different disciplines and technology in unusual or inventive ways. Classical, folk, electronic, rock. It can be anything really and literally by anyone as long as there is something unique, emotional or boundary-pushing within it. In terms of the writing and research I do when compiling records I’m a bit of a revisionist. Often the official or accepted version of events is only one person’s version – writing sleeve notes allows the chance to present a different point of view and helps people make their own minds up.


Our wonderful PhD community: Meet Dr Iris Garrelfs

Iris Garrelfs by Peter Smith
Meet Dr Iris Garrelfs, Iris was awarded her PhD this year in Sound Art from LCC. In this article she shares her experience as a research student at UAL, how she built communities and learnt to discuss the theories behind her practice. She has recently been nominated for the British Composer Awards.

What was your awarded PhD title? Did it change much along the way?

Oh yes it did! The title I started out with was:
Cross breeding art: the impact of cross-platform arts practice on soundart at the beginning of the 21st century.

The title that I ended up using reads:
From inputs to outputs: an investigation of process in sound art practice.

In between I came up with quite a few variants on the theme, each highlighting slightly different aspects of my research. To be honest, I didn’t decide which one to go with until a couple of weeks before submitting. What swayed me in the end was keeping the title simple.

What are you up to now?

Since being awarded my PhD in June, I have begun a postdoc at UAL. I have been enormously lucky to be asked to continue my research into process as part of the cross-university JISC funded project Collaboration for Research Enhancement by Active Metadata (CREAM).

Basically, I am investigating the extent to which metadata are – or could be – used actively within practice-based research using Procedural Blending (the model of sound art practice I developed during my PhD research). Effectively, Procedural Blending borrows and extends concepts from Conceptual Blending, a theory of cognition developed by Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner (2002).

In September I will be giving a paper about this at the conference OFF THE LIP: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Cognitive Innovation convened by CogNovo and the Cognition Institute, University of Plymouth. I’m a trifle nervous….

From a performance at the Barbican Centre (Hack The Barbican), by Peter Smith

Image credit: From a performance at the Barbican Centre (Hack The Barbican), by Peter Smith.

I am also continuing to edit Reflections on Process in Sound, a journal I instigated to explore sound-related activities from the practitioner’s point of view. I have been hugely surprised
by how many people have flocked to it. On average, the website has more than 100 genuine visitors a day! The next issue will be out in the autumn containing articles with topics ranging from

  • working with sound in the United Arab Emirates,
  • listening to urban Australia,
  • creating a gallery installation in Switzerland.

I am also, of course, continuing my own practice. At the beginning of September I gave a performance talk called Room 61 at the National Gallery, as part of the Soundscapes Late. Essentially I created a composition in response to the images in the respective galleries and read from a number of CRiSAP related books.

Several of my previous works have just been nominated for the British Composer Awards (Sonic Arts category), I am keeping my fingers crossed…

Once things settle down a little, I hope I will be able to finish editing my book of interviews with leading and emerging sound art practitioners. There are some amazing ideas in there and I’m thinking about calling it Listening lives: art, music, sound.

How is your life different now to before starting your PhD?

I’ve had to mull that question over a bit, because it so feels like another lifetime altogether. On the one hand, I am still working as an artist. On the other, my practice has both deepened and broadened, and I feel a lot more confident about what I do. I have met so many fantastic people along the way, and I now feel part of a very thriving and inquisitive community.

I have always found it difficult to express myself in the written word (I found out I am dyslexic during my PhD), but now it feels a great deal easier. I have become more critical about the way I think and clearer about the assumptions underlying my thinking. Very interesting!

From a keynote performance lecture at Field Studies, by Joseph Kohlmaier

Image credit: From a keynote performance lecture at Field Studies, by Joseph Kohlmaier

The most important change is conducting research, which is not something that I was involved with before – other than researching for creative projects, that is. I love that aspect of my life; designing practice and projects to find out something. Such a fascinating process!

What were you doing before and what made you want to do a PhD?

Before starting the PhD, I was a busy artist and an Associate lecturer on the BA Sound Art and Design at LCC. Although focused on sound, my practice is in fact quite broad and I’ve always been puzzled by how it all hangs together. My PhD research came out of that question – and I guess it is mirrored by my original thesis title.

I felt that, in the constant bustle of making work I lacked the time and space to deepen ideas, and that became very frustrating, alongside the fact that I found it hard to communicate central concerns underlying my work. Hence the drive to look into process and into means that support artists in contributing to discourse.

How long did it take to finish your PhD, did you have any stumbling blocks along the way?

