Asbestos Streams, Reading School of Art Degree Show // Class of 2020

On Friday 5 June 2020 at 17:00 GMT, our graduating students hosted an exciting LIVE event filled with art, entertainment and conversation. They closed the event with a Q&A session and responded to comments and questions from the audience.  

The students have shown resilience in adapting to the pandemic and have managed to produce inspiring, resourceful and creative artworks during challenging times. The students used the event as a platform to take a stand on the Black Lives Matter Movement and the events occurring around the world in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. In discussing these imperative issues and sharing information and resources, the students make clear the need for us to listen, self-educate and take action where we can. We will share more about this in a separate post.  

Every June, final-year undergraduate and MA students showcase their work at the Reading School of Art Degree Show. This exhibition is a culmination of their time at Reading School of Art, bringing together up to four years of creative production in one final show. This year, our degree-show opening event took place online, on Facebook Live. Among the exhibits are paintings, sculptures, videos and performances staged in kitchens, hallways and gardens, reflecting how students have turned their homes into art studios and exhibition spaces. The opening event has so far received 4.4k views, both during and since the livestream. Viewers can respond in the chat window in Facebook, and the event attracted over 1.2k comments and questions throughout the livestream. 

Watch the opening event here:

The event is also available to view on the degree show website, where you can find out more about the exhibiting artists and their work. 

Throughout May, the students presented their work as daily takeovers and highlights on their Instagram channel @asbestos_streamsThe students have also created a degree-show archive presented on their YouTube channel Asbestos Streams. 

Here’s a glimpse of what the finalists have been working on: 

“Taut” by Jessica Choi. Performed by Antonia Stanley, Clémence Muller, and Jessica Wilson, filmed by Jessica Choi. 

“Due to the pandemic, I have had to modify various aspects of my performance. White walls become curtains draped with fabric, while audience participation becomes closely controlled interactions. While this experience is not ideal, it gives a refreshing personal touch to all our artworks, demonstrating how art thrives even through times of turmoil.” – Jessica Choi, BA Art and English Literature.

“Last Message” by El Martin. Blender 3D animation. 

“During my four years studying at Reading School of Art, my artistic practice has developed from paint, to sculpture, textiles, wood and digital; I benefited greatly from workshops run by staff and other students and this helped me find my own process.” – El Martin, BA Art and Film.

“It’s Not Just Hair,” by Khadija Niang. Video, sound, painting. 

“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I have created my piece in a virtual exhibition space. In an actual exhibition space, the sound piece would have been played out loud, the voices of the women depicted in the portraits dominating the space. My diptych film, “Confession Salon/Bedroom Confession,” would have been shown alongside one another on flat-screen TVs. The audience is invited to watch the individual videos and listen to the audio through headphones, creating an intimate experience between the audience and the piece. Whilst this has been a strange and unsettling time to finish our art degree, I’ve been amazed at how quickly we’ve been able to adapt as a collective. I’m proud of the work my year group has been able to produce and that despite the circumstances, we’ve been able to put together a show to celebrate the culmination of four years of art.” – Khadija Niang, BA Art and English Literature.

Instagram Takeover by Rae Clark. 

 “I’m used to our fantastic studio space and workshop, not to mention the brilliant teaching fellows to help me troubleshoot, but I’ve had so many Zoom calls with them, both to help me with work but also to stay in contact. I found that the personal, domestic setting really added to the vulnerability and softness in my work, which is so personal already. I’m really interested in the ways we situate ourselves in our bodies, in our homes and in the wider world. We often forget that we aren’t just lonely individuals all the time, we’re a part of our surroundings, even in quarantine.” – Rae Clark, BA Art and English Literature.

Instagram takeovers by Jess Tomlin, Clémence  Muller, Amy Ngo, Jennifer Starnes. 
Instagram takeovers by Ed Lewis, Will Fowler, Romaisa Bhatti. 
Instagram takeovers by Clémence Muller, Khadija Niang, Jessica Choi. 

Selected comments and questions shared by the audience during the degree show event: 

“Have really enjoyed watching this emerge in your process pics on Instagram … Am so impressed in how this lockdown has expanded artworks & horizons into architecture and place” – Julie Brixey-Williams 

“Fantastic show, an amazing example of moving the artworld online!” – Daisy Dixon 

“such a creative take on lockdown life!!! LOVE IT” – Serena Isabel

“You should do this every year!” – Maud Bankhead 

“This cohort has shown how adaptable, versatile and imaginative they are. The world is waiting for you all. Well done 👍” – Bernadette Watkins 

“I have been watching many smaller and large galleries/institutions and few have responded to the Covid-19 closures as well as these students have. Genuinely a massive congratulations for this work!” – Youssra Manlaykhaf

“so thoughtful to the format … connection in a time of disconnect … removing the ideas of traditional art presentation … I cant wait to show some of my students this work. It will blow their minds of whats capable … How much did changing scale, using different materials change the work? Was there initial panic? How did you get through it? Do you think its helped prepare you for post uni life?” – Tyka Epik

“like honestly my jaw is on the floor this is flawless!” – Rosanna McNamara

“It’s so interesting and impressive seeing this all come together. I would love to read about the different ways people have adapted” – Jakob Em

“I think this is a great format reading should be soooo proud. Leading the way in degree shows 2020 ❤️ … I wonder how many students would swap this for a physical degree show? I think being part of this is far more valuable than a traditional degree show … I love the swap out from white cubes to living spaces and gardens.” – Erik Weisz 

“I would love to be able to do this, UoR art department have so much talent” – Megan Budgen

“Well done to all! Great to see such a diverse range of creativity.” – Charles Glover 

“Loved the show – super slick & work is really strong all round. Well done to everyone involved with putting it together!!” – Jake Pollock 

“Do you guys intend to do something like this in the future? It’s been lovely to have access in trying circumstances.” – Zak Stinchcombe 

“I think this should definitely be considered alongside a live event – it’s great!!!” – Caroline Fowler 

“Would be interesting to know how much original ideas had to be adapted (if at all) cos of lockdown” – Abi Gail 

“Do you feel that you have more control and confidence in what you are showing via this online platform vs what would have been the IRL degree show? What do you think the benefits are to us as the viewers/consumers? … Did the new limitations of space and facilities enable you to work through your practice more clearly and how did that help or enable you as an artist?” – Adam Stead

“Did the students have any instructions for their work due to the lockdown?” – Céline Muller 

“Do you think the cover pandemic will have a permanent effect on the way art is produced and displayed?” – John Russell

All our students and staff are continuing to experiment with different art making materials and processes during lockdown. Watch this space for more exciting projects as we plan to make best use of our expansive green campus for innovative socially distanced teaching.  

Follow our Reading School of Art Instagram @unirdg_art and the hashtag #rsaathome to see how we are keeping our studio spirit thriving.  

You can also like and follow our Facebook page @unirdgart / Art at the University of Reading 

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