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AcrossRCA 2019: Peer-to-peer learning, developing new skills and connecting across disciplines

AcrossRCA is an annual, week-long programme that offers students the opportunity to collaborate across disciplines. This year’s workshop engaged expertise and skills from across the College – incorporating research centres, external partners such as the V&A and Wellcome Collection, and briefs led by students, tutors and technical staff. From principles of inclusive design to traditional craft techniques students had the opportunity to learn new skills in intensive workshops, gain practical experience through live briefs and make lasting connections working collaboratively with their peers.
Read on for a summary of some of the projects...

Design Different – Wellcome’s Heart n Soul Hub

AcrossRCA 2019, Design Different – Wellcome’s Heart n Soul Hub
AcrossRCA 2019, Design Different – Wellcome’s Heart n Soul Hub
Heart n Soul, is a learning disability and autism charity that has been working on a long term project with the Wellcome Collection. Over the summer they created the Wall of Change, a space where participants illustrated what they would like to see designed differently from transport to tin openers.

For AcrossRCA Dr Chris Mcginley, Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design Research Fellow, led a four-day project, in collaboration with Wellcome Collection, which took this data as a starting point. The workshop used an inclusive design approach to explore ‘the value of difference’. 

The students collaborated with neuro-diverse participants using inclusive design approaches to create interventions and propositions that questioned societal norms and have the potential to improve lives. At the end of the workshops, the students presented their ideas through a mini exhibition at the Wellcome Collection.

Concentrating on Colour: A Writing and Zine-Making Workshop

AcrossRCA Colour Workshop
AcrossRCA 2019, Concentrating on Colour workshop
Photographer: Shaun James Cox
A team of students from Writing, Contemporary Art Practice and Information Experience Design – Laura Pinnington, Yin Ying Kong, Kaushikee Gupta and Sindi Breshani – led a workshop exploring colour and writing. Participants worked towards a collaborative zine exploring colour from encompassing critical thinking, personalisation and arguments for different meanings and interpretations of colour. 

Inputs included an introduction to the RCA’s Colour Reference Library from archivist Neil Parkinson, and different hands-on techniques for zine making. Participants came from diverse programmes, and for students from certain disciplines such as Service Design to V&A/RCA History of Design, felt the workshop offered an opportunity to carry out different, hands on, making focused work.

AcrossRCA 2019
AcrossRCA 2019, Concentrating on Colour workshop
Photographer: Shaun James Cox

The Embodiment & Knowledge of the Maker 

AcrossRCA 2019, The Embodiment & Knowledge of the Maker
AcrossRCA 2019, The Embodiment & Knowledge of the Maker
This workshop took place at the V&A and was led by Dr Marta Ajmar (V&A Research Institute), with support from Dr Elizabeth Currie (History of Design). It explored the ways in which museums, collections and makers can come together to develop new methods for researching through making, unmaking and remaking. 

The workshop was informed by some of the methods and findings of Encounters on the Shop Floor, a collaborative project across numerous London institutions, which has highlighted concerns about the growing divide between ‘mind’ and ‘hand’ and between ‘intellectual’ and ‘manual’ knowledge and their disciplinary and institutional compartmentalization. 

Through the workshop students explored the importance of touch, feel, making and a physical and emotional set of experiences for learning about objects. It proposed how ways of learning through the body can be brought into dialogue with more traditional research methods.

Flower & Fruit Still Life Photography

Across RCA 2019
AcrossRCA 2019, Flower & Fruit Still Life Photography workshop
Photographer: Shaun James Cox

Over four days students explored the possibilities of flower and fruit still life photography in a workshop designed to improve photography and photo editing skills. Led by Morgan Markey, a Visual Communication student, they worked in the College’s photography studios to explore the potential of the still life to reflect mood and learnt ways to manipulate light to create particular outcomes. From disciplinary backgrounds, whether Ceramics & Glass or Jewellery & Metal, students brought a wide range of expertise and sensibilities to the brief.

Ji-Hyun Song
Ji-Hyun Song

Game of Thrones: Exploring the World of Toilets

AcrossRCA 2019, Game of Thrones: Exploring the World of Toilets
AcrossRCA 2019, Game of Thrones: Exploring the World of Toilets

Gail Ramster and Professor Jo-Anne Bichard, researchers from the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, led a three-day workshop about toilets. Co-creators of The Great British Public Toilet Map, Gail and Jo-Anne created the workshop with a focus on the toilet as a way to consider public-facing and community focused practice. 

