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Wayne Binitie

MA Ceramics & Glass, 2015–17

What were you doing before you started studying at the RCA?

Before applying to the RCA I studied Sonic Art at Goldsmiths. I had also previously studied at the Slade on the Research Development Programme. That’s where I first became intrigued by ice, and where I made my first installation. I worked with the atmospheric physics lab at University College London, who gave me some aurorae data which I used to create what was in effect a solar storm in the gallery. Bringing the landscape into the gallery is the theme that I’ve been exploring ever since. I didn’t do a BA – I used to be a musician. That’s where my interest in sound came from. 

How did your research interest develop? 

I got a graduate award to travel to Iceland, where I became interested in the disappearance of the glacial landscape. These glaciers have compressed air inside them – ancient air. I wanted to find ways to record this trapped air, and to use it as a form of sound data. I’m in the Ceramics & Glass department here at the RCA because glass felt like the most logical material to explore these processes in. My research now involves a combination of things – field recordings as well as bringing the heat of the kiln to this frozen material. One of the things that was really important to me was that I wanted to explore the differences between scientific empirical data and artistic, affective encounter.  I wanted to know how an artist would approach working with raw scientific data. 

What contact do you have with other researchers at the RCA? 

During the first year of your MPhil or PhD there’s a course called research methods that all researchers at the RCA attend. What’s great about that is that you get to have conversations between different disciplines, and you develop close ties with other researchers. Everyone here has different experiences and their own unique obsessions. On the back of that research methods course, I co-curated a show with three other researchers who are each dealing with unusual materials. 

How has your research been shaped by being at the RCA? 

I make use of a lot of different facilities here at the RCA. I spend time filming and photographing ancient ice cores in the Moving Image department, and I work a lot in Print and Photography. I have also been experimenting with ways of carving glass using tools in the Sculpture department. Previously, I was primarily interested in the sonic properties of ice but my work is much more sculptural now as a result of studying glass here. I’ve also learnt a lot from my peers. It’s difficult to say how exactly, but just the sheer sense of adventure in the work of some of my colleagues has been really inspiring. Everyone seems to be constantly experimenting and pushing at their practice. Everything seems possible here. It’s almost demanded that you think outside the box. 

Can you describe what it’s like studying at the RCA — what’s a typical day like?

There really isn’t really a typical day! For me, a day might involve from making a plaster quartz mold, experimenting in the cold shop or the hot shop cutting or carving into glass, but equally it might also involve a visit, or conversation with one of my colleagues over in Kensington. I might find myself having lunch with one of them, and then coming back and photographing a 20,000-year-old ice core from Antarctica. 

What have you found most rewarding about your time at the RCA?

The most rewarding thing has been, on a practical level, having a fantastic studio and fantastic technical support. Intellectually, I’ve been stimulated by the fantastic minds here. Part of the support that is offered is a fantastic supervisor who is able to give you guidance: that provides you with a good and supportive framework to work within. On a personal level, it has given me the confidence to explore things and try out new ways of working without being too self-critical. That’s a key thing here: everyone is incredibly open and supportive of new ideas. I think everyone is genuinely curious and intrigued about new processes. 

Have you faced any particular challenges while you have been here? 

There have been lots of challenges. My research explores translating the sound of ice cores in glass. At the British Antarctic Survey Ice Core Archive in Cambridge I am currently conducting audio and film recordings of compressed air bubbles trapped within ice cores ranging across 800,000 to 1,000 years of historical time. 

My ensuing research at the RCA involves refining methods for vibrating glass powders and volcanic ash using my recordings from the archive. The resultant cymatic patterns are furnace cast with hot glass, then cut, polished and sculpted into solid forms and surfaces. I am trying to find artistic ways of making work that is informed by the ancient past, but also provokes thinking about the contemporary present and future. One of the challenges is integrating quantitative and qualitative knowledge-making. But the greatest challenge is making an original contribution to glass as a sonic medium. 

Do you have any advice for people who are thinking of studying here? 

There’s a real excitement in being here: you feel like you’re getting a chance to pursue something that you couldn’t do anywhere else in the world. That brings with it a certain sense of responsibility, but you have to be relaxed about that, and allow moments of sheer exhilaration to lead to new discoveries. 

"The most rewarding thing has been, on a practical level, having a fantastic studio and fantastic technical support"
Wayne Binitie
Wayne Binitie