Meet VCA student Ishan Vivekanantham
Get to know a student’s experience at The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Fine Arts and Music. Ishan Vivekanantham is currently studying a Master of Production Design (Stage) at the Victorian College of the Arts.
What attracted you to your study?
The VCA was my first choice for my master’s degree mainly because of the surrounding Southbank area. The campus is surrounded by so many theatres and galleries, which makes it the perfect area for an endless amount of inspiration. The fact that I can finish class and immediately walk across the road to see a play or get lost in a gallery is so special to me and is one of the highlights of my experience.
Describe a typical day of study …
It’s quite an intense course as it packs so much skills-based learning, internships and placement shows within two years. A typical day in second year is not unlike that of a designer in the industry. I sometimes start the day with a production meeting for a VCA show I am designing, then work on any problems or questions that arise, and visit the workshops, meet with directors, drop in at rehearsals, and do a lot of model-making.
What has been your favourite experience?
I would say spending time with my fellow designers. We spend a lot of time in the design studio together working on separate projects and also collaborating with each other on VCA shows. It’s amazing to see the breadth of creativity in the design studio as our aesthetics are wildly different and unique.
What inspires you?
I would say curiosity lies at the core of my design practice and it is what drives my creativity. My undergraduate background is in both architecture and engineering, which taught me early on how to think both creatively and practically, and how both are incredibly important to my design practice. The curious side of me strives for innovation within spatial design, which means I’m always trying to do something different and new. This comes surprisingly naturally in this line of work as every time I design it is with a different text and creative team. New voices and stories incite innovation and curiosity naturally, which is what makes every show different.
How have you collaborated with other students and what is the campus community like?
There have been many subjects throughout the degree which encourage interdisciplinary collaboration, mainly with directing, production and acting cohorts. I’ve found it very valuable as these subjects have fostered the creation of friendships and partnerships that I hadn’t expected. I’ve found other artists I have worked with now that I want to work with in the future, and getting to know all of them so early on has created this incredible network of people I can depend on.
How do you feel connected to your industry through your degree?
While being surrounded by the industry is a bonus, an even better aspect is having tutors and lecturers who are all practising designers in the theatre industry. Their experiences and insights have taught me so much about the industry I’ll be entering into next year, which eases some of the anxiety I had previously. Their expertise has pulled back the curtain so to speak, and they have been supportive with opportunities like backstage set tours and internships in the industry.
What does a creative career look like?
Part of my design philosophy is exploring and questioning everything. I don’t feel limiting my knowledge base to what my future career will be is helpful to me, especially in performance design where so many different fields and ways of thinking collide. Having a background in engineering and architecture has helped me greatly with collaboration between departments in design and has also opened up the opportunity to expand into many different fields. For me personally, the career of a creative looks varied, innovative, and exciting.
Tell us more about your upcoming event …
The Prague Quadrennial is a gathering of live performance set designers every four years to share the work and perspectives of theatre designers from all over the world. Four Master of Production Design students, including myself, are leading the design for an installation piece that will be featured in the student exhibition representing Australia. The theme for this exhibition is “Place”, which encourages designers to think about their country and how it is unique and special. We have collaborated with Jacob Nash who is leading the professional exhibition and showcasing his work with Bangarra Dance Company.
In our creative development with Jacob, we discussed how the sky feels unique to Australia as it is so blue and expansive, but it is also what connects us with the rest of the world. Our installation, therefore, will encourage viewers to look at the sky through an opening in a sea of hanging threads, which will fall down overtime and be wrapped around the hands of viewers as a reminder of a different way to look at country and environment. I am most excited to share this work with the rest of the world and to see how other people from different nations respond to the spatial environment we have created that feels unique to Australia. •