Inside

Alex Quicho

MA Critical Writing in Art & Design, 2015–

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

The opportunity for direct engagement with my peers was one of the reasons I chose to study Critical Writing in Art & Design at the RCA. The tutors pay such close attention not only to how we work individually, but how we work as a group. We’re not didactically taught, but learn from our interactions and from each other’s work, and I have met a really strong group of peers.

The group is really diverse: we are made up of architects, designers, artists and writers, and students who have a strong background in philosophy or art history. As an encounter with different expertise and opinions, it’s amazing to be able to peel back the layers of an idea, to reconsider your own work or the different ways the text can be read. As an international student, I have found the small, close-knit community really supportive.

Can you describe your experience on the MA Critical Writing in Art & Design programme?

In the first year, there is a lecture programme in Critical & Historical Studies, which spans across the disciplines, introducing you to ideas you might not encounter in your own sphere. Otherwise, the programme is workshop based, which is great because you are prompted to do something quite active in the world, and then bring that back to the group in a crit-style class. It’s a really effective method of testing your ideas.

Have there been any briefs that you have particularly enjoyed?

One of the many briefs I enjoyed was the workshop on London and writing on the city. I expected there to be more architectural explorations, but many of us focused on the social ‘texture’ of certain neighbourhoods.

I spent a lot of time in Earl’s Court, speaking with the Filipino immigrant community there. I never would have approached a piece of writing like that on my own; I’m not a sociologist. It prompted me to consider what it means to write outside your own environment and your comfort zone.

Across the programme, there is an emphasis on working with external organisations and engaging with communities. Alongside a few of the briefs, we were given opportunities to do that on our trips to Athens and Cornwall — both of which were brilliant. We were introduced to a diverse group of artists and curators, who thought through new contexts and ideas with us. Quite a few of my fellow students have continued to work with people they’d met on these trips. It’s about having conversations with what’s around you instead of being hermetic about your practice.

What have been the biggest challenges?
I work part-time at a cultural analysis agency. It can be quite hectic and doesn’t leave a lot of free time, but it is possible to work and study at the same time. Keeping a handle on the workload so it doesn’t all catch up with you is really key.

What impact has studying at the Royal College of Art had on your work?

Comparing the work I applied to the programme with and the essays I am publishing in magazines and exhibition catalogues now, I can see clear development in my writing. There is a real, tangible difference. I don’t think I could have achieved that without my peers and tutors.

After finishing my BFA in Visual Arts at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, I spent two years working at a gallery before applying for this programme. I was very engaged with thinking about how art fits into the world — socially, politically — and wanted to find a way to do that meaningfully and effectively. This programme has given me much more confidence to pursue publication, and the insight and experience of tutors like Nina Power and Brian Dillon as writers has been truly indispensable to achieving that.
"Comparing the work I applied to the programme with and the essays I am publishing in magazines and exhibition catalogues now, I can see clear development in my writing. There is a real, tangible difference. I don’t think I could have achieved that without my peers and tutors."
Alex Quicho
Alex Quicho