In 2020, Arts and Culture at Queen Mary University of London invited UK-based artists to converse with academics from across the university, using its Higher Education Innovation Fund. A dentist spoke to a sculptor. A mathematician to a choreographer. A dramatist to an opera singer.
While an unforeseen pandemic limited human contact for many of us, these artists and academics found ways to talk. They held conversations about climate change, mental health, housework, racism, childcare, justice, wellbeing. They exchanged knowledge. Expertise. Then the artists set to work.
The results are original artworks and creative responses that could not have happened without conversations between academics and artists. They remind us of the power of art and the impact of connecting deep thinkers across fields. Watch the video on Vimeo.
Queen Mary Conversations Week
The richness of these exchanges provides the inspiration for Queen Mary Conversations Week, which will run from 9 to 16 April. Curated by the Arts and Culture team at Queen Mary, the events will cover a diverse range of topics from the histories of boxing, to the art of teeth, the future of mobility and the performance of zombies.
The 2020/21 Queen Mary Conversations project confirms the enduring value of Queen Mary’s vision outlined in Strategy 2030, that when diverse experiences, perspectives and disciplines interact, truly original thought happens.
The first conversation will take place on Friday 9 April, and will investigate the histories, rituals and art of housework. A launch event, A Conversation on Conversation, will take place on Monday 12 April and will ask what happens to our brains when we converse, how we talk to ourselves when we’re along, and how we can do conversations better.
Professor of Human Interaction Patrick Healey will speak on what happens within our cognitive processes when we converse using digital technologies; Director of the Raphael Samuel History Centre and Professor of History Barbara Taylor discusses philosophies and representations of voice in solitude; and Lecturer in Experimental Cognitive Psychology Magda Osman will speak on how conversations are brokered. Throughout this panel, Professor of Contemporary Performance, artist and activist of conversation Lois Weaver will infuse her work designing and facilitating new forms and protocols for conversation. Other events during the week will see artists, engineers, biologists, poets, medics, dentists, novelists, sculptors, dancers and data scientists talking about what matters to them.
Visit the website of Queen Mary Conversations to see the full programme, and to book tickets to each conversation across the week. In line with the government guidelines, all events will be held online.
An opportunity for reflection
Dr Aoife Monks, Reader in Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies and Academic Lead of Arts and Culture at Queen Mary said: “We welcome you to trade in talk, to celebrate the art of conversation through these events.
“Our events will investigate the activity of conversation itself from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, leading the way in reflecting on the best practices and processes of conversation as well as provide an opportunity for us to think about moments when we perhaps shouldn’t converse. The week of activities will also allow many of us to simply enjoy conversations on the issues that matter to us most, at a time when talking couldn’t be more important.”
About Arts and Culture at Queen Mary
Queen Mary is a major contributor to London’s diverse artistic and cultural landscape, and has built strong relationships with its local, national and international audiences through the arts.
Queen Mary launched its Arts and Culture strategy in November 2017 with the aim of developing the University as a world-leading centre of excellence in arts and culture within higher education. Since its inception Queen Mary’s Arts and Culture group have organised multiple events across diverse themes including migration, science and technology.