SHOW 2015 approaches shortly. The RCA Student’s Union Sabbatical officers were present at many meetings which planed the execution of this seminal moment in the RCA student experience.
As some of the decision were taken outside these meetings, Professor Juan Cruz, Dean of Fine Art and Director of SHOW 2015, agreed to attend Student Representative Council and speak with the student representatives about their issues and concerns.
Student Representative Council
22 May 2015
Professor Juan Cruz, Dean of Fine Art and Director of SHOW 2015
Reps from School of Design, Humanities, Communication, and Fine Arts
Ritz Wu & Miloslav Vorlicek, Co-Presidents of RCA Students’ Union
Actions agreed (22 May 2015):
Juan Cruz to investigate the removal of both ‘Sculpture’ and ‘Painting’ Signs from relevant buildings on Battersea Campus for the duration of SHOW 2015
Juan Cruz to provide SU with an exact figure for security costs.
To follow up on why iPads are not being allowed for use.
Juan Cruz to ask Octavia about the Social Media and Facebook policy of the degree show.
Juan Cruz to plan late opening evening in Kensington and Battersea to allow visitors to attend after work.
Juan Cruz to investigate local signage outside RCA.
Responses to Actions agreed (11 June 2015):
Juan have looked into this and states that: ‘the costs are quite high, something like £5000, so it is not really possible. Moreover, the names are identifiers for the buildings. There will be extensive additional signage and maps to inform visitors of the range of work in each building.’
Juan states that ‘Commitments for show security currently stand at £24,000, (that’s reduction of 75% year on year – SU notes) and we have a small contingency for any eventualities. This is considerably lower than costs last year.‘
Juan wrote that ‘The College has 14 iPads – not enough even to make a dent in demand. Moreover, iPads when lent out for the WiP shows went missing. It does not seem a wise use of resources to invest in the amount of iPads requested by students.’
Juan states that ‘Communications & Marketing will be running targeted social media campaigns during the Show across the four platforms: Twitter (@RCAevents); Facebook (Facebook.com/RCA.London); Instagram (royalcollegeofart) and Pinterest (royalcollegeofart) + facebook event at https://www.facebook.com/events/1457248474572450/’
Juan: ‘Organised for Wednesday July 1st’
As Juan mentions, ‘There will be a signage scheme in Kensington and Battersea to show visitors where shows are located. We have not invested in general wayfinding from stations as we are targeting a specialist audience and not really passers by.’
Note: Color coding is used as a way of highlighting which of these were resolved positively (green), where compromise was reached (orange) and where response was negative (red).
SU: We invited Juan to come and speak about the degree show in a question and answer session. Does anyone have any questions?
Names of Buildings in Battersea
Painting Year 2: My question has to do with two issues – whether it can be resolved as an actionable item for the degree show now, or then for future iterations. There’s been talk of covering the names of the building because visitors sometimes expect the painting department to be in the “Painting” building. Is that happening? What is the status? This possibility has been floating around a lot since the get-go.
JC: This is the first I’ve heard of it and I have no objection to it. I know that it happened last year – though it was as part of someone’s work – but whether it is allowed or not you have to check.
SU: That was my friend last year, and to remove the name she had to check with the Sackler Foundation.
Painting Year 2: I’m not being hyperbolic, there are at least 20 people who are discussing this.
JC: If we ask Jane Alexander and she’s ok with it, as well as the Sackler Foundation, it should be fine –though there is also a cost implication since we need to get special contractors for that.
Painting Year 2 – How about a special vinyl sign to cover them? That might be a cost solution. And also, just to remind you, this would need to go on the maps with labels of some sort.
JC: I haven’t even thought of that. I know the maps have been designed but not printed yet, and this is the first I’ve heard of any wish to cover the names but I can understand why.
Painting Year 2 – Many of us come into the ‘Painting’ building looking for painting, and the ‘Sculpture’ building for sculpture. I brought this up in one of the earliest meetings with John Strutton as a suggestion.
JC: Let me figure out if this is being discussed, and I’ll look into it.
