I’ve always thought of networking with a capital N. It’s big, scary and involves you trying to look sophisticated, sipping wine and making witty conversation with people who are far more qualified than you. Except maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it can actually be fun and casual.
The DPS year started with me knowing that I wanted to work in the Art Department on films. However I didn’t really know anything about film. I enjoyed watching films but I didn’t push myself to engage with them, however this changed when I volunteered at the London Film Festival last autumn. Over the two weeks I watched a new film basically everyday, most of these with Q&As with the filmmakers after. Some I loved, some I didn’t, but no matter what I thought I was starting to engage with the industry.
I continued going to film screenings, smaller festivals and talks. By being at these events I was putting myself in the position to meet new contacts, whether this was being introduced to friends of friends in the industry or by talking to speakers after the event. I’ve attended a few screenings and panels at BAFTA in Piccadilly, not only were the events great but I also got the chance to hang out in their bar, normally reserved for BAFTA members and various film high-ups. I’m not saying you’ll come away employed but you might get an email or two and possibly have the chance to talk to an Oscar winning Director.
I’ll admit, I haven’t talked to every person I should have these events, however the more you the more natural it becomes. I went up to Cardiff at the end of March for a BAFTA Guru day. It may seem like a bit of a trek from London but it was completely worth it for me. The divide between speakers and audience was much less noticeable than at other talks I’ve been to in London. The more casual environment gave me the confidence to speak to a Graphic Designer for TV who’s work I have admired for a while. I realised that while I was little nervous to speak to him I didn’t feel uncomfortable. We ended up having a great conversation and after a couple of emails back and forth, the Art Director of Doctor Who how has a copy of my CV. Dare I say it, but I think I might be starting to get the hang of this networking business?
Ultimately my experience with networking has taught me that while you need to make an effort, it doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. It just about getting ourself out there, go to events which interest you. Go to enough and eventually you’ll end up meeting a few people who can put you in touch with a few more and so your network grows. Just remember always send that follow up email, or what’s even the point?
Curation is defined as a field of endeavour involved with assembling, managing and presenting some type of collection. Illustrious examples are found in great institutions such as The British Museum, the V&A and Tate. However, these same institutions, the staple of accumulation of knowledge, culture art and history are increasingly put under the microscope for the rationales behind their curated displays. These inquiries beg the question of ownership of historical artefacts, challenge the male gazed and exoticized nature of displays and narratives, and forces us to consider who the curators are and whom they curate for. The Wunderkammern, or cabinets of curiosities, arose in mid-sixteenth-century Europe as repositories for all manner of wondrous and exotic objects. As an early attempt to retrieve, structure and transmit information they can be seen as the precursors to museums. Despite the vast differences found in methodology, there are key similarities between modern curation and the collections of a Wunderkammern, the most outstanding being the structural privilege prevalent. The gaze, be it male, able-bodied, white, upper class and so on define in a great measure of how the content impacts the audience. A talk given by Scott Burell from Create London about their joint study with the Barbican on the diversity of the Arts and culture industry disclosed an increasing disconnection between the content creators e.g: curators and museums and the demographic they are supposedly targeting. Broadly speaking it reduced itself to a lack of diversity and a demographic bubble within the members of the art sector.
Tackling the privilege system left by a colonial legacy is no small feat as it is intrinsically embedded in many layers of our society and most of us are not aware in which ways we passively participate in it. As much as museum and art organisations work towards broadening the scope of their vision as well as creating more diverse curator pools, it is down to every individual to do their bit towards this big conversation. This September I had the opportunity to do just that while debuting as a curator for a segment of the Everything Happens so Much show at LCC during LDF.
This summer I travelled Senegal and worked side by side with local artisans, who not only showed us the unique crafts and their heritage, but taught us a great deal about their ways of working. They shared with us philosophies such as Solutionism, Make, Do and Mend and generally making most of all available resources without compromising great outcomes. This 'come what may' attitude, this improvisation and thinking on their feet really struck us as one of the keys to their success as makers. The country is vibrant and full of potential, and It's long history of cultural hibridity enriches the art and craft produced in the cities, remote villages and streets and the famous 'artisanal villages'. It does however also have disproportionate unevenness of wealth, which directly impacts the availability of education and also the development opportunities for the average person. Arguably this is precisely due to Senegal's own colonial legacy, as the vast majority of the countries in the continent have. This made me and my colleagues feel uncomfortably aware of the vantage point of our perspectives as well as its blindspots. While privilege is usually a silent and invisible to the naked eye, in Senegal it was made evident, even more so when we visited Nguindir, a village where many of the children had never seen a group of white students. It was a beautiful occasion of true and innocent curiosity that had us surrounded by many arms, questions voiced in dialects, french and slurred english. Being put in a position where we where observed as an oddity, a curiosity from a far away place ignited a whole series of questions and debates about our role in the trip, as students, designers and ultimately as cultural tourists. How do we become more than spectators in a performance designed to inform and inspire us, curated to our desire to experience 'alternative' ways of working and living? How do we give back to them when our practice has no impact here whatsoever, because it is as most design we have experienced, western-centric?
When we returned we have had lots of debates, discussions and reflected deeply on how we could best represent and collate our experience and what they taught us through an exhibition. We are the third and most recent instalment and the first to collate the work into a show. This represented a huge responsibility because Route Artlantique itself has evolved and grown, and each individual has contributed different expectations and attitudes to the workshops. Eventually, It was my colleague Celine and I who took charge over the curation and production of the exhibition and got to make some very exciting yet difficult decisions. The greatest question of them all was how to avoid misrepresenting and doing justice to the people we met during our travels and their trades, avoiding the infamous exoticized gaze, yet displaying the objects and materials that impacted our visual and critical thinking in an accessible way. A key referent on our journey to tackle 'the Gaze' as a two-way conversation was a photographic project by fellow router, Joel Karammath. His portraits not only assessed the roles of the observed and the observer by using the traditional framing, but by facilitating them through a series of conversations in a mixture of english, french and body language it produced an intimate link between the two. This ultimately challenged the notion of the picture as the outcome but instead upholds the dialogue as the final and valuable product.
