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Youmee Hwang

MA Sculpture, 2015–17

How would you characterise Sculpture at the RCA? 

I think that the courses at the RCA are defined less by medium than by the people and the staff, and the approach to making work. Deciding on a Programme means not only choosing to focus on specific way of working, but also choosing which atmosphere you are going to be in and who you are going to be with. The Sculpture course here is very broad and open – people produce very diverse work, and are always willing to share their practice with you. We have managed to build a strong community on the course, and have created lots of events and shows together. 

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

Before coming to the RCA, I studied Architectural Design in Korea. When I started that course I had the vague idea that I would be able to create spaces that I had dreamed of. But in fact I was more often engaged in dealing with philosophical questions about the relation between space and human life. After I graduated I worked in an architectural design company for a while. It was there that I realised that the field of architectural design is really quite strict. When I applied to the RCA, I was hoping to find different medium or a different way of working that would help me to articulate my ideas.

What have you found to be the main differences between your BA and the MA so far?

Moving from the BA to the MA was a massive shift for me, because I was moving both to a new country and into a new field. The biggest difference is that I have realised there isn't a single, correct answer. When I was studying design during my BA, I thought it was a process of learning the right answers. You had to convince people about each step of your approach. Now that I've experienced the diversity of the RCA, I've realised that it's possible for things to be much more open: it is not about good or bad. It is more about how it works, or what you can do to make things happen.

How do you feel that your work has developed while you’ve been at the RCA? 

I would say that it is much more considered, for one thing. Before I came here, I used to pursue whatever passed through my head without being particularly critical of what I was doing, or why. Here, you have the opportunity to have deep conversations with people and to ask the important questions. I found that writing the dissertation at the end of the first year really helped me to work out what it was that I wanted to pursue. I was encouraged to write as a process of becoming rather than to reach a clear conclusion. It gave me a better understanding of the things that concerned me, and helped me to focus my ideas. 

Have you worked with students from other departments while you’ve been here? 

Yes. I have been encouraged by the RCA to pay attention to the way that other people work. You have the opportunity to attend lecture series for other departments, and cross-school crits. There are lots of opportunities to meet people and share your way of working with each other. Beyond the school’s official schedule, I have worked with people from other departments by joining various open call projects. Last year, I worked with people from the curating course, which culminated in a performance and making a short film with a dancer.

What is the mix of students like on the Sculpture Programme? 

Most of the students have a background in fine art, but otherwise there's a real mix in terms of professional experience and identities. I loved joining this mixed group. I didn't come here just to focus on my own practice: I also wanted to learn more about what was happening in the world. Encountering all of these different people with different life experiences just at the point that I am developing my own practice has been a very important for me. 

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

The most rewarding and important things about being here, for me, has been experiencing the RCA's diversity. It’s not only diverse in terms of mediums or ways of working but also in the breadth of people's lived experiences. This is the first time that I have lived abroad. Being away from home has given me the opportunity to think about where and how I lived before. I have been able to situate myself critically in a new environment. Another really rewarding thing is that I now understand much more about what's going on in the current contemporary art scene – through lectures, tutorials with visiting lecturers including artists and curators and through attending the many exhibitions that take place every month in London. That new knowledge has definitely had a big impact on my work. 

Finally, what are you working on at the moment? 

I'm working with moving image and video installation. I have recently been collecting a lot of video footage and experimenting with the ways that I can articulate my ideas. I am now about to start working out how to collage that footage together. 

"Encountering all of these different people with different life experiences just at the point that I am developing my own practice has been a very important for me"
Youmee Hwang
Youmee Hwang