Room for Ridiculous Things

Published by Dr Maureen K Michael

Photographs of Room 4T38 before and during ‘Room for Ridiculous Things’

I booked a Faculty meeting room for one week and used it as a studio where I made drawings and collages.

The door remained open and sometimes I wasn’t even there.

People wandered in and looked around. Sometimes they asked me questions, sometimes they didn’t.  A few left comments on post-it notes.

They said, ‘Why beds?’ and ‘What’s it got to do with education?’

Photocopied drawing with watercolour (original size A3)

I had no answers for either question.

Instead I had a hunch.

I had a hunch that beds had something important to teach me about learning…

But learning is a difficult thing to explain, especially if a bed is included in the explanation.

There are social theories that explain how everyday things are part of what makes knowledge; and there are art education theories that explain how lines, colours and compositions are also part of what makes knowledge.   But, personally, I can only make sense of these theories if I make pictures of them first and then words of them later.

Making pictures is not unfamiliar in social sciences but neither is it commonplace.

Photocopied drawing with watercolour (original size A3)

I wanted to notice the detail of the beds and record some kind of emotional response.

Tightly drawn lines and dripping of colours recalled institutional rules and their emotional work-arounds.

Magazine cushions and a bed that is tall – the precarious nature of a ‘comfort’ at home.

But still, what has it got to do with education?

Things that matter are often missing from explanations of learning.  Looking closely at beds has reminded me that everyday things enable some actions and hinder others – they have power and as such are important to how we might study educational processes.

The drawings/collages do not represent this power but they are a provocation to familiar ways of seeing and doing research.

Photocopied drawing with section cut and lifted out (original size A4)

So what tangible things have come out of this ridiculous room?

  • 5 new drawings
  • 12 new compositions
  • This PowerPoint presentation
  • Maybe 2 blog postings…

And what other, less tangible things have come out of this ridiculous room?

  • An invitation to write a book chapter…
  • An invitation to speak at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford…
  • Visual/art-based ways of research thinking made more visible in the Faculty
  • Different ways of using our Faculty spaces
  • More people now know where room 4T38 is
  • The potential for more…


Photocopied drawing with watercolour and magazine cut-outs (original size A3)

Thank you to all who were able to come along to the Room for Ridiculous Things, for your chat, your ideas and experiences, and your critique – all warmly and gratefully received.

Thank you to the Faculty of Social Sciences for the use of the lovely room 4T38 for a whole week.

The images in this presentation are digital photographs (taken by Maureen) showing the room and the different drawings/collages in progress.

Questions and comments to Maureen at

About the author

Dr Maureen K Michael is a Lecturer in Professional Education currently teaching on the MSc Professional Education and Leadership programme.

Graduating from The Glasgow School of Art in 1991, Maureen then embarked upon a career-long, interdisciplinary interest with art and education, first teaching art and design for 13 years. Following this, Maureen became a researcher with the School of Design at The Glasgow School of Art and the EU-funded Project Knowhow exploring specialist pedagogies in art schools in Iceland, Estonia, Hungary and the United Kingdom. Maureen’s interdisciplinary research explores arts-based methods for the study of professional practices, education and learning. She continues to work on the arts-based visual methodology Integrated Imagework through a combined programme of writing for publication and exhibitions. Maureen’s research interests also explore how digital and art-based research methods shape education phenomena. Read more.