Sunday, July 20, 2014

Honorary Fellow address at Arts University Bournemouth

27 June 2014
Lucy Kimbell
Arts University Bournemouth

Is this your first graduation ceremony? Mine too.

When I graduated from my first degree, I found myself to be awkward and gauche. I was not at ease with the institution I was graduating from. Or any institution. And as for many people, being anti-institutional was something I carried with me for some years. The kind words that the Orator spoke about me might have given you the impression that I move easily between major universities and other public institutions – that I’m at home there. When I finished my first and even my second degrees, that was not the case.

As well as not being at ease in an institution, I wasn’t at ease with myself.  Feeling awkward was something that I continued to carry, and it accompanies me still. But rather than seeing this as a something to play down, maybe it’s something to think of positively. Being awkward, not quite fitting in, is perhaps a metaphor for what an art and design education gives us.

In art and design we are never quite satisfied with how things are. We don’t like quite how things fit together or understand why they are as they are. We have a restless curiosity that leads us to keep on fiddling, tinkering, mashing up, recombining. We create future visions that are speculative and imaginative, premised on creating difference.

All societies need people who question how things are, challenge institutions, and do not quite fit in. Within art and design we have a privileged place as creators of new things.

But along with the creativity, comes the critical questioning that Arts University Bournemouth has helped develop in you. Feeling awkward, not liking how things are, and being able to turn this into an analysis you can share and discuss with others, is central to creativity.

This is the thought I want to leave you with today, as you graduate and move away from this institution and on to the next phase in your life in which you will encounter many others. If you feel awkward – don’t lose that. Don’t apologise for it. Don’t hide it. Instead, if you feel awkward, recognise it and use it.

You will learn, if you don’t know already, that society likes the creativity more than the critical questioning.

But in art and design we know that you can’t have one without the other. If you want to succeed as a creative, you need to carry on being an awkward bugger.


In 2014 I joined an illustrious list of honorary fellows at AUB.

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