Cambridge Creative Encounters 2024 launched at West Hub, in Cambridge’s Innovation District, on Wednesday 13th March. Part of Cambridge Festival 2024, the exhibition was a collaborative effort between esteemed University of Cambridge researchers and a vibrant cohort of CSVPA creative artists. This unique showcase of art and design delved into some of the world’s most pressing issues through a meeting of research and artistic exploration.

Cambridge Creative Encounters is a collaborative project between University of Cambridge researchers and CSVPA staff and students that aims to reimagine how academic research can be communicated. Using varied artistic forms, academic research is made more accessible to the general public.

From augmented reality to ceramics, photography to short films, the range of artistic media on display reflects the diversity of each research question and discipline tackled by each pairing. Whether it’s experiencing a film on light, delving into the life of Richard III, or engaging with Mexican board games through augmented reality, visitors will find plenty to discuss in this thought-provoking exhibition. Some of these collaborations have been in the works since as early as July 2023, meaning some of the exhibits are nine months in the making.

The pieces on show included:

(In)visible – Bhumika Billa x Aashna Bagga (CSVPA)

Bhumika Billa, University of Cambridge PhD candidate, researches how law interacts and co-evolves in social and cultural environments. Her collaborative project with Aashna was brought to life in an emotive, though-provoking film using traditional dance, spoken word poetry influenced by her research and stylistic film choices to present her research on how Indian women lawyers’ identities influence their understanding of law.

Circadian Dance and the Firefly – Nicola Smyllie x Anita Acero (Ana Maria Acero Polania) (CSVPA)

Dr Smyllie is a neuroscientist, whose current work examines the circadian rhythm. Anita’s humorous animation brings to life Dr Smyllie’s research into how our internal body clocks work and how disruption to the circadian rhythm can impact health and wellbeing.

Re-Imagining Coyote: Mexican Boardgame Heritage in Digital Dimensions

Re-Imagining Coyote: Mexican Boardgame Heritage in Digital Dimensions – Dr Joshua Fitzgerald x Julian Escott & Adrian Gamboa (CSVPA)

Dr Fitzgerald is an ethno-historian of Nahua peoples of Central Mexico, who researches Indigenous and Indigenous-Colonial learning modalities with a current focus on “art as a source of knowledge”. This project with Julian and Adrian creates an AR version of an old Mexican boardgame and explores how museum experiences can be enhanced through interactive play.

Àwa Ló Kàn – the board game – Myesha Jemison x Oluwaseun Ademefun (CSVPA)

Dr Jemison’s research focuses on democratic activity in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. This collaboration with Oluwaseun explores how to encourage democratic engagement by young people, using a board game to develop knowledge about elections and their importance.

Voices of Richard III, created by Charlotte (Lottie) Percival

Voices of Richard III – a collaboration between Dr Jitka Stollova x Tiina Burton & Charlotte (Lottie) Percival (CSVPA)

Dr Stollova researches Tudor and Stuart history, with a focus on conflicting portrayals of Richard III. This collaborative project engages the viewer as an active participant, using printed and performed language and ceramics to connect 17th century texts, the Battle of Bosworth site and the conflicting narratives about Richard III. The project brings to life Dr Stollova’s work and challenges modern understandings of a historical figure.

What do you see, when you see me – Professor Lucy Delap x Martin Andersen (CSVPA) x Rowan

Rowan is a Cambridge-based charity that uses arts to tackle social exclusion for adults with learning disabilities. This collaborative project between Rowan, Professor Lucy Delay (fellow of Murray Edwards College, and the University Library) and Martin Andersen (CSVPA course leader for MA Visual Communications) empowers disabled individuals to share their own stories, experiences and aspirations.

One of the key organisers of this year’s Cambridge Creative encounters is Dr Claudia Antolini, the Public Engagement Manager for the School of Physical Sciences and School of Technology at the University of Cambridge.

Claudia holds a PhD in Astrophysics and has a keen interest in widening access to science and technical subjects. She is also very passionate about bringing down societal barriers between academic institutions and the wider environment, so that research becomes more impactful on the wider public. In this vain, she is the ideal academic to have been liaising with CSVPA artists on these exciting projects.

Claudia said “The launch of Cambridge Creative Encounters 2024 was an amazing success. It has been amazing to see it come to fruition after all the hard work that the researchers and artists have put in. We really believe in the transformative message that art and research have when they come together. Some research is not easy to understand if you are not an expert, but by coming together with art we can extend the message, expanding it, to include more people from all walks of life, to make it more accessible and relatable.”

In order to coordinate the pairings of researchers to CSVPA participants and organise the launch of the exhibition, CSVPA tutor Ed Dimsdale (Head of the Graduate School and Professor of Art & Contemporary Visual Culture) worked closely with Dr Claudia and her colleagues to spearhead this fantastic initiative.

Reflecting on the event, Ed said “Cambridge Creative Encounters is the first exhibition of its kind to be hosted at West Hub. It’s been a fantastic event and we, at CSVPA, look forward to collaborating with them again. It is so important that academic researchers from all fields are able to establish the impact of their research to a wider audience, and that is the real benefit of collaborating with creatives. Creativity and the creative practice opens up broader understanding and allows academics to disseminate their research to much broader audiences.”

More than just an artistic outlet, this exhibition showcases the power of collaborative partnerships in addressing the critical issues facing our society today. By bridging the gap between academia and the creative arts, CSVPA staff, students and tutors have had the rare opportunity to provoke meaningful dialogue by exhibiting their work in a public capacity, with a world-renowned institution.

CSVPA is extremely grateful to be working alongside the University of Cambridge, and for their invaluable partnership, on this project.

Visit the dedicated website to find out more about Creative Encounters and its place within the wider Cambridge Festival.