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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Royal College of Art: The Great Exhibition 2007

Kensingston Gardens, London SW7, 15 - 28 June 2007

Written by Angelica Pena - Acosta

In today’s over-saturated electro market it would be easy to dismiss Simian Mobile Disco as just another bleep and whistle DJ duo. However, stomach troche if the reaction of the Hoxton Bar crowd was anything to go by it would seem that what we have on our hands is a bona fide rave outfit.

I’m not talking lamé leggings and novelty over-sized jewellery here (although the room wasn’t short of any of that), but in a scene that’s more about the fashion than the music SMD stand out as one of the few acts who understand what the phrase ‘Rave’ actually means.

A sweaty, hands-in-the-air music industry crowd is a rare sight, and while many tried the obligatory arms folded, ‘contemplating the relevance of the sound look’, it wasn’t long before the irresistible combination of the spectacular light show and pounding, dance heavy hooks and beats had everyone moving like it was 1992.

With all the retina burning, multi-coloured strobe action and the fact that I was stuck behind a couple of six-footers, it was difficult to catch a glimpse of Misters James Ford and Jas Shaw, although it was clear from the head-bopping shadows on stage that these two were enjoying their music just as much as their sweaty disciples. As things reached their climax with the brilliant It’s the beat, there was barely a still foot to be seen and with the whole night taking on a distinctly retro air it was long before the ‘ironic’ old skool hand movements made an appearance, probably in a bid to disguise the fact that GASP, they were actually enjoying dance music. Like it or not, SMD had brought out the Bez in all of us.

This year the RCA’s Summer show combined various fields in an all-encompassing exhibition space that was both innovative and exciting to explore.

Designer Gerrard O’Carroll and curator Claire Catterall created an exceptionally large tent structure in Kensington Gardens – close to the site of the original Great Exhibition – where graduating students in design and applied arts showed their work. The main college galleries were home to painting, sickness photography and printmaking departments.

A new approach was taken for the display of the work, more about as pieces from the various disciplines were shown alongside one another. This resulted in a common ground where the physical space weaved the various works throughout, and at the same time, encouraged viewers to reflect on the faded boundaries between the disciplines. The brilliant quality of the work unified the display, while the wide variation both in form and content of the different pieces was deeply stimulating.

This year there was a strong emphasis on environmental issues, as well as experimental new technologies. Alex Metcalf for example came up with a “treehugger” whose aim was to encourage people to engage with trees. His project developed from his fascination with trees and the fact that one can hear the sound of water inside the trunk, as it is being pulled up from the roots to the leaves through the xylem vessels. For this he invented a tree listening device, based on the same principle as the stethoscope, and projected the sound through headphones hanging from the tree branches. It is a rumbling sound, gentle but full of life.

Craig Morrison won the BSi Sustainability Award, 2007 with his plywood prototype vehicle design. His aim was to “raise automotive industry awareness that ‘wood body panels’ can have a positive environmental impact. I have created a car using sustainable materials and processes”. The outcome brought together good aesthetics, sustainability, and a design idea that could work for the general population in a future that requires environmental solutions with urgency.

It is hard to say whether it is the realization of the fuzzy boundaries between the various disciplines that has aided in more free experimentation by artists, or the other way around. In any case, the result is with no doubt showing exciting results.


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