Interdisciplinary Workshop: Dryden Goodwin
By Susan Collins, on 25 January 2011
The aim of my five-day workshop was to create a discursive environment centred around the process of translating into artworks, experiences of distinctive locations discovered by the 12 participating students in their incredibly dynamic city of Dhaka.
To mix up different sensibilities and approaches I asked the students to work in pairs, it was important that each pair was made up of students from different disciplines, each a different combination from the various areas of the school. At each stage of the project a deconstruction of the process was essential, discussing their discoveries with the rest of the group, Lala Rukh Selim, Duke and myself. The key stages they moved through were Observing, Capturing, Processing and Presenting. They were encouraged to consider these stages separately but importantly how each stage had an impact and influence on the others.
For the purposes of the workshop I encouraged the students to extend their usual processes of working, allowing the specifics of what they encountered in their locations guide their choice of combinations of media. Within these lightly defined parameters the pairs developed strategies to enable them to translate and distil their experiences and observations of locations as diverse as a historic ruin, encroached on by the ever expanding building developments, an intensive factory workshop for the weaving of material to make clothes to supply the large department stores and a traditional tea stall, one among the thousands across Dhaka, often a place of meeting and conversation. Encouraged to be responsive to a matrix of oppositions such as -light/dark, moving/still, fast/slow, ascending/descending, symmetrical/ asymmetrical, claustrophobic/agoraphobic etc – each pair, through close observations and discussion, began to unravel the complexities of their chosen situation. Initially time was spent just observing, note-taking, drawing, identifying and discussing the different activities, dynamics, movements, emotions, qualities of light, space, time, colour, sounds etc. They were asked to consider what is distinctive about their location? What is obvious? What are the more subtle characteristics? What oppositions and contrasts have they observed and experienced? What were the most effective means, methods and media to capture, process and present these oppositions?
As each pair discussed and negotiated the materials they had collected and brought back to the studio their distinctive approaches began to emerge. It was exciting to witness and engage with how each pair found ways to navigate their chosen location; the activities they discovered, the people they encountered and the relationships and oppositions they focused on. Each pair became immersed in a process of translating, distilling conscious of engaging a viewer in their discoveries.
As they followed through the logic of their developing ideas, the scale of their task to realise their ambitions in the five-day duration became apparent. They met this challenge with real dynamism, their enthusiasm and energy igniting the interests of other students from the faculty and suddenly more than 50 students were involved, helping, for example, to manufacture wooden structures, edit videos, print photographs, wire up an outside light installation. Working through the night the studios and outside sculpture areas were a scene of industrious invention.
When the exhibition was opened up to the rest of the school and the public, five projects were realised inside the studio and one outside. The intensity of how the students engaged with the workshop was born out in the realisation of their completed pieces; there was a real sense of concentrated resolve and exploration. The responses of the visitors to the exhibition opened up further discussions and reflections on the discoveries that had been made during these 6 investigative journeys. A real excitement came from the resourcefulness and sense of purpose shown by each student’s responses to the workshop, pointing to future explorations and projects.
The way we conceive of our environment does not always reflect reality. This is probably due to the lack of deep observation. I was confronted by this conflict when I participated in Dryden Goodwin’s workshop which made me more aware of my surrounding environment. At the same time it has opened up new ways for me to prepare myself before I make my artwork.
Sadatuddin Ahmed Amil, Department of Drawing and Painting, MFA 1st Part
Dryden was able to bring out the artist in us by challenging us in the way he guided us through the workshop.
Manabendra Ghosh, Department of Sculpture, MFA 1st Part
If seen from a different perspective, if a particular process is followed and the subject is presented in a different way, whatever the medium may be, the commonplace can become art. What? Why? How? We went through many questions to unify what the two of us experienced separately to create a new subject. This process plays a part in the way I now think about my work.
Nadia Yeasmin, Department of Printmaking, MFA 1st Part
The Interdisciplinary Workshop for Artists constantly made us think in greater detail about subjects, objects, and ourselves.
Shammi Akter Sumi, Department of Drawing and Painting, MFA 1st Part
Sumon Wahed and I presented the folk art of Bangladesh in our project done for Dryden’s workshop. We focused on the tea stall to show the distinction that folk art has retained in the present.
Md. Zahid Hossain, Department of Printmaking, MFA 1st Part
Participation in Dryden’s workshop was a new experience in my academic studies. I think that the way is different and more effective from the academic method followed in our institution. He inspired us to study and work in a controlled and methodical way which has played a positive role in my work. This has brought a qualitative change in my selection of subject, concept development and presentation.
Imam Hossain Sumon, Department of Sculpture, MFA 1st Part
Any small or big subject or element can be the subject of art. Dryden’s workshop helped us develop the eye to look around us in greater depth. Because we looked for elements from our surroundings, the work done for the workshop took on a local character.
Shimul Datta, Department of Sculpture, MFA 1st Part
The interesting thing about the process was that the students discovered their own potentials, they were challenged to be articulate and they rose to the challenge. They created a marvellous group of work in groups of two, each from a different department, sharing their ideas and skills. I was amazed at the amount of hard work that they put in and the support and cooperation they got from their fellow students. The otherwise rather messy third floor studio of the Sculpture Department was transformed by the exhibition of their work.