Degrees of success: a guide for students
Richard Taylor looks at how Degrees unedited can be used as a platform that works to develop your professional skills: getting you the results you need whilst constructing an online edge to you practice.
What is Degrees unedited?
As a reciprocal device Degrees unedited welcomes your hungry mind and gives back in alliance with all levels of creative disposition. It covers the activities and developments of the creative student body in the majority of UK universities and colleges that offer undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.
By focusing on your work, experiences and ideas in the virtual sphere it concentrates on providing a professional public platform for you to write about, discuss, publicise and review your work in the lead up to degree show season.
"From here on in it all counts! So its now all engines go, pull out all the stops and peddle to the mettle..." Bernice Wilson, Central Saint Martins, UAL, 27 August 2009
Degrees unedited integrates professional development in three forms: Blogs, Reviews and Shows. The homepage posts your ideas in the right place at the right time acknowledging that you are the doer, maker, thinker and promoter, all crucial elements in your professional development. Think of it as a support structure for fluid curricular osmosis, absorbing varied working patterns and assimilating their validity across the UK and beyond.
Put yourself in the picture
"The online virtual environment is one of the best ways for artists to control how they want their work to be seen outside of a gallery space... it challenges ways in which artists think about who their audience is, it's potentially very egalitarian..." Michelle Rowley, tutor, Wirral Metropolitan College, 23 February 2010
With Degrees unedited you are the editorial focus, use the Blogs to build a profile for yourself and your peers. The site is accessible at any time so make a visual or textual online diary when you're at your most active, or reflective, whether you're piled beneath plaster in the workshop or buried in books deep in the library.
The blogosphere is a working space in which there is no set way of working, there is room to upload and remove content casting and recasting ideas at your discretion, so no fear of mistakes as they can always be un-published and re-defined.
- Start a blog in good time so that your own creative story has time to unfold.
- Create a focus (for example, your degree show), or structure to your blog. You might aim to write one entry a week over twenty weeks, revealing your journey from idea to completion. These devices help to anchor a narrative, and give you something within which to work.
- Be realistic in the time that you can devote to your blog.
- Reflect, analyse and pose questions, don't just describe.
- Remember what you write is in the public (and professional) domain: be professional, but write from the heart (and mind).
- Include images.
- Invite and exchange comment.
"The blog for me was a useful thing to persevere with; I'm intrigued with it as a very public way of discussing things...an interesting way of forcing you to think something through, portraying where you are at any given stage, even if you are confused or feeling negative." Fine Art graduate Dan Green in conversation with Richard Taylor in '# 36 blog posts and a Degree in hindsight', 2009,
The blog can be used as a form of direct reflection, or even the art itself:
"At present, the work I produce is cyclic the art is fundamentally about the blog, yet I'm blogging about the art..." Nathalie Bouleau Chabot, Blogger profile, 2009,
Reviews: create critique
"Mid-point has been and gone and now all I feel myself doing is writing and researching rather than making; I am seriously considering which is best..." (Carrie Jackson, Nottingham Trent University, 7 February)
For some, studying a practice-based degree is a realisation of how written criticality and research can be a more specific and measurable way forward. Reviews is the place for you to get critical with creativity.
The unedited aspects of a-n's website began in 2005 with the first user-generated critical reviews of degree shows. These allowed much wider coverage of fresh perspectives and new degree show work. The success of this user-generated material led to the development of Interface, a-n's online critical writing site. The link between Reviews and Interface continues with all Degrees Reviews being listed and accessible in the Interface archive.
Riding on the credibility of your institution only gets you so far; so get a head start now in developing working partnerships:
- Search for reviewers through Degrees unedited blogs and Interface in your area and invite them to review your show.
- Use Reviews to get your writing style out there.
- Ask a student at a different institution to review your degree, or student show look at the blogs for inspiration. These cross-institutional contacts may benefit you beyond graduation as you look to widen your pool of contacts and networks.
- Offer a review for a review: get someone from another city that has studied under a different 'regime' to visit your degree show and produce a review of your exhibition? What better way is there to establish and further working relationships beyond your citywide remit? In return you simply offer to do the same as your opinion counts just as much as theirs.
Listing Shows and how to advertise
Is it up to you or your university/college to take charge of the marketing of your degree show? The answer lies with how active you can be as a group of professionals, forwarding the potential of your work and advertising it effectively.
Many institutions now recognise the value of good marketing and listings of degree shows. Each year, the Degrees paper supplement is published alongside the May issue of a-n Magazine. The annual Degrees supplement is the only publication of its kind that is dedicated to degree show listings. All institutions that advertise in this supplement automatically receive a free entry in Degrees unedited Shows listings.
However, as a subscriber or student registered user, you can also post your own free listings for specific aspects of degree shows, or student exhibition projects on Shows. These also appear on Interface listings.
Promoting your degree show is an extra workload that takes management skills that some refine in to an art form. But you're good at the art so who's to say you're not set to market yourself just as well? So get involved. Form a student group to have a say in the marketing of your show.
Virtual exposure today matches paper publicity and publication. By generating a well-designed advert for Shows, you will be making a statement that promotes all the work you have put in to the exhibition.
Here are some hints and tips.
- Make the most of your visual audience the image can be anything from a piece of work to a simple, memorable graphic.
- Consider the image's message something too vague can be misleading, whereas anything too specific or representational of a singular artist in a group show can be unfair, this is particularly important for a degree, or interim show. It needs to be eye catching.
- Embed the key exhibition details within the image itself this then acts as a thumbnail alongside the text that you provide on the exhibition, most people click on the thumbnail and so the enlarged and searchable image comes up trumps.
- Be consistent use the graphics and image as part of an e-flyer that you can send to your own mailing listings.
- Always make a distinction in file format between the printed version of your flyer / image and your electronic version. Optimise the image for web viewing by saving the file as a GIF or as a PNG, make sure the file is set to 72 dpi, RGB colour. For your printed version make sure that the file is set to 300 dpi, CMYK colour and saved either as TIFF, JPG or PDF file.
- Keep the 'blurb' as short and sweet as possible, a listing needs to be a quick snippet to introduce the event.
- Entice the reader with a flavour of the show, this is not the place to go into great detail, save that for the press-release, or better the catalogue.
- Include a website link and a direct link to the press-release.
Richard is an artist/writer living in Edinburgh. He works as online editor on behalf of a-n The Artists Information Company for the Degrees unedited and Students community sites. He also produces art news for the a-n News site.
First published: a-n.co.uk April 2010
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