What is Unit X? A Student Perspective

Video produced by Danny Orwin

This year we have had a short film produced with some current students offering their perspectives on Unit X, and how their thoughts have changed since they were first introduced to it during their first year.

We hope you find it useful, and that it may answer any questions you have with regards to Unit X. Click on the link below and enjoy!

What is Unit X?


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.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Unit X Festival 2017 – Identical Lunch

Words & Images: Aimee Plumbley

Identical Lunch explored food and the act of preparing and eating food, and its intrinsic links to culture and society. Responses to the brief included a bust with quotes depicting anxiety and eating projected onto it; a short film illustrating the disconnect between meat and the animals it comes from; and an interactive green screen exhibition where the food acted as a canvas.

Thanks to the students who contributed for creating such thought-provoking, yet fun and engaging pieces.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Punk Workshop

Words: Aimee Plumbley

Images: Zoe Hitchen

Last week, level five students on the option three Punk project stream took part in a process led workshop held by graphic designer Malcolm Garrett, and stylist and art director Judy Blame. Malcolm and Judy are old school punks who studied in Manchester in the 1970s.


The students prepared research in advance of the workshop, which fed into a physical response to image and identity. The brief required students to ask questions such as ‘What inspires/ frustrates you?’ and ‘What do you feel a part of?’ to inspire their physical manifestations of punk.

Our students approached the brief from different perspectives, and the physical responses varied. Some of the ideas explored throughout the workshop included:

  • Punk and femininity acting as masks.
  • The commodification of punk and feminism. Especially conversation i.e. wearing the punk aesthetic, but not actually making any political statement.
  • Does punk still have currency? What is punk in 2017? In this world of hyper-reality, is making conversation with eye contact breaking the norm and rebelling? Could putting away our phones and in fact talking to one another be punk?

Malcolm explained the workshop was a unique opportunity for students to act unprofessionally in a professional setting, the punk aesthetic after all is supposed to be fun. The students were learning in a different style of learning as opposed to usual workshops at University.

“Punk encouraged personal expression and endorsed positive, personal intervention in society.”

We caught up with a second year Interactive Arts student who found the workshop “exciting”, and was inspired by the sense of community in collaborating with various creative students. She felt the workshop “allowed me to express how I’d like to present my work”, and was a welcome break from the academic model.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Inspirer Talk – Mark Price on Hester Reeve

Words: Aimee Plumbley

Mark Price is a Professor in Philosophy at Manchester Met, with an interest in visual arts. In particular, he has an interest in aesthetics, a sense of knowing is aesthetic knowledge i.e. sexuality , poetry, breathing.

“Pressure is put on young people to define their aesthetic before they’ve even grown it. Grow your practice first, then worry about what it’s called later.”

Hester Reeve has always resisted University, gallery art, auctions and the cannon of tradition and so on. The cannon refers to the traditional male artists who fathered the movement and isms, it’s something that can be pushed against.

“Art does not happen without resistance”.

Hester’s body of work includes sculptures, song, music and live performance

In the words of Joseph Boyes, Reeve’s art craft is a means of sculpting society. She works with what’s important at a specific time in place and in persons. Her conceptual persona, HRH, which evolved to highlight the contingency of language and embodiment and gender frame our politics.

“I don’t make political art. I make art Politically”

All art is fighting for or against something, whether it knows it or not.

Some of her work iscomprehensible, in terms of straight forward symbolism. Hester pulls on the phrase ‘the Cannon’. She is surrounded by toy cannons, holding a book on the history of art, it’s His story and not her story, a creative halo for those who stay inside the limits, the perimeter is real but the phallic symbol of the cannons are toys. To step outside of the cannon is to step outside the species recognised by traditional art.

When DADA goes into art galleries, punk is brought into mainstream fashion and rave culture is brought to radio 1, there is essentially a degeneration/ dilution of energies.

