Alternative art schools
Department 21 is a school within a school where designers, artists and architects can meet, collaborate and share working space beyond the institutional boundaries of their own disciplines.
Department 21 was set up in 2009 when a group of students at the RCA asked to have an experimental cross-departmental studio space, thereby engendering new discussions and ways of working than had been seen in recent years at the college. Having their own space meant that Department 21 could initiate their own seminar and events series independent of course programming. Cuts already coming into fruition at the college have meant the loss of this shared space, replaced firstly with the strategy of occupying the college's galleries during exhibitions and more recently the acquisition of space within an area shared with research students.
Particular to Department 21 is the emphasis on a physical inherited space within which ideas can grow and serendipitous encounters occur. For each location they inhabit, the question of design comes first. Recognising the impact that structures have on how we interact and learn, and using the inter-disciplinary knowledge of the group, Department 21 have created a purpose-built moveable working space. This emphasis on collaborative process and exploration is an approach that counters the institutional agenda of single authorship and producing industry-ready students. It has also had a wider influence on the work made by members. Bethany Wells' practice has been directly influenced by the inter-disciplinary focus, to the extent that she has widened her architecture practice to developing socially engaged art-architecture projects. Her final MA project is a prototype model for self-organised higher education, developed in collaboration with local Transition Town groups in North London.
Department 21 artists for WARMTH are Aloka (SilentRCA), Rob Bellman (Sculpture), Anthony Bowles, Bianca Elzenbaumer (D21/Brave New Alps), Deniz Johns (CAAD), Grant Mcraig (GSMJ), Deshna Metha (CAAD), Alkesh Parmar (GSMJ), Andrew Willson (SilentRCA), Sophie Demay (CAAD), Afonso Martin (CAAD)
From an interview with Sophie Demay, Bianca Elzenbaumer, Fabio Franz, Afonso Martins and Bethany Wells.
First published: Research papers March 2011
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