Winner of the Global Undergraduate Award scheme, the world’s largest academic awards programme, Dana Leslie’s Hope is a Form of Planning is a series of photographs of locations where women reported they had personally been abused – verbally or worse – by men. Dana, 24, then tried to photograph every location she could get to for her installation.
Bylines Scotland’s Charlie McCarthy interviewed Dana, whose work was judged Best in the Visual Arts category.
Charley McCarthy – What would you like to say about Hope is a Form of Planning, your winning piece?
Dana Leslie – Hope is a Form of Planning was for my Honours project. It’s a kind of a real passion project for me. I’d been doing research on gender rules and gender inequality in society for my dissertation at around the same time as the Dundee sixteen days of activism campaign, which, in 2021, there was a massive turnout for. I realised that people were willing to share their experiences when we were to chat about it in private but they didn’t want to say anything in public about their experience. I realised that everyone I spoke to had a story or two or three, five or ten. I was just thinking that if there was somehow a way that, as a society, we could gather all these individual experiences and display them somewhere, it would no longer be possible to ignore it. Then you could plainly see the extent of the issue in front of you and something could change from that.
CM – Were you surprised at the reaction you got?
DL – Yes and no. I was really surprised that people were willing to take time out of their day to submit a location of the abuse site. One of my tutors said that if you got four or five that’s still amazing. I didn’t think anyone would find it because I’m not big on social media. It was just very much word of mouth about the website. Then people started asking if they could share it on Instagram. I was surprised about how many people were willing to do it but I wasn’t surprised about how many people had had experiences of discrimination or harassment or worse.
[ed. note] Dana received one hundred submissions from eight countries.
CM – How long were you working on the project?
DL – You’re supposed to spend the whole year working on your project. I spent the first semester researching my dissertation. I only decided in November/December that this was the project I wanted to work on. In the end, I made the three pieces in six weeks.
CM – Who put your work in for the Global Undergraduates Award?
DL – It’s something you can just apply to yourself. An email went round Uni that there was an Award. Being an artist you constantly have to apply for things you never hear back from. At Degree Show time, because I had to put everything together on my website, I had stuff I could submit for the Award, basically, and then forgot about it.
CM – Having won the award, how has this changed the world’s perception of your work?
DL – I’m really glad that the work has been recognised as important, because it highlights the issue more, gives it a bigger platform. Also, the people that share their stories are being recognised as well. For me personally I was unsure if I wanted to do my Master’s but know I’ve decided to keep going to do my Master’s now. The feedback has been really positive, which is nice.
CM – Will you continue with this piece of work?
DL – I got an email from a local Women’s charity about the original website. They got in touch with me saying they would really like to take over the website. So I wrote back saying that’s great. I hope to continue to work on gender discrimination for my Master’s, so I hope to get in touch with some psychologists. I don’t think my work will necessarily come from the location website.
CM – Will you stay in Dundee?
DL – For sure, I love it here. It was the only university I applied to. We’ve been lucky during the Covid pandemic, we were able to get in quite a lot. I was able to continue using the facilities. I work in museums and art galleries, so I can see myself continuing to do that whilst also doing art on the side. I’d like to see how my Master’s goes and perhaps consider a PhD. I like academic writing. My dissertation won a publishing award this year as well, so I’d like to keep writing and publishing work.
Dana Leslie, a graduate of the University of Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, is a young artist with huge potential who has the world at her feet. Bylines Scotland wishes her the very best for the future and hopes to hear more about her achievements in the years to come.