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See the artists and designers of the future as their newest creations take shape

The RCA work-in-progress exhibitions are an annual event offering a behind the scenes glimpse of life at the College. Taking place in studios and workplaces across all three campuses – these exhibitions provide a unique insight into the diversity of processes, media, materials, research methods and topics investigated at the RCA. They provide an exciting way to see students’ work-in-progress, with the students often on hand to speak about how they see their ideas developing. 
Read on to discover what they have to say about their work and experience at the RCA...

Spotlight on the School of Arts & Humanities

Knot, Emilie Darlet
Knot, Emilie Darlet
The School of Arts & Humanities encompasses a broad range of disciplines and practices. This is exemplified by the Print programme, where the diversity of the cohort is one of its key attributes. ‘As a Print student, I’ve been supported in exploring a number of different processes such as laser cutting, ceramics, wax and bronze casting, mould making, and experiments with concrete and cement, in addition to traditional and digital print techniques’ explained Emilie Darlet, who has been considering the symbolic potential of broken or useless objects. ‘In this context, I’ve met and worked with technicians and other artists from widely diverse backgrounds, who have already influenced the evolution of my practice to a great extent.’

For Skyler Liu, being at the RCA has offered the opportunity to learn from other cultures.

She has been exploring her emotions surrounding the death of her dog with etching, relief printing and embossing. ‘In the multicultural environment at the RCA, I love sharing my ideas about my work in different fields’, Skyler commented.

‘The fact that we have an unimaginable printmaking studio with all thinkable processes and large presses, just below the studio with direct access until late in the evening, makes it possible to try anything’, explained Anders Aarvik, who has been combining image-synthesis and computer generated imagery with some of the traditional print processes available at the RCA.

Anders Aarvik
Anders Aarvik
Taking an unusual approach, Abhaya Rajani will be displaying prints on toilet paper in a toilet. ‘Coming from an Architecture background I had no clue at all about printmaking methods’, Abjua explained, ‘but all the technicians are experts in their department and always ready to help. The diversity of colleagues coming from different faculty make studying at the RCA such an enriching experience.’

Mairi Millar
Mairi Millar, Mairi Millar
There is a similar breadth of experimentation with materials and techniques on the RCA’s Jewellery & Metal programme. Mairi Millar, who earned her BFA in Jewelry & Metalsmithing from the Rhode Island School of Design, is presenting work in the WIP Show that is a material exploration. Mairi has been creating ash from the lost bones of the Thames in order to ‘reflect on rituals, transubstantiation and what makes us human beyond the physical’ she explained. Mairi is considering the power of jewellery, what she describes as ‘its intimate relationship with humans and our bodies; seeing what stories one of the earliest art forms can tell us about ourselves throughout history, at our best, worst and most ridiculous.’

Alongside the MA programmes, the WIP show will also feature work from the MRes RCA Arts & Humanities programme, a practice-based taught Master’s, with an emphasis on research and interdisciplinarity.

‘During the MRes course I have engaged with different perspectives to critically position objects in art,’ explained Jakob Buraczewski, who is presenting a mixed media piece exploring how people might empathise with an accident or an unexpected event. 

‘Multidisciplinary critical reflection allows me to better place and address social themes within my work.’
Jakob Buraczewski

Alia Ahmad was drawn to MRes RCA in order to broaden her research into ideas of place’, landscape and making. At the WIP Show she is presenting a large digitally printed and hand painted silk organza hanging and a collection of drawings. ‘The pieces all reference my ideas of memory and place’ she explained. ‘Most of the pieces I usually make have a palm tree motif, which is a reference to the Saudi landscape.’ 

Spotlight on the School of Design

The School of Design will be showcasing new approaches to design on multiple levels: from the physical to the virtual, from specific objects and products to the design of interactions and systems. From the highly conceptual to the deeply practical, there is a strong culture of innovation, experimentation and debate across the School.

