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Finding connection, collaboration and community online at AcrossRCA

postcards spread across a table
ALT/ARChive: The Alternative Archiving Workshop, AcrossRCA 2021 workshop, Zifei Ge
This year AcrossRCA celebrated its 10th anniversary with the biggest ever edition of the annual interdisciplinary festival. 
Organised by the Academic Development Office, AcrossRCA enables students to explore new ideas and make new connections across the College community. This year, around 900 students from across the College took part in 41 online projects run by students, staff and alumni. Students participated from bedrooms, kitchens, and dining rooms around the world, increasing the event’s sense of diversity and scale.
Discover how four AcrossRCA projects found connection, collaboration and community online.

Designing for joy in an ageing society

screenshot of a miro board from an online AcrossRCA workshop
Designing for joy in an ageing society, AcrossRCA 2021 workshop, Design Age Institute
Designing for Joy in an Ageing Society was a week-long project run by the Design Age Institute, part of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design. Through an inclusive design process, participants created designs that help people enjoy at least five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035.

the opportunity to bring students from multiple design disciplines together to collaborate brings rich and innovative ideas to the table
Sidse Carroll
‘The ageing population is characterised by great diversity and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to design for ageing’ Sidse Carroll, Research Fellow, Design Age Institute, explained. ‘Tackling this challenge, requires joint efforts and therefore the opportunity to bring students from multiple design disciplines together to collaborate brings rich and innovative ideas to the table.’

screenshot of students present a design concept
Duet, Pierre Engelhard, Linda Yilin Wen, Michel Strantz and Ksenia Germanovich
The project took place through talks and group work, with students using Miro to collaborate and present their ideas. The online format also enabled students to connect with older people from the Newcastle area through project partners from VOICE at Newcastle University, which provided vital insights for the development of their designs.

The outcomes addressed a variety of challenges, from older workers experiencing ageism to independent travelling in later life. The winning design was Duet, an analogue object that harnesses cutting-edge technology to encourage authentic connection and bring joy into communication through creative, collaborative storytelling with friends and family.

The tactile and sensory qualities of the screen

close up of a seashell on a baby pink background
The Feelies Sensory Screens, AcrossRCA 2021 workshop, Kathryn Attrill
Barbara Mueller, a 2019 alumna from MA Visual Communication, ran The Feelies Sensory Screens, a workshop exploring the tactile and sensory qualities of screen-based formats, based on her PhD research.

the students produced very intriguing responses – highly personal and at once experimental
Barbara Mueller
‘Primarily experiencing our daily lives through our screens, we have been deprived of our sensory realities throughout the past year’ Barbara explained. ‘The students explored a number of strategies to generate haptic visuality. This included experimenting with tactile sound, shallow images or close-ups that make the screen image appear more like a malleable landscape, the grainy texture of analogue super 8 film or digital filters to sculpt a high resolution image.’

close up image of a textured wool and yarn surface
The Feelies Sensory Screens, AcrossRCA 2021 workshop, Katrine Skovsgaard
The participants’ different locations and makeshift work environments added to the variety of outcomes, as Barbara explained: ‘As a result of the diversity of work places, the students produced very intriguing responses – highly personal and at once experimental, experimenting with their usual specialist materials and practices while improvising with everything they have to hand.’

Alternative archives

photographs of three objects from Johann Spindler's alternative archive
ALT/ARChive: The Alternative Archiving Workshop, AcrossRCA 2021 workshop, Johann Spindler
ALT/ARChive: The Alternative Archiving Workshop was run by V&A/RCA MA History of Design students and founders of the online archive Design in Quarantine, Anna Talley and Fleur Elkerton.

We wanted to produce a workshop based on the methodologies we had been using, and also to unpick and respond to archiving as a practice
Anna Talley and Fleur Elkerton
Since April 2020 Design in Quarantine has archived over 450 design responses to the pandemic; featured in publications including the New York Times, ICON, Financial Times, the Evening Standard; and been awarded a Virtual Student Award by the Design History Society.

‘We wanted to produce a workshop based on the methodologies we had been using, and also to unpick and respond to archiving as a practice’ Anna and Fleur explained. 

photographs of three objects from Victoria Bennett's alternative archive
ALT/ARChive: The Alternative Archiving Workshop, AcrossRCA 2021 workshop, Victoria Bennett
Participants designed their own personal archive and shared a manifesto of collecting. Discussing the outcomes, Fleur and Anne observed: ‘We noticed how archives often have a very intimate and close relationship to the creator – many of our participants showed objects and collections that linked to family members, national identity or cultural heritage.’

Read more about the workshop and its outcomes here.

Collective care

Three collages showing hair care rituals
Anagen, Rituals & Recipes, AcrossRCA 2021 workshop, Jesse May Fisher, Treeney Harkin and Rieko Whitfield
Three students – Jesse May Fisher (MA Contemporary Art Practice, Moving Image), Treeney Harkin (MA Jewellery & Metal) and Rieko Whitfield (MA Contemporary Art Practice, Public Sphere) – came together to run the Rituals & Recipes workshop. ‘We wanted to create a space where we could work collaboratively and meet artists with aligning practices, make friends and forge bonds for future collectivisation’ they explained. ‘This seemed so vital in our current climate.’

Rituals & Recipes showed that successful collaboration can take place online, can birth friendships and open new ways to approaching a practice
Jesse May Fisher, Treeney Harkin and Rieko Whitfield
The workshop participants collaborated to create a “Conceptual Cookbook” of practices, motions, mantras, and meditations. The resulting zine Invitations to Symbiotic Care, will hold all of the artwork made during the workshop.

photograph of an object with a spiral pattern
Offering, Rituals & Recipes, AcrossRCA 2021 workshop, Emmie Hubbard
‘Rituals & Recipes showed that successful collaboration can take place online, can birth friendships and open new ways to approaching a practice’ Jesse, Treeney and Rieko commented. 

Taking part in AcrossRCA has inspired the trio to form a collective: Artemisia Collective, focused on mythology, ritual, healing and embodied feminine knowledge. ‘Facilitating a successful workshop that explored collective care and the subversion of self-interest during a pandemic and global isolation showed how vital community healing is, particularly in this moment’ they explained.


Find out how you could join the RCA creative community.