Graduate shows can be an intense experience and the Royal College of Art’s summer exhibition, which opens tomorrow, is no exception. With 575 students from six schools exhibiting over two campus, the sheer volume and diversity on display is a challenge in itself. Add in to this mix though the quality of the work and you have a pleasingly overwhelming cultural experience.
The Kensington site plays host to three schools’ shows (architecture, communication and design) plus the History of Design course from the Humanities school. As such, one visit is nowhere near enough to immerse yourself in the work, particularly because RCA students are so adept at articulating the ideas behind their work; whizzing round is not really an option.
Everyone’s highlights will be different with each visitor creating a personal highlights tour. Mine began in style at Billie Muraben and Polly O Flynn’s Dean Suite, a replica hotel room in which everything has been made by a current RCA student or tutor. It’s a playfully provocative look at what educational institutions might have to embrace in the post-funding cuts battle for survival, made manifest with an enviable attention-to-detail (right down to the room service menu).
Avantika Agarwal is a product designer whose work combines her synaesthesia with her Indian heritage in innovative and interesting ways. Her wooden floor tiles are created by sprinkling CMYK coloured dust onto the panels before blowtorching them, while her woven pieces involve copying photographs onto woollen canvases, then taking them apart and restitching them randomly, pixellating the original image in the process.
There’s big ideas at play in the architecture school, Matthew Powell takes the oft-heard lament “Why wasn’t I consulted?” as the starting point for his explorations of “localised pockets of civic self-governance” while Sabrina Summer looks at breaking down the boundaries between schools and the communities in which they sit, starting with getting rid of the fortress-like fences which have such a psychological impact on those either side of the divide.
Kathryn Flemming’s work takes taxidermy in an extraordinary new direction as she presents a host of weird and wonderful creatures as part of her Regent’s Park of Evolutionary Development. Retro reflective carnivores and high wire herbivores question both evolutionary science and the human customs of keeping and studying captive wildlife.
Jess Fugler’s piece The Bells of London seeks to “challenge the archetype of what a bell can be” by creating new bells pitched (pun intended) at different kinds of cyclists. After recording soundscapes in Richmond Park, Hyde Park Corner and Parliament Square, she worked out what kind of noise would be most efficient and effective in these three different locales. The bells themselves are beautifully crafted and the documentation is impressively engaging.
Back in the Visual Communication school a special mention must go to Melissa Kim’s The White Bear Project; a thought-provoking piece inspired by psychologist Daniel Wegner’s ideas around obsession. It consists of a huge white bear sculpture and a protected Twitter account; the perfect example of what Neville Brody sees as this year’s open mindedness.
Finally don’t miss out on the animation showcase which is absurdly high quality. The highlights are manifold but a special mention to three very different but equally inspiring takes on life in the metropolis from Stephen McNally, Ana Tortos and Jessica Ashman.