ACTION 1: Juan Cruz to investigate the removal of both ‘Sculpture’ and ‘Painting’ Signs from relevant buildings on Battersea Campus for the duration of SHOW 2015.
Printmaking Year 2: I’ve got a question about budgets. I’m wondering since when any kind of alteration to the space that we have been allocated comes from the programme’s budget, and if that was the case last year.
JC: What we can cover are infrastructural changes to the space, but when it comes to the specific build requirements for each section of the show we can’t cover that. We can do infrastructural changes and display mechanisms, but not for specific works.
Printmaking Year 2: It feels like we can’t cover our space neccessities with the show budget because it has been portrayed as quite unified, but maybe somehow we can break it down. I understand we can’t ask for individual requests from one big machine, but maybe we can try to slightly disseminate the machine to get more specific answers. For example, I wanted to block out the light in my space, and it is structural, but the budget somehow doesn’t accommodate that.
JC: The problem with breaking down the budget is that they’ve noted underspends and overspends in certain areas. In terms of thinking about what would be a reasonable budget for the show, we need to think about what costs we’re likely to incur generally and what costs are across all students. There’s no rationale for allocating more money to one student than another. That’s why we’re trying to think about the budget as a broad idea. It’s a very different budget this year than before, since the dispersion in years past has tended to lead to huge overspends. Our attempt to control it is an institutional imperative, but also an attempt to make best use of the funds. I would say for those kinds of specific issues, if its projector installation or the blackout of part of a space, certainly within Fine Art people would be able to accommodate and help in supporting that much more than in the show budget.
Printmaking Year 2: We know that if you want to restructure the budget it has to start somewhere, but I am hoping that we can find a way to refine the process so it doesn’t turn out that students pay for it. When the budget is contained in such a way, it often turns out that students pay for the bits that can’t be covered.
JC: There are proposals for spending £10 to £15,000 on a single student’s show, and for others, nothing at all, but we want to have an equitable show. People have different ambitions – I would say this is the case if you were showing anywhere, even Documenta – but we’ve had varied requests for example, in AV…
Printmaking Year 2: We aren’t asking in AV though for a disproportionate amount of equipment, it’s a fair amount per student. I spoke to Nicky from the Resource Store two weeks ago and they haven’t even started to order the equipment.
JC: Yes, I know, but we will be looking at the orders next Tuesday.
Printmaking Year 2: But the show is in two weeks! We could have realised two years ago the amount of AV that would be needed for the show.
JC: Yes, but the demand for it is growing, for example even in Textiles or other disciplines that may not have considered AV before. I think there is a bigger question around AV that the college needs to look at in terms of what it is willing to invest in. We invest hugely in it already but need to look at how much we want to in future.
SU: But we need to admit that there was a sort of cock-up by Technical Services in terms of AV. Suggestions of how it was managed in the past was ignored, and April should have been when notice was given.
JC: Yes, perhaps it was the fault of the form we made that wasn’t structured in a way to gave us the information we needed to know. And I would say that is somewhat my fault as well – not having the institutional memory to do that. Having said that, even if we did it earlier, we would have needed even more AV equipment than before.
Painting Year 2: But students could have had time to sort out their own AV equipment.
Design Interactions Year 2: So what is the contingency plan to address the problem? It seems to me that the final show is being neglected – in terms of access to technicians, equipment, support – it is a lot worse than last year.
JC: We should have as much AV equipment this year, and maybe even more, since we are ordering more…
Painting Year 2: But then, there are also a greater number of students.
Design Interactions Year 2: As you correctly said, you didn’t have the appropriate form to know that more people would need AV equipment, but it is just frustrating that the provision feels so much more limiting than before.
JC: Yes, but its not as if we have a big pot of money that we aren’t spending on AV. We are spending everything that we can.
Sponsorship of SHOW
Painting Year 2: But why doesn’t the Rector make deals with AV companies to sponsor the show? This might be an idea for the future to procure more equipment.
