The British Council’s international New for Old programme supported the research of RCA curatorial and textiles academics and enabled six RCA students to experience the realities and issues of craft practices in a Southeast Asian context.
At a glance
- The RCA New for Old South East Asia programme was run by the RCA in partnership with the British Council.
- In 2015 RCA staff undertook a scoping field visit to Northern Thailand to visit rural weavers.
- During 2016, six RCA students undertook residency visits to Myanmar, Thailand or Vietnam, as part of fieldwork teams organised by the British Council.
- The collected materials were presented in an exhibition held in central London during 2017, curated by RCA staff member Martina Margetts.
The British Council is the United Kingdom’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. The arts are a cornerstone of the British Council’s mission to create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and the wider world. The Council facilitates new ways of connecting with and understanding each other through the arts, with the intention of developing stronger creative sectors around the world that are better connected with the UK.
The research team’s intention was to construct a robust structural framework that would successfully support the students’ fieldwork activities in South East Asia and effectively present both the traditional weaving cultures of the region and the students’ experiences and engagements with local communities of weavers.
Two RCA staff, Professor Mottram and Jemma Ooi, undertook a scoping visit to Northern Thailand to gather information on weaving as a culturally relevant activity and understand the context and issues that would be faced by fieldworkers working in South East Asia.
Six RCA students undertook field residencies as members of 3 multidisciplinary teams travelling in Myanmar, Thailand or Vietnam. The teams, which also included anthropologists, social entrepreneurs and local guides, collected material evidence and information about contemporary weaving practices.
History of Design PhD candidate Magali An Berthon visited Thailand with Textiles PhD candidate Pathitta Nirunpornputta, where they were joined by social enterprise expert Peewara Jitsukummongkol and historian and textiles curator Methaporn Singhanan.
In Vietnam, first-year Visual Communication MA student Tenaya Steed and second-year MA Information Experience Design student Grace Crannis were joined by cultural researcher Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen and textile artist and fashion designer Thao Vu.
First-year MA Visual Communication student Sandra Sordini and second-year MA Sculpture student Sam Carvosso, visited Myanmar where they carried out research with anthropologist Ja Htoi Pan and social enterprise expert Tin Maung Htoo / Mo Lwin.
Martina Margetts, working with the six students and supported by the British Council, curated On the Line, an exhibition that opened during London Craft Week 2017. This presented weaving practices from the three countries through the lens of the students’ experiences and utilised materials collected by the students during their fieldwork activities
Exhibition at the Aram Gallery, ‘On the Line: new perspectives on craft in Southeast Asia’, 4 May- 17 June 2017.
An online catalogue was created for the exhibition, with print versions available at the venue.
The panel session Material World was held in partnership with the Crafts Council as part of London Craft Week 2017. The session was chaired by Martina Margetts, with Magali An Berthon and Thao Vu providing contributions as panelists.
The six RCA students attended the Craft Reveals conference held in Thailand in December 2016, organised by the British Council as part of Chiang Mai Design Week.
A video describing the students’ experiences during their residencies was shown at the On the Line exhibition and uploaded to YouTube.
Professor Judith Mottram
“The collaborative aspect of the project was a great experience. Sharing our impressions and producing a common research statement with our combined voices really opened my approach as a researcher.”Residency student
“The chance to spend time with the incredible women we met in Vietnam was without a doubt the best part of the trip. Spending several weeks recording and interviewing on location was such a privilege, which has shaped the way I will approach storytelling in the future.”Residency student
“As a visual storyteller, I wanted to share a glimpse into the daily work of the women we met, from the 13-year-old weaving student to the 78-year-old factory worker, capturing our impressions in a short documentary.”Residency student