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The Turner Prize is cancelled but the coronavirus pandemic is not stopping the next generation of Liverpool artists from show-casing their talents.
Around 250 graduating students from Liverpool John Moores University are putting the final touches to the School of Art & Design Degree Shows, which open on June 5 and June 25.
Although the Class of 2020 will be exhibiting virtually and not in physical venues, the staging was never in danger of being cancelled, according to Professor Caroline Wilkinson, who heads an institution rated one of the top 10 art schools in England.
“Contrary to the view that art exhibitions are impossible in the current situation, we saw it as a challenge for creative thinking,” she said.
With limited access to studios, workshops, machinery, or even basics like paints and cloth, the graduating students in Fine Art, Architecture, Fashion and Graphic Design & Illustration have had to think outside the box and reimagine their exhibits digitally.
“Artists are used to dealing with strange exhibition environments; it is part of their training,” says leader in fine art, Rory Macbeth. “Prior to lockdown, our group exhibited in a venue where they had to couldn’t put anything on the walls or plug anything in. It was just a different set of circumstances to deal with and so is this.”
In architecture, the annual virtual walk through format has been ramped up to a full immersive experience, allowing virtual visitors to deep dive into the detail of projects. “What we’re doing goes above and beyond what other architecture programmes are doing in the UK,” says subject head Ian Wroot. The Architecture Shows – BA and MA – start a little latter on June 25.
In fine art, visitors can wander virtually around the exhibition and see an actual show of all the students’ work together prior to lockdown. Each artwork in the show acts as a further portal to that student’s current work, and to websites and further examples of their practices.
So it’s good news for students, who want their work to enjoy a longer shelf-life. “The situation has given us the opportunity to produce a platform with more longevity and accessibility, allowing for an international audience and something that will last beyond the summer timeframe of a degree show” explained Laura Parke, programme leader in graphic design and illustration.
On Opening Nights there will be curated walk-throughs, recommended artworks on the site from leaders in the art world, and prizes selected by the Directors of Tate Liverpool, FACT and Liverpool Biennial, along with a series of residency prizes at the Royal Standard, CBS studios and Bidston Observatory.
The LJMU Fashion Show this year has gone virtual, and will be hosted on a variety of digital platforms by SevenStore, the creative retail space in the Baltic Triangle. The SEVEN-LJMU partnership series also includes Instagram takeovers and editorial features providing an industry stage for the class of 2020 to publish their work directly to the fashion pack.
“SEVEN is home to some of the world’s most prominent and relevant designers, it’s an amazing opportunity for our students to share that platform. We are so lucky that they chose to open on our doorstep,” stated Andrew Ibi, the programme leader for fashion.
Added Caroline Wilkinson: “The Class of 2020 have had to be very inventive and pragmatic, and I think that by providing new infrastructure, they’ve refound their momentum and confidence as they go out into the professional world.”
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