Cecilija Berg is one of our talented final year BA Theatre Design students who are exhibiting their work at the Undergraduate Summer Show this year.
We spoke to Cecilija about her experience of the Theatre Design course, what she’s been working on for her final project and her interest in spatial design and curating.
Can you tell us about your final project for BA Theatre Design?
Earlier in the year I was making paintings to relax. I was experimenting with lots of different materials and I ended up working with canvas and painting many, many layers of paint onto a canvas. For example, I would paint 11 layers of red and then two coats of white paint on top of that and then I would start to carve shapes out of the paint once it had dried. Making these paintings were just something that I used as a way to help me relax, but when it came to what I wanted to do for my final project I realised I wanted to do a performance, so I thought why not offer what I’ve been doing with my paintings to other people?
The performance is called ‘See. Feel. Move. Repeat.’ and is an exploration of repetition and ritual and seeing how that connects to meditation and art. I did a performance of this at Omnibus Art Centre in Clapham in May and it was a drop-in session where the visitors could either participate or observe. The duration was four hours, but people could come and go as they pleased, there was no time limit on how long they had to stay.
If they were observing the visitors could sit down and listen to this quiet, repetitive music playing on loop, which was a classic piece called ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’ by Arvo Pärt. If they chose to participate, the visitors followed a ritual around the room, performing a series of actions that helped form the paintings. I then took a Polaroid of the participants and asked them how the ritual made them feel.
I was actually thinking about what to show at the Summer Show, and originally I was just going to exhibit the final outcomes of the ritual. I thought I would maybe show one of the paintings, video footage or photographs of the performance. But my tutor encouraged me to make my exhibition more interactive, which I think presents me with a lot of exciting avenues. I’m trying to figure out how I can adapt my performance so that it becomes something that visitors can interact with and take something away from, whether it be a memory or a small object. That’s how I’m hoping it will be translated into the Summer Show.
What have you enjoyed the most about studying BA Theatre Design at Wimbledon College of Arts?
I think what I have enjoyed most is the opportunity to really explore what you want to do in your practice. The course is very broad, which means that during the first and second years you’re taught the skills you need and are encouraged to explore the different workshop spaces and everything that the college has to offer. Then in third year you can make what you want.
There are so many different students with different skillsets to get inspired by on the course. There are people with backgrounds in architecture, fashion, spatial design, 3D design and theatre. And then when you graduate, people become model-makers, theatre designers, animators, all kinds of professions come out of this course. What I’ve really enjoyed is the diversity of the students, the workshops and the technicians.
Which workshop have you spent the most time in and what did you enjoy experimenting with the most?
I have used most of the workshops for different projects throughout my course. I spend most of my time in the wood workshop building stretchers for my paintings, which I really enjoy. But the workshop that was the most fun, I think because it was so surprising to me, was metal. I did not think that I would enjoy soldering or welding, but then I tried it and I absolutely loved it. As a student here, just having the opportunity to use a workshop space, even if you don’t think it will be your thing, is really valuable.
What have you found to be the most challenging part of the course?
I would say the most challenging part is figuring out what direction I want to take my practice because the course is very broad. Although we do have guidance from the tutors, in the end it’s up to you to decide where you want to take it. There’s a lot of different possibilities. It’s not the kind of course where it teaches you to do one thing. It’s not a clear path so you have to try to find your way. Getting over that hurdle and trying to figure out what I wanted to do and what I wanted to get out of the course was the biggest challenge for me.
What are you hoping to do once you graduate?
I’m very happy with what I’ve realised is my practice. I’ve realised what I am; I’m an artist and I paint and do performances. But I’ve also realised that I might not necessarily be able to provide for myself financially that way, so I’m also quite interested in how you design space and create interesting, interactive exhibitions. I’m interested in looking at designing spaces for artists and performance, so curating is something that I am investigating. I’ll possibly do a curating MA or some internships to learn more about it.
What advice would you give to somebody who wants to study BA Theatre Design?
For somebody applying, I would say in your portfolio just show what you are interested in. Don’t try to fit into a box of what a theatre designer is supposed to look like, because there is no mould for how a creative practitioner is supposed to be. Show what you are passionate about and what inspires you. If that means drawing, making sculptures, creating costumes – show it!
In your first year, I would say the college is yours so explore it! Go to the workshops and go and talk to the technicians. I know it can be a bit daunting as a first year to go into these new spaces, but that’s how you will find out most about yourself, the college and where your skills lie. The technicians are lovely people and the facilities are fantastic. I’m really sad to be leaving!
Learn more about studying BA Theatre Design at Wimbledon College of Arts.
We hope you can join us at our Undergraduate and MFA Summer Show this year! Find out dates and times.