Jo-Anne commented: ‘We’re using the RCA’s toilet provision as a space to explore the possibilities of its use and how it can be improved. We’ll be looking at how to make it a central point of communication or how design can make it more accessible, not just for those with disabilities but more generally. We will give students an outline of the role of toilets and across all three sites they will study and compare them before coming up with ideas for interventions.’

Monkey See Monkey Do – Cognitive Apprenticeship and Design Attitude

AcrossRCA 2019, Monkey See Monkey Do – Cognitive Apprenticeship and Design Attitude
AcrossRCA 2019, Monkey See Monkey Do – Cognitive Apprenticeship and Design Attitude
Photographer: Shaun James Cox
Rather than a shared brief, or shared goal, Monkey See Monkey Do, was a workshop with a shared state of mind. Led by Tutor and Design Products alumnus Alon Meron, the workshop explored the impact of visible pedagogy on the creative process. 

Students brought their own goal or aims to the workshop, drawn from their practice – such as exploring a new technique or preparing for a presentation. They then worked together in a shared space, and were actively encouraged to take ideas from each other – learning from watching the way that others work. The workshop created a dynamic that evolved on its own, reflected the learning environment of a mixed disciplinary studio and the positive impacts that brings.

AcrossRCA 2019, Monkey See Monkey Do – Cognitive Apprenticeship and Design Attitude
AcrossRCA 2019, Monkey See Monkey Do – Cognitive Apprenticeship and Design Attitude
Photographer: Shaun James Cox

Performing Artificial Intelligence in the Expanded Field of Humanity

AcrossRCA 2019, Performing Artificial Intelligence in the Expanded Field of Humanity
AcrossRCA 2019, Performing Artificial Intelligence in the Expanded Field of Humanity
Photographer: Shaun James Cox
Research students Dario Srbic and Julia Wolf led a workshop exploring contemporary bodily relationships within networked societies. Participants explored ways to use biometrical data, such as heart rate and skin moisture to create sound sculptures. They were led through a series of exercises using movement and light sensors, that built up to a final performance.

The workshop touched on various discourses including desire, machine intelligence, performativity and affect. The issue of how to collaborate also become apparent through the workshop – participants found that introducing structures and parameters was useful, and that there was a beauty, openness and freedom in imitation. Through improvisation and experimentation, they worked to locate the edges of the work, and explore the boundaries between the Individual and the collective.

AcrossRCA 2019, Performing Artificial Intelligence in the Expanded Field of Humanity
AcrossRCA 2019, Performing Artificial Intelligence in the Expanded Field of Humanity
Photographer: Shaun James Cox

Circular Food Design 

Chess board with food as pieces
Circular Food Design
Innovation Design Engineering alumnus and Visiting Lecturer Dejan Mitrovic led this two day workshop, which looked at the circular economy, food and design. Over two days participants focused on finding innovative solutions for turning food byproducts into new materials, additional food products or creating services. The workshop was run in collaboration with Department 22, an innovation agency set up by RCA alumni which focuses on design, food and sustainability.

Soft Kunst? On Tapestry, Craft and Gender 

AcrossRCA 2019, Soft Kunst? On Tapestry, Craft and Gender
AcrossRCA 2019, Soft Kunst? On Tapestry, Craft and Gender
Photographer: Shaun James Cox
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the use of textile practices by a new generation of artists. Led by Dr Fiona Curran Senior Tutor, Mixed Media Textiles, and Freddie Robins Senior Tutor, Knitted Textiles, this workshop focused on weaving and embodied making, creating a space and time for making, and what can be learnt of discovered through that.

Traditional tapestry techniques were introduced to the participants over two days by Philip Sanderson Master Weaver Designer at West Dean Tapestry Studio. A diverse range of programmes were involved: from Textiles to Architecture and Global Innovation Design. Each participant brought their own ideas from their practice to the weaving.

AcrossRCA 2019, Soft Kunst? On Tapestry, Craft and Gender
AcrossRCA 2019, Soft Kunst? On Tapestry, Craft and Gender
Photographer: Shaun James Cox

The Poetic and Performative Fold 

AcrossRCA 2019, The Poetic and Performative Form
AcrossRCA 2019, The Poetic and Performative Form
Photographer: Shaun James Cox
Led by Information Experience Design student Linnea Langfjord Kristensen this workshop explored ways that performance can be used as a method in creative practice. Through performative exercises, readings, discussions and performance-making, participants developed the folding-method, which proposes an alternative relation between ‘author/creator’ and ‘performer’. Over the week, participants developed their own performances in groups, which were performed publicly as the culmination of the workshop.

AcrossRCA 2019, The Poetic and Performative Form
AcrossRCA 2019, The Poetic and Performative Form
Photographer: Shaun James Cox

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