The Royal College of Art’s Kensington Show takes place just a couple of steps away from the great Victorian shadow of the Royal Albert Hall. In stark contrast to the richly historical setting however, the exhibits on display belong wholly to the future. Whilst most of the Royal College of Arts graduate shows are effectively art exhibitions, the Kensington Show is a platform for the RCA’s design students and as a result more resembles a tech-showcase crossed with an apocalyptic fashion show.
This TED-talk ready atmosphere is both the show’s greatest weakness and strength; all of the exhibits have a brief descriptor next to them, but to really get a proper understanding of their form/utility you need to have a chat with the designer themselves. Said graduates hover around their work like butterflies and are all enthusiastic to explain what they’ve been building towards over their studies, but the sheer volume of exhibits means that it’s borderline impossible to fully experience the entire show. This more bite-sized approach makes the show less approachable to the casual attendee, but the sheer ‘gee-whiz’ quality of many of the exhibits makes up for it.
The kind of projects on display have no common theme, devices that allow you to create 3d sculptures with your own flesh and blood hands sit next to sleek neo-futurist undersea diving equipment that resembles a second skin more than a bodysuit. Whilst some of the products can be appreciated without corralling it’s respective graduate and shining a bright light in their face [the slightly Mad Max looking outfit that absorbs carbon dioxide is fairly self explanatory] there are others which purposes are defiantly oblique. Whilst perhaps having more text explaining each exhibit [one or two sentences is the norm] could have made the audience experience flow quicker, its frequently fascinating to have a creator to proudly explain an exhibit’s function and allay any suspicions about whether its use could unintentionally plunge humanity into a Black Mirror-style dystopia .
Personally I was drawn into the Myror, which appeared to be a normal mirror, covered by pulsing data which faded in and out of existence across its surface like sparking neurons. The explanation revealed that the Myror is to be used like a normal mirror, but with the catch that the whole time you check your reflection the Myror is constantly watching and scanning you. Whilst that admittedly sounds somewhat terrifying, the reasoning is that it’s able to use this data to evaluate everything from your posture to how long you brush your teeth and offers you health data and advice on everything through an app in your phone. Technology in the 21st century has practically rocketed forwards; a visit to the Kensington Show certainly demonstrates that this forward momentum will, if anything, only increase.