Honours students from Abertay University’s School of Arts, Media and Computer Games once again set up shop at their annual platform, demonstrating their final year projects and portfolios to the public, tutors, fellow students, and potential employers. With an all-too-brief window of time in the afternoon in which to explore, I was only able to view the work of the students who will be graduating with degrees in Visual Communication and Media Design, Creative Sound Production, and Music Performance. Even so, this small sample of the graduate body shows an impressive array of talent.
The first exhibit I came to also happens to be a prize winner – namely, the SEGA Award for Interactive Sound Design. Harmonious World is an enjoyably eccentric musical instrument on the surface, comprising a series of wooden poles with various metallic sensors attached and linked in turn to computer software by wires; underneath, the software created by Alex James (not the bass player of Blur, as far as I know) combines the user’s touch inputs to create a multi-layered soundscape. Further down the corridor, I engaged in conversation with Michael Stuart, whose own project aims to bring “nightclub aesthetics in to bedroom environments” – a programme that elaborates on Windows Media Player-style visual effects, producing LED colour displays in a wood-and-tracing-paper frame. Stuart suggested that the prototype on display might eventually become a viable product for sale as a table lamp with sockets for MP3 player plug-in, or even as a table itself.
In the first “glass room” on the second floor, Charlotte McDonnell’s stall immediately catches the attention – a collage of provocative activism posters, such as one highlighting the plight of modern slaves (“Four years for your Bachelor’s? We’ve worked thirty years for our masters.”); beyond this, Alexis Evans explores visual symbols of Hell, paying close attention to colour clichés in this regard, whilst Kevin McConville uses two animations of spinning cubes – one greyscale, one in colour – in a similar vein of chromatic analysis. Rebecca Leith has constructed a fascinating tablet app that educates on the subject of “Mindfulness”, and spoke to me about the efficacy of the project’s “gestalt”, in her words – the overall interplay of the images, text, controls and navigation designs.
As a wordsmith, the works of Hannah Kennedy and Kathryn Main are personal highlights. The former deconstructs poems, literary quotes and other passages of text, sorting the words into alphabetical order, arranging them in a circle, and drawing interconnecting lines to chart their original order. The latter has made a specialty of three-dimensional typography, “sculpting” old books into textual topographies, and making use of lasers to cut materials into tangible, corporeal words, including her business cards. The narrative-based project of Jordan McDowall also captured my attention; he explained to me how his project explores the challenges in adapting a sci-fi novel (Alastair Reynolds’s Pushing Ice) to an interactive medium, and his plans to produce a full-length space exploration game in time, complete with randomised events and auxiliary plot branches.
Melanie Daun’s project considers the overlaps between traditional and digital portraiture methods, from simple ink swirls to poly vector generations, via computer graphics that imitate pen-and-ink styles. Beside her, Callum Tosh is the artist behind another prizewinning installation – his collage of a diverse range of loading symbol graphics playing simultaneously in a short video projection, and a parody of an iPhone home screen in a clever lenticular print, takes the HMC Award for Best Curation of Project Space.
With time growing short, I glean what I may from the other “glass room” – audio projects on everything from hypothesised rules for transforming any Western music into smooth jazz (Jordan Hope) to “An Exploration of Northern Soul Music and Its Effect on Northern Working Class Communities Between 1970 and 1974” (Jordan Russell-Hall), via podcasting techniques, synthesising drum loops to reproduce other instruments, and “madrigal andragogy”. A showcase of extraordinary diversity and talent, Abertay maintains its excellent reputation in digital arts.