“Many courses in this area seemed more focused on the technical considerations within a recording studio whereas Brighton allowed me to interpret the course how I wanted to and take it in my own direction. It was clear from attending the open day that there was an emphasis on pushing boundaries in terms of both content and format, so it was exciting to see how the initial ideas for my final project evolved, under the guidance of my tutors, into the multi-dimensional experience that it became.”
Hi Alex – please tell us a bit about your work and your influences
“I am an audiovisual artist from south-west London, currently exploring the complications surrounding cultural identity in a globalised world and the necessity for a kind of truthful meta-culture within a multicultural society. My final project, Wɔpo, is a digital mindmap and live performance that illustrates a building of bridges between my ancestral lineages of British and Asante (Ghana). A portmanteau of the vocal-oriented ‘doo-wop’ music of mid-20th century African-American communities and ‘ɔpo’, the Asante-Twi word for ‘ocean’, Wɔpo seeks to amplify the voices of ancestors which (appear to) have been drowned out across the Atlantic passage. Despite a resolve to respond to these calls for ‘Sankofa’, whereby the wisdom of your ancestors becomes a guide for your future, Wɔpo makes light of such problems as ‘double-consciousness’ and the lack of writing systems that document sub-Saharan cultures from the emic viewpoint. It is a journey through ancient myth, religion, ritual, proverb, etymology, conspiracy, and diasporic history, narrated through an immersive and semi-improvisational multimedia performance. Though the performances have come to an end for now, the mindmap and clips from the performances will soon be accessible via the online degree show and my website.
“My preceding audiovisual project, Morgo, was recently broadcast as part of The Joyous Thing, hosted by the experimental music network Outlands, which was an exciting experience made possible thanks to my tutors and the DMSA network.”
How have you found your course and time at Brighton?
“Over my time at Brighton I feel that I have matured much quicker than I would have otherwise, both as a person and as an artist. I have been lucky to receive so much attention from my tutors given the small scale of my course and their unwavering enthusiasm for advising all of us on our projects. My proximity to the sea, particularly throughout my third year, has also had a positive psychological effect while attempting to complete my work under what were frustrating unforeseen circumstances. The highlights of my time here include our ‘DMSA Night’ in second year, where I was given the opportunity to perform alongside my coursemates at Komedia, and more recently the final day of ‘private views’ for our final projects, which included a touching surprise celebration of our efforts, to round out our time here.
How did you choose your course – why did you choose to study Digital Music and Sound Arts BA?
“Fine art had been my passion at school ever since I was little, and I continued with it at A-Level, but I wanted to add audio into my creative practice so I looked for courses that offered me the possibility of working in both the aural and visual realms. Many courses in this area seemed more focused on the technical considerations within a recording studio whereas Brighton allowed me to interpret the course how I wanted to and take it in my own direction. It was clear from attending the open day that there was an emphasis on pushing boundaries in terms of both content and format, so it was exciting to see how the initial ideas for my final project evolved, under the guidance of my tutors, into the multi-dimensional experience that it became.”
What are your plans after graduation?
“I will return to London and continue to play with this idea of ‘performing’ the research of my projects rather than presenting only the project itself, but in a more accessible format than the private views I did in the DMSA studios, such as adapting it for my YouTube channel. This research is likely to go deeper into ancient African empires, cultures and mythologies and attempt to answer some of the difficult questions put forward in Wɔpo, while also ensuring my art and music is original but still authentic to its cross-cultural roots. I am also considering doing an MA degree while in London but I have only been able to go to online open days so I’m still hesitant to make a decision on that front.”
Follow Alex on Instagram @alexlw.art
Check out Alex’s YouTube: Alex Lewis-Whitaker