RCA Photography Showcased at the Museum of London
London Nights is a new exhibition at the Museum of London, which explores the capital after dark through photographs from the late nineteenth century to the present day. It features work by RCA Reader in Urban Aesthetics and Senior Research Fellow Rut Blees Luxemburg and RCA alumni, including Tom Hunter, Sophy Rickett and Emma Charles.
Running in parallel, Night Visions is a display of new photography by eight students from the RCA MA Photography programme, as well as works by MA Photojournalism and Documentary students from London College of Communication (LCC). The students were selected by a panel which included journalist Liz Jobey, Rut Blees Luxemburg and photographer and LCC lecturer Lewis Bush.
The new work created for the display challenges and expands the themes, tropes and approaches from the London Nights exhibition. The photographs are presented as large posters in the public rotunda outside the main gallery entrance, engaging a diverse audience within the city. They engage conceptual representations of the city after dark and document current situations that effect contemporary London from social, political and personal viewpoints.
Discussing the students’ work, Blees Luxemburg commented ‘The display embodies how art students, who come from all parts of the world to study at the RCA, respond to the urban experience of London through their work. It also demonstrates how they engage with the challenge of making and exhibiting their work in the public sphere.’ The variety of subjects and diverse range of approaches in the display reveals the multiplicity of photography practices developed and supported by the RCA Photography MA programme.
Jeong Young-ho responded to the theme of London Nights by considering the historical perception of London as the capital of the British Empire or ‘the empire on which the sun never sets’. He used the metaphor of height as a way to interpret and understand the legacy of empire, as well as contemporary manifestations of capital that are discernible in London through architecture.
The text accompanying his photograph asks: ‘How was this distinctive, overwhelming, perceived height in London created? Was it a different level of civilisation or greed? Is the height difference now diminishing or reproducing? Still, the market that is fuelled by such legacy does not rest at night; it does not know the sunset.’
Alexandra Davenport’s work for the display considers the female body within the nocturnal landscape, in particular focusing on how the darkness of the city transforms the body corporeally, often into a heightened state. A starting point for her image for the display was her research into the Thames Torso Murders, a series of unsolved murders in the late nineteenth century related to various female body parts wrapped in parcels that were washed up on the banks of The River Thames.
‘With the disembodied arms as prop, I am interested in this bodily fragmentation and how narrative is propelled without the presence of a “complete” body,’ Alexandra explained. ‘The limb has become a central theme within my practice; both in writing and visuals and in this case, using the framework of The Thames Torso Murders to think about the visibility and in-visibility of the body.’
Taking part in Night Visions offered Alexandra the opportunity to consider how her work could function outside of the traditional gallery setting. She commented ‘On reflection, this method of presentation is actually really well suited to my work, as my practice is interested in uncovering fresh material from old sources and finding new ways of disseminating and thinking through the research.’
London Nights and Night Visions are at the Museum of London, 11 May – 11 November 2018
RCA MA Photography
students in Night Visions are: