MDX’s 2023 Creative Industries Degree Show Festival, titled Metamorphosis, has brought a kaleidoscope of colour to Hendon campus with more different kinds of programmes across Schools and Faculties represented than ever.
The exhibition, centred on the Grove Atrium, formed the backdrop to the BA Fashion Textiles and Design and BA Fashion Design runway show, screenings, and music, dance and theatre performances. Architectural Technology graduates were exhibited for the first time, alongside Product Design, Interior Architecture and Interior Design programmes in the Ritterman Building. Work from selected MA programmes was also showcased.
The physical show as a whole sits alongside the Creative Graduates website and hybrid elements as a platform for students’ work – paralleling the unique university experience of this year’s graduating cohort, most of whom started in the first year of the pandemic.
Events accompanying the show include industry workshops, with art licensee and materials supplier Royal Talens and with cultural and creative consultancy Space Doctors, the latter bringing together students from both design and science & tech programmes. In a tie-up with this month’s London Festival of Architecture, Royal Talens also sponsored a sketch walk around Hendon with architect and artist Nuno Pais.
Attendees at the Private View on Thursday 8th June included alumni from recent years, and prospective students visiting on an Open Day two days later toured the show.
Interim Head of the Department of Design Emma Dick said that in the Grove Atrium on the night of the Private View, “A buzz was in the air - a joyous, social feeling was going on. With theatre, dance, music performance, at the same time as a static exhibition and a fashion show, there was something for everybody”.
She praised this year's graduating cohort as "incredibly versatile. Their process of designing has been informed by so many different contexts and sensibilities”. In fashion and textiles specifically, she described the collections as “strong, playful and very, very confident [with] an incredible strong sense of self”.
The runway fashion show paraded models – mostly MDX students – across the Atrium to a circular stage like a giant upturned pastry shell or bottletop, where they posed singly and in groups of three. Textiles Design student Sapna Patel, whose work draws on South Asian styles and techniques such as fabric with reflective threads, said about the fashion show: “The team was lovely. It made me feel really proud – I wouldn’t have imagined I could create something like this”.
Graphic Design students Chiara Melchiorri, Natalia Mendes and Lina Lopez, who were chosen to produce the graphic identity for the show, say none of them could sleep the night the brief was presented, with everyone having a different reaction to the somewhat rarefied event name. But at the end of the process “we are really happy” with the design, says Lina.
The three friends, working together on a university project for the first time, split the word 'Metamorphosis' into three parts to represent the digital, hybrid and “organic” stages of their university experience, and manipulated the letter shapes. They used a filter to give a pixelated effect letters in the first syllable and hand drew the end of the word with an inky flourish, also adding a pixelated scissors icon as an instantly recognisable symbol to the design.
Then they animated the text for display screens to make it “repetitive - but not in a way it gets boring,” says Natalia, and so it also “doesn’t overwhelm the work of the students, and works with the colours of the walls". Chiara says there were many iterations from the original design presented to the final product, and the tasks involved in the commission were “a nice way to get into a real job".
Fine Art student Leon Westbroek, of Iranian-Dutch-Ghanaian heritage, has developed an artistic practice creating room-size installations, based on detailed research. His final year project is inspired by Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon and explores the ideas of imprisonment and surveillance in China, Iran and North Korea. Leon says that having originally studied Foundation at MDX in 2019-20, “the pandemic made me more determined”. This autumn, he will embark on RCA’s MA Sculpture course.
“MDX nurtures everything unique about you” says Games Design student Tarik Clavier, whose final project is an eclectic two-screen game where you can enter enemies’ minds to read their thoughts. Coursemate Mateusz Stopczanski, who with teammates has created the tutorial of an intricate tarot-based game, says MDX is supreme for creative collaboration. “It’s amazing to work with other artists. We’re on the third floor - if I need 3D artists or animators, it’s door to door”.
Animation student Zalika English has hugely enjoyed making all the figures and objects for a cute-turns-cartoonishly gruesome stop-motion animation - including a miniature meat grinder in the metal workshop. She praises MDX for “amazing facilities and a really beautiful campus, students [who are] really enthusiastic” and staff with “genuine interest in the work, and how I’d develop it”.
Photography student Elena Cornila, who was previously working as a freelance photographer in her native Romania, said studying her programme represented “a step up” because of the academic discipline it offered, and that she was delighted about meeting “a tonne of talented people from other departments”. Lia Fairhead, also studying Photography, with a project documenting a relative living off-grid in a caravan, says tutors “want to know you, as well as help you with your work. I’m going to miss it!”
“Metamorphosis draws attention to the ways in which the creative forces at work in our students’ practice have been informed by a constantly changing learning environment designed in response to the pandemic,” says Graduate Show co-ordinator and Head of the Department of Visual Arts, Dr Bharain Mac an Bhreithiun.
“From online, to hybrid, to campus, these students’ work is a testimony to a changing working environment, and a celebration of the creative impulse that triumphs over the forces of disruption. These students have learned to become shapeshifters and their journey has been one of constant change and negotiation with the powerful headwinds of the external environment.
“Metamorphosis also celebrates changes underway in the shape of our Faculty, particularly the imminent launch of three new Schools, of Arts, Design and Film. We are emerging as a new creative lifeform”.