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RCA Performance Students Participate in Live Working Exchange with Dutch Royal Academy of Art

Students from the Royal College of Art's School of Fine Art Performance pathway last month collaborated with their Master Artistic Research (MAR) peers at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague as part of an experimental performance art exchange – the first of its kind between the two institutions.

‘Exchange Made Live’ – hosted by artist and RCA Senior Tutor Performance Nigel Rolfe, and artist and MAR tutor Yael Davids –saw RCA Performance students travel to The Hague to perform at the Walden Affairs gallery, while MAR students travelled to the RCA’s Testbed the following week. The resulting work was filmed and projected on to the side of a building at the Battersea campus.

The emphasis on live, instinctive and in-situ working has meant the exchange has been a way for 18 students to experiment with their approaches and thinking, producing some unexpected outcomes, according to Rolfe. The premise of the exchange – that students should ‘risk something’ during collaboration – has been extremely productive, he said.

Here’s what some of the students had to say:

Pierfrancesco Gava, MAR

‘My performance was a simple gesture: I uncovered part of my chest to reveal a projection of a beating human heart on my skin for three minutes long. The image, simple yet strong, was a reflection on the power of religious images. I was interested in how this could change through various elements of the performance. Normally I work with internet footage without involving myself in my artistic research. The exchange pushed me to react quickly, producing outcomes in one day. The big challenge and risk for me was to be genuine and close to my research at the same time.’

Cecilia Bengtsson, MAR

‘I collaborated with Karolina Magnusson-Murray from the RCA. She came up with the idea that we would try to impersonate each other. There was constant struggling to do this without knowing each other in our “original” states. We focused mainly on the language, trying to have a conversation and understand just who the other person was. The work exposes identity as something much more fluid than usually perceived. The exchange for me was mainly a meeting between different personalities and the meeting between two institutions – two Master’s programmes with different cultures, philosophies and different ways of working. The meeting popped certain art bubbles and expanded our community.’

Anne-Marie Twigge, MAR

‘Through my research, I wish to explore the space between rhetoric opposites. I am interested in what moves us when we are persuaded to shift our desires, or choose our rituals that turn into habits. In my artistic work I wish to explore it deeper and frame it and open up an inferential dialogue for the viewer. From the start, I have done this using objects and installation as a method. All these inquiries have in some way carried a performative element that I wanted to explore further in the exchange. In my case, it was finding the courage to be expressive of what I wanted to mediate and to find a suitable form while maintaining a non-dogmatic stance.’

Rosana Antoli-Gisbert, RCA

‘I did a collective performance with the artist Heather McCalden, also from the RCA. We both have similar interests in dance, and the concepts of control and the uncontrollable in daily movements. We performed outside the Walden Affairs gallery space in The Hague on a bridge. The idea was to start walking from either side blindfolded, and meet each other in the middle. 

It was raining, cold and dark. In such circumstances, neither of us could control our steps or the direction we were moving in. We finished the piece by tying our heads together with wool. The performance was interrupted with the police thinking it was a suicide attempt, meaning we couldn’t finish it the way we wanted. It’s the unexpected that forms part of the live performance.’

Ewoud van Rijn, MAR

‘I carried out a primary and a secondary performances at Walden Affairs. The primary one was to reproduce a painting by Mondrian, in negative, as a baked egg, mixed with pigments. The risk was that I didn't know if it would work – I had never done anything like this before. It was changing the idea of what a painting can be, how it can be done; changing your notion of painting. The secondary piece was generating short fictions on the basis of Tarot readings – again, something I know little about and had never done before. The short fiction became quite psychologically charged – actual tarot readings. The method took over the intention. I learned that performance is a very emotionally involved medium.’

Sissel Marie Tonn, MAR

‘As this was my first experience with live performance art, I found it rather terrifying to put myself inside my work. However, I gained a lot of inspiration and new insights into the themes I work with. I definitely learned to be more impulsive and to try out things through practice rather than think them to death beforehand, and ending up taking a less risky approach.’

Grigoris Rizakis, MAR

‘Performing has never been part of my artistic practice, or at least in the way it took place during the exchange, so it was a good opportunity for me to try something different and see whether the content and the meaning I am trying to transfer through my work could be embedded in a different way. It has been very interesting to meet other artist personalities who work within a totally different context like London – the goals and products are quite different based on the environment. Getting to know an institution like the RCA has prompted many questions around the methods used by art institutions these days.’