School of Humanities Unites for Show 2015

Celebrated for its vital role at the intellectual heart of the Royal College of Art, the School of Humanities will come together for the first time to exhibit in the same space at this year’s graduate show. The Show will offer insight into the methodologies and practice-based approach that makes the RCA’s School of Humanities unique as a hub of creative and critical discourse, within the art and design university.

In joining forces for Show 2015, the students and programmes are asserting their breadth and variety, while drawing thematic threads across the School and the College as a whole. Professor David Crowley, Head of Critical Writing in Art & Design, explains that the gallery at Kensington will be divided to highlight the individuality of the different programmes. ‘Each programme will have its own identity, but we’re also thinking about how to unify the differences in some way. We want to make a statement that critical voices from positions of philosophy, literature, criticism or poetry animate an art school in an interesting way.’

The overarching concept for the History of Design exhibition is ‘networks’. As second-year History of Design student Zara Arshad explains, the intention is to draw points of comparison from within the programme and across programmes. ‘We want to demonstrate the interconnectedness of design history, which itself crosses various disciplines and fields, from social anthropology and technology, to policy and heritage, to name just a few.’

The History of Design space will comprise a wall display, incorporating a ‘web’ of graphically presented themes around which students’ work will be clustered, such as time, gender, power, conflict, anxiety and technology. Each student has been allocated a shelf on which to display work that goes beyond text and thereby represents the programme’s object-based approach. These may range from small objects, to key texts or books used in their research, to diagrams, graphic representations, photographs, and so on. ‘We’ve thought hard about how we can show the work but also to communicate what we do,’ said Zara. ‘Some of the objects on display will provide an insight into research processes, a part of our work that is often concealed.’

Second-year History of Design student Miranda Vane has played a key part in the programme’s group publication. Designed by first-year Visual Communication student Ran Faigenboim, it will reflect the show’s thematic approach and include essays by Head of Programme (RCA) Dr Sarah Teasley and Senior Tutor Christine Guth, as well as Charles Saumarez Smith, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Art. Publications play a crucial part in Humanities students’ output, and a desk space in the gallery will offer visitors a place to sit comfortably and read CWA&D students’ individual and collaborative books, issues of ARC, the Curating Contemporary Art catalogue, and the History of Design book.

That kind of reading room environment is something CWA&D students have employed in the past, so this year, they are free to experiment with something a little different. Their collective project this year is a book about Albertopolis. Its intention is to tell alternative stories about this part of London, to excavate things that have been lost or forgotten, or maybe are so evident that we never think about them because they’re right there in front of us. Alongside the book, there will be podcasts so that visitors to the Show can take an audio-guided walk around the local area. As David Crowley expressed, ‘The nice thing is that Albertopolis incorporates the RCA, but also the V&A, and therefore the RCA/V&A History of Design programme. All of the Humanities students have spent the last two years working in this part of London, so although it’s a CWA&D project, it’s somehow amenable to the logic of Humanities here, as a centre for intellectual endeavour.’

Summing up the School’s strength of feeling and popular support for Show 2015, second-year History of Design student Georgia Newmarch said: ‘The RCA Show provides a way for Humanities students to experiment with new ways to present their research, and engage with a wider audience. With a great shared space this year, Humanities students can allow a dialogue to show that our work may span times, worlds and subjects but that together we are an imaginative force in the world.’


For more information and opening times, see Show 2015