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RCA2020: Collaboration across and beyond Art and Design

Collaboration across disciplines, with institutions and industry partners as well as between individual practitioners is a major aspect of the work done at the RCA by our students as much as our staff. This collaborative work manifests itself in unique and diverse ways through the RCA2020 showcase.

1. Isabel Alonso, MA Design Products

Similes, Isabel Alonso

Isabel Alonso collaborated with glassblowing workshops in Spain for her project Similes. More and more of these workshops have closed down in the past few years, threatening the future of the craft. Building on her research-intensive approach to design as a collaborative practice with social and cultural impact, Isabel worked with Juan Alcántara’s glassblowing workshop to design three lights that reflect glassblowing practice. The lights, which resemble a blowpipe and molten glass, mimic the glassblowers’ practice as the user interacts with them – lighting up when twisted and turned. Isabel hopes these objects will stimulate an interest and understanding of traditional crafts and establish a place for them in design practice. 

2. Virag Kiss, MA Fashion

virag kiss
BodyMind Series, Virag Kiss

Virag Kiss collaborated with the Playground, a creative platform at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance as well as Italian wool manufacturer MANTECO to create a sustainable fashion collection for her graduate project entitled BodyMind Series. Virag showcases her design through performance pieces from dance-artists – an approach which allows her to centre the dynamics of the moving body in her practice. This practice began at the RCA where she collaborated with performance artists, an experience that spurred her on to collaborate with dancers outside her institution. Alongside this she has been working with MANTECO to source the recycled wool crepe which she uses in her collection, a fabric which allows for dynamic movement whilst also being sustainable. 

3. Sophie Horrocks, MA/MSc Global Innovation Design

Sophie Horrocks, Sensaura
Sensaura, Sophie Horrocks

Sensaura is an inclusive design solution in the form of an app and wearable device for blind and partially sighted people that translates visual information into spatial audio cues.  The project was designed in collaboration with Richard Freeman, Director of Ability Promotions, a publishing company for blind and partially sighted people. Sensaura connects users to the world around them, giving the wearer information as they go about their day on physical obstacles, public spaces and bus timetables. Focus Group research for the project was run with the Thomas Pocklington Trust, an organisation championing the needs and aspirations of blind and partially sighted people. With research outcomes enhanced by consultations from the Next Generation Neural Interfaces Lab at Imperial College London. 

4. José García Oliva, MA Visual Communication

José García Oliva
HowmayIserveyou, José García Oliva

Collaboration is central to Visual Communication graduate José García Oliva’s practice, which is focused mainly on interactive art design for web platforms. He started The Window Cleaner Society in 2019, a project that aims to foster collaborations between artists and activists through online resources and networking. The relationship between art and political activism is a recurring theme of his other projects which include: People Here Like That, a live exhibition piece made in collaboration with cleaners at the RCA, and HowmayIserveyou – a project exploring colonialism in customer service relations via an online platform. The platform, launching on 24 July, will provide open conversations with customer service agents in Pakistan outsourced by UK companies. As part of RCA2020 The Window Cleaner Society will be hosting a Collective E-Choir on 30 July.

5. Dolly Kershaw & Sophie Kemp, MA Sculpture

Loopholes, Dollie Kershaw & Sophie Kemp

MA Sculpture graduates Dolly Kershaw and Sophie Kemp have collaborated on several projects during their time at the RCA. Humour, playfulness and disruption are central to both their practices. They often work on projects in public institutional spaces rather than  traditional gallery spaces. Loopholes began when Dolly was on an exchange programme at the University of Texas, Austin and Sophie was studying at the RCA in London. The project is inspired by a protest Dolly saw in Bolivia in 2015 involving cement pipes she referred to as “Hula Hoops”. The shared language of food sparked the idea for another protest with both sculpting hoops and releasing them into shared spaces at their respective institutions.

6. Beatrice Mandelstam & Jess Stein, MA Service Design

Ikea Rey catalogue, Beatrice Mandelstam & Jess Stein
Ikea Rey catalogue, Beatrice Mandelstam & Jess Stein 2020
We typically begin our journey to sleep after dinner, Beatrice Mandelstam and Jessie Stein found when conducting their research for Rey  in collaboration with Ikea. Through analysis of 20+ hours of user home walk through footage the MA Service Design graduates put together the catalogue for a range of homeware products that would cater to this 'before' time, providing an easy transition to quality sleep. The project reflects a speculative and research intensive design practice. As the team write on RCA2020 discover plaform: 'We were interested in how to engage designers with extended sleep journeys, as well as how frameworks from semiotics and depictions of sleep within literature and history might encourage expansiveness within sleep design.'

7. Georgia Cottington & Elliot Lunn, MA Design Products

the greyfield project
The Greyfield Project, Georgia Cottington & Elliot Lunn

Socially engaged design practice and interaction with local communities is central to Design Products graduates Georgia Cottington and Elliot Lunn’s The Greyfield Project. In collaboration with West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates in West London, the pair have been working on a pilot scheme to develop 51,000 empty council-owned garages across London into creative community spaces. Outreach is central to their work, they have developed strong relationships with residents and with the West Ken Youth Club over the past year, and they are building on local interest to put together plans to redesign unused spaces to foster community and creative practice. The pair hope to continue their work after graduation.

8. Kun Qian, Huitong Li, Chao Dai & Yushan Zhai, MA Service Design

Next is a group project by MA Service Design students that focuses on the topic of studying abroad. Research with potential users formed the basis of the project, which takes the form of a social platform. The platform connects applicants who want to study abroad with overseas students in order to facilitate social networking and make their transition to living and studying in another country easier. The app collects information on consumers’ journeys in order to connect applicants to potential knowledge sharers – overseas students whose current programme of study and prior background closely resembles that of the consumer. The byline of the product “people light people” reflects the teams’ endeavour to design a product that makes the journey of overseas students more navigable and friendly.

9. Lydia Antoniou, Caterina Guadagno, Nora Kovacs, Titus Nouwens & William Rees, MA Curating Contemporary Art

Sènsa, Paul Maheke with Melika Ngombe Kolongo (Nkisi); Ariel Efraim Ashbel 2019
Photographer: Frank Sperling

Each year our CCA students collaborate with arts organisations to curate an original exhibition in a public art space. This year, however, in these social distanced times our students had to work quickly to adapt their shows – along with their partner organisations – to exhibit work virtually. The team behind Nothing gentle will remain worked with Open School East, a space for artistic and collaborative learning in Margate. The project was originally intended as a series of physical exhibits across the coastal town exploring what it means to collectively gather together and occupy space. When physical exhibitions ended in March, the project team collaborated with designer Lotte Lara Schröder to create an online publication inviting artists and audience to speculate on their chosen topic but in relation to the enormous changes necessitated by the circumstances of the past seven months.

Head to RCA2020 to see more from this year's graduates.