It is 1 July, 2020. I’m sitting down to write this from my kitchen table. I have been procrastinating writing this. My attention has shifted and flickered several times throughout the day, as it has for months; the past 4 have been an incredibly difficult time. I don’t think any of us would have predicted we’d be finishing our MA degree under the current circumstances. A month-long strike, a global pandemic, and global protests around police brutality and systemic racism. Listed in order of occurrence yet also in conjunction with, and inextricable from one another. These circumstances highlight the urgency and necessity of both of these projects, both of which seek to challenge our definitions of pedagogy and community as students and future alumni of the RCA.
We began Content-Full earlier this year to create a printed matter in which students and tutors could critically engage with their environment through writing and image-making, amongst other types of output. As I wrote in our first letter, we noticed many students were engaging with notions of space and place — that which immediately surrounded them, extending to the greater landscape of London and beyond: “Students are aware of their presence in White City, both as practitioners and community members. Their engagement, on the macro and micro, is readily found in their work. Collaborative, experimental, inquisitive. Many students have a desire to engage with those in their local communities, starting in White City, and extending outward.”
Thus, we hold the belief that space and place is integral to practice. It shapes and defines our belief systems, our identities, and ultimately, the work that we create as practitioners. Content-Full seeks to simultaneously create a space in which students, tutors, alumni, and those in the resulting networks and communities may experiment with work, while challenging, redefining, and reshaping notions of space and place as practitioners. The work featured deals with these terms in a variety of ways, but all in some manner, respond to these ideas. In preparation of Issue #2’s releases we seek to continuously consider the following provocations:
– How, and on what terms do the terms ‘space’ and ‘place’ define or influence practice?
– How do these spaces function?
– Who designed them?
– Who gets to occupy spaces, particularly those that we as students of the RCA occupy?
– Who gets to interrogate the terms which these spaces operate on?
– As visual communicators, how do we create, define, and sustain space? How will events such as Covid-19 shift these spaces?
It’s now the 7 of July. I have returned to this piece of writing unsure of how to conclude. Because of Covid’s extensive repercussions, I’m due to depart the UK in 6 weeks, a gutting move I did not anticipate 4 months ago. Content-Full, Sold Out, and their networks are perhaps more invaluable than ever. These spaces sustain the practices, relationships, and moments such as these.
Congratulations are in order to Sold Out in light of its recent launch. Many thanks to Baki and Betty for their continued support in this work. We’re forever grateful.
It’s 1 minute past midnight, it’s the 2nd July of 2020 now. Like Kat, I’ve also been procrastinating. I wrote something earlier, a couple of hours ago.
I didn’t like it.
In fact I’m pretty sure I won’t like this either when I send this to the Content-Full team for review. Yet, here I am writing an ‘editorial statement’ … and also, here I am starting a ‘publishing house’ with Betty. Betty, my studio and publishing partner, is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. If you don’t know her - get to know her. Maybe I should have just told her to write this, I could have watched Youtube videos now instead. That’s my new lockdown hobby, watching Youtube videos for 3 hours straight.
Anyway, before I ramble on any further I would like to thank Kat and Sian for giving us a space in Content-Full to explain our intentions, questions and provocations with Sold Out, and most importantly to truly pave the way for a wider variety of references to be printed and seen (special shout out to all the Sold Out Authors in this edition). As Kat has mentioned, Betty and I were also one of those students who felt a real “desire to engage with local communities, starting in White City”. Sometimes our approach was well intentioned but executed with slight naïveté, and sometimes there was strong momentum but also resistance and inertia at the same time. You can interpret what I just said in any way you like, I’m sure as a creative practitioner you must identify with what I mean when I say with momentum comes resistance and inertia. In fact, according to my A-Level Physics textbook, inertia describes an object’s resistance to change in motion (or lack of motion), and momentum describes how much motion it has.
That momentum vs. inertia conundrum that we felt so often in the pedagogies that we were surrounded and brought-up with, led to the existence of Sold Out. When you see all these systems and values that are set up in place - I’m talking about white male dominated places, heteronormative systems, and gendered spaces, you have no choice as someone who doesn’t beneﬁt from or identify with this system to code-switch and assimilate. Often it’s so subtle, and sometimes it’s obvious. Betty and I looked around a few times, and wondered how many times and how many people came into our spaces and stripped their cultural codes just to adapt to ours? How many times did our hierarchy intimidate and discredit artistic choices, writings, knowledge and execute unconscious discriminatory practices?
On a positive note, there’s certainly a stronger momentum than ever when it comes to active anti-racism campaigns and diversifying our curriculums. Some of it may be performative: virtue signalling and reactionary to the global uprising in regards to the BLM movement, but some of what we’re seeing around us deﬁnitely feels like a big step forward. We started Sold Out a year ago with the hope to decolonise, diversify and publish intersectional references in Visual Communication. Our hope now is that in a couple of months time when we all prepare to enter the ‘new normal’ we stay connected to this momentum, and we continue to speak up and keep questioning all the value systems that are currently set in place. We continue to ask what, and who, is left out from the curricula in our academic and practical spaces. The question is what is excluded and why, who is producing knowledge and who is distributing it? We need to do more than just simply put people of colour in white spaces, we need to rebuild the system from the ground up.
