NiTRO + Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Emotional cost with new insights into how we design and create

Virtually all students have been affected by COVID-19 in one way or another. From the restriction of social distancing arose the transition towards online teaching, some courses were ready for this change while others weren’t.

By Leo Liu

Virtually all students have been affected by COVID-19 in one way or another. From the restriction of social distancing arose the transition towards online teaching, some courses were ready for this change while others weren’t. Undoubtedly, online teaching removed the element of face-to-face contact which has been proven to be crucial throughout this period of time, leaving students to engage with tutors in an arguably less interactive and meaningful fashion.

Personally, COVID-19’s impact on me was much more emotional rather than physical. I often found myself struggling to find the motivation or strength to keep up my studies.

Personally, COVID-19’s impact on me was much more emotional rather than physical. I often found myself struggling to find the motivation or strength to keep up my studies but spent more time being frustrated at the situation at hand. This was what I believe, a direct result of how the long hibernation period this virus created gave me more time to think about my own thoughts and actions within everyday life. When all distractions are removed from my surrounding environment, I should in theory have more time to focus and study. However, this was not the case, I ended up spending even more time procrastinating which reduced my motivation even further, generating a toxic cycle which many others I’ve spoken with unfortunately had too.

Evidently, my learning capacity and education during this period of time has decreased greatly, both in quantity and quality. Some classes were cut short while others were disorganised due to the change in teaching method as some tutors were unfamiliar with the online system. One unit in particular required the creation of a physical working lighting device, which was no longer possible as students are not able to access the workshop on campus. Overall, the transition to online teaching was not smooth nor pleasant, but both the students and tutors adapted in time while learning new ways of working online.

The daily commutes … are crucial to the way I live. During those transitions, I process my thoughts and allow myself to get ready for the task ahead. However, being stuck within the comfort of my own house only means the mental transition from relaxation to study comes in much more jarring fashion.

As for my research project, I began to question my own investigation into Virtual Reality for Interior Architecture and doubted the necessity of my topic to the creative field. The experiences from COVID-19 have emphasised to me how important it is to have physical interaction and movement with our surrounding landscape, leading me to believe the digital realm only stretches further away from the norm. The daily commutes and transits I take from one space to another are crucial to the way I live. During those transitions, I process my thoughts and allow myself to get ready for the task ahead. However, being stuck within the comfort of my own house only means the mental transition from relaxation to study comes in much more jarring fashion. I am no longer able to enjoy the comforting view of streets before entering my University, but now only walk a few steps towards the same computer I use for entertainment and relaxation.

On a positive note, COVID-19 has allowed me to further understand the complexities of how we interact and use Architecture, while reinforcing my desire for creating Interior Architectural environments which enhances human wellbeing and provided me with guidance towards the next step within my research project. This event has also opened up many opportunities for the future of online and overseas work as many jobs which were deemed not suited for online have proven to be possible through this unprecedented time. I believe the way we design will improve from change, and this event will once again re-establish how we design and create.


Leo Liu is in the fourth-year honours stream of Interior Architecture at Curtin University. I have a strong interest in the innovations and creative changes new technology bring to the architectural world as I believe technology will be the element which advances Architecture towards human wellbeing. I am currently undertaking a research project on the topic of Virtual Reality and Interior Architecture, focusing on the expanding possibilities of the digital realm.

More from this issue

More from this issue

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on how music is taught and practised, not least because the reliance of so many musical activities on physical proximity has been turned on its head. With virtual lessons and ensembles becoming the norm, the move to online has challenged music educators to consider how we might do things differently in the future.

How has it been for the students, as we slowly and carefully manage the return to campuses across the country? There is no doubt that the impacts and challenges will be ongoing particularly for students entering the workforce and coping with extended study after deferrals, which some have indicated will come.

As we find our way to a ‘new normal’ this is a good time to upgrade remote learning resources to support students who do not need to be on campus all the time, or even any of the time.

In the years leading up to 2020, the experience of studying my postgraduate degree had been highly anticipated. Having heard so many wonderful anecdotes from plenty of alumni students, I was thrilled to finally ‘have my turn’ and accept my position as a producing student at the WA Screen Academy in 2020.

COVID-19 has been a pivotal moment in my creative practice, pushing it in an unexpected direction. It has both challenged and inspired me in evolving my work … throughout this period of time my studio set up has altered drastically in not having access to the machinery that ultimately defines my work, a potter’s wheel.

It’s taken me a few days to start writing. My reactions are slow at the moment. I find it difficult to focus. I’m distracted; often glancing between my work, the Guardian live blog and commentary on Twitter. I think often of home – Aotearoa – and trust I won’t find myself in a position where I need to return on compassionate grounds.

By March 2020, after months of planning and organising, I was poised to enter the recruitment and data collection phases of my PhD research projects … studio practice had been identified as the key methodology through which I would test research questions and generate creative works.

Art for me has always been a process to make sense as I am a performance artist that utilises endurance to challenge the contingencies of space, time, and the body. The focus of my PhD research is precisely this.

Continuing to study the arts in isolation required self-motivation, perseverance and the ability to think, even further, outside the box. The sudden shift from practical exercises to the confines of a screen was … frustrating for professors and students alike.

The portal is closing, and the artists in Australia have managed to seize control of their sector. The career ladder has broken down into snakes and slithered away. The old models of making and presenting have shed their skin, to reveal new ways.

As I began the journey of my PhD candidature, my main drive to proceed was a social conundrum. I wanted to explore and if I could, rationalise, the visceral empathy which at times many are affected by, when witnessing upheaval in the lives of those around us.

To describe this semester as anti-climactic would be an understatement. For my cohort and I, this would have been our final year of music school. As the new semester approached, our anticipation to collaborate, create, and learn together for what would have been the last time at Monash was almost unbearable. We were excited to perform, explore, and to succumb to our collective desires to make art and music.

It begins with me buying two 10kg bags of bread mix. I think we might have to bunker down for a while even though my husband’s words “Don’t worry it will all blow over in a day or two” continually float around the house.