Design Interactions Year 2 – But the RCA on top of its own budget had sponsorship last year, for example, from It’s Nice That – are they continuing with this or putting money into this? The RCA could be seen as a sexy brand, and companies would be willing to work with it…
JC: Yes I don’t disagree – it would be helpful to have that, but it’s not my field. It’s fairly competitive – sponsorship – and some of our moving image students have sponsorship, for example. But whether its more possible on an institutional level vs. an individual level… I do know that there were some efforts for sponsorship this year.
Design Interactions Year 2: Yes but its frustrating that instead of focusing on our own work, we have to focus on all these things of going after sponsorship…
JC: Do you think its a pedagogical problem? I’ve always wondered in terms of exhibitions if we shouldn’t be thinking about the exhibition as a whole earlier. Why arrive at the point of display to know that we need this or that?
Painting Year 2: But it is entirely to be expected – information isn’t clear, so you go on what you know from beforehand. Tell me the right dates and what I should do on them!
Printmaking Year 2: It seems that the RCA is sending a certain message to the outside – for example, that its the best university in the world – which isn’t reflecting the reality.
Design Interactions Year 2: It’s neither existentialism nor a favor to have this support for the degree show, we do pay the fees…
JC: Well, I have a lot of experience in other institutions and I’d say the student experience here is pretty good.
Painting Year 2: I wouldn’t really recommend this course to a friend, though, to take on that level of debt for it. If the university would only own up to this – that the UK is going through something and we are addressing it this way – instead of inviting people and telling them everything is fine, then arguing over the terms and conditions of study. And it does so instead of asking the students about the changes – though I feel that you are an exception to this, since you have spoken to students at many meetings, and in your position you are wrapped up in the institution…
JC: It feels to me that it is still an institution that is quite luxurious, with tutorials, workshop availability, etc. it would be hard for me to think about what could be added into that, in relation to other institutions in Britain.
Painting Year 2: But let’s not compare it only to the UK since it’s an international institution.
JC: But even if we have questions about where we are allocating resource, in terms of where we are headed, what practices we support – there are interesting questions about what our agenda is. I was at the Mayday Rooms, which talks about radical education archives, and maybe we need to look back at the history of the RCA – for example in the 70s when there were radical education practices – I think more deeply we should think around the moment of celebration and display that is the exhibition. I wonder what kind of impact this pressure toward exposing work to the public and making that form of communication has.
Performance 2: But what would you like it to be?
JC: But it’s not about what I would like it to be, it’s more about what impact it would have on people’s practices. If we move forward and we have a discussion on what the show might be afterward, I would hope that is less about workshop hours and AV investments, and there should be a more profound consideration of what it means.
What drives RCA? Operations or Academics?
SU: But students would also love to look into the greater meaning of the show – those subjects of AV and workshops are what the college brings up.
JC: no, I’m not blaming anyone.
Design Interactions Year 2: But when you think about what’s been happening at the RCA – the main gallery becoming a fashion studio, changing the dissertation schedule – the problem that we’ve been having over more pragmatic issues – I can see many examples of the college making it harder and harder to put a final show together. Even the exam now coming before the show – and telling us to focus on the exam not the show – why not have it together? For us they are equally important.
JC: We shouldn’t put ourselves in these kinds of positions – one of the things about the show across the board is that every programme has a different approach to how they use the show. In Fine Arts the show is the area of assessment, but in other areas, the assessment happens then the show happens. For some, it is a hybrid, as in Architecture. I think all of that is worth thinking about and rationalising.
Design Interactions Year 2: But these are really recent changes – in School of Design I know that just 3 years ago we were assessed in the show. It’s not just coming out of existing processes – we are being convinced not to care about the show even by our tutors. What I am questioning is the college’s position on the degree show itself, and if we go back to resource – ruling out what is worth having or not – it seems the show is positioned as a nuisance that doesn’t have a reason to exist.
JC: My argument is that for our subject, the exhibition – that moment of self display – is fundamental, whether that’s in relation to people working with or against it. I would say that even if it weren’t universal to have an exhibition to assess, some subject areas, such as Fine Art, would still need an exhibition to assess.
