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My ArtLab Journey – Mikey Crookes

Recent Fine Art graduate Mikey Crookes reflects on his experience with ArtLab

My ArtLab Journey

My introduction to ArtLab was through ‘Theft by finding’, a field workshop run by Tina O’Connell and Jon Lockhart. In the first session, Tina had curated the space with different projections from modern HD video projectors, slide projectors and old-school overhead projectors accompanying the projections was a live monologue that dissected the materiality of art, highlighting how the realm of digital can be used within different artistic practices, from light exposure drawing to 3D sculpture.

Tina’s enthusiasm was contagious, as she explained the possibilities of experimenting with digital mediums. Working with the session leaders each student found an object, brought it in to be scanned, screen recorded the object being manipulated in Qlone and then sent the recording to Jon. He then collaborated with the students taking their ideas and applying them to his edits of the footage. Seeing the finished edits as a part of the online winter cabaret, exemplified how successful collaborative workshops can be.

Following the fieldwork session, I signed up for the workshops available to all art department students led by Jon Lockart. The workshops teach new skills such as 3D printing, vacuum forming and using lidar scanners. Once I was aware of Jon and the art lab facilities I often contacted Jon to discuss ideas of how ArtLab’s facilities could offer a different approach to solving problems within my studio projects. Art Lab has undoubtedly played a part in the development of my craft during my time at Reading. Particularly in my final year, I scanned almost all of my medium to small-scale sculptures, which opened a plethora of possibilities for implementing my physically sculptures into my film and animation work. In the penultimate exhibition, my piece,  ‘STATIC AM’ (multi-monitor audio visual installation, 2022), contains footage of 3D models being manipulated using Qlone,

Artlab workshops with external community groups have been highly successful. In the workshops with primary school students aged ten to eleven, the process of turning clay sculptures of something meaningful they want to take through to high school, scanning their creations and manipulating them using the software, was an activity that was educational and exciting for the class. As they learned new skills and spent time in a higher education environment. Children are now part of an increasingly digital landscape, many are now introduced to technology before books. The familiarity of using tablets makes the Artlab workshops accessible to children of most ages.  Expanding their idea of how technology can be used, as in introduces technology as a creative tool. ArtLab pre-empts the needs of a new generation, that will utilise technology more as part of art education.

Ultimately Universities should be constantly looking to develop and prepare students for an ever-changing landscape in art and design. I believe that ArtLab deserves more focus and investment. As its operations actively develop new artistic practices by teaching skills that increase employability.  Tina is engaging and Jon approachable, a combination that elevates ArtLab, an asset to the Reading University Art department that it has been a pleasure to be a part of.

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