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Show 2018 School of Arts & Humanities: Coded, Discursive and Material

The first graduate show from the School of Arts & Humanities – which last year saw the RCA bring together the programmes and research previously located in the Schools of Fine Art, Humanities and Material – presents a commentary that challenges accepted perceptions of the image, process and our approach to time. 

'The School was formed in order to enhance opportunities for collaboration and interdisciplinary activity, and to enrich the experience of our students and researchers,' explains Professor Juan Cruz, Dean of Arts & Humanities. 'Students have been encouraged to focus in depth on the particularities of their own work while also being exposed to the more diverse critical positions represented across the School and the wider College.'

Sculpture finds a home in Kensington this year and Tutor Denise De Cordova speculates on the affect the new location has had on the student approach to their final pieces: 'the work being produced in Kensington has a refreshing allusiveness and a  lightness of touch.'

Sam Baker's work weaves through the Show space. His copper pipe constructions demonstrate and investigate the intangibility and pervasiveness of steam. Passing through the pipe, melting a wax block placed inside a wall and eventually exiting the building via a window, steam is an activator in the work that playfully turns a process into a material.

Lucy Gregory's Images Have Legs sets steel bear traps around a kinetic sculpture rotating photographic prints of human legs. 'Potential energy and an inherent action within colonies of objects have a strong currency within my material-led practice,' says Gregory. 'The performer is the catalyst for action to ensue, and the gallery becomes an arena to perform with the latent objects that lie in waiting. Real bodies animate fractured sets or props: the inhuman and the human intertwined in a bizarre and comic realisation.'

Roger Miles presents a giant cabinet of curiosity in the Bureau of Found Art Objects. The piece is a living interactive installation of the history, memorialisation and cannibalisation of found objects. Roger considers the piece his own memorial, which takes the form of a lost property office, a vehicle to draw people in to collect their found object and an installation that will disappear over course of the Show.

Show 2018 marks the first time that research students from the School of Arts & Humanities have shown together. Through photographs and video Amélie Mourgue d'Algue explores ideas of belonging and home. Interested in different ways that the idea of home can be expressed through different languages, she spent time with people learning English as a second language at a community centre in London and made still lives from their shared images and objects that remind them of home. 

Kyung Hwa Shon's work explores places she has lived – she was most recently commissioned by Curating Contemporary Art (CCA) students to produce a large-scale installation for White City. Here she creates an installation of prints of blue tiles based on azulejos, evoking the atmosphere of Portugal.

In Battersea, Ceramics & Glass Acting Head of Programme Felicity Aylieff explains that 'there's a real strength in material investigation this year'. Making the ordinary extraordinary, Theis Lorentzen's enlarged figurines disrupt our expectations. The figures – created through a digital process – are made more unnatural through the velvet-like appearance of the sprayed finish, where bold, synthetic colours add a computer-generated layer to the work.

Pam Su pushes the possibilities of glaze, a balance between control and release, allowing the succulence of the glaze on her ceramic forms to melt and freeze in time like lava. Exploring with the boundaries of glass, Sarah Cable displays a series of work developed through experimental play with the material and process. Drawing attention to the nature of glass as a material in its different states, the work is a demonstration of the capabilities of glass to do extraordinary things. 

In Contemporary Art Practice (CAP) the Idle Institute present The Itches: A Gym for Public Embarrassments.  A 'machine for the practice of half-opening your mouth during a conversation' stands alongside a 'machine for eliminating the side-effects of pressing the wrong buttons'. Manufactured in a medical, oddly fetishised fashion, these gadgets for the failure of small actions sit between attraction and resistance, usefulness and uselessness. 

Exploring issues of desire and power in relation to gender performativity and sexual politics, Rosie Gibbens' performances combine anthropomorphised everyday objects with bodies in absurd ways.  Her Show performance will highlight the failures of the chair in relation to the body in amusing and unsettling ways.

In their collaborative publishing project, Propland: Reprogramming Television CentreCritical Writing in Art & Design graduates have recast an aged cultural institution as an image of current politics and future potential.

The Curating Contemporary Art Programme is defined by its focus on collaborative practice, and the Graduate Projects offer students the opportunity to explore and experiment with different modes of curating, responding to specific contexts and in dialogue with publics. This year student projects were developed in collaboration with leading London-based art organisations – the Design MuseumGasworksLUX and Stanhope. Audiences in Show 2018 have the opportunity to reflect on the work – which took place earlier this year –through a series of short films presented in the Gorvy Lecture Theatre.

