RCA Society

Debates: TATE - Contemporary Teaching & Research Practice in the Visual Arts

Wednesday 10 March 2010, 18.30–20.00
A series of educational debates connected to the exhibition “Peter Kardia: From Floor to Sky” was launched at Tate Britain and was organised in collaboration with Tate Britain’s educational department. The RCA Society will be launching a third debate at the Royal College after the St Martins debates on the 26th and 27 March. Hestor Westley, researcher (St Martins/Tate), introduced the event and its links to her work of researching archival materials from St Martins School of Art and introduced the notable panel of speakers - Richard Deacon, Peter Kardia, Jean Matthee, Richard Wentworth and Malcolm Le Grice who had the task of ‘chairing’ the discussion. The panelists were either students of or worked with Peter Kardia at St Martins or the Royal College of Art.

Peter Kardia gave a brief introduction to the evolution of the ‘course’ he instigated at St Martins in the 1960s and subsequently the Environmental Media course at the Royal College of Art in the 1970s. Malcolm Le Grice, a notable filmaker, warmed up the audience with an upbeat introduction to each of the panelists and recollection of his teaching experience at St Martins School of Art 1964 - 65.

The panelists took turns to speak about their direct experience of Kardia’s new approaches in ‘teaching’ art, how their work as artists has developed and about the central issues that influence their work as artist practitioners. Each of the panelists approached the discussion in their particular own way. Jean Matthee (theorist, artist filmaker) read ‘machine like’, from a densely structured prepared text that was critical of the art market, of state manipulaton of people’s expectations, and the cult of the celebrity - after which Richard Deacon (Turner Prize Winner, CBE, and sculptor of public art) chose to stretch his legs, cross the platform to the lectern and illustrated his recollections as a student at St. Martins in the late 1960s. His grainy film slides showed one of his seminal works ‘peeling away’ the asphalt on the College’s roof. Richard Wentworth, (RCA Professor of Sculpture) unscripted and unprogrammed, wandered across the platform and spoke with eloquence and ease of his memories as a sculpture student at the Royal College of Art - and of his memorable encounters with Peter Kardia whose timely interventions as a regular ‘visiting’ tutor complemented those of Prof Bernard Meadows whom Wentworth still holds in high regard. The lengthy presentations were followed by a throwing open to ‘audience participation’. There was limited time for some observations to be expressed as to where art education and practice is now and of personal experiences. A number of people in conflicting response to Jean Matthee’s statements raised comparisons with the now and then - both rejecting and lamenting those halcyon times of having time to sit back and not having to justify ‘doing nothing for a couple of days’. www.fromfloortosky.org.uk

‘From Floor to Sky’ book published by AC Black, contains histories and statements from all the participating artists as well as substantial contributions from Roderick Coyne (http://roderickcoyne.and.org.uk), Hestor Westley, Peter Kardia and Malcolm Le Grice.