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Radical Creativity 2022 Degree Show Festival celebrates arts graduates' ingenuity and resilience

10/06/2022
Graphic Design students create 'alien, crazy shapes' using machine learning for show identity and signage, in nod to unique university experience of this year's graduates

A white man in a yellow shirt walks towards the viewer and other people behind him stand talking, in front a large modern building with an overhanging upper storey, its base lit up in purple light Middlesex's first physical arts and creative industries BA degree show in three years, Radical Creativity, opened on Thursday with a bustling private view.

Faculty staff hailed the event as an affirmation of community, and an opportunity to show site-specific work. Work by students on around 20 programmes was exhibited across three floors of the Grove Building and in Ritterman or presented in performances and screenings. Among attendees were talent-scouting industry professionals and recent arts alumni such as fashion designer Miles George Daniel and photographer Dexter McLean.

A young woman in a purple, astronomical-design top, with a pink patterned mask and pink backpack, stands alongside a brightly coloured abstract painting"The notion of 'radical creativity' is one of the community principles underpinning the university's strategy towards 2031, and we have adopted it for the title of the first on-campus Degree Show Festival," says Professor of Design and Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries, Gareth Williams.

"These students have borne the brunt of the disruption and uncertainty brought by the pandemic, and this is a chance to come together to celebrate their radical creativity, ingenuity and resilience in the face of adversity. The festival also opens the doors to our fabulous facilities and is a chance to see fantastic creative work in the spaces where it was made".

Graphic Design students Alfie Jordan-Dilks, Luca Di Lorenzo, Tia Stevens and Mikael Dahlen's digital-generated design concept, producing colourful geometric and amorphous shapes and watercolour-like splashes, was picked for the show's identity and signage.

To obtain the effect, they took physical pieces of material used in each of the arts and creative courses, scanned them and fed them into a 'generative adversarial' machine learning network: a process Mikael had previously tried out in his second year. Making a conscious decision not to train the machine learning for very long, and training it on images that were very different from each other, the iterative process produced 'blobs' that were "more alien or crazy than we imagined," they say.

People of different ages in Grove attending Radical Creativity Degree Show Festival launchThe design has a particular resonance for this year's BA graduates, who in most cases have felt the impact of the pandemic in each of the three years of their course. "Our class have a very special experience of university, being in both physical and digital space at the same time," says Mikael.

The different styles of learning and making work under lockdowns and Covid restrictions affected the students differently according to their previous experiences. Tia says that adapting to an online, then blended environment "made me really open minded, I found outcomes much more interesting conceptually," and that she loved the openness of the briefs given and encouragement of experimental studio work.

The four thank their tutors, Programme Leader Claire Lewis, MDX's "super-knowledgeable, super-helpful" graphics technicians, and Ash O'Brien, who guided them through the creation of the show identity.

Five female students of different ethnicities stand smiling looking at the viewerIn the Grove, Fashion Textiles student Ivy Yu (above right), along with coursemates Nilaksika Mangaleswaran, Dinkita Bipin, Izabela Pron and Shajnah Farook (left to right) presented bunches of flowers to knitting tutor Edward (Ted) Houghton and knitting technician Yael Simon to thank them.

MDX was highly supportive, Ivy says, of her and her fellow knitters' studies during lockdown, lending knitting and sewing machines, mannequins and anything they might need; the course remained intense through this time with the number of online tutorials and other lessons arranged. The highlight of MDX for Ivy is the weatlh of facilities including makers' workshops.

A young white man in a black sweatshirt crouches in front of a mannequin wearing dark sportswear, and fashion photos displayed on the wallJakub Matiasovic had a model to show off his heavily-textured but soft greyscale men's activewear.

A former professional football player from the Slovak Republic, Jakub explains his inspiration comes from brutalist architecture, whose concrete look he tries to reproduce in the fabric. He devised his own process to do this - mixing iron flakes with puff print additive for the 3D texture, then spraying the whole garment with a salt solution so it starts to oxidise giving a rusty walls effect.

Jakub is motivated by the "really bad problem with sustainability" in much of the fashion industry, so all of his clothes are designed to be long-lasting.

3D Environment Artist Daniele Bisanti, exhibiting a lovingly-designed gaming landscape, said MDX's strengths included its render farm of high-performance computers, a course focused squarely on 3D and Games, and opportunities to collaborate with students in other arts fields such as 2D animators and musicians.

Daniele and coursemates Joana Ferreira and Darius Rakosi praise technician Sean Wade, who joined MDX this academic year, for his industry knowhow, dynamism and supportiveness. "He listens to our feedback. We're sharing off each other's energy," says Joana. "The important thing is industry people coming in and teaching students industry standards" says Sean. "In an ever-growing industry we have to keep staff updated with technical and networking skills".

Three women in long pale dresses dance with ropes around a circle of ropeAt the private view and over the rest of this week, Dance student Brandon Sutherland-Parker is presenting two of his choreographic works: Good Grief, and Tresser, featuring decorative ropes especially made for the performance, and drawing on a wide range of influences including bondage, wrestling and Iranian film.

Brandon is inspired by South London artist, director and choreographer Botis Seva - "the way he uses storytelling in his works is incredible" - and is also a huge admirer of Beyonce's work ethic and determination. "The highlight of my MDX journey has been seeing my personal and professional growth" he says. "I entered university thinking I knew everything about myself and where I wanted to go with my life. Three years later, I realise that sometimes what you want can change".

The live events programme for Radical Creativity "highlights the versatility and skill of the cohort and offers a message of hope, courage, and resilience" says Dance lecturer Bryony Cooper.

"We commend the talented graduating class of 2022 on their achievements and resilience," Bryony says. "Despite all the hurdles, they have excelled in finding creative ways forward, supporting each other to achieve their very best".

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