Design Interactions Year 2: But even for design – it might not be assessed in the same way – but car shows and design shows – they are where industry things happen. It would be a shame if the whole thing turned into a website.
JC: Well there are different ideas in each discipline as to the idea of the exhibition – for example in fashion it’s the catwalk… it might be a solution to develop a new show much more collaboratively. One of the things that is complicated about the show is that people experience of it as a collection of things, but they go away with a blurry memory of what they saw. Yet, there’s very little consciously collaboratively activity.
Design Interactions Year 2: But this insularity is one of the problems of this school – for example getting into other workshops is a huge pain – I wouldn’t argue for making each show more broad and collaborative, instead it’s a way to look at other people’s work.
Printmaking Year 2: I agree, its the moment at which we finally see each other and we are asking not to downscale the show for this reason – not to downscale, but maybe we can change it- it’s when all the energy is spent on something real. We are busy in the years before, but we can during the show direct our energy toward it.
JC: Well there’s no ambition to downscale the show…
Printmaking Year 2: But we can feel it all around us.
JC: Well in regards to the AV, Nicky is looking through it …
Printmaking Year 2: But Nicky is one person, but why isn’t there a team doing it?
JC: You’re asking me questions I can’t answer, and I agree she’s brilliant, but we are meeting on Monday with Technical Services and we are looking at where we should make investment. It won’t answer everything, but we will rationalise your requests.
Design Interactions Year 2: There was this thing about iPads being stolen last year – security was outsourced last year right? So what’s the point of outsourcing security, instead of hiring student invigilators, if things get stolen anyway?
JC: We’ve cut 45% of the budget spent on security…
SU: How much are you spending on security?
JC: I dont know.
SU: Well here we’ve got the show website from 1999, and there were 4 shows. And I’ve also made a spreadsheet of security costs. Looking at how many people need to be in each building – you need someone at the entrance, and someone to respond to emergencies, so maximum 2 per building – and keeping in mind that sculpture has extra entrances it would come to a maximum of £24,688… If these were students instead of security guards, being paid London Living Wage, it would still be a half of the wages of the security guards, and that money can be spent elsewhere. We do all understand certain areas need to be saved, and when we learn about the actual expenses of the college, such as the Woo gate, it isn’t …
JC: Although, I would say that whatever is spent on Woo is raised separately, so we don’t spend any of the operational budget on building work.
Painting Year 2: Yes, maybe the problem is that capital funding can be raised, but what about fixes to the building for example? We know that gifts you run into have to be spent on certain things, but why spend 70,000 on a gate?
JC: I just wanted to say I wasn’t involved in the planning or design of that building, and it is tricky but money is raised specifically to fund those kinds of projects that is not taking away from any operating costs.
Painting Year 2: But it could have been…
JC: It’s an important question and a discussion I’m enjoying since it’s getting me away from the topic of security (laugh) but there is funding for on-going development as well as quite a lot of work in generating scholarships. There are efforts in that – the Woo Gate thing – all I will say is that whatever one might think about spending that much money on a gate, it doesn’t come from students’ tuitions… And just to get back to security – I’m not sure you’ve got private views here, and that’s adding quite a bit – I don’t think we’re spending much more than that. I can find out – but I don’t think you’ll find that what we’re spending is much more than that. I think I have a figure of £40,000 or so.
Visual Communication Year 1: I went to two universities where students were invigilators – but Glasgow and Belfast, where I went and is more dangerous – both used student invigilators as their security. We still managed to get insurance for up to a million not having professional security guards all the time. Is this a question of getting insurance?
JC: We’ve tried to push Buildings & Estates quite hard on the security, and we should aim to lower it, but it does seem to be a kind of cultural sensitivity around the Royal College of Art and we’d like to get it down further. If you think about the volume of people that come to these shows is also very different from those areas.
Printmaking Year 2: And why is it Buildings and Estates that decide the amount of security?
JC: Because they are responsible for the buildings and their occupation. They know the legislation of health and safety concerns.
