Inside

Ben Wadler

MA Sculpture, 2010–12

There were six years between my BA and my MA. During these years, I lived in New York, and did all different sorts of jobs from art handling to archiving, and museum and performance biennial.

There were six years between my BA and my MA. During these years, I lived in New York, and did all different sorts of jobs from art handling to archiving, and museum and performance biennial.

The decision to do a Masters was something that I’d thought about for a long time. I decided to visit Europe, and see nine different art schools to help make the decision. You’re spending all this money and it’s not obviously coming back to you, but it’s about investing in you, not in returns. I never could have predicted what the outcome would be, but I couldn’t have chosen better.

I wrote to every administration department in the nine schools saying, ‘Hey I can’t be there for the open day, but I’d love to come and meet the professor.’

The places I visited included Glasgow, Cardiff, Goldsmiths, Chelsea, Slade, Vienna, Berlin and Sandberg in Amsterdam. When, at the RCA, I asked for a meeting with the (then) head of department, Richard Wentworth, he gave me an hour of his time. We looked at pictures of his work; he showed me round the studios, and introduced me to other students. We went and got lunch and I ended up at a seminar taking notes.

While the RCA is the one of the best art schools in the world, and I had deep resonance with the faculty and students’ work, the downside was that I didn’t really want to go to school in a big city. Oh, and the fees.

I was allowed to do the interview over Skype, but unfortunately, I got the days confused and only realised this when I got an unrecognised call from the administrator, Emma, asking if I was online and ready. I got online as soon as I could and took the call. I had this adrenalin moment, knowing I really had to make my energy felt through the screen.

Sculpture is a really great department. In Battersea, students feel a sense of entitlement towards the building – it’s a free space. Working in a building with such a huge ceiling, there are no obstacles. And when you’re thrown in with a couple of dozen artists, it’s an invitation to look at things differently. It can broaden your perception of what can happen. 

You get a much better sense of knowing what you’re not through this sort of artistic cross-pollination. That’s the main reason I came to art school in a different country. Art is a way for us to know ourselves. An aperture is a hole to look through, and a portal is a hole to pass through. In art, we do both of these things. That’s funny, because artworks look like objects; but while a painting can seem to resemble a wall, it has the secret power to become a window, or a door beyond the self. As we pass through a door, experience passes through us.

Lots of the things I’ve done at the College have come from wanting to foster a community spirit. Your second year is mainly about preparing for your degree show. You end up skipping lunch a lot because you have so much work to do, but then you can’t think because you’re so hungry. My idea was to start a kitchen, so that artists would have to take a break. We made lasagna, Moroccan chicken, and people started to make side dishes – this kitchen began to run itself. For students, it’s normally about ‘my’ studio, ‘my’ show, ‘my’ work, but this was something that was massively for the department.

"I see the school as a greenhouse, full of young flowering plants. It’s a hiatus from the hardship of the wild, where seeds or sprouts are given two years to grow, free from the frost of the winter, and given a nourishing environment to grow to maturity – at which point they will be robust enough to survive. Inside the greenhouse, there’s cross-pollination."
Ben Walder
Ben Walder