Show 2018 School of Communication: Questioning the Everyday
This year’s School of Communication graduate show asks its audience to question how information is consumed, disseminated and controlled. The themes of voices and perspectives – particularly in regard to whose are prioritised and ignored – are explored throughout all three MA Programmes of the School.
Professor Neville Brody, Dean of Communication, explains: 'The student experience at the RCA is marked by the opportunity to push beyond boundaries, take risks without constraint, and to develop consciousness, confidence, insight and self-direction. Our emphasis is on skills underpinning transdisciplinary activity within a contextualised framework, so that our graduates are prepared to lead relevant change and inform thought, policy and creative possibility.'
In Animation, students are grappling with how we give form to different perspectives. In his short film, Music and Clowns, Alex Widdowson explores his family’s interactions with his brother, who has Down’s Syndrome. Using a variety of techniques, such as hand-drawn animation and home-video footage, Widdowson attempts to capture the varying thoughts and emotions of his family members. Using different forms of animation to represent varying emotions is also a feature of Jack Alexandroff’s Paper Cranes, which uses time-lapse footage of plants, charcoal drawings, and stop-motion origami to meditate on grief, and in Dan Castro’s Herman Brown is Down, which uses traditional and experimental animation techniques to present a 1950s-style animation about anxiety and mental illness.
Physicality is a theme threaded throughout many of the films. Anna Mantzaris's work is a stop-motion crime thriller, shown alongside a set used for filming. There’s a feeling of materiality throughout the work, with a sense that you can almost touch the felt used for the characters, the Barbie doll products placed in the supermarket. Under The Trifle, India Stewart’s stop-motion film about growth and childhood, also uses this sense of texture to communicate the story of a boy who swims through trifle. What unites the works is a sense of playfulness and humour, despite the serious themes many of them raise.
A focus on language can also be seen in the work of students from Information Experience Design. Summarising their work, Dr Kevin Walker, Head of Programme, explains that 'their outputs speak for themselves, and these graduates do more than merely communicate information or design experiences – they embody expertise’: a sentiment that is evident throughout the Programme. Marcela Uribe Fores’ MEDIUM incorporates the poems of politically disadvantaged indigenous Chilean women, translated across multiple languages, into a sound-and-light installation. In combination with the architectural qualities of the work, MEDIUM creates a liminal space in which we can confront tradition, politics and the power of language.
This exploration of the physical space in which communication happens is a theme that runs throughout Grace Pappas’ Material Memories, which envisions the museum experience as a machine that the visitor operates through their presence; a data interaction made material. Taeyoung Choi’s Politeness demonstrates similar preoccupations. Whereas Pappas’ work was an analogue expression of information, Choi’s is a digital, robotic manifestation of the concept. Inspired by the idea that in the future human-to-human interactions, even those born out of politeness, will be eradicated, Politeness functions as a learning tool for future citizens. With one robotic arm inputting the data of our handshakes in 2018, the other arm enacts the learned behaviour of all those who have interacted with it. Key to the work is its materiality – the clammy latex of the hand, the impersonality of the metal arm – but also its performativity, with the audience forced to become a part of the piece itself.
The idea of the work transforming data into theatre is at the crux of Makiko Takashima’s Yokai the Hopeful Monster, a large spider-like creature that watches visitors as they come into the space. A traditional part of Japanese folklore, the yokai is a creature that represents everyday figures, transforming them into monstrous forms. Despite its exaggerated, cartoonish appearance, the creature inhales and exhales like a living being, its panting plastic form an amalgamation of the real and the performative. Takashima’s work is also wearable, with clips that fasten across the artist's chest, transforming a mental burden into a physical one.
The exploration of the way in which media is released is prominent in the work of the Visual Communication students. As Head of Programme, Rathna Ramanathan explains, 'A consistent thread through all the work is a sense of engagement with others and a firm resolve not to make big statements but rather to cause reflection, and to engage in difficult conversations.'
This space for small conversations, to explore the everyday experience, is seen in Laura Copsey’s Fieldwork, which follows wheat grown at the campus in White City through the process of being baked into bread. With an embrace of traditional, community-based farming practices, Copsey’s work forces us to consider the connections we have – to nature, to the city, and to each other – and the often overlooked objects we use to communicate them. The sense of place is explored further through the solidarity banner for the victims of Grenfell Tower, whose shell is visible from the White City campus: a collaboration between staff and students representing the conversations happening in the Programme around privilege, purpose and community.
Sara Jamshidi’s Project M—Iranian stamps from Monarchies to Mullahs to Mardom also interrogates objects that we regularly interact with, but may not approach as art objects. Using Iranian postage stamps from 1865 to 2018, Jamshidi’s work explores the country’s cultural and political history, lending a sense of materiality to these more abstract concepts. The project features stamps that the artist has inserted herself into which were franked and sent to Iran, leading to a synthesis of the roles of artist and participant, of critique and assimilation.
Other students also chose to play with the idea of dissemination, with Oscar Warr’s Observing the Observers using the British Museum’s system of CCTV cameras as inspiration for his piece, which monitors different zones of the Show gallery based on which pieces are the most ‘valuable’ – information that Warr gained from asking how much other students spent on their work. Observing the Observers is unafraid to probe our discomfort with surveillance in order to spur the viewer to consider the complex interplay between power, control and wealth in a gallery context.
Students such as Alex Turner (Last Words), Dominik Langloh (Artifacts of the Digital Age) and Charlotte Lengersdorf (Langue Trouvé) examine documentation as a facet of dissemination, with each using elements of graphic type to record and share language for vastly different aims. For Turner, the work functions as a collaboration with his mother, who has dementia, with the work including a font based on her handwriting. Langloh’s Artifacts of the Digital Age instead seeks to document moments of ephemerality in an age of machines.The titles of these works all reference an archiving, or a finding, of language through the combined effort of analogue and digital.
MA Digital Direction work in progress is also on show, giving an insight into the preoccupations and practices of this new programme. Throughout the School of Communication there is a sense of daring, of wanting to question just what it is that allows us to communicate our perspectives, to explore how and why we interact, to challenge our everyday experiences. Across media the students have created a bold, innovative exhibition that leaves the audience with substantial questions to answer.
23 June – 1 July 2018 (closed 29 June)
12 midday – 6pm daily
The Westworks, White City Place, 195 Wood Lane, London W12 7F