So thank you again Content-Full for facilitating a space for Sold Out to open up this discussion with your readers, and thank you to Content-Full’s readers for making it this far into my ‘editorial statement’.
It’s almost 1am now, I’m going to pass this on to Betty and return to YouTube. Pop Smoke’s posthumous music video ‘Got it on me” just came out and I’m excited.
It’s now 11.40 am in Tenerife, so good mornings are in order. Need I say that I have been procrastinating? Or can you guess it from the time I’m starting to write this? Today is the 5th, I’m sorry for the delay, Kat and Baki’s texts are tough ones to follow. They both have a way with words. Nina Simone singing “Stars” is blasting loud on the speakers next to me, I’m not sure if it’s making this process easier or harder.
I guess almost a year of discussion regarding these themes of diversification and decolonisation of Graphic Design is hard to shorten in a text. But Baki did a pretty awesome job so far so I’ll do my best to fill in some gaps. Before I continue, did you notice how Baki infiltrated a compliment about me in her text? Well, that sums up pretty well who she is: incredible. See, I can do it too.
A group of us started to have these conversations about pedagogies, hierarchies, decolonisation, safe spaces in a class at RCA. In that same class were Kat, Sian, Baki and I, amongst other people. I think with Content-Full and Sold Out our approaches are different but the values and the types of discussions we aim to bring to the forefront are intrinsically linked. At the very least they emerged from the same discussions we had in that class.
I think it is in this aspect that our collaboration makes sense, it is all about raising voices, voices from a new generation. It’s about dreaming, building and documenting all at the same time. We are in the future, the past and the present all at once. Creating new systems is not an easy task because you don’t have a starting point. Maybe creating a new system per se is actually impossible, but rather it’s about finding out about those systems that exist, and making them evolve.
With Sold Out we aim to challenge the value system, but how do you create a new value system that doesn’t replicate the existing one? Democratizing it? Is democratic even democratic in the end? All we can do is attempt to come close to the idea of it. That’s why we decided that once the publishing house is launched, we want to include a wide variety of considered voices in the decision making. But even then, the way we include people might not be democratic at all, but this is a discussion for another time.
I think access is a key word here, especially because we are situated within Visual Communication. If communication isn’t accessible to its audience, what is the point? The strange thing about Sold Out and Content-Full is they are both looking inward, while trying to reach outward. But will they? Only time will tell.
I think I’ve been babbling for long enough now and will pass on the mic to Sian to conclude. But before I do, I wanted to congratulate both Sian and Kat for this achievement, Sold Out is very proud to be associated with Content-Full.
I left London on the cusp of a pre-lockdown existence and until now, whilst writing I hadn’t really looked back, or collected the thoughts and feelings experienced. To start, I think the earliest feeling was anxiety; I left London on the 20th of March, 2020 with four very heavy bags. I had tried to take as many as my belongings as I could carry, including the contents of my fridge. The anxiety had morphed into forms executed through panic buying. I ended up giving up my groceries to my friend and neighbour Callum as I couldn’t manage the load whilst walking to Homerton Station.
One overground, a tube and two trains later, I was no longer living in East London and at home in the Potteries, the Midlands only to prepare for another journey to my other home amidst the Fenlands of Lincolnshire three days later. Over the course of those three days, I had carried my studio; a laptop + notebook across numerous counties and, rather than sitting at my desk conversing with classmates and collaborators, I was now being led into a picture message x zoom method way of being. To me the space had changed but had managed to remain the same.
Moving away from London, and me leaving it. The idea of space, and how it associates itself with Content-Full within this bizarre Covid-19 landscape had changed. Content-Full’s ethos remained the same but, the way in which work was made and where it was sent from had changed; participants, editors and critics were participating in collective separation.
At present, it’s the 5th of July… this morning I rode a horse for the first time in sixteen years, and I’m finally calling the static twelve by thirty-two foot caravan I reside in, home. I’m asking myself, how did I become so comfortable here? Is it solely down to me sharing a space with my partner, or do I just really buzz off the flat fenlands that surround me? Have I just become fond of picking cherries in the evening? Or is it that I know I’m detached from a substantial amount but, those attachments are readily available to clip back onto. Maybe that’s something lockdown has proven.
So, attachment, detachment. The current circumstance calls for space to travel quickly whilst morphing into new shapes and filling unfamiliar crevices. One detail seems to have remained the same, Content-Full still functions with no major alterations but, the one alteration is acknowledging change in the way work has been made, discussed and sent.
We are participating in collective separation.
To hear more about this project, please subscribe to Content-Full here.