Show RCA 2014 is the Royal College of Art‘s annual graduate show. With 575 art, design and humanities postgraduate students, from over 40 countries, six different Schools, and 22 programmes in total exhibiting their work, the breadth and scale of the show is almost overwhelming. For SustainRCA, the RCA’s specialist sustainability department, it has been a fantastic year. Sustain’s annual awards scheme welcomed nearly 100 applications, of whom nearly 70 made the long-list (denoted by a * below).
Students at the RCA are encouraged to tackle concepts with freedom. I was immediately struck by the search for better alternatives to current forms of democracy and economic development. Alternatives on smaller scales, shaped by new technologies and reflecting different values. Isobel Davies*, State of Emergency, imagines nuclear survivals kits and strategic infrastructure for a domesday scenario. Images of a Romantic English landscape contrast with the infinite greys of a post-Apocolyptic landscape (pictured right). Michael Currin’s* My Resilient Community is an off-grid platform for urban communities to mobilise when extreme weather events disrupt telecommunications networks. Kathryn Fleming’s* Endless Forms/ Endless Species foresees a new age of wildlife parks, and asks what will be the outcome of our selective protection of charismatic species. In lighter tones, Tom Price* (Indispensable Infrastructure) designs housing developments that reuse the structures of decommissioned oil platforms, and Ja Yoon-Yoon* hopes to re-appr0priate disused petrol stations as “wellness centres” (or Breaks!).
Commoning the Cloud started with a cartographic study of a personal ISP address which routed via 22 companies to causing Matthew Powell* to question the tacit contracts we enter without understanding the value of our data. Commoning the Cloud describes a meshed network run as a community co-operative to retake ownership of our data. Mohammed J Ali’*s A New Enlightenment plays out an imagined Scottish independence based on the sharing of energy, goods services and information fuelled by peer-to-peer energy grids. Matthew Lydiatt‘*s byMe is a local marketplace based on trust and great homemade food, perhaps including Julia Georgallis*, Bread Companion, the travelling bakery that encourages sharing an honest loaf (pictured left). This theme of disaffection or dissociation from the global and passion for local initiatives chimes with a new report from the Fabian Society, Pride of Place, recently discussed by Lucy Siegle in the Guardian.
Other projects address our consumer culture, whether Adam Peacock’s* cautionary tale of the Validation Junky in all his disproportionate forms focused on individual contentment, or Zoe Hough’s* Smile, the fiction has already begun which questions the pursuit of happiness as a political goal after the 2011 UN resolution that encouraged all member states to measure happiness.
Some question how our values can be translated into action. Fotini Markopoulo’s* Cityzen is a digital voting system that aims to make voting easier, to provide clearer mandates as a better resource for government and spur greater civic engagement when you see your vote can count. Pierre Paslier’s* Advanced Activism is a playful, open-source toolkit for direct action. Disclosed, by Marion Ferrec* and Kate Wakely* (MA Service Design), is a transparency tool to facilitate more mindful consumption (pictured right). In a market-based economy, shopping choices matter, and with Disclosed, customers can align purchases with their values, whether environmental or health. The invisible hand of market economics allocates resources efficiently, but only with perfect information. With imperfect information, customers send retailers unintended signals. Disclosed starts to bridge the information gap with a little nudge to change to behaviour.
Information Experience Design, a new programme (as are Interior Design and Service Design), is about transforming information into experiences, making the intangible, tangible through cross-disciplinary collaborations. In a world increasingly driven by data with virtual connections mediated via digital platforms, the exhibits delight and draw you into an engagement deeper, more complex and more intuitive than most info graphics.
Change Ringing,* a collaboration between artist Peter Shenai and composer Laurence Osborn, tells a sonic story of climate change during the 20th century. Six bronze bells have been cast in forms derived from graphic statistical representations of summer temperatures at 17 year intervals over the last 102 years. Arranged, and struck in order, the bells voice an inharmonic spectra, a deviation from natural balance. On 28th June a 25 minute composition commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra will premiere at LSO St Luke’s, Old St, London. Affective media that hopes to ring some changes!
Health, wellbeing and responses to social challenges feature prominently at Show RCA 2014. Magda Rok’s*, We Grow, is a community gardens network and social enterprise with GPs as advocates. The project wants to further demonstrate the strong links between health, environment and social well-being. Lais de Almeida’s* The Ladder is a time-bank service that matches local community needs with people’s skills, talents and aspirations, providing a valuable opportunity for those who are struggling to find meaningful work with a fair income. The social enterprise could build social capital in communities, as well as confidence in individuals. Alexandra Theunissen’s DYSsonance helps dyslexic people understand, read, play and compose music. Colours represent the notes and cubes (crotchet), which is either divided or multiplied, represent the rhythm. The result is visually stunning (pictured right).
No graduate show would be complete without gadgets, gizmos and new materials. Peter Spence’s* ION (Imagination in Motion) is a magic box to spark creativity and invention in children. It is a cube with an intelligent motor unit with modular attachments and adaptable fixtures. The ION can communicate wirelessly with smart devices that can act as a control interface. Add wheels and a board and you could make yourself a remote control go-kart!
Umbrellas are an essential bit of kit long due a design overhaul. Ayca Dundar’s* drOp umbrella (pictured left), made of only 5 parts is repairable, recyclable and colourful, could make those mangled polyester carcasses left in city bins a thing of the past. Ashley De Garmo’s* Mag-cooker uses magnets to create induction heat for a portable, self-contained cooker using renewable energy.
Sol Lee’s* Smart Festivals intelligent platform to rent camping equipment will not be there for this year’s Glastonbury, but I hope for next. A three day festival creates around 130 tonnes of waste, with tents, mats and sleeping bags accounting for around a third of this is. Sol’s project aims to enhances the festival-goers service, reduce the organisers clean up and divert a lot of waste from landfill. Mireia Gordi Vila (Fragile) and Yu Chang Chou (RePack) designed reusable packaging to tackle material waste.
Jess Fugler*’s leather tattooed with water-based inks applies s an ancient technique to stunning effect. Hana Mitsui *(New Value of the Waste) and Neha Lad* (Beauty in the Discarded) have both transformed ‘waste’ into luxurious new materials.
One I want to try at home is Chuhan Liang’s Rice Water Project. For hundreds of years the milky liquid left after washing rice has been used as a natural detergent. Brilliant! And my souvenir, a piece of Alicja Patanowska’s Plantation, a joyful combination of porcelain, discarded pub glass and a plant.
And just for sheer joy, Kate Varner Rieppel’s Third Space beautiful tiles are made of silver plated copper etching and vitreous enamel. The colours and forms are directly inspired by natural landscapes in Britain.
The SustainRCA finalists have just been announced, and Carefully Curated highlights are to follow.
Show RCA 2014 runs simultaneously across the Battersea and Kensington campuses until 29th June, and is open 12-8pm daily.
It is also the first anniversary of Carefully Curated!
We’re losing faith in global change as local causes boom | Lucy Seigle http://gu.com/p/3q55q/tw
Chelsea Flower Show: why gardening is good for the body and mind – FT.com http://on.ft.com/1qK28eY