Gallery: Unit X Festival 2017

Images provided by staff from Manchester School of Art

Following a truly fantastic week of events, below is a gallery of images from this year’s Unit X Festival, along with photographs from activities and events that happened during the Unit.


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Unit X Exhibition 2016

Words by Ayah Alshami, Ayesha Mirza and Houda Kaddouh

We have just celebrated the fifth year of Unit X in style with a truly fantastic exhibition of our student collaborations. The exhibition was held at London Scottish House, an ordinary office block transformed by inspirational work ranging from the modern era to classic renaissance compositions.

The students’ work was displayed using an array of techniques, each uniquely developed to the subject matter. From compositions to full office installations, the building was brought to life in the most brilliant of fashions.

Second year students from Illustration with Animation, Creative Multimedia and Fine Art Curating collaborated with renowned composer Peter Byrom-Smith who composed incredible short pieces for each student, which were played live by a 12-piece orchestra. Each animation spoke an intimate story, from the threats of biodiversity, to a Native American folk tale about a grasshopper and a cricket, produced with puppets! Each live performance felt like a personalised experience, as though you were being let into a little secret. It was definitely not one to miss, the energy in the room was incredible and the performance set a wonderful tone for the rest of the evening.

‘I was challenged to work in disciplines that I wouldn’t usually consider exploring’

Tapping into Manchester’s Year of Science, first year Textiles in Practice and Three Dimensional Design students were involved in a project entitled ‘Art Meets Science’. In groups students deliberated on how science and technology have reformed methods in representing the body. Visitors were encouraged to look at every detail within the various fabrics. The embroidered pieces were particularly delicate and intricate. Students also strategically laid out their sketchbooks next to their exhibits, and it was lovely to see the creative process from start to finish.

‘Working with people with other skills gave me the opportunity to produce a product that looks more complete. My ceramic vessels look a lot more interesting with the textiles features.’

On the second floor, work by Filmmaking, Animation and Photography students, expressed their brief with pieces relating to the English National Ballet, thereby accompanying the world premiere of Giselle, choreographed by the renowned Akran Khan, which will be performed in September. This had the audience walking through a series of projectors, much like an American drive-in movie theatre, except that one was able to navigate through many different movies in the same space.

Property developer Bruntwood asked students to develop original ideas for hoardings to surround the new Circle Square development on Oxford Road, and reimagine spaces within Blackfriar’s House.

As we become infatuated with the advancement of Manchester’s development, it is crucial that we are able to reassess how we occupy the city.

By working on this brief, students had to pitch, create proposals and liaise with Bruntwood representatives to develop their own ideas.

Unit X has continuously proven to be ingenious and resourceful.

The work produced was extremely professional and I could easily see any of these designs being cultivated in Manchester.

Another enterprising brief involved developing 12 looks for client James Long, who has quickly become one of the most sought after fashion designers. Long has recently won the Fashion Forward Award, an initiative set up to promote emerging design talent, a wonderful opportunity for those who selected to undertake the Fashion brief for their Unit X project. Students experimented with different materials such as foam, and produced sample pieces alongside sketches. The exhibit attracted many visitors who came to marvel at all the bright colours and exaggerated shapes. The students curated each outfit with aesthetics very much at the forefront of contemporary fashion.

Out of the four floors of installations and art, it would be impossible to choose a favourite, however first year students from Fashion, Fashion Art Direction, Interactive Arts and Interior Design definitely came close. This collaboration played with ideas of temptation and escapism, creating environments that heightened your senses and immersed you into alternative surroundings. Students experimented with different materials and delved into themes surrounding the question ‘Can space affect your behaviour?’. Each installation evoked feelings from the public, be it tranquillity, or an unsettling sense, as each atmosphere was unpredictable, flicking quickly from one emotion to another.

‘It was challenging to work with courses that work in a completely different way to how we work. I am doing Interactive Arts and working with Fashion students that are used to strict timescales and deadlines, I felt pressured in a productive way. I had to make quick decisions and be selective with my ideas.’

For me, the highlight of the evening had to be the educator workshop. A student who had worked on this project explained that students from a variety of courses had worked together to develop and deliver engaging workshops in public settings. Most of the students who chose this option would like to go on to work in schools.

It was therapeutic to escape from the busy exhibition, have a chance to unwind and make pompom key-rings, and visitors were able to create their own collaborative piece by throwing darts at paint filled balloons.

Overall, I was exceptionally overwhelmed with the high standard of quality, professionalism and how the eclectic mix of courses harmonized. It was truly interesting to see how everyone approached each notion in a different way. Students have raised the bar, and expectations next year will be high. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Unit X 2017!

‘As an alumni of the Three Dimensional Design course at Manchester School Of Art, the Unit X exhibition is always a highlighted date in my calendar. It is just incredible to see how the students developed their unique approaches to the collaborative briefs this year resulting is this phenomenal transformation of the London Scottish House in the city centre. It is notable that the standard of the work across all courses is creeping up each year. The experience from the initial introduction to the unit through to the final exhibit is invaluable for the students careers beyond university.’

‘From the inspiring talks, trips and workshops to the opportunity of engaging with an external organisation, Unit X offers the perfect package for students to experience working as a creative in the real world.’  