The final narrative running through the exhibition is one that drew from the spectators healthy curiosity and the artists conversation starting pieces.The topics tackled by the works made both during our stay in the country as well as those made after with the philosophies taught by the artisans span from pollution, post colonial legacy, reclaiming materials, to subverting western design and cultural hibridity in local craft. These are some of the many lines of conversations we had with the audience, who was diverse in age, race, class and ability. The key outcome of this experience for Celine and myself as curators and producers was the possibility to create a safe space for reflection and dialogue for such a wide audience. The incredibly positive and energetic reception from institutions and the general public, the tons of good reviews and even more importantly, superb criticism and advice has only broadened our understanding and our practice and our desire to ignite more dialogues. This experience has not made me tip the scales of privilege, but It has certainly changed me in more ways than I expected to change it. I believe that I know now how to keep doing my part as a practitioner for the 90%.
Lauryn Raymond, our DPS student in New York describes her experiences.
When moving to another country it’s more than just getting to know another city it’s learning about the culture and building your network again from scratch. From friends to work colleges, I have just moved from London to New York to embark on a new adventure working at Vault 49. Moving to and working in a new place can be very alienating from the off set but you need to have a brave mentality to embrace this feeling, living and learning in a completely different environment. Moving from classroom to studio is different to what you would expect, the projects move faster…. and you have to deliver. As a student this is what you crave, we train, work day in and day out to be working on these projects and it’s about putting all of this to practice when in the studio.
When being an intern you have to throw yourself into everything; it is a bit like being an alien of sorts, you are experiencing everything for the first time…. you are learning new things all the time and this can be all forms of exciting and exhausting…but mostly exciting. It’s inspiring to be around people that all want to work and do an amazing job, this can have a real impact on your mentality as a person as well as a designer.
I really want to get the most out for my time here in New York with the people I am surround by… I decided to say yes to everything (within reason) so when Daniel’s Music came to give a talk at my work I wanted to take an opportunity to give back while I am in New York. Daniel’s Music is a foundation set up by Daniel himself and his father; it is a foundation that provides music classes and opportunities for people with disabilities. I was lucking enough to be able to volunteer. It was a really eye opening experience, seeing how people with disabilities respond to music. I have contacted the foundation and am looking to create some album art for them in the coming weeks.
John and Jonathan started Vault 49 and both attended UAL which is really inspiring as a young designer that intends to have their own company one day. Seeing a company such as vault 49 that has such a diverse and different approach to design is really refreshing. When at Vault 49 you are surrounded by people that are extremely talented but are also the most down to earth people that want to help you learn and grow. Vault 49 have their own screen-printing facility which is rare to have in a working design studio, I have been able to help do some printing while I have been here, being able to work on big brands as well as having the facilities to keep craft at the heart of the agency.
Nature is trying very hard to make us succeed, but nature does not depend on us. We are not the only experiment.
R. Buckminster Fuller
London covers more than 1,500 square kilometres, an area about the size of Surrey or South Yorkshire. More than 13,000 species, including humans, inhabit 3,000 parks, 30,000 allotments, three million gardens and two National Nature Reserves. Overall, 47% of London is green space, and 60% is classified as open space. Through a series of eco-social design interventions S*PARK seeks to challenge perspectives on how we see, inhabit and interact within a city environment and asks us to think ‘feral’ as we imagine a wilder London.
By rethinking the distinction between people, nature, cities and their symbiotic relationship, S*PARK proposes a new way of navigating landscape by focusing on the rapid change affecting Elephant & Castle. Home to London’s largest new green space in 70 years, S*PARK has created a series of activations and participatory public interventions in Elephant Park, explored and documented in this exhibition as part of the London Design Festival.
With experiment in mind, LCC alumni Jack Warne was commissioned to test synesthetic experience in two London locations: the urban, concrete Battersea Power Station site and rural Hyde Park. These sound drawings turned into 3D maps with analogue/digital generative synthesis reveal that being in a more natural environment influences human experience.
This evening sees the opening of Uncertainty Playground at London College of Communication, as part of the London Design Festival.
We are always challenging our Diploma in Professional Studies cohort to embed themselves in the real debates and contexts that surround a design practice. S*PARK is a exploration of how design can effect and reimagine the human relationship with nature and the urban environment and features work from DPS students and staff. S*PARK explores eco-social futures and imagination through community and collaborative research practices that highlight the value of a green environment in urban life and the role that education can play in a fast changing local landscape.
Design has an increasingly important role to play in material, social and economic change. This exhibition and series of events explores the emerging role of practice-based design research in proposing and imagining futures.
S*PARK presents design research, lead by DPS Course Director Sarah Temple, in a series of public and collaborative design interventions and activities, both in LCC and the green spaces of Elephant and Castle. This initiative uses sensory, human-centred design practices and proposes environmentally-sustainable and socially-responsive approaches that enrich human experiences. This exhibition and surrounding events will contribute to the work of Conscientious Communicators Research Hub which is a cross-disciplinary community established to develop practice-based research around environmental and social creativity.
16th September — 20th October
London College of Communication
A full listing of the exhibition and events can be found here.