Video: The Room of Silence
It was very interesting to watch this short documentary about race, identity and marginalization at the Rhode Island School of Design. I can see how this can be used as a great teaching tool for students and teaching staff. I was watching this youtube video during one of my breaks at work and one of my work colleagues stop behind me and ask me if it was any good. I stopped the video to try to explained what it was about. I started by explaining the “room of silence” concept which to me was fascinating because I think I have only experienced it once . . . maybe twice.
I explained to my colleague, that the last time I had a formal crit on a group setting in HE was 11 years ago. I was part of a class of 16 students at the Royal College of Art (RCA). Only I, the spanish girl, and 2 gay people (only one of them was openly gay) where the only ones who tick the “diversity box”. Everybody else where middle class white british, including tutors and technical stuff. . .there were not many crits about issues of identity, race and religion, and when this “problematic” pieces where supposed to be analyzed and picked apart, only aesthetic matters were discussed (just as people explains in the video). I can now see how frustrating this can be for someone who is paying for an education but they are not getting “theirs money worth”.
My colleague also told me her “room of silence” expericences as a recent student at the Slade, where everybody seem are pretty much White British middle class.
Then I went into telling her one anecdote that happen while I was student at the RCA, which seem relevant to the discussion. For my final year piece, I wanted to photograph 4 black people dress as maasai warriors and colonial servants that where part of the narrative of the piece. It was just ridiculous that I could only find 2 black people to photograph: a design student who turn out to be the only black student in the whole of the RCA and one of the building security guys. To a certain extend this issue became another layer of meaning in my piece becoming a critisim of the lack of diversity in the the institution. Nobody seem to pick on it though. . .
It seems though that things might be changing at the RCA ( just like is happening here at UAL), so fear not, they are currenlty embracing the diversity box ticking: https://www.rca.ac.uk/more/official-information/equality-diversity/