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Peter Gabriel and Sting / Rock Paper Scissors

The School of Communication at the RCA were invited to devise the visual material for Rock Paper Scissors — Peter Gabriel and Sting’s live cross-North America tour in summer 2016.

The School of Communication assembled a team of staff, students and alumni from across the School’s programmes to compose the visuals that run across 14 large screens during each of the 26 shows performed at different venues across Canada and the United States. The diversity in skill set, methodology and creative approach armed the group with a breadth and wealth of expertise.

Team members were given particular songs from each artist, to think about how they might be ‘visualised’ – interpreted, or translated as pieces of communication that would sit alongside, complement and enrich the musical experience in a live performance context. In addition to in-depth feedback and constructive criticism from Gabriel himself, the team worked with prominent lighting and production designer, Rob Sinclair, and Sting’s long-time lighting designer and director, Danny Nolan. In all of these exchanges, professionalism was paramount and well achieved as the team learned to absorb and work fluidly with the views and desires of their commissioning body.

Throughout the process, a shared language and methodology emerged across the group, with a focus on producing visuals, sequences and narrative that worked in fragments as well as unified whole. The working theme of the ‘zine’ was adopted, and the resulting visuals were both abstract and figurative, cut-and-paste, collage and forms of spontaneous expression. The range of ways in which these images will be combined, static and in motion, remains to be seen across the idiosyncratic live performances of Peter Gabriel and Sting, who launched their tour in Columbus, Ohio, on 21 June.

The School of Communication looks forward to continuing the research outcomes of this innovative partnership: staff and students alike will be involved in working on academic articles and case studies that examine the project as a case study in pedagogy, creativity, visual narratives and working with external partners and industry professionals.