From 20th century Iranian postcards to a 15ft inflatable sheep, the Royal College of Art’s Communication Show was a sensory emancipation for a gaggle of journalists whose specialisms rarely extend beyond grammar, syntax and a fancy word or two. The central themes of the exhibition, animation, information experience design and visual communication, showcased the ways in which automation has revolutionised the work of this year’s RCA students and infused itself into the broader artistic landscape.
While such exploratory themes may not have existed in the troglodyte pre-Internet age, they have since become a mainstay in the artistic world. At the School of Communications, fast-becoming one of RCA’s most popular, postgraduates are encouraged to discover new methods of expression through technological innovation and incorporating it into their work. Comms students, as with the entire College, are not merely creating art for its own sake but rather, they are exhibiting design solutions to pressing global problems that, they hope, will enrich the worldview of its visitors.
In the exhibition, held at The Westworks in White City, students grappled with issues ranging from gender dysphoria to plastic wastage in the ocean. Courtesy of virtual reality tools, visitors could gain wholly unique perspectives into these problems through the immersive nature of the displays. This level of immersion was particularly pertinent to the animated portrayal of mental health. By wearing a headset device that amplified electromagnetic fields, users could feel and hear normally-undetectable electromagnetic fields, which highlighted how the minutiae of day-to-day activities can lead to a stress build-up.
Over the course of its 30 years, the Animation Department of School of Communications have become recognised as a world leader in the field. Students can choose from one of documentary animation, experimental animation and narrative animation in the three specialist routes available to them at the school. Through a combination of expert tutoring and independent research, students are well equipped to handle the countless changes in developments not only in production methods, but also how it is conceptualised, distributed and positioned. And no, in spite of what the inset photo may suggest, students are not all budding Wallace and Gromit creators (though some may be).
The exhibition also offers a marked degree of comic relief for visitors. After passing the inflatable sheep by the entrance, one can find a wall adorned with Portsmouth F.C. scarves, perhaps left neglected after the club’s honourable retreat from the Premier League. Past the wall, there are a series of other displays including a forensic examination into the culture of British hen parties, a graphic novel about Cumbria and Kendal Mint Cake sculptures. The exhibition is as comprehensive as it is eclectic.
Photo credits: Royal College Art: Communications