This year, V&A/RCA History of Design graduates ask you to step inside the archive. Their installation presents the history of design as a physical practice in space, and invite the viewer to explore the individual physical experience of undertaking research. Each student has created their own archive box to demonstrate diverse ways of working, and of interacting with evidence from a USB stick, to a plane ticket. Together, graduates’ research tools offer an aggregate vision of rituals around the archive, and of design historical research.

Jewellery & Metal present their 2018 show in Ark, a conceptual makeshift space built above their studios. A place of duality – the outside space of working and the inside place of spectacle – Ark can be seen as both a vessel full of hidden treasures or a place of refuge and security. The breadth of work on display challenges notions around space, time and touch. 

On the surface Joanne Guiraud's luxuriously stark jewellery appears inviting and sensual. A celebration of sensuality and feminism, Joanne has crafted incredibly intimate, erotic pieces that create pleasure out of pain – one piece attaches to the skin via a seamless clip fastening, while others are placed to tap into our erogenous zones. 

Kathleen Reilly's The Kitchen is the Gallery is the Kitchen plays on ideas around space. The work is both sculptural and poetic. A brass sink in the 'internal' kitchen is connected via a functional vase on an external wall which leads viewers to a 'lemon sole' manhole cover.

Where Kathleen's work challenges association and disassociation, Yi-Peng Lee's work is a conceptual presentation of a series of rituals to capture time and our connection to a moment. The audience is invited to float a shell on water while a pin-hole camera simultaneously captures the moment of concentration.

Time is also a theme that runs throughout this year's Painting show. 'Painting is about doing something over time and how we process that time visually,' explains John Strutton, Acting Head of Programme. Wonje Kang's Running Painting is a physical representation of his time at the Royal College of Art, an archive of work that displays painting as both a material artefact and a substantial marker of time. 

Placed in a window of the Sackler Building, Soo Hyeon Kim presents a literal marking of time. An experiment into the possibilities of paraffin wax, heat lamps will melt different coloured wax throughout the Show to create new 'ecosystems'. Moments frozen in time, the resulting wax stalagmites enable audiences to observe time pass through the acts of melting and solidifying.

Victor Seaward's technology-focused work explores organic and natural elements in relation to time. Presented throughout a stairwell, the space has been transformed into an archaeologist's lab. A 3D printer prints and reprints a skull-like form, a laser slowly cuts into a concrete slab to create new forms while hieroglyph-like paintings created from rust and smoke residue on cast concrete panels scatter the stairwell.

In Photography graduate work explores a discursive and material practice, seeking to question the image as much as the image questions the audience. Scarlett Platel's work, presented behind a PVC curtain, challenges desire and death. Her trinity of images – a parrot brought to life through her exquisitely detailed photography, two older women in close physical proximity, a Venn diagram – makes the audience question the relationships and meanings of presentation.

Exploring the concepts of time, labour, and process, Simone Mudde's photography has expanded on how time can be perceived and manifested through the very processes involved in creating her work. A waterfall is photographed, printed over and exposed to light multiple times, highlighting discrepancies in the movement and adding an etherial quality to her work.

Print students have explored and bridged the material and digital ways of making, developing work through traditional processes while referencing digital cultures and the current heightened media-heavy climate. Amale Freiha Khlat focuses on denying the spectacle of war that surrounds us on our screens. The Testimony of a Refugee presents a translation of her own memory of war by creating installations using video, sound, sculpture and print to portray conflicts. 

Through animation, Rachel Povey references pop culture and uses humour to examine our relationship with the ubiquitous technological medias that dominate our lives. In the era of 'fake news' Rachel's animations – an insight into the outdated postal system and a discussion on what drawing is – highlight a sense of the absurd and the dissemination of information which can quickly be presented as fact. 

'These graduates are one of the most internationally mixed groups of students we have hosted,' explains Professor Jo Stockham. 'They are a material lot, invested in the stuff of the world and the body which inhabits that world. Unsurprisingly, political issues emerge, but often in ways which are coded, questioning and oblique, as befits our so-called post-truth age. The truths they find are in the intimacy of rewritten maps, in games, in stories of families, languages and cultures hidden, in conflict or absence.'

Show Battersea & Kensington
23 June – 1 July 2018 (closed 29 June)
12 midday – 6pm daily
Hester Road, London SW11 4AN & Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU 

Find out more about the School of Arts & Humanities and how to Apply.

V&A/RCA History of Design Symposium
27 June 2018 
Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL
For any queries contact [email protected]

V&A/RCA History of Design Collections Tour
29 June 2018
Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL
By invitation only, if you are interested in attending, please email [email protected]