People-watching at the RCA Summer Show…

Spotted at the RCA Summer Show (which I will be writing up more fully in a bit) a rather stroppy looking woman with an accent wandering around between each product on display demanding to know how much each of them were and when she could buy them. Most of the designers looked completely confused by the questions, particularly given that it was the first day of the event and they clearly had all of their creations on display. When the designers protested that they weren’t selling things on the spot, she demanded to know who made them, who was responsible for their creation and when she would be able to buy them. I found the whole thing completely fascinating, both as a little microcosm of cultural differences in action (the woman clearly thought it completely appropriate to be highly aggressive and business-minded at the event, the designers clearly found the whole thing mortifying) and as an indication about why British business might not be quite as agile. I couldn’t imagine the same awkward conversations in the US.

Wandering around the event, I also got a sense of how the designers viewed most of the people wandering around. I overheard a couple of conversations between designers in which they talked about how weird it was that they’d spent months working up to this day for people to just wander around and prod things or walk past dismissively. And I almost got into a fight with a guy who seemed to think that I’d put down the headphones on one display too aggressively. It must be an incredibly tense situation to find yourself in – an amazing opportunity but also one ripe for conflict. It’s a pretty high level to find yourself pitching your work, and all I can say is that the people concerned really seemed to rise to the challenge in their creation, even if they were a bit inexperienced at dealing with the mechanics of the event itself. I found myself wishing that I had the time and flexibility to go back and do a course like the Interaction Design course that Jack’s been doing. That level of creative freedom looks amazingly sexy, even though I have a sense that it’s not a space you’re supposed to have too many chances to pass through – and that maybe my time is up…

3 replies on “People-watching at the RCA Summer Show…”

Maybe the impression that people are “just wander around and prod things” is due to shyness, or a sort of barrier between the public and artist, eg. in the sense that people feel slightly “intimidated” that they can’t speak the same “language” as artists.
For example I went to the Middlesex Uni graduate arts show a couple of weeks ago, and they had a lot of cool stuff, especially in the Sonic Arts part- but I wasn’t sure how to approach the artists/creators.

Hello, thanks for the compliments on the puppets. I type this whilst waiting for my soldering iron to heat up: unfortunately they are just about to undergo major surgery, as over the weekend they got completely mangled by eager and enthusiastic visitors – it’s a bit annoying, but mostly hugely satisfying to watch kids jumping around with my work. Now, where did I leave those wire strippers?

I went to see the show on Monday all by my lonesome and I did feel something of a prune. There was so much food for thought there and yet no one to talk to. I probably should have taken one of the guided tours but I kind of wanted to just wander and explore for myself.
People really just keep to their own little clusters when looking around shows like this. With so much emphasis on interaction and communication, there really was no sense of community. People were almost scared to touch some of the exhibits that were set up specifically to play with.
Lovely work by Shulze of course.
As a side note Tom, I’d love to hear your experiences of LCC and any thoughts on the state of interaction/information/communication design education in general. I may well be heading that way at some point. Cheers, and thanks for alerting me to the show in the first place.

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