Autonomy, Complicity & Ascension | University of Birmingham visit

In week 2 of our Co:Lab module we went on a visit to the University of Birmingham. The first part of this trip was to visit ‘The Dome’ rehearsal room, which is a highly technologically advanced sound rehearsal room for the music students in the university.

Upon arrival we were given a talk by one of the lecturers who uses the room frequently and also teaches one of the students who was using it on the particular day we were visiting. We entered and was greeted by some very atmospheric music created by the student in the room. The room itself was of a remarkable design, with a dome ceiling cladded in wood and speakers covering all areas of the room itself. It was plainly decorated, with the main attraction of the room being the way it was able to reflect and project the sounds coming from the speakers.The dome 1Figure 1: The dome rehearsal room.

Our task for this part of the day was to use the room to heighten our senses and using different scenarios given by artist Kate DeRight. One of these included:                    “Imagine there is a grid all over the floor. This grid covers the whole space. Can you cover the whole space on that grid? Try extremes again, get yourself all the way to the wall and right into the centre of the room. Find quiet stop and observe”.

These were given to use so we could really experiment with how our senses worked around different sounds and how being in a different environment could effect the way we act etc…

After we finished the task, we were told to remain silent. This was so that we could see the change in environments and sounds from ‘The Dome’ to more generic noises, such as hearing people talking, walking, sounds of the outside….

Our next stop was to a resource learning centre, about a 30 minute walk away from the main university campus, where we were to receive a talk from Jen Turner, someone who is very knowledgeable in Ancient Egyptian history and in the statue our whole Co:Lab module is based around: Shebensopdet.  Before setting off on our way, we were the told that we were to get into partners and for 5 minutes each we were to be blindfolded, whilst still remaining silent. This was a very tough challenge for many of us, considering there was lots of stairs to walk down to get outside of the university campus and then to walk along the busy Bristol road! Sight is such a huge part of our lives and to have that taken away from you and solely rely on your other senses was extremely difficult!

Once we arrived at the resource learning centre we were lead into a lecture style room and received a very informative talk from Jen, who not only told us about Ancient Egyptian history and the sensory experiences in temples across Egypt, but also talked us through the whole inscription upon Shebensopdet’s statue and how these inscriptions related to a sensory experience of travelling to the afterlife. The statue was extremely descriptive and as the inscriptions were from Shebensopdet’s own words, it felt like a very personal experience too.

Not only did we get a talk, Jen also showed us some real Egyptian artefacts from the Eton Myers collection. This collection was full of lots of interest things, such as amulets and pottery, to even a mummified ibis!


Figure 2: Egyptian Artefacts shown by Jen Turner

This visit was really helpful to understand the meaning and context of Shebensopdet and how this can be linked to our own project. It very much informed us, along with the visit ‘The Dome’, how each sense can be used to provoke a certain effect in someone, and how individual people react differently to whichever sense is heightened.

Next week we shall be using these ideas shown to us from the visit to create conceptual models to guide our design proposal for our installations.

Written by: Chloe Wright (BA Interior Architecture & Design)

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