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RCA Students Create New Ways to Present Research in Art and Design

Research students from across the Royal College of Art have come together to create the 2015 Research Biennial, which takes place from 18 to 25 April.

Posing the provocative question, Why Would I Lie?, the biennial offers a series of interlinked and interdisciplinary events and publications that explore ethics and aesthetics in contemporary research practices in art and design.

By combining a two-day academic conference, exhibition, publication and vibrant programme of related events, including film screenings and a salon at the ICA, Why Would I Lie? engages head on with the challenges of programming an event that does justice to the full spectrum of MPhil and PhD research produced by students, from practice-based projects to more traditional outputs, like written dissertations.

Crucially, the composition of the organising committee, drawn from across the RCA’s programmes, offers further demonstration of why this matters, with participants from Communication, Critical Writing in Art & Design, Curating Contemporary Art, Information Experience Design (IED), Photography, Sculpture and Visual Communication bringing a wealth of research issues, methodologies and questions to the biennial.

These concerns are evident, too, in the event’s generative graphic identity, which uses an in-built ‘glitch’ to create multiple unique versions of the RCA’s crest and distinctive Calvert Brody typeface. These ‘glitched’ variations on official branding offer an effective visual commentary on issues of authority and copyright that are absolutely at the heart of this year's event, as well as showing the opportunities for effective critique embedded in design practice.

The opening weekend, 18 to 19 April, will be marked by a major two-day conference addressing the themes of participation, protest, activism and their implications for research. Speakers from across the RCA’s research student community will tackle these issues in relation to their own practice and theoretical interests, treating important issues prompted by the event’s chosen theme and also reflecting on how ethics and truth impact on and inform their research activities.

The conference also features talks by leading thinkers, curators and practitioners, with keynotes by art historian and queer theorist John Paul Ricco (University of Toronto); Professor of Visual Cultures Irit Rogoff (Goldsmiths’ College, University of London); art historian and co-curator of the critically acclaimed V&A exhibition, Disobedient Objects, Gavin Grindon (V&A/University of Essex) and architect and researcher Francesco Sebregondi (Forensic Architecture/RCA).

Respecting the vital contributions of practice-based research to the RCA, an exhibition at the College offers practice-led responses to questions of ethics, truth and fiction, as well as the idea of the researcher-practitioner, and includes works by students from across the Schools of Communication, Design, Fine Art and Material. The presence of a ‘discursive space’ within the gallery, as a hub for discussion and performance, further reinforces one of the biennial’s main aims: to create environments and presentational formats that better reflect the huge variety in approaches to research found at the RCA.

Extending these discussions beyond the gallery space, an accompanying publication, Why Would I Lie?, includes newly commissioned works that develop the biennial’s key concepts, questions and methods. Designed by RCA MA student Andrew Brash and printed by ArtQuarters Press, this illustrated book celebrates the breadth of art and design research practices, encompassing photo essays and formal academic papers, interview transcripts and experimental narratives. A retrospective digital publication, conceived as an online archive, will capture the contributions of all participants to the exhibition and conference.

Additional special events run throughout the biennial week. Launched on Friday 17 April with an ICA Salon, Ethics of the Other, which sees RCA research students present their work as part of a forum chaired by Dr Kristen Kreider (Royal Holloway, University of London), and concluding on Saturday 25 April with a day of performances, discussions and film screenings.

Focused events will consider aspects of the biennial’s core themes in greater detail; these include a one-day symposium on ethics and the archive; an event coordinated by the Fashion Research Network and a special preview of Estate: A Reverie, presented by its filmmaker, Andrea Luka Zimmerman.

Why Would I Lie? Royal College of Art Biennial 2015 is organised by Manca Bajec (Sculpture), Helena Bonett (Curating Contemporary Art), Susannah Haslam (Communication), Benjamin Koslowski (Information Experience Design), Peter Le Couteur (Sculpture), Carol Mancke (Sculpture), Brigid McLeer (Photography), Emily Richardson (Visual Communication), Kyuha Shim (Information Experience Design), Mercerdes Vicente (Critical Writing in Art & Design) and Natalja Vikulina (Visual Communication).

The conference takes place 18–19 April. Attendance is free but delegates must register for a place.

Admission to the exhibition is also free; the gallery space is open daily from 12–6pm from 18–25 April.

Full details of the conference programme, exhibition and events programme can be found here. For more information, please contact [email protected].

Why Would I Lie? Royal College of Art Research Biennial 2015, 18–25 April, Royal College of Art, Dyson Building, 1 Hester Road, Battersea, London, SW11 4AN.