Thoughts in Progress Symposium

Last Wednesday, I took part in and helped to organise our MA work in progress symposium. The day overall was successful; with really interesting presentations, opportunities to connect with other students in relation to research and was good to see others project and progress.


Organising the event

In terms of organising the event, the team discussed requirements and limitations with tutors. Once these were in place, we started to work on creating panels. The purpose of the panels was to have a group of speakers talk on similar issues or have some connection between presentations, which could then form a discussion at the end of their section, share research and any ideas the audience may have.

Because there are a lot of presenters, we divided the abstracts students submitted to an even amount per organising team member. This way, we could properly read each abstract, get a feel for what the student will be presenting. When doing this, we had a shared google doc, with everyone’s name, discipline and research title, with a column to add keywords that we would pick out from their abstract. Because we weren’t reading everyone’s abstracts individually, having the keywords there could give us a summary of their projects.

After doing this, we then started to look at the keywords we had and grouped any obvious matches together. There were some groups larger than others that had to be separated further, as well as some that stood alone, which we had to fit into a group. We also had to be aware of time constraints, adding in coffee and lunch breaks and making sure there was enough time allocated between each presentation for transitions.

This wasn’t an easy task, and took a lot of discussion, moving people around a lot and forming new panel titles. I think, as a group, we worked really well. Everyone had equal contribution to the planning of this with no conflict, only throwing out ideas and possible options. I really enjoyed it and would love to do something like this again.

We then had to sort of advertise this and make sure everyone presenting knew when and where they were presenting and with who. I volunteered and was trusted with creating a poster for the event, which could then be circulated to tutors for other students to attend. Another member of the group works as a graphic designer, so did feel some pressure as I’m not really a graphic designer, but do some graphic design work in my free time.

I’m happy with the poster. It’s clean, has the “work in progress” kind of aesthetic I wanted as well as presented a lot of information in a confined space without being too busy.


On the day

The day ran really smooth, well with the panels I attended anyway. We had allowed plenty of time between presentations that it was not remotely stressful and pretty relaxed. Because it’s a work in progress presentation, there wasn’t that pressure to have a conclusion as such. we were able to keep them open ended. When I presented, I had some really nice positive feedback, which I will talk about in another blog post.

We then concluded the day at the plenary in the studio theatre, where lecturers spoke about the themes that ran through the panels they attended.

One thing that became quite apparent when discussing everyone’s presentations is some of willingness to make our work very personal, making us quite vulnerable. In the panels I attended (health, social issues and belief), we asked whether vulnerability is all part of being an artist? Are our brains wired differently? Are we more sensitive?

Many of the presentations looked at and discussed truthfulness and true versions of self, and self in general. How do we archive ourselves? What’s the difference between the outer and inner self? We explored identity as a performance. We also discussed the body as a form, as a container or being in a container. All of these things really relate to my work and the dilemma I have with myself and my identity. I have had this condition thrust upon me and it has forced me to change my lifestyle, does this mean I am a different person now? Does my past self still exist inside me somewhere whilst having a new sick self? I ask myself this all the time. It’s quite refreshing to know that people who are “healthy” are also asking these questions.

Like I said, I will talk about my own presentation in another blog post, as I had quite a lot of feedback that will be useful as my project progresses. I also have a better idea of who I can go to on the course for advice or feedback in the future.


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