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Communicating without words: the power of art as a tool of expression

news editor24 October 2013

pencil-iconWritten by Maria Black, retired UCL clinical linguist

The exhibition at the Lumen Gallery

What would you do if a stroke or head injury robbed you of your ability to communicate verbally? How would you preserve your sense of self and connection to the world if understanding language became unreliable, your speech disappeared, or your capacity to read and write shrank?

‘Communicating without words’, an innovative exhibition organised by the UCL Communication Clinic, offers us a unique opportunity to explore these questions through the art and experiences of artists with language and communication difficulties. The free exhibition takes place  from 14-29 October 2013 in The Lumen Gallery.

Although aphasia affects more than 367,000 people in the UK and aphasiology is a well-established multi-disciplinary research field, there is little public awareness of this condition, which can occur at any age.

The artworks in this exhibition, together with an excellent guide and video interviews with four of the artists, directly show us how we can find new means of communication, even when we are lost for words.

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Drawing over the colour line

news editor22 October 2012

Florence Mills by Alexander Stuart-Hill, 1927.

Written by Henry Green, intern with UCL Communications

For the uneducated, and I would very much plonk myself in that sprawling mass, awareness of the story of black and Asian people in the UK is patchy at best: jumping from slavery to post war immigration without too much in between.

As such, it was a real treat to attend this lecture, in which Dr Caroline Bressey (UCL Geography) ably used photographs, artwork and letters to illuminate the role that Black and Asian people played in the changing social, cultural and political scenes emerging in interwar London.

Her research has made full use of UCL’s gargantuan collection of paintings, collages and sketches, and some of these works featured on beautifully printed postcards distributed outside the lecture theatre. These were a welcome change from the usual bundle of black and white lecture notes and set the tone for a fascinating and visually stimulating hour.

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Fearful Symmetries: a robotic performance at Tate Modern

Clare S Ryan24 August 2012

Credit: Simon Kennedy

Fearful Symmetries is a new robotic installation by Ruairi Glynn (UCL Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment), commissioned for the Tate’s Undercurrent programme at their new Tanks gallery. Clare Ryan went to see the performance live.

In the bowels of Tate Modern, an industrial cave, hidden for decades, has been awakened. As the crowd chatters expectantly outside the Tanks gallery, something lies in wait behind heavy doors.

The audience file into the cavernous space and turn to see a bright triangular light floating in the middle of the room, in stark relief against the dense darkness in the concrete tank. As we start to gather around the angular orb, it begins to slide back and forth – activated by our arrival.

Deep bass sounds bounce off the walls and the almost animal-like motions of the light captivate us. Clapping, whistling, waving audience members try and attract its attention. Murmurs of intrigue join the resonating beats – can it see us? Can it hear us? Is it motion sensitive?

As it hovers above your head, you gaze upwards and reach out your hands as the pointed, glowing orb takes you in. Guiding the audience around the space, it is playfully encouraging us to become a part of the performance.

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Peter Cook: Designing for Students

David R Shanks15 December 2011

My final blog article of the semester responds to architect Sir Peter Cook’s Lunch Hour Lecture on the subject of designing for students. Despite being in the wrong city at the time, I managed to attend by watching the live stream, furiously typing notes while trying to eat lunch in the spirit of the occasion.

Before studying at UCL, I had been an ardent admirer of Sir Peter Cook’s work as part of the Archigram group, and of his subsequent drawings and writing. At the UCL Bartlett School, where he had been Chair and Professor of Architecture until 2005, an influence still loomed large, with most of the tutors having studied under his watchful eye.

This reputation was largely predicated upon his output of ‘paper architecture’ and the strength of revolutionary ideas in architectural education, rather than on built work. If the construction of the Kunsthaus in Graz (2003), a collaboration with Colin Fournier, was an exception to these more academically-orientated pursuits, the formation of CRAB studio, in partnership with Gavin Robotham, signified a commitment to testing spectacular, playful thinking in a commercially driven environment.

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