The Art of the Workaround

Working at the Learning Zone I have also been able to deploy and improve my problem solving skills, especially workarounds.

From a recent example:

  • Student comes with a PDF file that will not print on the computers and the ‘media is not supported’.
  • I open the file in Adobe Acrobat and lo and behold it is entirely blank.
  • Open the same file in Photoshop and the assets are all there, but in front of a transparent background.
  • I create a new plain white layer underneath for both files, save as PDFs
  • open in Acrobat to combine the two and save the final, two page PDF with all the elements correctly showing in Acrobat
  • place this file on the USB stick and send the student on his way

There may have been other ways to do this, but this seemed the most logical to me, and I go by the theory of ‘If it works, it works’.

Workarounds are an invaluable approach to problems, as it often involves approaching the issue from a whole new perspective and trying very unconventional routes to try and get things to work. And, well, if it works, it works.



[Similarly, I was once working on a Premiere Pro File where the soundtrack that  someone in the group had painstakingly created and matched with the video clips across multiple channels, suddenly was not making any sound. The eventual technique that worked, select every single video and audio clip in the timeline with cmd+a and copy and paste them into a new project file. It worked a charm]


A Scientific Approach

So I work in the Learning Zone at Central Saint Martins, which accommodates a staggeringly disproportionate amount of student printing, especially so towards deadlines.

Frustrations run high as the pressure mounts. When a student has spend the last 4 or 5 hours staring at a monitor often making minute changes to their work, and then when the send it to print and it doesn’t reproduce on paper how it showed up on screen nor how they were expecting, they can be understandingly devastated.

Beyond the basic logistical issues people come up against – which printer to send to, accidentally setting double sided or mono when it should have been colour, there is a lack of appreciation into the work that must go in to a successful print.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut there is a fault shared by the majority in their approach to printing. One should not simply think of all the work as done in the software, and then printing simply as a case of hitting the button and being done – a thoughtful, considered and approach that can adapt will necessarily produce a better print, that looks closer to how you wanted it to look.


You must learn about colour, and ink, and colour spaces.





First Performance Workshop with Richard Layzell

I participated in two performance workshops with Richard Layzell, as part of a group of a dozen or so. This is an account of the first.

The very first action he had us do was simply to be aware of our breathing, deliberately and consciously taking each breath in and out, and then standing fully upright, concentrating immensely on our posture. After a few moments of this, he pointed out that should someone come into the room at that moment, they would notice something was going on, and see us all as other – somehow more focused and therefore outside the regular relaxed state in which we normally interact or exist in shared spaces.

There were then some exercises, some paired, others as the whole group. Two particularly interesting ones for me were the group copying an individuals actions and the ‘sticky fingers’ were we held out our hands connected in front of us with a partner and had to feel the flow of direction, improvising movement through intuition. The former had me very interested in group rhythm. A lot of the actions people chose were short, and so did not lay down a rhythm, but when it came to me I started to stamp my feet to a simple time signature. What was then nice was that instead of the group’s actions being an echo, mine and the groups actions merged as soon as they had caught up to the rhythm exactly. This was a bass rhythm, on top of which I tried clapping, making rhythmical percussive sounds with my mouth and so on. This was much, much more fun and effective because it was a group exercise. This could lead on to exploration of music, which this proves, is a necessarily social endeavour.

Another part of the workshop involved devising short pieces, where as little as possible happened.