Assembly consists of five bird-like creatures cast in bronze, sitting alongside one another on two perches, in a manner reminiscent of classic graduation portraits. Each of the creatures embodies the character traits of people at the university. Saad, who is an Oxford Brookes alumnus and based in Oxford, explains: “For Oxford Brookes, I wanted to make a visual evocation of the process of mental flight, and the university’s place as one of those precious perches that life affords us; a temporary home where minds come together to express themselves, and to find new modes of expression.
“During my research and development phase, I spoke to as many current students and staff as possible, to find out what brought them here, what made them choose their subjects, what they hope to gain from and contribute in their time here, and where they hope to fly on to.”
Assembly revisits the 12th-century Sufi allegory, The Conference of the Birds, first explored in Saad’s Congregation (2014). In this story, the birds of the world come together to choose a king.
“Each of the birds represents a particular human trait,” Saad continues. “Together, they set out on a quest which takes them through the seven valleys, symbolising seven phases of life.”
“Much of our early years are marked by our transition through phases in which institutions play a central part. Like birds, we hatch in one place and move through a succession of ‘nests’, which we leave behind once their purpose has been fulfilled. There is home, a progression of schools, culminating for many of us at university.”