Visual Communication Year 1: Have they ever provided a specific reason why they need professional security?
SU: The one thing that comes up from it from me is that the head of Security, Anil, has now been employed by the college instead of the outsourced company. Is it a part of the contract that they need to be employed for a minimum of hours? For example, with the catering, whatever they don’t make the college absorbs. Is there a similar deal with security? Because it seems to me this would be a conflict of interest.
JC: I don’t believe so.
Painting Year 2: And do we have our usual security guards? It is highly advantageous to have our regular guys, and what kills me in all of this is that security is not stopping people from stealing things, but are being very rude to visitors…Usually they know nothing about the building and are not briefed to protect things. The students would have an interest in the work being protected.
Visual Communication Year 1: All the student staff in the universities I mentioned had full health and safety and public control training, and why not be able to train all student invigilators in that?
JC: I think there are different models and I think as we look toward the next year – at Goldsmiths we had a crew there of students who were trained to do different things. They built the whole show and it seemed very effective. We’ve reduced contractor costs, though we still have contractor costs, and I think next year we should use fewer contractors.
Design Interactions Year 2: But what about in time for this year? There’s still time to actually make a difference. I won’t be here next year…
JC: We’ve achieved quite a lot – to cut 55% of security from one year to another is significant – but we could aim to do more next year.
Visual Communication Year 1: There are also specific tactics to prevent theft – for example, leaving your bag at security.
JC: But that would definitely need more security.
Visual Communication Year 1: But I know at the Venice Biennial the same problem happens, but you also figure out where you can put your invigilator. Usually what stops that is getting someone to sit at the right place, and keep an eye on whoever is hanging out there longer than usual.
ACTION 2: Juan Cruz to provide SU with an exact figure for security costs.
JC: But what is the question about iPads?
Design Interactions Year 2: We wanted to ask why is it that we can’t have student invigilators if iPads get stolen under the watch of security anyway.
SU: But yesterday at the Tech Services, another question that came up about them was why isn’t it that students have access to the 15 iPads that are already in the Resource Store?
JC:I suppose we can talk about it on Tuesday.
Printmaking Year 2: I wonder how other Deans are involved in the process of the show – how does the communication work?
JC: I talk to the deans on a regular basis about it and Jan, who is the Show Manager is talking to the deans all the time about it.
Printmaking Year 2: And who is Jan?
JC: She’s the show manager, from Buildings and Estates. What is the interest?
Printmaking Year 2: I’m trying to figure out why it’s so difficult sometimes to communicate with Technical Services and Buildings & Estates and why the narratives are so different, and why it is so crazy.
JC: My sense was that we needed to work as a small, central operational group of 4-5 people. Our engagement with Deans has been through the SLTs – and we tried to say we needed the support of Heads of Programmes and tutors to keep in communication with students about the show. We had deadlines for requirements and budgets, and also said we needed budget help from schools. I think what’s been challenging is that we’ve asked for information much sooner than we’ve normally gathered it. I think for some areas, it is quite a significant cultural shift.
ACTION 3: Juan Cruz to follow up on why iPads are not being allowed for use.
SU: I was also curious about the communication of the show. On the website, we see that it is a page as an event, but there is no social media. For every other art school, there are Facebook events, etc. but in the RCA that is only a page.
JC: I think the focus this year has been the show sub-site of the RCA website – with the student pages. I’ll ask Octavia, I’m not an expert on social media though…
ACTION 4: Juan Cruz to ask Octavia about the Social Media and Facebook policy of the degree show.
Invitations for Private Views
Painting Year 2: It would be great to have one Facebook event though – and this dovetails with my question… we only get 4 invites, and is one of them your own? Last year, the 2nd years got nice printed ones to send to galleries and such, and you have one for yourself, but why are we being limited on the number of invites?
JC: Isn’t it just a PDF?