Erin Karlsson, Design Products student
Erin Karlsson, Design Products student, Erin Karlsson, Design Products student

The WIP Show showcases design research from RCA MRes Design, MPhil and PhD students in five overlapping themes: community, industry, wellbeing, skills and technology. Questions being addressed range from trust in neonatal care, to the use of fashion and material for mental health to gender equality for disaster relief. 

‘Our aim is to showcase the true interdisciplinarity of our approaches, which blends design with education, fashion, healthcare and architecture, to develop new ways of thinking and engage the public in the value of our forward-thinking work. We invite you to immerse yourself in how research informs and leads not only the future of design, but the future of society’ explained Rute Fiadeiro, who has designed and curated the Design Research show.

Our aim is to showcase the true interdisciplinarity of our approaches, which blends design with education, fashion, healthcare and architecture
Rute Fiadeiro

Work in progress on the Fashion programme is being displayed across the four platforms within the programme: Future systems, Bio, Sports and optimisation and Digital. 

  • Future Systems takes a holistic approach to the fashion industry, considering how it can be reimagined for a more positive future - from tackling sustainability issues throughout the entire supply chain in the manufacture of apparel, to more broadly striving to improve and create an honest working environment for all individuals involved in future times, near and far.
  • Bio embraces new material and textile technologies and considers how they can be applied to fashion, from creating smart textiles, to growing new materials at a cellular level.
  • Sports and Optimisation considers ways that fashion can optimise performance, either with new materials or by working with existing ones in new ways. 
  • Digital questions how new digital technologies and automated systems can be used as design tools, but also a realm within which fashion might find life and be disseminated.

The WIP Show includes a display of the 12 projects shortlisted for the RCA X Logitech Grand Challenge. Since October, almost 400 students from the School of Design have been working collaboratively in mixed disciplinary teams to propose innovative ways to extend human capability 50 to 180 years in the future.

Spotlight on the School of Communication

The WIP Show for the School of Communication highlights the importance of collective working as well as experimentation with different forms and approaches to media. Visual Communication students are turning a space in Media Works, White City, into a live working studio which they will inhabit for the duration of the show. The public is invited to observe, engage, and interact with the works displayed. 

‘Visual Communication practice is often interdisciplinary’, explains a co-written statement from organising students Roland Ross, Kat McGrath and Max Kohler. ‘A single project may involve input from colleagues, subject experts, technicians, and audiences, and lead to a range of outcomes spanning multiple mediums. The Studio is an attempt to find a more suitable approach to exhibiting layered, multimodal practices-in-progress. It departs from traditional exhibition models that focus on finished outcomes, and instead takes the form of a live studio where work is simultaneously produced, displayed, critiqued, dismantled and remade.’

The Animation exhibition offers the chance to see the developing stages of the experimental, documentary and narrative animations made on the programme.

Concept art, Sara Yuwei Qui
Concept art, Sara Yuwei Qui

Grace Emily Manning will be showing work in progress from her multimedia project Swansula 2057. This ecological sci-fi, fairy tale is set within a real landscape, the Swanscombe Peninsula in Kent, which is currently threatened by a £5bn theme park development. Grace explained: ‘As the natural world continues to be destroyed and exploited in the face of extinction, this project carries a message to work collectively with imagination to rewild, conserve and heal the earth, whilst meditating on the aspects of modern life that will have to be left behind.’

Sara Yuwei Qiu’s 2D narrative animation, ‘Men Don't Fly’, explores our relationship with pressures, burdens, and responsibilities. ‘Through this film, I wish to question if we would truly be happy in the absence of external pressure and responsibilities, or will if we lose the purpose of our lives in the absence of these seemingly negative factors’, Sara explained. 

Wu-Ching Chang’s film reflects on the patriarchal system and the oppression of women in Taiwan. She explained: ‘My grandmother was a T'ung-yang-hsi. T'ung-yang-hsi, a traditional practice in Taiwan in the past, means selling a young girl to another family to be raised as a future daughter-in-law. It disappeared several decades ago, but the patriarchal system still has influence today. From microscopic to macroscopic, the film reflects the past to expose the present.’

