Trent Cultural Studies students are showcasing their creativity this summer through the Culture X: Bodies in Nature, Bodies Online exhibition running at Artspace Peterborough until August 31.
Hands-on creative workshop courses are a strong component of the Cultural Studies program, designed to provide an opportunity for students to make art as well as study the theory behind it. Dr. Liam Mitchell, associate professor and past department chair, says while students can focus on traditional lecture and seminar courses, most enjoy a mix that includes creative workshops.
“The principle thing we’re trying to give students through the workshops is the ability to experiment and play — to think by doing,” says Professor Mitchell. “We have a robust offering of theoretical courses, and we’ve also had students go on to become professional artists or enter into the arts in an administrative capacity.”
Workshops provide a space to explore career paths
Cultural Studies student, Jinian Harwig, whose pieces Ghosts and Invisible Screen are part of the online exhibition, chose to study at Trent because of the possibilities of both theoretical and experiential learning.
“Workshops are my absolute favourite courses at Trent,” says Jinian. “I find them to be the most transformative. They’re fantastic for giving you practical experience and knowledge that’s helpful in deciding what you might want to do as a career.”
The focus of the workshops shifted to digital during the pandemic, and the work in Bodies in Nature, Bodies Online is a reflection of that change. Shaun Phuah, who is pursuing a joint major in Cultural Studies and English Literature, created a video project called People Looking at Me Looking at Them, inspired by studying the work of Arthur Jafa in Dr. Kelly Egan’s course, Cinema in the Digital Age.
“Arthur Jafa does a form of video collage that I had always been interested in as a younger person,” says Shaun. “Being able to re-engage with what I was interested in with new knowledge, both from the course and from realizing where my own work fit within a specific tradition of perspective, digital art, and intentional imagery, has been so valuable to me personally.”
Sharing ideas through artistic creations
Raine Knudsen, a recent graduate of Environmental Studies and English Literature, created a stop-motion film called Connection, something of a response to transitioning to online learning. Raine says that the workshop experience was a reminder of possibilities even at a time when options were limited.
“Our ideas and curiosities were supported, and from that support we had the freedom to create what each of us felt called to,” says Raine. “I think what I value most from my experience was the sharing of our ideas through our own unique and varied artistic creations.”
Carolina Engering, Ceilidh Peters, and Lara Yildirim collaborated on an online version of Invisible Theatre, an art form where only the performers are aware that a performance is unfolding.
“Think flash mob, but more anxiety-inducing,” says Ceilidh, who notes it was an honour to be involved in the exhibition. “It proves that while we had so much to confront with everything happening globally, we were still able to perform and turn art into our comfort zone, our place of healing, and our corner to return to whenever things became difficult.”