Painting Year 2: No, they’re Eventbrite invites and they are scanned. For me, handing to a gallerist an Eventbrite email as opposed to an official SHOW 2015 invite…
JC: Not printing cards was a decision from budget – I wasn’t aware of the Eventbrite – but I thought you could just send them the PDF invite… We’ve been trying to get support and a kind of understanding from academic colleagues to get students to put material forward. We’ve been trying to get information as early as possible – now it seems more challenging for some than others. In Fine Art – the process by which we allocated space was also different from before – partly it was in order to give information in good time. But it was a major cultural shift.
Technicians & Technical Services
SU: When you’re making the budget for different schools for the show, the wood is very expensive for the plinths – so who is overseeing technical services?
JC: Well we are using a dyed MDF and the big advantage is that it doesn’t need to be painted. That adds a lot of time to the process of building the show. I think the cost of material overall is 15-20k on the MDF – we were hoping to recycle a lot of it from the WIPs but because of last minute changes we weren’t able to and a lot was trashed. I dont think the cost of material was that much.
SU: So the experience of the student when coming to the RCA is to have a technician helping you, as if it were a gallery show. My question is in relation to how the technicians have been employed to install – would that be justified as similar to a gallery show?
JC: I know that there are usually display mechanisms in a gallery that are provided. I think it would be far more interesting if that weren’t the requirement personally, but that is beyond my remit. Given my own background, yes I would say it is problematic to have a show that is just about the display of things – and being asked for example to engage with an iPad is not what I would consider interesting… I think maybe it would be interesting if we did have for our approach to exhibition making something less conventional. There are interesting ways to think about for example design and architecture… for example, every year when you think about the Venice Architecture Bienniale… but displays on plinths are a different world from me really.
Design Interactions Year 2: But the educational side of putting a show together is also a part of the academic experience – to make mistakes and learn – and my fear is… when you talk about taking the show into different places, that it is missing the point of what is important about it. It is a learning curve that you have the ability as a student here to make mistakes…
JC: But how the show figures into the curriculum is a school-by-school decision. From my perspective and in relation to our subject (Fine Art – Editors note), for example, the process of putting a show together is important educationally – and while we’d love to leave some things open such as the allocation of space – it proves disastrous. So on some level we’ve had to be prescriptive. And on the other side it’s up to the student in regards to what they want to show, etc.…
Painting Year 2: But for example, to take away academic support before the show exists also takes away from that experience.
JC: But so much about the show can be taken away from curatorial interventions. It’s about assessing your work rather than our work. What I’ve asked the staff in Fine Art to do is not to tell you where to put this or that, but to let you do what you think is appropriate and be assessed on it. And to be honest you will put on a far more interesting show than we would.
Visual Communication Year 1: But in Glasgow, the MFA has been shown outside the school, where students organised their own show and have been doing so ever since 2012. They used some of the money they saved to go to Berlin.
Painting Year 2: But this college has pushed for the growth model, and now those options of putting on a small outside show are no longer available since there are too many numbers… it would prove far too difficult.
SU: But do you have any interest in making future RCA (degree) Show(s) where not all students would exhibit?
Design Interactions Year 2: That would be very cruel and counterproductive.
SU: But for example, you have performance going to New York to exhibit for their final show – was that a part of this kind of reasoning?
JC: At some point way back there was the concern that the exhibition model that we were establishing of a fixed duration was not necessarily applicable to Performance. So we did toy with the idea of bringing them to New York but it became too complicated in relation to the assessment part of that. I think most of the students felt uneasy about not having the show here. The Performance parts have been interesting – the model of teaching has been not unproblematic – and a student working exclusively in performance doesn’t work in relation to studio or to material. It’s not that a thing is made and then shown. There is a strong philosophy that the work needs to be in the public in order to exist. So that has been implemented in terms of programme trips. The New York trip is something in relation to that. There’s a potential sponsorship/partnership we are thinking about an on-going live stream from the Performance Pathway. But it hasn’t materialised – we are still working on it.
Performance Year 2: But Performance is proving now to be quite exclusive for some students and it is problematic to take a half of students to China, and not the other half. I think what has been chosen is very 70s – while performance is more than this now.
