Wednesday 20 March 2013

A broader vision

Image interpretation activity Image interpretation activity University of Westminster

Broad Vision is an interdisciplinary art/science collaboration project at the University of Westminster, UK, now in its 3rd Year. On 28 February, GV Art gallery hosted the launch of the latest publication to emerge from the Broad Vision art/science team - Broad Vision 2 : Inspired by... Images From Science. The book showcases the work of students and educators from the second year of the Broad Vision project, connecting students from across the arts and sciences, and discusses the educational philosophy at the heart of the project.



The event featured a huge wall size print proof showcasing the book in its entirety, an exhibition of selected artworks, and a number of interactive activities. These various elements aimed to give visitors an insight to the project, with the artworks and book representing some of the final outputs, and the activities showing the importance of the teaching, learning, research and experimentation that occurs within the project.

Activities included smoke vortex ring generation; visual communication exercises; and a workshop showing how to make DNA models out of sweets; and as such spanned the fields of bioscience, illustration, physics and photography. Notably, they were all designed, organised and delivered by Broad Vision students, mirroring the first stage within the Broad Vision syllabus, where students are presented with the challenge of planning and presenting a taster session on a subject within their field, to students from other disciplines.

Within the project, this has the positive effects of opening students up to the idea that the roles of educator and student are not set in stone, and it also helps students to realise that their discipline is valuable and interesting to others, something that can sometimes be forgotten when the majority of a university week is spent in the sole company of those studying the same discipline.

Overall, the project aims to encourage conversations between students from different disciplines from across the university, and in turn encourage collaborative work, but it is made clear from the beginning that there is no formal requirement to create a collaborative output in the traditional sense, and that collaboration can also mean just discussing ideas or gaining inspiration from the ideas around you.

Following the student-led sessions, groups of common interest are gently coerced into existence, this year through an exercise involving a set of giant brainstorms where students contributed thoughts freely and with minimal verbal discussion. The most prominent subjects on these brainstorms were then concentrated into smaller groups, and ideas for projects began to grow out of discussion. Since formal collaboration is not enforced, students do not feel pressured to work on a single project, or even to act solely within a single subject group.

As projects form within the groups, the course leaders act quickly to cater training sessions and specialist talks to the subjects being explored, with a certain level of study away from the classroom unavoidable and expected at this stage. From a student's perspective, this is considerably less irksome than it might be for other modules, as students are working on a project that they themselves have defined from the beginning, with only very loose rules as to what the outcome might be.

Katerina Nylas, Colour perception c/o University of Westminster

As a participant twice over in the Broad Vision project, I can say that I have found this incredibly empowering. In other modules I might be given an option between several different projects, or free reign to work on a project within one area. With Broad Vision, I could work on a project that was representative of what I found interesting, and what truly motivated me. And all of this with the greatest spread of resources imaginable; being such a cross disciplinary project as this is, students are able to gain access to a huge range of facilities and educators, as well as the knowledge and experience of their new peer connections.

At the start of the project the outcomes are a total unknown (one of the things that makes Broad Vision so exciting) and the project outputs vary dramatically, even within a single year. One consistent characteristic is to share these outputs in a public forum, and Broad Vision has so far produced several exhibitions, presented at symposiums and produced multiple publications, including the book launched last week. As with most of the project’s outputs, Inspired by… Images from Science was co-authored by Broad Vision students, providing a lasting legacy for the project and enormously valuable professional experience for students.

The current cycle of the art/science learning programme - Broad Vision 3: Data, Truth & Beauty - is at a stage where project outputs are in development through interdisciplinary collaboration. And whilst we’re still not exactly sure what will emerge from the process, the results of our experiments and exchanges will be shared publicly, at GV Art, 23-30th May 2013 - a date for the diaries.

Many thanks to GV Art for their support and collaboration in hosting the Book Launch for Broad Vision: Inspired by… Images from Science.

Danny Garside is a student of Photographic Science and has participated in two cycles of the Broad Vision project. For more information please visit the Broad Vision website; follow @broad_vision; or email project lead This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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