ShowRCA 2016: School of Communication Breaks Down Borders and Boundaries
This year the School of Communication Show demonstrates the vibrant, ambitious and antagonistic post-disciplinary approach of its graduating students. Across the School the students communicate strong, compelling and vital messages, ranging from the personal to the political.
Describing this year’s graduating cohort, Dean of School of Communication Neville Brody explained,‘they are alert, attuned graduates and modern, multivalent practitioners. They work independently of media and are confident in selecting the right tools to convey the right message. The show is about discipline migration; these graduates are all professional migrants.’
Walking into the Stevens Building, visitors are confronted by a gaping hole in the wall. This is the work of graduating Information Experience Design (IED) student Jelka Kretzschmar, made in response to the refugee crisis. Pick Up The Pieces invites viewers to pick up pieces of rubble and listen to tales of individual loss and suffering caused by war, torture or political prosecution. Like Jelka, many IED students respond to political issues through work that makes information more tangible in tactile, physical, abstract or multisensual experiences. The IED programme sees diverse practices collide, from fine art, to biology, graphic design and investigative journalism.
Several students have used poetic or abstract approaches to conveying data. In response to the deteriorating air quality in China, Yijin Huo has created a series of vases based on traditional sky blue Ru porcelain. Yijin’s vases come in a spectrum of shades from grey to blue that correlate to data tracking daily levels of the carcinogenic air pollutant PM2.5. Another evocative translation of data is The Cost of War by Shobhan Shah, which communicates the loss of life during the 2003–11 conflict in Iraq using a pair of lights. Each flicker corresponds to a civilian death, with one light representing deaths caused by coalition forces, the other by opposition forces.
Other installations demand active interaction from visitors. Joanne Marie Harik’s work explores an increasing reliance on algorithms and their impact on decision-making. She has created a game that playfully merges a dating app with military technology, exposing the processes behind algorithmically-provided US kill lists. Another interactive installation invites visitors to jump on a trampoline to power a television, or scream into a microphone to dry their hair. Created by Meret Vollenweider and Wasabii Ng these ‘Inefficiency Machines’ produce reports based on interactions, to playfully expose the vast gulf between energy consumed by electronic devices and the amount of electricity we can produce.
In response to a perceived daily overload of information, Tess Dumon has created an immersive installation that surrounds and overwhelms visitors with garish patterns, which combine motifs from Renaissance Cabinets of Curiosities with recent iconic news imagery. Based on a bedroom, the installation explores the gap between private and public and evokes the anxiety caused by constant streams of information in a hyper connected world.
The work from Visual Communication students takes a similarly combative and dynamic approach. Throughout the show students have made the gallery work for them, creating bold, revelatory and engaging installations to highlight their research. Alisa Sinclair has created a bold, playful statement in neon lights to draw visitors into engaging with her work, which employs humour to raise awareness of mental illness.
Rather than presenting solutions or answers, the students' work is united in posing questions and forming queries. Daniel Norrengaard’s ongoing research project investigates the visual and textual language employed by news media outlets. Through subjective, creative and visual narratives, he aims to slow down and take a critical approach to understand embedded truths hidden in the news.
Other students have considered how technology is changing the way we communicate and interact in public space. Bonding Street by Gilad Visotsky playfully proposes a way to encourage human interaction. He has created a bus stop that will charge your phone, but only when it is shut away, creating a space that will force people to disconnect from technology and reconnect with each other. Yan Lu’s I Have Nothing to Complain About also tackles the way we communicate in public. Yan Lu staged protests in London on behalf of Chinese workers, who although suffering poor working conditions, do not have the capacity to voice their problems in public.
Exploring issues around representation, Lara Al-Hadeedi has researched female physicality resulting in a photoshoot that explores power-posing and assertive body language. Lara’s work disrupts the notion that certain behaviours, professions and activities are reserved for men, through exposing the contradictions and prejudices experienced by a female body builder. Whereas the reperesentation of landscape is explored by Ines Neto dos Santos through a highly personal and emotional multisensory installation, which explores how thoughts, feelings and memories become embedded into a place.
A fundamental multidisciplinary approach can be seen in this year's Animation students' work, bringing together elements of painting, drawing, sculpture, sound, poetry and storytelling. The Show sees a marked return to the traditional crafts of animation, be that drawing or model making, through which students have made a subtle rebellion against the digital and bland homogeneity.
Oscar Lewis has painted with oil on glass to create a narrative about a young artist suffering mental illness. A highly labour-intensive process was also behind the short film by Josh Saunders, an expressive, hand-drawn animation that is seemingly about a woman and her pet greyhound. Other students have created skilful models to be used in stop motion animations, such as Rui Fan Wang, whose short film tells the story of a girl on a journey through the desert with an anteater. The exhibition offers the opportunity to see the original drawings and models behind the animations alongside the finished work, allowing visitors to appreciate the materiality and physicality of many of the students’ practices.
The Show demonstrates the capacity of animation to explore personal and subjective topics. The female body is the focus of Alice de Barrau’s short film, which is projected onto a rippling fabric screen. The fluid lines of her drawings gradually mutate and disintegrate, as the soundtrack created in collaboration with an opera singer ebbs and flows, exploring issues around the female body and motherhood. Narratives with universal pertinence are explored. A traditional Turkic legend was the starting point for Ermina Takenova’s short film, which explores oppression and brainwashing, as well as the relationship between a mother and her son, who is turned into a 'mankurt' – a mindless slave, whose memory has been erased as a result of a horrible torture. Whereas Mauricio Arrieto’s short film The House in the Air explores issues of homelessness, alienation and the impact of traumatic events suffered by those seeking asylum.
Across the School of Communication a diverse student body has created works covering multivalent issues, which affect and unite us all. There is a sense of energy, that the students are agitating for change in a positive, creative and highly effective way by using mediums and disciplines to enable us to better understand each other and the worlds we inhabit.
ShowRCA 2016 takes place in Battersea and Kensington 26 June to 3 July (closed 1 July), 12 midday – 8pm; see more Information about opening hours and events.