Recent MA Fine Art graduate Eldi Dundee spent two fruitful years at Chelsea developing and finessing her practice as a part-time student. As part of our In the Studio series, Eldi described how she used her time at Chelsea, which areas she explored, and why the degree show is always an exciting experience.
Describe your experience at Chelsea in 3 words.
Provocative, experimental, transient.
What have you enjoyed most about studying at Chelsea?
Camaraderie with peers and colleagues, and tutors and technicians.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about doing your course? Any advice?
You have to be very self-motivated and pro-active. Nothing will be spoon-fed to you.
There are advantages and disadvantages to studying full- or part-time here. On the one hand, if you go for the full-time course you are eligible for more scholarships and grants which aren’t available for part-time students. (I learned this the hard way when I had to transfer to part-time for childcare reasons.)
You can use all the facilities as a part-time student, but as you will primarily make your work offsite you might have to allow yourself to be flexible enough to change your practice to suit your more mobile and modular lifestyle. Make it less bulky, more lightweight, less materials-based, perhaps?
The main advantages of going part-time are that you can fit study around your bread-and-butter work schedule (if you are able to work during your studies), and you have more time to digest all that happens in the different units of the course. Quite a few people who start out as full-time students swap to part-time and find it a lot more manageable.
Another consideration is that as a part-timer, you really need to make an effort to connect with other students, especially the rest of your part-time cohort including your own year and the one above or below you. Get to know the full-timers, who can forget you exist because you’re not around as often so they don’t get to see your work in progress. But it’s important to forge those relationships because when degree show time comes around, you want to have strong links with full-time colleagues so you can work together to make the best show possible for all concerned. The part-time stream is dynamic and it tends to attract highly competent and creative, mature students who help to shape it and improve it every year.
I have never seen a bad degree show at Chelsea. It’s always extremely exciting and experimental and this year’s offering was no exception. Seeing the work that comes out of the MA at Chelsea made me very keen to come here. They’re obviously doing something right.
The MA Show has just finished, can you tell us about your final piece?
In August, I was part of an outside production of a play Picasso wrote in the early ’40s called ‘Desire Caught By the Tail’. I decided to use it in my final piece. I shot rehearsal footage and video of myself struggling to learn the lines of his impossibly abstract script. This material formed part of my degree show installation of TV screens on chairs standing in for the actors, with a selection of key props used in the production. The cast kindly agreed to perform on the night of the private view, but unfortunately I came down with a serious bout of bronchitis and had to cancel the performance as I was really rather ill. I missed the majority of my own degree show, but colleagues were kind enough to switch the equipment on/off for me and to document the work in my absence.
What was your greatest challenge while preparing for your degree show?
The central loan store couldn’t provide me with all that equipment since it needs to work with every course at Chelsea, so I turned to Ebay, Gumtree, Freecycle, Facebook, and word of mouth and made a lot of trips all across London to transport the five TVs and DVD players I managed to borrow or buy cheaply. I had originally planned to present a different video project for my degree show, involving projections, which didn’t pan out for logistical reasons too frustratingly numerous to list here, and I had to change tack fast. This was why I decided to use what I had been working on outside the course. I could therefore combine my theatre work with my art practice which I was really happy about in the end. It was initially hard to let go of the installation ideas I originally envisioned for the degree show. But it was all part of the learning process!
You have just graduated, do you have any plans for the future?
I’d love to be able to afford to continue working as an artist via commissioned work, collaborative work across theatre, fine art and other forms of performance. I may take a little break before diving in to do a PGCE teaching qualification. I’ve considered doing an MPhil or PhD, but I don’t personally feel ready for that level of focus on a single research question. I definitely want to work in the arts and culture sector, and if I can land a job that pays a living wage with London weighting then I’d love to stay in London as this is where my child is rooted via friends and schooling. But I remain open to more regional possibilities further afield. London is not necessarily the be-all/end-all, after all.
You can see more of Eldi’s work on her website.
Find out more about the MA Fine Art course.