“A love of philosophy is key to my practice… most of my public work is about exploring the interactions between philosophy and art. I find   get caught up morally right or wrong or responsible, I’m not sure being responsible is part of or helps when it comes to art”

Hester’s work has Important links to witchcraft, shamanism, contact with demons, raising ideas to life channelling monstrous ideas from outside of normal art and normal feeling. Reeve’s work brings dead matter to life

“Most of my early work… was about activating matter, it wasn’t just about making art but how I live in the world. It’s about living in the world and knowing that everything has a chance to be vibrant and living around me… the structure and discipline of my work is about freeing up the forces that might allow that buzz to emerge”


“I don’t consider myself a live artist anymore… I probably was never a live artist. I don’t get cross at being called live artist or being misunderstood. Anyway, misunderstandings are interesting; if any art is rich enough they will always be interpreted and misinterpreted and all stations in between”

Not being understood is a key historical influence in Hester’s practice. Dadaism, the antiart movement, creative relation to performance and comodificationdada were all seen as cultural and political disgrace. It wanted to be in the face of society that consented the mass killing of the first world war dada-ers, and were considered to be moral monsters. Hester though suggests the monstrous might be in a superior position.

By 1910, people were picking up on the fact that whatever rationality is it’s not much in the way of survival value, it brought bombs and killing. Rationalism started a war over the death of some obscure arch duke by an anarchist not linked to any nation.

In the past, Hester’s work has been described as powerful, yet incoherent. It must be strange to be told your work is powerful, but incoherent.

‘What is this, art, or instructions from Ikea?’

Reeve’s work is not art for art critics, it’s art for the people on the streets or in the park.

Her largest work to date is Art in the park Ymedaca (academy backwards, it’s the opposite). Hester is comfortable with talking about high art concepts to non-specialists, and hosting dialogues with art in very unlikely places. Art is out in the world as opposed to a subject to be studied in the academy: to be tested, graded, commodified. She worked with groups like Hand Tool Users United, Royal British Legion, Yorkshire Men society Nudist group etc. They are not art specialists, the are members of the public. Ymedaca was a huge sculpture installation in a park. An example of what would occur in one day: an address to the rising sun, naked exercise, geometry, talks on philosophy and Plato, a symposium and so on. Reeve deliberately raises a serious set of issues about tensions concerning the way which art in the general sense is meant to fit in at University’s whose main concern is economic profit. Reeve profoundly questions our own work, our own university work and the entire economic enterprise:

“I’m not interested in my work being culturally significant efore I start…I don’t want the money for recognition, I want th money so I can make more art, and I’m definitely not going to change my work to sell things…”

Communitarian action and resistance of commodification.  Something of the scale of Ymedaca is impossible to commodify, even if you bought it where would you put it.

Hester’s work demands that we conduct our work outside of university, outside of galleries and the cannon- there are monsters outside the gallery, the universities. You should get out more and try to meet them.





Words by Hanieh Hazrati

Manchester Met’s Spectrum embarked on an exploration of art and science in response to a major international exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery.

Spectrum was a learner-curated gallery intervention in response to The Imitation Game, a major exhibition held as part of the European City of Science festival, which critically examines robots, computing, engineering, and the impact of such technology on our understanding of life.

The event brought together students from Manchester School of Art with those from the faculty of Science and Engineering, with the aim of expanding Manchester Met’s exploration of art-science practice through teaching and collaboration.

During the process students worked alongside professional artists, scientists, curators, gallery educators, and science communicators, as well as experiencing a range of tours and presentations from people including artist Tony Hall, who demonstrated his table top experiments with Ferro fluid and ink, and Professor Andy Miah who delivered his experiences in science education and public engagement.

Students were introduced to each other’s working environments, operating in both art studios and science labs, exposing them to each other’s curiosities, methods and social concerns.  They continually worked on experiments in both the lab and the studio, experimenting together which in turn accelerated new questions and knowledge that changed learning habits and developed their science and art practices.

Organised by artists Annie Carpenter, Ella McCartney (MSA)  Dave Griffiths (Manchester School of Art), physicist and poet Sam Illingworth (Faculty of Science & Engineering), and curator Clare Gannaway, the art gallery came into life by featuring six exhibitions called; Emotional Training, Eternal Return, Vibrio Fischeri, Nothing, Evolution and Remember Me.

Manchester Art Gallery curator Kate Jesson said: “We felt the evening to be a great success. We are at our happiest when the gallery comes alive with all the creativity of the city’s future artists. The partnerships with young scientists made this year’s Unit X project extra special.  So a huge thank you from us to you, Annie, Dave and Ella and especially the students who rose to the challenge admirably.”

The amazing photos from the MMU Spectrum and the Manchester Art Gallery can be found here – https://flic.kr/s/aHskA7XKp3.


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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.