You can access a gallery of works from the exhibition here.

There are also lots of posts detailing the processes our students went through to get to the exhibition here.



Gallery: Unit X Final Show 2016

Images provided by Staff & Students from Manchester School of Art, and visitors

This year’s final exhibition was a perfect end to a truly full on ten weeks for our students. The standard of collaborative work produced seems to improve year on year, and we are incredibly proud to share their results with you.

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Option 7: Publishing

Words: Abi Goodman

Option 7_1

Last week we caught up with Second year students who have undertaken Option 7: Publishing as their Unit X project this term. Students have had a busy 10 weeks which have included: a day-long workshop with Studio Dumbar; lectures from 4Creative, Human After All, Hey Studio and Mucho from Barcelona; the opportunity to take on an individual project concerning a new concept store in Berlin for Topman (which could lead to internship opportunities for some); and working in groups to develop and pitch a magazine in response to words drawn out of a hat.

Students on the BA (Hons) Graphic Design course have been joined by students from BA (Hons) Three Dimensional Design, BA (Hons) Creative Multimedia and BA (Hons) Illustration with Animation.

This week you will be able to see the Kickstarter films and AO posters generated by each group promoting their magazines at this year’s Unit X finale. Last week we had a sneaky peak at the work of selected groups who had been chosen to present to industry professionals Paul Willoughby (Human Afterall), Steve Watson (Stack Magazines) and Rob Walmsey of Teacake.

Of the groups we saw:

  • The word ‘Danger’ was turned into a magazine called ‘Milk’ chronicling tales of obsession and weird habits;
  • The word ‘Uncut’ was turned into a high quality volume called ‘Curious’ of which issue One was concerned with censorship and secrecy; whilst
  • The word ‘Chaos’ inspired the playful ‘Disarray’ which took the six degrees of separation theory to explore subjects ranging from bungee jumping to the Glaswegian icecream wars.

Before the pitches we got chatting to team ‘Danger’ and team ‘Uncut’ who described the Unit X experience as follows:

“It has been a pretty smooth experience working as a group. We established a style early on. We knew we wanted to be illustrative and typographic and worked out a colour scheme.” (Team Uncut)

“It has been a bigger task so we’ve divided up roles and spooled ideas together” (Team Danger)

We were also fortunate to talk to Rob Walmsely who explained that he set up Teacake with two of his peers in his second year at Manchester School of Art and has been working within the studio for the last 5 years. His top tips for students were to be professional, work as a team, support each other, say ‘yes’ to everything and most importantly to:

“Work hard and be nice to people, you never know who knows who and where it might lead.”

Option 5 (Archive/ Imagined Museum)

We’re in for a musical treat at this year’s Unit X exhibition launch!

Peter Byrom-Smith has composed 19 new short pieces (between 30 secs – 2 mins) for each second year student who chose the animation project within Option 5 (Out of the Archive/Imagined Museum). The Option 5 project is all about revealing narratives within archives. Liverpool orchestra are currently rehearsing the pieces and a 12-piece orchestra will perform these specially composed pieces live during a half-hour set at the Unit X exhibition.

We caught up with staff member Eleanor Mulhearn to find out more….

Words: Eleanor Mulhearn

The project began with musician Peter Byrom-Smith meeting students and visiting two archives with them, that of the entomology department at Manchester Museum, and MMU’s very own Special Collections. Second year students working on the project are from BA (Hons) Illustration with Animation, BA (Hons) Creative Multimedia and BA (Hons) Fine-Art Curating.

At Manchester Museum students went behind-the–scenes to view a collection of insects selected by curator, Dmitri Logunov, (chosen for the potential of the specimens to unfold narrative responses). These narratives focused, amongst others, on mimicry, pollution and climate change affecting insects. Dmitri has since been helping students with their ongoing research. The second archive visit was made to MMU special Collections’ Victorian ephemera. Curators Jeremy Parrett and Louise Clennell introduced the group to the Harry Page Victorian scrapbooks, focusing on specific items linking thematically and materially to entomology and animation – items such as the exquisitely detailed silhouette books, the Butterfly Book and botanical sketchbooks.

Following the visits, the student group discussed their ideas with Pete and each student outlined their project idea. Responses were broad, ranging from concern for habitat loss, to native American Indian narratives including grasshoppers, to Victorian feminist literature. Pete suggested which instruments might work best for the tone of each of these individual projects and then went away to write them. Students are currently working to the music, to produce individual animations to be projected with the live performance.

“I took the opportunity from the first archive visit to arrange another one having chosen my narrative. The head of the entomology department at Manchester museum Dmitri picked out some interesting specimens of South American grasshoppers and crickets to draw and base my characters on. Composer Peter Byrom-Smith composed a beautiful 1 minute piece for my project proposal ideas, which fits with my narrative perfectly.” (Eva Akesson, Second Year, Illustration with Animation Student)

Lord Whitney Workshop Gallery

Following on from the fantastic two day workshop delivered by Lord Whitney last week, below is a selection of images of students collaborating and engaging with the project.

Images by Gemma McKay, Susan Platt,Ian Whadcock, Lord Whitney 

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