Written by Staff Writer at CNN
We all know that getting older can bring its share of challenges, but if you’re an art student, you have it rougher than most.
From studying with temporary materials to suffering with memories of failed projects, journalism students at Southbank Centre in London thought it was time to tackle the gender divide in the art world.
Since 1995, University of Roehampton graduates have been graduating with degrees in radio and television, painting and sculpture, drawing and sculpting, photography and video, film and music
While the UK’s universities are not (generally) gender neutral, students of the Southbank course were tasked with tackling what they call “the sexism, sexism, sexism issue” in the art world.
Their solution? A gender-neutral art course.
Test of time
Students on the course were given three weeks to paint a bar of soap, set it on fire, get a bunch of students to watch from below, and then grill the participants to discuss what they had seen and heard. They also filmed the events.
As the course progressed, the subjects were continually invited to re-experience the events, giving the students in what is called the field a chance to accurately depict the turning point in time — the day-to-day rituals of the experiment itself.
Since 1995, University of Roehampton graduates have been graduating with degrees in radio and television, painting and sculpture, drawing and sculpting, photography and video, film and music. University of Roehampton
The experiment caught the students completely unawares, as some describe in the film, their first experience of almost nothing for a month. Inevitably, opinions varied, from those in favor of the change, to those opposed. The filmmakers, however, said that the response captured a “continuous human response to the daily life we lead.”
“People can see these things happening in the media all the time, but they’re just really invisible to most people. This is a field in the experimental realm, so to imagine some part of it being physical, physical, physical felt like a kind of magical thing,” said Wimma Maas, the Southbank director.
“As a school, we’ve always tried to reflect what’s going on in society through the world of art.”
The six participants on the course spoke about what they believed to be the positive outcomes of the experiment, in particular the treatment of the participants.
“The degree was great,” said Prashant Kumar , who was on the project. “I knew I didn’t want to be an artist, so it was a great experience to start experimenting with being a part of a new path in my life.”
“It really was a very interesting experience,” Pindi Sodhi, who also completed the course, said. “The environment for creativity was much more positive because there was no such thing as ‘the male’ or ‘the female’ — everyone was equal.”
While the students hope that the reactions of the viewers they interviewed during the experiment will bring further visibility to the issue of gender inequality in the art world, they believe there will be plenty of others who, for one reason or another, do not want to make comparisons.
“The people who are against this because they don’t want to put it in a context — you’ll always have that,” Maas said. “I think that there’s always a bit of a reaction when people think this is the ‘soft thing’ that they could do.”
The filmmakers hope that the film will be a valuable examination of the diversity within the art world — “for one thing, it’s just interesting to see the diversity of people who are doing some truly ‘groundbreaking’ things in the arts,” Maas said.
While there is no cure for age, and the release of the film on Tuesday has yet to bring immediate fixes to the gender divide, the students feel that the experiment has been a catalyst for their own growth.
“We grew a lot as people,” said Alexander Kottergren, one of the students. “It was more than just a physical representation of gender differences, it was an experimental, cool exercise that connected people.”