Not Just for Art’s Sake

Rather than being led to despair though joblessness, apparently we should be uplifted by the fact that we’re all works of art, designed by God. I wonder what graduates embarking on their search for employment would make of yesterday’s BBC Radio 4 Thought for the Day from Rt Rev Lord Harries of Pentregarth?

Fortunately, judging from the work at their current show, students just completing courses at the Royal College of Art are a savvy lot:

First of all, contrary to the rest of the economy, the market for unnecessary luxuries seems to be booming. At least for the moment, the contemporary art market is awash with hedge fund managers and cash-rich buyers from Russia and Hong Kong. Wealthy Middle Eastern and Chinese tourists ensure that high end designer accessories also continue to sell like hot cakes, with Mulberry reporting a 358% rise in pre-tax profits for the year to March 31st.

Of course RCA students are the crème de la crème of the art and design world, so their projects and shows are also generously sponsored by large corporations and wealthy individuals. Plus, each graduate is professionally packaged and presented to the outside world via the show’s brochure and website.

But what’s most important of all is that these are the young people we’ll be relying on on to help us get out of the horrible mess we’re in. To this end they have absolutely brilliant ideas, combining sustainable solutions with commercialism, and a genuine sense of caring.

Tom Jarvis’ practical tools to service an orchestra are based upon his own experience as a professional trombonist. His designs fulfill a real need, as devices to remove stuck tuning slides and mouthpieces from brass instruments aren’t currently available and these inventions will enable players to service and repair their own instruments. He’s also designed a clever and cool looking set of inflatable musical instrument cases, like the one shown for double bass. They’re comparatively cheap and use lightweight technology to achieve the same protection as a hard-skinned case… plus, they deflate for easy storage.

Veronica Ranner’s project proposes a ‘probable future of acceptable tissue technology.’  Biophilia investigates organ crafting, and the possibility of using genetically modified silk worms to weave the biodegradable scaffolds for organs (such as hearts) and tissues, create biosensors, and even consumer products, as an alternative to computer generated design.

Craig Allen’s A Happy Thamesmeadium has private enterprise exploiting the happiness index to create an archipelago of wellbeing in Thamesmead, an area that currently boasts the highest levels of negative equity and repossessions in London. Developers Candy & Candy will be involved in the creation of social housing, as will Coca-Cola’s Institute of Happiness – and it’s all dependent upon Crossrail.

LingJing Yin’s Touch the Sound considers how we can become acoustic containers for our memory. In an ongoing project, she’s developing technology to enable autistic children to explore and express emotions and feelings through their senses. Her bespoke device records at the push of a button, but the only way to play back the sounds is to touch another person. A short film at the RCA shows how a musically talented autistic child, Sarah, is able to interact with other members of her family using her senses of sound and touch.

Curiously, it wasn’t Yin’s film, but Robert Ware’s remarkable DIY computer generated design installation of St Paul’s that caused my eyes to well up with tears.

God is out there, creating some pretty fine works…

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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

6 thoughts on “Not Just for Art’s Sake

    June 25, 2011 at 09:10

    Interesting stuff Susan, although it makes me wonder at what point does art become craft and vice versa?!

    June 25, 2011 at 10:00

    Good point, Worm, and something I will be addressing in my ShopCurious blog post tomorrow. There are 431 students exhibiting in the current show – including many in traditional disciplines such as fine art and sculpture – as well as the more design focused areas, also known as ‘applied art’.

    June 25, 2011 at 10:14

    The downside of the RCA is it’s location, leading to interesting side effects, days spent gazing out of the windows Lambo watching led to a spate of attempted Lamborghiniesque motors hitting the streets, the marketing departments watching in horror, as the now employed ex students plied their trade, starry eyed and muttering “Murcielago”
    We will not talk about the cost, seriously depleting as it does the bank of ma and pa, the little tykes accepting no less than Chelsea as their base camp.
    It does however, as you interestingly show, produce some of the finest.

    June 25, 2011 at 12:58

    You’re obsessed with those Lambos, Malty! This year they’ve graduated to the likes of bamboo vehicles for transporting newly harvested crops in developing countries.

    It’s interesting how my posts are usually taken at face value, when there’s often a deeper, more spiritual dimension 🙂 No one has commented on Lord Harries’ Thought for the Day – mentioning, as it does, making things, good deeds and works of art… However, I don’t have time to read everyone’s posts either – let alone click on the links and follow them through…

    What impressed me so much about these students, apart from their exceptional creativity, is that they’re doing things for the greater good.

      June 25, 2011 at 18:18

      I fear that while the students may well be doing things for the greater good, they should steer as clear as possible of the Candy Bros who blithely destroyed the Middlesex Hospital, found themselves undercapitalised (or in some complex way lacking the money to push through a grotesque development that no-one had ever wanted) and managed to run off gaily leaving a wilderness behind them where once there had stood something of great worth.

        June 26, 2011 at 15:45

        Jonathon, Craig’s idealised vision of Thamesmeadium entails a future based on social enterprise and philanthropy, where the Candy Bros have been miraculously transformed into heroes of the social housing market! I agree with you on the Middlesex. There are so many sites in London that could be put to beneficial use – like Battersea Power Station, which will no doubt end up as a giant shopping centre/cinema with luxury apartments – if anyone ever has sufficient funds.

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