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Elle Decor Italia

Studying design at the time of Brexit

Interview with Central Saint Martin graduates at the LDF 2016 exhibition "Brain Waves" opening

Entering the scenic venue of Central Saint Martin (CSM) in Granary Square, during the London Design Festival, you'll immediately notice it: the consituent college of the University of the Arts London is a place full of energy, where the “Brain waves” - which is the title of the 2016 graduates exhibition - run fast, bouncing between the gigantic walls of the former industrial building, fueled by the art and design students creativity. After "Restless Future" in 2014, which examined the context in which designers operate, "The Intelligent Optimist" in 2015, on the role of contemporary designers, the current exhibition ends the trilogy exploring the different intelligences deployed in their work.

The exhibition is always a very special moment: during the previous months the students have meticulously prepared themselves to expose their final work. It represents a sort of business card to enter the design world. However this year, in addition to the typical anxiety that accompanies every big occasions, there is a particular mood in the air, related to the recent events happened in UK.

With about 40% of foreign students, the CSM has accused the emotional impact of the referendum of 23rd June, which decreed the British people willingness to leave the EU.

“The day of the Brexit results was a weird one for me and my classmates - says Julius Ingemann Breitenstein, Danish 21 year old student grown up in England. - It was the same day that we received our final university grades, so even if you got a good grade, the whole mood was still dampened by the fact that UK is going to leave the EU. I felt like there was a sense of irritation and disbelief, as the news hadn’t really sunk in properly among everyone. Up until that day I had never considered getting an English passport as I didn’t feel that I needed one in order to fit in within the English culture. However, now that I’m moving back to Denmark for an internship, I don’t know how easy it will be for me to move back to the UK in the future.”

In the LDF exhibition Julius presents a brilliant project named metaphorically "Unpaid Intern" which proposes a method for enhancing the use of generative algorithms within the digital design process. Through a simple controller, designers can interact haptically with the algorithm exploring visually and collaboratively the possible design directions.

As pointed out by the head of CSM, Jeremy Till, “one of the graduates challenge was not only to show how different types of design intelligence are applied to process and object, but also their wider potential and application”.

Besides the pragmatic approach, which is essential in the CSM educational model, the students are constantly encouraged to draw on the collaboration and diversity, and to think of design as a tool to disambiguate the reality.

“I believe that multi characteristics and multi cultures put different flavours on the plate when we think about design fields - says Elif Gengör, 26, neo-graduated from Turkey which exhibits “Mom Tom ", a research project for a babies disease. - New understandings, beliefs, techniques and stories become subject and process of design and technology. With design understanding, even political and economic borders and personal labels can be defeated.”

One of the most purely artistic projects on display this year tells the importance of overcoming the borders - real or perceived - by accessing knowledge and culture. It is "Library" by the British Sarah Christie, 41 years. The projects invites viewers to dismantle a pottery border wall turning it into a collection of words.

“Creativity has a habit of finding ways of doing things that aren't easy or obvious - Sarah tells. - My hope is that we will all work harder to become an even stronger community of artists and designers that will transcend the current situation. But if students are discouraged from studying here, and cross-border exchanges of ideas, disciplines and practices become more difficult, this is will be a huge challenge.”

An inevitable challenge that the University of the Arts London, the fifth in the world in art and design field according to the QS World University Ranking, is going to face along with all others major British institutions. To give just one famous example, by analyzing the financial report of Cambridge last May, Professor Ross Anderson, Council member, has roughly estimated that Brexit could cause an annual loss of 10% of turnover in European funds, research funds, awards and other income from overseas.

“There will be consequences for everybody, but only time will tell how it will impact my career - concludes Orla Law, Irish 25 year old, just graduated with highest grades and author of an interesting three-dimensional textiles project named " Depth of light ".- London is such a wonderful place for creatives, it would be a huge shame if Brexit was to affect the great diversity we have here.”

There’s time until 29th October to pop over Granary Square and find out the projects - sometimes precocious, sometimes unripe - of these talented young designer.


by Laura Ghisellini / 23 September 2016


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