Calling Percy—a model for developing value-rich parallel pedagogical and studio research projects that result in significant cultural outcomes

Laura Woodward (University of Melbourne)
2017 Conference

The exhibition Calling Percy: Encountering Grainger through engineering and sculptural practice was held at the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne in October 2016, as part of Cultural Collisions: Grainger/Griffins curated by Jonathan Mills—the university’s contribution to that year’s Melbourne Festival. The exhibition included eight artworks: six by second-year undergraduate students enrolled in the Sculpture & Spatial Practice discipline for the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Visual Art) at the university’s Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music; one made collaboratively by two fifth-year students studying Mechanical Engineering at the university’s main campus in Parkville; and a new work that I created for the show as a research outcome. Each artwork responded to musician and composer Percy Grainger’s Free Music machines, combining sonic and sculptural elements, and many with mechanical components. I taught the project over the 2016 academic year, applying a parallel pedagogical–research approach integrated into the second-year S&SP curriculum, and that also provided a fifth-year ‘capstone’ opportunity for the Mechanical Engineering students.

This paper outlines the pedagogical–research structure that facilitated this project, resulting in pedagogical and professional outcomes for eight students from two faculties, a research outcome, and a significant public exhibition that was included in two major festivals. It also outlines the evident value of such a project for both the students and the lead researcher. In doing so, this paper offers Calling Percy as a model for a pedagogical–research approach that may be relevant and useful to others developing teaching and learning projects with public exhibition outcomes.


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About the author

Dr Laura Woodward is an artist and researcher based in Melbourne. Her current artistic research involves the creation of looped systems embodied in kinetic sculptural installations. Each system’s inherent logic drives its formal and systematic emergences, opening up the opportunity for bodily resonances and experiences forged between artwork and viewer.


Woodward’s artwork has been nationally recognised through prizes, grants, public commissions, solo exhibitions and significant group exhibitions. In addition to exhibiting, Woodward presents her research through conference presentations and traditional research publication. Woodward is a lecturer in the School of Art at the Victorian College of the Arts.