It took me 4.8 years from start to actually having the PhD awarded. I was very lucky to have had AHRC funding, which covered the first 3 years and really allowed me to immerse myself into the research! I then took a 4th unfunded writing-up year and the remaining months were taken up with waiting for my viva and implementing my minor amendments. This took a bit of time as I needed to apply for extra funding to have my thesis properly proofread (I am dyslexic).

I had a bit of a meltdown situation at the beginning of my second year. I found out that I am dyslexic, which expresses itself in a variety of ways but most importantly I have difficulty in ordering and structuring written materials. What seemed perfectly logical to me, does not to most other people.

So finding a way to construct my thesis was a challenge. I had only done the third year of my BA (I was admitted straight into the third year because of my experience as an artist) and as I left with a first I didn’t do an MA. A very steep learning curve indeed! Thankfully I have now found strategies to help me! Coming across Scrivener, a really easy to use modular writing software, was a particular relief!

Then my mum and my best friend both died in the space of 3 months and I had big problems with housing too. I felt rather overwhelmed by it all and wanted to go part-time to give me a bit of breathing space. But because of my AHRC funding I was not able to switch at that point. In retrospect, I am glad it worked out that way – I really had to knuckle down and that did its job in propelling my research forward! Also, it’s fab to be finished and able to embark on my next phase now!

Graduation of CRiSAP by Peter Smith

What advice would you give to prospective students?

One piece of very good advice I was given quite early on, which I didn’t listen to, was, not to produce too much primary research data. So, keeping this simple is a good strategy. It’s not always possible, especially not for the curious minded. There is so much to learn and find out about!

Also, doing a PhD is an excellent passport into a great variety of communities and in my experience it is very important to become as involved as possible. These communities have sustained me during my PhD and still do now! And, if there is no ready-made community, create one! It’s a great way to learn, and, by supporting others they will be very ready to help you too.

I also found it extremely helpful to present research in progress. It clarifies ideas by having to answer awkward questions and talking to other researchers sometimes opens up new avenues to pursue.

Did you feel part of the UAL community?

I very much felt part of the LCC community. The Creative Research into Sound Arts Practice (CRiSAP) students organised regular meetings to discuss our research and exchange ever-so-vital gossip. I really appreciated both! We also became involved with each other’s projects and created joint ones, for example, Tansy Spinks and I did a residency at Wimbledon Space last year, as part of the ACTS RE-ACTS festival. This was such a great experience and contributed to ideas which I tried out during a residency at Tate Britain earlier this year.

From A residency and installation called Listening Room at Tate Britain , by Peter Smith (IMG-9648)

Image credit: From A residency and installation called Listening Room at Tate Britain , by Peter Smith (IMG-9648)

I also co-organised the first symposium Sound::Gender::Feminism::Activism at LCC. Sadly I didn’t have the time to become involved with the second incarnation last autumn, but I did give a paper.
Further reading:

Dr Corinne Silva, Post Doc Research Fellow at LCC included in Aesthetica’s The Next Generation

Dr Corinne Silva was awarded a PhD from London College of Communication this year and has since become a Post Doctoral Research Fellow and  has been included in Aesthetica’s The Next Generation: emerging photographers that are shaping the future of the image-based practice. Find out more about Corinne’s experience at LCC and her flourishing career.

  • Tell us what it means to you be included in Aesthetica’s The Next Generation

One of the intentions with my work is to rupture specific ways of looking, of reading photographs and reading landscape, so it feels like an acknowledgement of my contribution to  contemporary photographic discourse.

  • Where do you mostly work/research, in your studio/at LCC or in the library, if a library, which is your favourite?

I love the Stuart Hall Library at INIVA, it’s comfortable and homely, but just library-ish enough to create the right atmosphere for disciplined work. And they have such a great collection of exhibition catalogues and artist’s films.

I have a studio in Dalston, which I share with a friend and collaborator, artist and video editor Lara Garcia Reyne. We begin most days discussing our joint or individual projects. I also have ‘critical friendships’ with my peers at PARC (Photography and the Archive Research Centre) and UAL. This space to discuss and be challenged is so important, and it keeps me excited about my work. It’s hard to be a freelance artist working alone, trying to make things happen. Discussion and collaboration with peers keeps the energy going and reminds me how much fun it is.

  • Why did you choose to study your PhD at LCC? Was it a good experience?

LCC felt like the obvious choice given its reputation for photography, the impressive list of artists teaching there, and the vast experience and specific research interests of my supervisors. I went to an open day and had a really good discussion with Professor Angus Carlyle who was very enthusiastic about my project and helped me shape my research question.

