Show 2019 School of Communication: Hope, Resilience and Irreverence
The School of Communication Show explores what it means to be human – with all the hopeful expectations and painful aspects that involves. Dean of the School Dr Rathna Ramanathan describes this year’s graduate presentation as ‘a very calm and confident show'. The School is 'post-disciplinary', she explains, and ‘for these young practitioners, disciplines are like “grandma’s recipes” – they might want to learn and use them, but do so with irreverence, adding ingredients, developing their own flavours and approaches.’
Throughout the Show there is a sense of the importance of communication in facilitating dialogue and difficult conversations. The work is grounded in the social – how we treat each other, individually and as a society – whether that is thinking about migration, sexuality, disability, equality, introversion or bridging communities. In the face of challenging times, even apocalyptic visions of near future disaster, there is excitement, playfulness, a sense of humour and obstinate belief in the human race and the value of human purpose.
Visual CommunicationThe Visual Communication Programme creates a space for debate. The students actively engage with citizen life attempting to do something to reconcile with what is happening in the world. Taking a particularly active, almost activist stance, Servane Vignes has created a series of interventions and publications, including guerrilla posters and a co-authored manifesto, exploring the importance of inclusivity in how we approach disabilities and neurodiversity.
Zea Lindstrom’s provocative photographs present the female body as meat, critiquing the dominance of the male gaze, and Frederikke Frydenlund’s video game about sexual assault explores the subliminal messages within public space that create an environment in which this violence is normalised.
‘Visual Communication already has an audience out in the world, the gallery is not its "natural" home’ Head of Programme Tracey Waller explained. ‘This question of how and what to show is solved by these graduates with bold statements and singular pieces that represent their wider practice.’ One such bold statement is Eilis Searson’s illuminated sign – that reflects on her position as a designer and the conditions of creative practice and intellectual labour within neoliberalism.
Liam Johnstone’s publication about Thamesmead brings together interviews with residents and stills from a fictional science-fiction film. This blurring of fact and fiction, and the borrowing of cinematic tropes utilises the tools of graphic design to discuss the regeneration of the area from a fresh perspective.
Pei-Hsin Cho’s animation expands beyond the customary realms of illustration – the book, the page, the drawn mark – to inhabit the gallery space. Also expanding beyond the page, Alexis Demetriades’ installation explores the relationship between human mark making and pixilation, and the ways in which digital scanning doesn’t preserve but can also contribute to a process of wear and disintegration within the context of musicological or archaeological practice.
Information Experience Design
Scenography, film, poetry, audio design and music – are just a few of the tools employed by Information Experience Design (IED) graduating students to grapple with often complex and challenging information, ideas and experiences. The topics they broach are just as varied, but there are some overarching themes emerging from IED this year, Head of Programme Dr Kevin Walker points out, including the idea of natureand wellbeing and the tension between fact and fiction, language and the ineffable.
Working with the Woodland Trust to understand the importance of engaging with nature for mental health, Daisy Imogen Buckle has created human nests made from willow that are designed to provide sanctuary within office spaces. Amy Haigh has co-designed intermediate objects with birds, which act as tools through which to understand and research both human and animal behaviour. Animals also play an integral role in Kumi Oda’s film, in which two squirrels discuss the thorny issues of invasive species, using humour and to broach the misunderstandings and prejudices that often cloud political debate.
Another theme emerging from this year’s graduate work is the blurring of fact and fiction. Henriette Holz’s fictional museum display presents a speculative film about a society that is medicated to be kept divided. Looking to the past rather than the future, Ieva Simkonyte has researched the backstory of a suitcase of objects she found in a charity shop, presenting a mixture of fact and fiction about the owner’s life through fragmentary texts and the objects themselves.
Engaging with ways to fathom the digital Jesse Cahn-Thompson has taken culturally familiar rituals from Christianity and applied them to the digital world, exploring what data creation might be like as a ceremony. In doing so he has reduced Jesus to a commodity, presenting his algorithmically derived social media consumer profile as a sung hymn.
Alongside a cinematic screening, this year the graduate Animation films are showcased in an exhibition of marked inventiveness – exposing the diverse methods behind their work and imaginative worlds their animations convey. Alix Bortoli has made an almost baroque installation of the textiles used to create her embroidered animation, whereas Toby Auberg has opted for a more simplistic presentation, that focuses on his digital 3D animation. Drawing on diverse references, from contemporary events to Dante's Inferno, Auberg’s film is about the stratification of society, showing infrastructure stacking up on itself over time and the creatures inhabiting this world becoming increasingly less human and more abstract.
While animation is a very solitary pursuit – necessarily so, because of the labour-intensive means of its production – the subjects addressed by these graduate films have a sense of the communal and a socio-political importance. ‘Many of the films come from a personal position and are developed through a deep critical, ethical and emotional thinking’ Head of Programme Professor Suzanne Buchan explained. ‘There is a kindness and generosity to much of the work.’Lizzy C Rogers’ film explores sexuality and ways of being in the world and her exhibition includes an invitation for visitors to contribute to the work. Hang Xu’s film is about a girl’s life journey and uses cracks as a visual metaphor for the partings and goodbyes experienced along the way.
RCA Animation students are at the vanguard of the discipline, but they also understand they are part of a continuum – they work with new technologies and cutting-edge techniques, but do not abandon or leave behind legacies of the analogue. Yanbin Cao has made an interactive VR work that aims to inform extroverts about the experience of being an introvert. Taking a more traditional approach, Ollie Magee’s absurdist film is about what is hidden and what is revealed, people watching, tension building and how an audience might go about constructing a narrative. Or, it is a film about a horse that gets in the way.
Show 2019 runs from 29 June to 7 July (closed 3 July), 12–6pm daily.