JC: Yes, but it is early days, and that’s why things are happening in the show…
Performance Year 2: I mean overall I’m not dissatisfied – it’s been good, but with the promise that the course would change with the new head. But it’s a bit like you have to respond to how he sees the course.
JC: My dilemma is that most courses in Fine Art are called Painting or Printmaking – when very few people are doing that specifically. On some levels, having a programme that is more dogmatic is interesting…
Performance Year 2: I think great things have happened in the programme, but sometimes you are being forced to do time-based things, and completely dismissed by your tutor if it doesn’t fit his expectations. I went to this course because there were a lot of dynamic things happening, but it is a shame…
Visual Communication Year 1: Some people in our department have also said that there is a very dogmatic view toward what should or shouldn’t been done…
Painting Year 2: To get back on subject, I know we’ve been talking about, regardless of how security has been structured, that they’ve been cut for those hours when anyone who works can see the show.
Printmaking Year 2: Can the hours be shifted around or can the show be much later? Or can we cancel a day, so that we have the later hours?
Painting Year 2: There is a certain want of students for people who aren’t necessarily in the art field, but people who work – to come see the show.
Printmaking Year 2: And why has it been so impossible to answer this reasonable request?
JC: The current hours are 12-6. We did cut some times due to security costs, I think before 12 seemed uncontentious, and we thought such gallery times were reasonable. Numerous schools are organising industry nights when specialist people can come in, and people can also bring guests in.
Painting Year 2: We aren’t asking for additional opening hours and yes – 12-6 are normal opening hours, but why not have flexibility in the times when it is open?
JC: But the thing has been publicised now, so we can’t not open from 12.
Painting Year 2: But we are still 30 days out and I don’t think anyone will be planning to turn up at this point…
JC: Well I think what we need to look at in that respect is to have a few days of late opening. And whether we should do that across the whole show? My concern is always when you open the whole show there are an additional thousand pounds of security… I mean is this for the passing trade, or is it for specific people?
Printmaking Year 2: The passing trade, because Battersea is not somewhere where you casually pass, you need to go there. It is crucial that we make a connection with the centre of the city so that you can come by after working hours.
SU: And I would think that is the academic part – is it one evening or many evenings? For example, if it’s open in the evening is there a public programme? For example, in the School of Communication, when there was a question of recruitment, interest always went up around the subject of the SHOW. Why not allow people to propose some kind of evening?
JC: What about an evening with the flavour of a kind of open day?
Design Interactions Year 2: This question of opening hours is related to my point in making the show redundant, I mean if nobody comes in the daytime, one might start to question why devote resource to it in the first place?
JC: But I thought maybe you could make the show more attractive to the public by saying that if the show is open later, for example, that you could talk to students… The evenings of the WIPs were dead though.
SU – WIPs were so badly publicised. At the end Architecture was advertising it was open when it was long over.
JC: But to make it clear – this wasn’t a philosophical position, we just thought it could be like shop hours. But we could have late evenings when we could think about holding events. You know, we can organise later events as a school as long as there aren’t hordes of guests, and we don’t need to invite extra security.
Painting Year 2 – Can you give us an estimate of how many people?
JC: Around 20?
Design Interactions Year 2 – I think that’s still a lot more difficult to organise than changing the opening hours on the website.
JC: But there are already distributed PDFs and all that…
Printmaking Year 2 – It’s a shame when in this case it is quite easy to satisfy the student’s expectations – we just want the show to be open.
Painting Year 2 – I understand your trepidation to change your mind after you’ve said something – but again we are still way far ahead.
SU – Or for example to have one late evening in Kensington and one in Battersea – like a second opening, with a programme. People might come to this because they might miss the programme.
JC: Would you be thinking the weekday?
Painting Year 2 – A late Thursday makes a lot of sense.
JC: Well we’ve got the show crits happening on the Wednesday …
ACTION 5: Juan Cruz to plan late opening evening in Kensington and Battersea to allow visitors to attend after work.