I have always hated institutions – the buildings as much as the social structure. They make me want to flee immediately. But I have a completely different relationship with LCC. It has a good – slightly messy, slightly chaotic – energy. All the people I work with are so committed to what they do, and there is an academic rigor as well as an understanding of the value of practice as research.

The joy of being able to access such impressive practitioners and theorists at LCC and across UAL made my PhD a rich experience. Alongside my own research PARC-led events, I also collaborated with members of TrAIN (Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation), organising cross-disciplinary conferences and events around our shared research interests. These connections have endured and I am now part of a wider inter-disciplinary research community across the University.

  • What was the transition from PhD researcher to Research Fellow like?

As an artist doing a practice-based doctorate, completing my PhD didn’t draw a line under the work. All my individual photographic and video projects pivot around the same inquiries. One project always unfolds a new set of questions, which I then try and tackle in the next work. So while perhaps there wasn’t the same sense of satisfaction of completion, it has meant that there’s no rupture; with the support of the Fellowship I have simply carried on researching and producing.

I have been enormously lucky to have the continued support of Professor Val Williams and PARC. Through a partnership with two public space galleries and PARC, I’m now planning a solo show and publication of Garden State, work I made as part of my doctorate. I’m also developing an ambitious new art production and networking project, Rocks & Fortresses. Moving between art and academic spheres suits my research-based approach. This new work will be about making links between art and academic institutions, and presenting work through different platforms.

Brad Butler, LCC researcher, exhibiting at the Hayward Gallery

Brad Butler

Image: Film still from work by Brad Butler and Karen Mirza 

Two films by Brad Butler, a researcher at London College of Communication (LCC) will be featured in a new exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, called MIRRORCITY from 14 October 2014 to  4 January 2015.

MIRRORCITY explores the effect the digital revolution has had on our experiences. It shows recent work and new commissions by key emerging and established artists working in the capital today, who seek to address the challenges, conditions and consequences of living in a digital age.

A specially produced ‘alternative’ newspaper has been created by Tom McCarthy for MIRRORCITY. The project was conceived as a collaboration between the author and the artists featured in the exhibition. Artists have contributed a diverse and distinctive array of texts and pictures that McCarthy has edited into an otherworldly reading experience.

Brad completed a PhD at LCC with William Raban as his supervisor and has since become a Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the College. Brad along with his creative partner, Karen Mirza have been shortlisted for sixth Artes Mundi Prize, the UK’s biggest Contemporary Art Prize and will be exhibiting in Cardiff from 24 October 2014 and 22nd February 2015. 

Tell us what work you are including in the show, and why did you choose this work?

I am showing a new work, Everything for Everyone and Nothing for Us alongside an existing work, Hold your Ground. Shown side by side, these two films speak to each other, though there’s a slight awkwardness about their conversation. They are both about languages of protest, and the relationship of the body to protest. Everything for Everyone and Nothing for Us is set in a TV studio, where a protester-in-training listens to audio extracts from a political speech by Margaret Thatcher. Having absorbed the sounds, the protester uses movement to exorcise Thatcher’s voice, retraining the body to resist capitalism.

In Hold Your Ground the same protester struggles to turn utterances into speech. Her efforts are interrupted by archive footage of protests in Egypt, Northern Ireland and London. Eventually, she manages to pronounce four phonetic phrases reconstructed from Arabic, meaning ‘hold your ground’, ‘Egyptians’, ‘homeland’ (of the earth, of the Nile) and ‘strike’.

The title of Hold Your Ground is taken from the pamphlet How To Protest Intelligently. Everything for Everyone and Nothing for Us echoes the slogan of the Mexican Zapatista liberation movement, which began its struggle against neoliberalism, exploitation and racist oppression in 1994.

Were you approached by Tom McCarthy and what has it been like working with him?

There is a newspaper edited by Tom accompanying the Hayward Show with work submitted by  all the participants in the exhibition. Tom has then cross edited and retitled the submitted text, pictures or provocations to create something new. Somehow no one has complained, and he has made something more than the sum of its parts. An early draft I saw was very funny.

Why did you choose to study your PhD at LCC? Was it a good experience?

I chose LCC based on the supervisors primarily. William Raban and Elizabeth Edwards understood my project and process. It was, for me, a perfect match of expertise and timing, and before I knew it I was in the programme supported by LCC research department to find funding. From there it was a great experience and formative for my work, while academia may not suit every praxis, it proved to be a chance for me to go deeper in a supported semi autonomous way.

The links later onto a post doctorate have felt natural. So far I have been encouraged and I feel I fit. Basically over the last 19 years of being an artist I have worked out the hard way how important it is to work with the right people. Even great ideas will become exhausting if that is not a priority.

Part of the #inspiringresearch series

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