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Dundee's womb with a view gets degree shows underway

Last Tuesday morning I went back to the womb.

Yes, you read that correctly. I haven't gone all Freudian. I took my boots off, stood on a small makeshift stair and climbed inside a giant plaster womb, filled with odds and sods of old tights stuffed with tiny polystyrene balls.

A wee iPod allowed me to change the mood lighting inside this most comfy of billets. Outside, the world felt like a scary place filled with responsibilities.

The maker of this work - and others scattered around the unlikely-sounding West Shed at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD) - is Alice Maselnikova.

Originally from the Czech Republic, she told me she used 50 cubic metres of polystyrene and 60 pairs of tights to make this two-room installation, which is separated by a circular padded hole into which you must climb to reach the womb. Even her calling card - a tiny hand-stitched, crudely-printed stuffed cushion - is original.

Looking around any art school's degree show is an immersive experience, as these exhibitions of final-year students' work are the places to discover tomorrow's art stars. The four main art schools in Scotland hold degree shows in May and June. Dundee is always the first to open; Edinburgh College of Art's degree show opens next weekend, followed by Glasgow School of Art on June 14 and finally Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen on June 21.

Last year, DJCAD's degree show was universally praised. The 93 students who have been studying fine art, art philosophy, contemporary practices and time-based art and digital film for the last four years have a hard act to follow. (DJCAD has 245 students who will graduate this year across 11 different programmes. I might still be wandering around its corridors if I'd attempted to see all 245, such is the dizzying nature of degree shows.)

Many of DJCAD's students have become world-renowned artists. Turner Prize winner Susan Philipsz and nominees David Mach, Louise Wilson and Luke Fowler are alumni, as are Jolomo prize winner Anna King, photographer Albert Watson, fashion designer Hayley Scanlan, film director David Mackenzie and video games pioneer Aaron Garbut.

This year, Rachel McNeil has mixed up photography and installation in her work, which looks at society's traditional gender roles within families. She has photographed small boys dressed up as girls and swapped couples to reveal bearded brides and besuited grooms. Her 'family snaps' are set within a sitting room which might belong to your average granny. The photographs were arresting and would have worked on their own.

There's a lot of work reflecting gender and/or our increasing reliance on digital props. The ties that bind are also in evidence. Kelley Davis has a First Communion dress suspended in mid-air by sheer string while Rose Holligan has created a light-filled wheel with gossamer thin threads creating an inner skin.

Taking Gerhard Richter's 48 Portraits series as a starting point, Shannon Laing has made 18 portraits in pencil of fellow female students in her year group who "have been (mostly unwittingly) influential to my own life". These competent portraits are sketched from photographs on show along with intimate photographs of the women's studios in the art college.

One of the women included in this line-up, Siobhan Morison, has made a sculptural installation which takes the menopause as a starting point. Using the female figure from life drawings and figurines, she has threaded this concept into forms of lace bobbins. Donated items of clothing from family were cut up and sewn back together as a cord. This in turn was made into lace. The effect is most touching.

There are some standout pieces of work in the discipline known as time based art and digital film. It would be hard to conjure up a more theatrical art experience than Ryan Esson's The Void. A tardis-like box is made up of mirrored squares, its changing soundtrack and filmed backdrop moving from a road flashing past at speed to the fires of hell. I felt like I was looking at myself from the inside out. As flames licked all around, I could see up my own dress, which was a strange sensation.

Elsewhere, Qi Feng has made a quite lovely short film which is a mix of a real Dundee background with manga-type animated drawings, while cinematographer Michal Zagorski's mightily impressive collaborative film, Tea People, moves between Dundee and Darjeeling and deserves to be more widely seen.

Another standout show is Craig Wright's look at the games men play, using the old gangs of Dundee as a trigger to create war memorabilia. I loved the wooden Buckfast in a box.

The show which stood out for me was Zoe Farrell's visual soundscape. Immersive without being shouty, the centrepiece of her installation is an 'audio portrait' called #1Zoe. In an empty wooden frame, using headphones, you listen to a recording of Farrell walking through a town. You hear her coughing and whispering words such as "breathing" while urban life churns in the background.

All around the walls are poetic fragments of Farrell's attempts to articulate sound in words. The hollow hum of everyday life has been re-imagined in her sonic poem, and I'm still turning it over in my mind's eye/ear. In degree show terms, I'd say that was a result.

DJCAD Degree Show 2014, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, University of Dundee (01382 385330, www.dundee.ac.uk/djcad/degreeshow) until May 25

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