MA Narrative Environments

Disrupt Space: the Black Box.

illustration of a crowd surrounding a black box shaped compact building with artworks hanging in the glowing windows after dark.

We are excited to share the outcome of a collaboration between MA Narrative Environments 1st Year students  with exhibition designers Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA) and Disrupt Space Gallery (DSG) to create a multi-layered design strategy to support under-represented black artists in Brixton.

a 3d map of the location of  Disrupt Space project.
location map of the Disrupt Space project.

Creating meaningful connections within the diverse community of Brixton in South London, the “Disrupt Space” project showcases the artists work through four connected experience design platforms. These experience platforms unfold to unite the Disrupt Space gallery with the neighbourhood and the world at large.

image of a visitor wearing a purple hoodie and checked shirt, holding a phone and listening to the artists voices on the location based audio trail through earphones.
image of a visitor listening to the artists voices on the location based audio trail.

An interactive mobile pop-up showing images of the artists’ work attracts attention, people hear the voices of the artists on a location-based audio trail that leads them from the pop-up to the gallery in Brixton Market. At the gallery, projections of the art spill out through the windows into the surrounding space. On entry, people encounter the original art works and a digital platform opens the project to the world.

The design responds to the lack of inter- and intra-community connections amongst a diverse local community faced with gentrification in Brixton. The project is a vehicle for inclusion and representation. The name “Black Box” is used to disrupt prevailing mental and emotional perceptions of the arts, in order to become more accessible. The “Black Box” is perceived as the antithesis of the elitism associated with the “White Cube”.

visualisation of the interior of the Disrupt Space Black Box with three figures.
illustration of the interior of the Disrupt Space Black Box

We caught up with our project partners to get their reactions to the proposal. Disrupt Space gallery director Paul Reid said, “The students heard the central challenge, how do we take small, often inaccessible and affordable spaces and transform them for a growing network of under-represented artists? Through this project, the students reveal some powerful solutions that, for us, has the potential to disrupt the culturally elite world of the arts.”

Philip Tefft, director of RAA London remarked that, “The students from the Narrative Environments course collaborated brilliantly in these challenging times, exceeding all expectations and effectively inventing imaginative solutions to a complex cultural and contextual brief and setting out fresh thinking across multiple platforms of experience for Paul Reid’s Disrupt Space Gallery”.

a storyboard of images and figures showing the experience of visitors to the disrupt space black box
Disrupt Space Black Box Project Storyboard

Summing up the project, MA Narrative Environments course leader Patricia Austin says, “Disrupt Space was a wonderful learning opportunity that enabled our students to develop new ways to make a more democratic and inclusive world. It was a complex and multi-layered challenge and the students learned a huge amount about the history and context of Brixton from Paul Reid and benefitted enormously from the feedback and critique of RAA. It was a most productive partnership that thrived on a mutual spirit of generosity.”