Hot seat of innovation

19th May 2006 at 01:00
One college dominated this year's No Boundaries award category, with two of the three nominations. No Boundaries has become almost synonymous with the time based art programme of the school of television and imaging at Dundee University's Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.

The head of the school, Steve Flack, explained: "(The category) had to be created for us because the work our students produce just can't be pigeonholed into the regular categories."

Sam Spreckley's winning film Untitled NoNo2 is exemplary of the work DoJ students are involved in. The skilful blend of stop-motion animation and live action was shot on monochrome Super 8 film.

"The film is a record of my last two years," Sam says, "a collection of footage I pieced together over that time.

"It's a great environment, open to a lot of new ways of working," he says.

"You can do almost anything in new and interactive media."

The mix of technical innovation and free expression made the school's award nominations stand out. Paul Farquharson's beguiling Synaesthesia, a sequence of digital imagery, was equally representative of the carte blanche ethos of the time based art programme.

"I want students to know and understand the rules of film-making and then, if they want to, break them," says the programme's leader, Peter Richardson, who has 14 years' experience in the industry and is still a practitioner.

The programme's annual intake of about 20 students increasingly pursue independent project-based study, as well as attend tutorials and masterclasses. (One has been given by Richard Morrison, title sequence designer of films such as Batman, Enemy at the Gates and The Constant Gardener.) The students are encouraged to experiment, incorporating elements of film, design, interactivity, animation and fine art into their work and are ably supported by industry standard editing suites and sound and lighting apparatus.

The ad hoc displays of posters, clippings and other reference materials in the studios and work in progress left out on desks are evidence of a busy, eclectic workshop environment.

Emma Alexander is at the drawing board, designing a visor for her installation about the artificial re-creation of nature within the urban landscape.

In the Blue Room, a space for students to experiment freely, Kat Lee and Valerie Campbell are discussing an idea based on Francis Bacon's portraits.

"It's great to have the space to experiment," says Valerie.

"It's good to get away from the studio and just think about your work."

Kat offers a preview of her latest installation. In a black tent, a bank of screens shows a series of wavy, abstract patterns, revealed as the register of sound on the surface of water. It is simple, cleverly designed and, even half-finished, strangely compelling.

The school can already claim to be avant-garde, but Mr Richardson has ideas for more new ways of working. "My vision is to use all the facilities throughout the University of Dundee in our teaching - getting English students to write scripts, our own to realise the idea, business students to market it - utilising a range of talents across the spectrum, making it a genuinely liberal, screen-based education."

As for Sam, he now has a fourth year dissertation to look forward to and a chance to explore the possibilities of digital editing.

With one award already, he seems well positioned to join Duncan of Jordanstone alumni, such as BAFTA nominee Bronagh Keegan and filmmaker Matt Hulse, in the professional industry.

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