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MA Architectural Design students take part in Deptford Arts Festival exhibition and panel discussion

28 September 2022

MA AD students at the Deptford X Exhibition
MA AD students at the Deptford X Exhibition

MA Architectural Design students Aishwarya Rajesh Pillai, Kittikul Nontakao, Rebecca Tanduba and Programme Lead Dr Federico Wulff took part in the recent Deptford X Arts Festival Exhibition and panel discussion exploring the challenges and potential for the arts in engaging with relating Deptford's complex history.

Founded in 1998, Deptford X is a visual arts charity based in Deptford, South East London. It foster's artistic talent and nurtures community within the borough of Lewisham and beyond. This is achieved through a free annual festival in Deptford and activities that support artists and local communities throughout the year. The 2022 festival celebrated the foundations of the festival’s beginnings with a focus on the longstanding Fringe of projects by artists local to Deptford, concentrated around Deptford High Street.

MōSaF and Empathy & Risk collaborated to produce a research-led arts commissioning program, exploring the potential for cultural activity to draw new insights, raise pertinent questions and foster wider discussion regarding the history and legacy of the slave-trade within the Deptford area of South-East London.

Selected work of postgraduate students from the MA Architectural Design (MA AD) programme at the Welsh School of Architecture was exhibited at the festival. The festival also included a panel discussion and collective debate entitled 'TRACED: Artists, Architects, and Researchers responding to London's legacy' that explored the challenges and potential for the arts in engaging with relating Deptford's complex history. Participants were asked to take part in the Empathy and Risk Dialogues;  a series of conversations between policy makers, artists and activists that engage in a comparative analysis of the factors that lead progressively towards empathetic failure and conflict.  The dialogues were structured around the two concepts; Empathy & Risk and participants were asked to consider:

  • Empathy – is it possible for us to look at a common concern from a very different perspective?  The Empathy & Risk Dialogues are convened purposefully to bring together people across hierarchies and sectors – persons who would have shared concerns but possibly exclusive circles and contexts – to share knowledge with each other.
  • Risk - The focus of the conversations will be centred around what has not been resolved, rather than what has been achieved.  Rather than talk about past achievements and proven knowledge, those around the table will be encouraged to address questions, doubt and failure.

Panellists included installation artist David Cotterell, Dr Federico Wulff (Welsh School of Architecture), Dr Helen Paul (University of Southampton) and Richard Dyer, Editor in Chief of Third Text and Art Editor of Wasafiri.

MA Architectural Design student Aishwarya Rajesh Pillai said:

"It was a privilege to have been given the opportunity to present my work at The Deptford X Art Festival which is London’s longest running visual arts festival and arts charity. The exhibition was beneficial as it helped with the exploration and understanding of how my Master’s Thesis research project titled: ‘Invisible borders’ addresses concerns from the perspective of feminist architecture through an intercultural lens. This thesis addresses architectural social stigmas on inclusion and the enhanced social participation of people from varied social backgrounds. It was also a good platform for me as a young architect to engage with other artists, architects and researchers who were focused on producing work which addressed similar issues in the multicultural context of Deptford. The exhibit of the design-led research also sparked constructive conversations with local stakeholders who were able to talk about how the project met their aspirations."

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