Show 2015: School of Communication Refreshes with Raw Intensity
Rathna Ramanathan, Head of Visual Communication, explained that she perceives the Show to be very outward looking. ‘The students are a community of communicators, they are engaging in a struggle to communicate more effectively. The show is the beginning of a resolution. It expresses a discontent with things the way they are. Their work is raw; it has a freshness to it. There is something primal about it; the students are forming new vocabularies, a new language.’
Some of the questions posed through the work of Visual Communication students address copyright, piracy and the ownership of online content in the digital age. Sebastian Koseda has created 3D printed ‘pirate’ copies of sculptures owned by the Louvre. Other students have considered how the distribution of digital content has impacted on the authenticity of experience, and how our perception of reality is shaped through the images we consume. Oliver Binnian has made a series of images that explore the idea of the contemporary sublime and how our desire for an encounter with it is satiated or inflamed through the hyper-real images we encounter online.
Other students have made work that is explicitly political. During the run up to the general election this year, Laura Gordon created a series of objects responding to the use of various quotes and slogans used by the Conservative Party. Through creating these objects she challenges the narrative of austerity. Whereas Andrew Brash’s project Extramuros, explores how design impacts on the visual identity of European cities undergoing regeneration. Also tackling the issue of gentrification, with a more playful approach is Jonas Berthod’s Concrete Opera. Berthod has written a libretto about the construction of a fictional new tower in London, which reveals the invisible infrastructure in place behind the physical spaces we inhabit.
Within the Animation programme a similar diversity is seen in the approach to moving image, with students applying both traditional and new technologies, and consistently pushing at the boundaries of the discipline. One student, Zuzanna Weiss has taken animation beyond the screen, creating instead an animated environment. Propeller is a large-scale kinetic curtain that covers the facade of the RCA's Darwin Building. It is formed from a series of modular fans, which move in the wind to create shifting waves of colour, carefully developed from studies of architecture in the Kensington area.
Inside the Stevens Building there is the opportunity to see the finished short films of the other animation students as well as the drawings and models that are a vital part of their practice. The craft behind their work is made explicit and the Show celebrates the highly skilled draftsmanship, editing and production behind the auteur filmmakers on the course.
Thomas O’Meara has made a stop animation I’m Good with Plants, which is shown beside the models that were created to make the film. These include a detailed greenhouse, which is home to the main character of the film. Like O’Meara many of the students have used animation to create narratives of imagined, distant or historic places. Tara Mercedes Wood’s animation is set in a fantastical world where whales float above the inhabitants and her colourful playful drawings capture a sinister yet whimsical narrative. Perrie Murphy’s animation brings us a little closer to home in what he describes as ‘an animated kitchen sink drama’. The short film, made using cutout multi-plane animation, is humorous and touching, with the playful narrative communicated through vibrant characters that have a tactile and hand-made aesthetic.
The final programme in the School of Communication Show is Information Experience Design. Head of Programme Kevin Walker, sums up the students’ work as striving to ‘change people’s perceptions’. This is evidenced in various approaches, from creating speculative narratives about future worlds, to altering the way that our everyday environment is perceived.
On display in the Hockney Gallery is Ozgun Kilic’s Pneumatic Nomadic, a series of performative sculptural listening devices that disrupt and augment how people perceive and interact with their environment through sound. On the first floor, Riah Naief has lined a corridor with waist-high paper grass, which is gently moved by fans to mimic the rustling of wind through grass. In a very low-tech way Naief creates a sense of nature, raising questions about the artificiality of our encounters with the natural. Outside the Darwin Building she has also created a spectacular artificial waterfall in collaboration with William Fairbrother.
Alongside shifting perceptions, IED also strives to evidence data, translating it into more tangible forms. Oliver Smith and Francesco Tacchini’s work is demonstrative of this. They have created a device that can detect invisible wifi signals, and transform them into various visible or audible outputs, such as machines that tap a rhythm on the floor. Other students have imagined future worlds and displayed interactive objects, drawings and narratives to express them. These include Emily Groves' Emoji Café, which foresees a terrifying world where communication happens through emojis alone.
Rather than look to the future, one student, Xinglin Sun, has chosen to look to the past, investigating the history of the building which is home to School of Communication. Using historical facts as her starting point Sun has created a semi-fictional narrative spread throughout the building, engraved on metal plaques. Visitors are invited to take rubbings from them with graphite sticks and take home with them a part of the narrative.
Discussing this year’s Show, Dean of Communication Neville Brody explained: ‘It is a really gutsy show. It’s not trying to be clever, or to impress, which in itself is very refreshing. It’s not a pretty show, but it is an intense show that expresses unfinished questions and tackles issues out in the world. The students are striving to find and define a place for communication.’
For more information about student work and opening times, see Show 2015