Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Dizzy with champagne walls

I work at a beautiful art school. It isn't just a plug-ugly high-rise building in the middle of a city; it's an ex-high school with heritage design that has been respected. There are green trees and green grass, and pleasant open spaces. Instead of 'departments', we have 'workshops', which I think are meant to follow a more medieval ideal of community a-la William Morris with a touch of Bauhaus.

I love this time of year because it is assessment time. I didn't enjoy it much when I was a student, but I enjoy it now that I'm removed from the process. In the Printmedia & Drawing Workshop, of which my studio is a part, the students have to pack up their crowded and carefully individualised cubby spaces and clear out the large light-filled rooms to allow the assessment process to begin. All furniture is moved into one room, the other rooms are painted to freshen up the walls of random scribbles, charcoal/paint smears and blu-tack marks, and one student at a time per room is timetabled to set up their works to be judged. In the spaces between assessments it is wonderful to feel the rooms breathing. I like to walk through and watch the sunlight on the clean empty champagne-coloured walls (not white, darling, too harsh) and slide on the (barely surviving) parquetry.

When assessments are over, there will be a huge school-wide exhibition of the graduating students, using every available inch of wall and floor space. Then all gets packed up, and the building can breathe again for a few months -- until the new academic year when the students carve up the spaces, erect hideaways and communal areas with partitions and furniture, and strive desperately to make the rooms theirs, sprainting their individuality in murky corners.

Until November, when it all gets wiped clean again.

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