Goldsmiths, University of London

Degree Shows: Future Folk – Goldsmiths BA Design 2011

An extremely varied, thought-provoking and challenging show from the Goldsmiths BA Design and BEng/MEng Design Innovation 2011 graduating year. What initially struck design writer Rachel Lewis was the breadth and scope of work on show; from illustrators to product designers, all on the same course. While standout projects were not necessarily the most commercially viable or obviously biased towards future employers…

My favourite works were the ones which came from a personal desire to solve a particular problem, to explore issues close to the creator’s heart, and generally explore a visual language beyond what is required purely to pass their degree. This is refreshing – I’ve been to a fair few degree shows since my own in 2009, and there’s nothing worse than seeing a final project, albeit executed well, but that clearly exists just to gain the marks and not to explore the role of design in the wider world, or to explore and push the individual’s creative and conceptual boundaries.

Rosann Ling’s work was a very delicate and subtle piece with a fascinating and striking concept behind it. ‘Ink Stained Verses’ is “Designed to break the boundaries of standard units of Time, it presents to the audience an alternate measurement of Time open to personal interpretation.” Ink Stained Verses challenges today’s culture of being a slave to the clock. As Rosann said to me, “The notion that 1 o clock means lunchtime, 6 o clock means home time…” Instead measuring time in a different way, by what that certain moment in time means to you. “If the numbers on your clock were removed, what would represent your personal measurement of a single minute?”

Ling decided to represent time using pieces of flower-shaped paper, on which people write, in ink, a personal memory, a poem, even a list – anything which marks the passing of that moment. The paper is then attached to a clock mechanism, and acts as the hands, slowly rotating in a small pool of water below. Over time, the paper absorbs the water and the ink runs – to symbolise the passing of that moment. It is beautiful, and very symbolic of moments being over, destroyed, almost of the death of time. The finished pieces of ink stained paper are works of art in themselves; a momento of a piece of time that can never be reclaimed. In an ever-digitised world where events and time are recorded in more and more ways (Tweets, check-ins, status updates, blog entries, videos), this a wonderfully refreshing, analogue way of fighting against that.

Hannah Thompson’s ‘What are you looking at?’ was a piece that I really enjoyed. “I am developing methods to examine and capture the everyday experience of public transport. Focusing particularly on the social etiquette of the London underground,” Thompson says, “the ephemeral encounters in bustling stations, and the comparative experiences of our collective journeys, I hope to highlight the hidden traces of common social propriety.”

The main reason I loved this piece was due to her ‘Drawing Machine’ – a mechanical drawing tool for use on the tube, to capture the ever-changing faces as they sit down, get up, leave and join your journey. A huge length of paper wound round the machine slowly rotates, enabling you to create a single fluid drawing, without ever taking your pencil from the paper, for your entire journey. No turning pages or gutters to interrupt you; I think it’s brilliant. Tube drawing is something I do quite a lot, and this idea really intrigues me. Thompson has also collected various bits of data about Tube Journeys and turned them into visual infographics.

Silvia Alba’s ‘Dirty Money’ project was one of a few based on sharing and passing information within society. “On average, a five pound note is in someone’s possession for 1.5 days, and has a life cycle of five years. This means during those five years it will pass through 1,216 people.” The idea is to use banknotes as a form of message system, as a “platform for political activism so that they become valuable as a tool for spreading messages, thoughts and feelings.” Alba provided stickers for people to take, stick on to their own banknotes, and see if they went into circulation and came back again. An interesting idea, but I know that banks take notes out of circulation as soon as they see any signs of defacement, so perhaps wouldn’t be successful in the long run.

One of my favourite pieces of work (being an illustrator myself, I suppose I’m biased) is Designer and Illustrator Harriet McDougall’s ‘Geobiography’ project. “The spaces we inhabit are the backdrops for our lives; the building blocks for stories, identity, culture and community. A place’s character is defined by the people that live there, but most often the stories of individual inhabitants go unnoticed and unknown.” Our relationships with our surroundings are usually dominated by Google Maps – with only ‘official’ points of interest noted – there are no inputs from the people who live or work there, who experience the true gems and idiosyncrasies of a place which a computer-generated map never could.

In McDougall’s project she drew hundreds of line drawings and collages of streets, houses, buildings, rooms, of her local area (New Cross, where Goldsmiths is based), compiling a personal and unique account of her local geography. Her project sums up her interest in Subjective History – in that people, their experiences, are what creates historical interest, and not dates and generic facts. She created a huge body of work, from something that she clearly is very passionate and knowledgeable about. I loved it because after I walked away I was still thinking about it. That’s what makes a good project

‘Little Bit of Everything’ by Fatima Alalaiwat intrigued me because the concept was, in my opinion, quite negative and pessimistic – that all things are temporary, (including love and marriage), and that we should ‘work with what we’ve got’. “People always change – everyday our experiences wean our paths, views and emotions – so how can we be expected to want just one thing? My project tackles the temporality of relationships and consequently focuses on an institution that is still identified with the notion of ‘forever’: marriage. My aim is to adapt marital conventions by inventing a ‘temporary marriage’ scenario where we can experience a bit of everything within our current parameters.” Fatima created a ‘temporary’ marriage certificate, and even wedding rings which congratulated you when you reached the next ‘level’ – 1 year, 2 years, 5 years – using colour coding. A nod towards today’s instant gratification within society and the gamification of our lives? People seem to want to be constantly rewarded (loyalty points, cashback incentives, discount codes) – this seems like taking that to it’s natural conclusion and rewarding society when it shuns the temporary.

I was impressed with all of the work on show, and enjoyed chatting to the various students about their projects as I walked around. The variety of the work was a main talking point; some students thought the course too unfocused and disliked the lack of specialisation – others thought that this helped them to not pigeon-hole themselves and explore every aspect of their creativity. After all, university is the time to experiment rather than be encumbered by labels and career paths. I wish them every success for the future.

Words: Rachel Lewis

Originally published on jotta.