RCA2021: A Festival of Art & Design
Our festival of physical satellite events celebrating work from our 2021 graduates is almost at an end. Leaving us with a record of shows as reflective on the current moment in time as they are on the future of Art & Design practice.
Under the conditions of the pandemic many of our RCA2021 graduating cohorts turned to new ways of presenting work – collaborating with external organisations and turning traditional perceptions on their head to reveal new elements within their practice.
Here's what we heard from some of our graduating cohort on their individual satellite shows and what it meant to them to exhibit their work.
Art on the Grass – a collective coming together
'Art on the Grass showed me the power of community', MA Fashion graduate Seungmin Koh said of the unique show which took place in Victoria Park, East London this July. Turning their fashion collections into a public art installation offered Seungmin and her fellow students a chance 'to share each other's work and feel synergy with them as well-meaning competitors.'
'It was a chance to explain my work in person and in a space in which people could touch and feel my garments. I met potential customers for my collections as well as a lot of stylists, photographers and performers, and various companies who could support the production of my collection to an actual sale.'
School of Architecture Graduate Show – the urgency of practicing otherwise
Taking place in a disused space, the purpose of which is currently being re-imagined, was apt for this year's Architecture graduate event which brought together students from our MA Architecture and MA Interior Design at Wapping's Hydraulic Power Station. As the programme leads for this year's MA Architecture write in their introduction to their RCA2021 showcase: 'As the storm continues to cast debris all around us, it's important to reflect on architecture, its complicity in contributing to the mess of our world, and the urgency of practising otherwise.'
The projects from our School of Architecture graduates exemplify a speculative, independent and critical ethos considering how our built environment contributes to and is a the result of geo-politics, data and constructed mythologies. With projects considering melting perma-frost in Russia and the right to breathe in a world exposed to toxic pollutants.
Innovation Design Engineering and Global Innovation Design Summer Exhibition - at the intersection of art, science and designBringing together students from diverse disciplines to find design solutions to global problems is central to our MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering and MA/MSc Global Innovation Design programmes taught jointly with Imperial College. Their summer exhibition was a unique opportunity to bring together an international cohort to show their work in our Kensington campus gallery space. Exhibits included a paint that captures and stores Carbon Dioxide and 3D printed textiles.
'Our theme this year was Chaos as a Catalyst, which has carried and represented our cohort in many ways as we went truly global this year' GID student Harika Adivikolanu told us. 'Many of us left London and scattered around the world to create our own informal studios. Everyone has taken incredible ownership of their own design processes and produced some amazing work influenced by all of the uncertainty and chaos!'
'Abstracting the digital solutions to physical experiences for visitors was challenging but also incredibly rewarding' IDE student Thomas Gossner said. And going from digital to physical at the show also led to some concrete outcomes. 'From feedback and contacts to exciting job offers and even potential investment opportunities.'
BEEP BEEP, an IED Experience – immersed in data
Our MA Information Experience Design brings together artists, designers, researchers, engineers and social scientists to engage with data in unexpected ways. From immersive exhibitions imagining London's future foragers in the year 2086 to huge copper installations that explore the phenomenon of digital communications as its expanded through the pandemic. This year's physical show demonstrates how design can be used as a tool represent the current moment and imagine future worlds.
'Working together with my fellow students was wonderful. Everything felt more real and complete face to face' IED graduate Maayan Sophia Weisstub told us. 'My graduation work is a kinetic sculpture and presenting a video of the sculpture does not transfer the emotional experience of standing in front of it.'
MA Painting & MA Sculpture 2021 – Confronting new modes of representation
Bringing together of graduate painters and sculptors under one roof, the MA Painting and MA Sculpture graduate events at Cromwell Place provided a space for re-imagining the boundaries of painting and sculpture as practices. As Head of Programme Jaspar Joseph-Lester writes of the title of the MA Sculpture show 'Proxy'; 'it speaks of the disappearance of older modes of representation that held up the illusion of fixed boundaries and stable meanings...representative of a world that demands new modes of representation.'
Facing Forward – service design transforming industry
Service Design is the application of design practice to services and experiences, with the potential to transform human experiences of business and industry. With so many of our interactions with businesses now taking place online, Service Design as a discipline is more important than evet. This year's MA Service Design graduate projects included software to help us become ethical consumers and a social platform for sharing independent music.
'These projects don't just visualise a desirable future. Students have prototyped, tested and proven that future. Despite the challenges they have faced, our students have set new standards for service design.' Head of Programme, Clive Grinyer told us. 'They're facing forward, helping us envision the future, and solving problems big and small. They're going to change the world a little bit and sometimes quite a big bit'
CAP 2021 – a collision of knowledge, production and coming together
Pushing the expectations of what contemporary art can be, our MA Contemporary Art Practice graduate event at Cromwell Place was an opportunity for our emerging artists to share their delight in researching, making, discussing and developing unique artworks in a dynamic physical setting. 'You go from video work to large intestines that you can actually crawl through – the variety of work that CAP creates is phenomenal,' 2021 graduate Jamie Murray-Pullan told us.
'Our graduates have demonstrated with grace and eloquence what happens when a group of intelligent, talented and ambitious artists come together to respond to and be responsive to the world around us.' Head of our CAP programme, Chantal Faust told us. 'These artists represent both the contemporary and the future, and they do so fiercely and brilliantly.'
Double Vision & After the High Tide – 'creatively transforming limitations'
This years joint MA Print and MA Photography graduate event at Cromwell place exemplifies the creative effort of a graduating class tied to the restrictions of pandemic life but finding new opportunities within it. As Head of our MA Print, Jo Stockham said 'A collective rebellion against confinements of all kinds has resulted in an eruption of matter. Rocks, pillows, plants, steel, liquid light, the play between image and reality is ever- present.'For ten days in July, our graduating printmakers and photographers took over Cromwell Place to show the very best work breathing new life into traditional mediums. 'It’s a dream to finally present the work in an actual space,' MA Photography graduate Luc Schol told us. 'Art practices are ever-changing and never ending. It’s good to take a step back, get something framed and hang it on a wall. Or build a crazy machine like Zhihang Li!' You can read more about their show in Vogue!
Textiles Happening – materiality as a vehicle for improving systems
Performances, VR demonstrations, film installations and debates all made up part of the programme for our MA Textiles graduate event Textiles Happening which strived to re-define and re-examine textiles language and textile practice in 2021. A cinema soundscape room at the centre of the exhibition incorporated all of the work that had been done away from workshops that year playing simultaneously across several screens.
'We wanted to pay homage to all the work that has been done digitally' Livia Papiernik said. 'And having everyone's work together like this is a really beautiful way of celebrating the fact that we're not just individual artists but a collective cohort supporting each other.'
The concerns of this year's graduating textiles practitioners embrace diverse themes. Chloé Rochefort's exhibition re-imagined the playground through a public art installation whilst Ruth Lloyd looked at the ways bacteria can be used to make dyes reducing our dependence on petroleum based solutions. 'It's amazing to look at how different everyone's approach is and how they've looked at issues around identity or the environment in a way that's close to their heart' said Woo Jin Woo.
Terminal – a critical response to the pause of isolation
'Our show embraces survival during the pandemic' Pat Wingshan Wong (MA Visual Communication) told us whose MA Visual Communication graduate project Barter Archive was a two year community lead archive in the Billingsgate Fish Market recording the working lives of its fishmongers.
Having mostly connected with her class virtually, Terminal presented a chance to interact with classmates and make industry connections. 'After the show, I got an interview and, more importantly, met some creative practitioners who have similar interests. It was a magic moment for us to get together, I can imagine that we will have more collaborations after graduation in the near future.'