Matthew Taylor
Matthew Taylor
Other approaches include Matthew Taylor’s critique and celebration of K-Pop, using a combination of rendered and real-time CGI. The short animation places viewers as the audience to the recording of a Korean Pop music video to witness as the unrealistic demands of the director unravel the star performer.

John Summerson’s Februarium is a creative nonfiction animated film using a variety of media, including stop-motion and 2D hand-drawn animation, pixilation, video and performance. ‘I tell the story of the made-up holiday that defined my early twenties, which centers around biscuits, beer, and bludgeoning a two-month-old Christmas tree.’ 

The MRes RCA Communication Design students have decided to use the WIP to present collectively Women in Progress. Professor Teal Triggs commented, ‘We just happen to have 11 female students from around the world who have found shared opportunities whilst studying on the pathway. It's a pretty special group of women who are passionate about communication, community and cross-cultural issues. The WIP Show is a chance for them to talk about the importance of collaborative practices which feature extensively in our pathway. It's also about building a research and social community which they have excelled in doing.’

Professor Teal Triggs
MRes RCA: Communication Design

The group have created research posters that demonstrates their individual projects but also work as a collective piece. Discussing the rationale behind this approach, they commented:

‘Exhibiting work, especially that in progress, requires a process of identifying who you are as an artist or designer, and what you want to communicate about your practice. The 11 of us, all female designers, realised that the progress we’ve made since September hasn’t been individual but has been a collective experience.’

‘Focussing on the development of research, we’ve spent hours together sharing ideas and theory, supporting aims and causes, and sending moral support when work has caused stress and a lot of questioning of who we are as researchers and practitioners.’

Spotlight on the School of Architecture

The Architecture programme conceives of architecture as a diverse and complex set of practices that move beyond traditional distinctions and limits in the field. WIP is a chance to catch a glimpse of the radical and innovative approaches to pedagogy and research, as well the open-minded, experimental studio-culture, that sets the RCA apart.

'The MA Architecture programme has always had a nagging sense that architecture is in need of an overhaul. We need to reimagine the potential and purpose of architecture', explained Head of Architecture, Beth Hughes. 'Watching the world fold in on itself galvanises this sense of urgency. We are motivated, active and energised with the clarity of collective resolve – as architects, we must take responsibility within this crisis.'

'The WIP show captures this fervent energy. The WIP is often raw and crude in its directness, bold in variety of material and approach, rich in experimentation and enthusiasm and determined in addressing the future. This is the fragile moment when research is translated into project, scholarly endeavour into proposition, and the first attempts are made to give shape and form to these pressing questions.'

Kyung Won Ryu
Kyung Won Ryu
The Interior Design programme values and promotes speculation, analysis, rigour and provocation through all aspects of interior design. At the WIP Show see how students take up the challenge to find their own rigorous, critically independent responses to conceptualising and making interiors.

MRes RCA: Architecture Pathway is a critical investigation into the future of architecture: its limits, its norms, and its possibilities. The programme is a response to the step change in architecture, urban and spatial industries demanding more research-intensive skills. It is also committed to exploring processes of decolonisation in spatial practice and pedagogy, and foregrounds inquiry into social inequalities. 

On joining the RCA MRes students begin their personal research projects on day one, setting their own brief, asking their own questions and rigorously advancing their design practice. Work in progress from the Architetcure pathway includes exploration of research questions such as: Can we feel heritage: A Saudi perspective? What’s the relationship between emotion and space? Can architectural pedagogy learn from fashion design? Are there alternatives to demolition for China’s ‘urban villages’? Will immersive exhibition design change our relationship to objects of history?


What is on show, where:

White City: MA Animation, MA Information Experience Design, MA Visual Communication and MRes RCA: Communication Design Pathway

Kensington: MA Architecture, MA Design Products, MA Fashion, MA/MSc Global Innovation Design, MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering, MA Interior Design, MA Service Design, MA Sculpture, MA Textiles, MRes RCA and Research.

Battersea: MA Ceramics & Glass, MA Contemporary Art Practice, MA Jewellery & Metal, MA Painting, MA Photography, MA Print and MRes RCA: Fine Art & Humanities Pathway.