Outside SHOW Signage
Visual Communication Year 1: Speaking of getting the general public into the show, has the college ever tried a bit more visible signage? I know from family members it’s been hard to find. Is there any way of getting some kind of signage or boards that would direct people along the nearby high streets?
JC: I never thought that this place was hard to find…
Painting Year 2: That’s why I think it’s important that security and invigilators are really friendly…
Visual Communication Year 1: Even maybe a map outside the tube…I think it would be great for the general public.
JC: I’ll flag it up with the team, I don’t know if they’ve thought of that. There are two questions to ask Octavia – the first is the social media presence and the other are the signage for the public.
ACTION 6: Juan Cruz to investigate local signage outside RCA.
The role of student at the SHOW
Printmaking Year 2: Also, in Fine Art, we were asked to invigilate for the show and there is an issue about the way that this is brought about – we aren’t security, and we don’t have to be there, but we aren’t paid. What is the role of the student in the show then?
JC: As I understand, its what its always been – students are in the show and generally again in Fine Art there is an expectation that students are just around… and also to have some kind of sense that there will be 2-3 people in given spaces in any time…
Printmaking Year 2: I think there needs to be much better communication. It is establishing the wrong kind of relationship with our show – as if it were self-initiated but it isn’t fully – each year we should take part in the decision to be there.
SU: It really speaks to something about the college’s relationship to its students – for example it was also asked of students in Sculpture not to make holes in the walls, otherwise they would have to pay for it.
Printmaking Year 2: Which is a joke because at the end everything is going to the skip.
SU: I spoke to Abid yesterday and he said that they are being reused.
JC: I think what Jordan (Head of Sculpture) is trying to do is to avoid certain traps – for example, plinths being ruined, or walls…
Visual Communication Year 1: Normally though galleries know that their walls will be ruined anyway…
Support & Finances
Painting Year 2: I also think on a fine art level, I don’t have a problem being assessed in my degree show but while I prepare for it I also have these limiting factors being put on me when I install.
JC: I know though that we would make a significant saving by not rebuilding the walls. It’s a little bit much to be told we aren’t paying any attention to these things…
Printmaking Year 2: I really do think that there isn’t much economical help these days for the degree show. We get £200 from Secret RCA, but not even a little bit of support for buying even the AV equipment we won’t be getting – we have the finance department harassing us also because we haven’t been paying our fees for example, and they even mix up the last names when they send those emails – it’s all about the money this time of the year, and such little thought.
Painting Year 2: I think we need more meetings like this, face to face with administration. We came here to be part of a community with people, and systems have been put in place to make it more efficient, but we need more face time with the people who make those systems happen. The Fine Arts forum being cancelled was a part of this…
Printmaking Year 2: And in regards to luxury, having access to people and support is real luxury, not workshop access or equipment.
Visual Communication Year 1: For example, we also hardly ever see the Rector, and my fees are paying his salary, so why doesn’t he walk through the canteen from time to time?
Painting Year 2: The more we have face to face communication, we can talk about these things and enhance student experience and hear from the staff that are working on it.
JC: What I’d say is that we aren’t a profit-making organisation…
Design Interactions Year 2: But when it comes to people’s salaries its a completely different story – if we understand that we have support coming from your side it would be easier – but we had Paul Thompson in the DI studio and it was a horrible experience. It was an aggressive and patronising tone coming from someone whose salary you are paying.
Painting Year 2: And he left his former job in a museum to come deal with live students.
Design Interactions Year 2: And before it is a financial institution it is an art school.
JC: In terms of pay, what is significant next year is that we are going to pay our cleaners the living wage – but the proportion of our turnover we spend on salaries is relatively low – very often in other universities it is something like 56-57% – it’s not that high really.
Visual Communication Year 1: But some universities might have a higher proportion of staff to students.
JC: But government funding has decreased so much – that that is why the university has addressed this by increasing student numbers.
Design Interactions Year 2: But why is the tuition then going to salaries?
Painting Year 2: I think these questions might not be directly related to Juan’s control, but we are appreciative you are here to answer our questions.
SU: Thanks to Juan and all for coming.