16 - 23 November 2007
Royal College of Art
‘Have we time, in this world of ours, to love things and see them in close range, in the plenitude of their smallness'
Postcards through-out history have been moments or 'extraordinary assemblages.' The recount of long forgotten places and lands discovered relayed back to loved ones. Whether they are hand-made or purchased by the side of the road they espouse meaning and discovery, whilst simultaneously managing to be a personally constructed account geared to a certain audience or set of eyes. Postcards are whimsically kept and ordered, filled into place by their receivers, only to be pulled out again through moments of nostalgia. Postcards it seems have become and still are, a perfectly viable form of communication through art and beyond tourism. As technology becomes the communication de rigueur in a world permeated by the world wide web it is still enamoring to see that postcards are still used and even better still embellished upon for the sake of art.
The RCA Secret exhibition is held annually at the Gulbenkian Gallery, the main space on entering the building which is situated next to the Royal Albert Hall. The show itself has been running for 14 years and has secured quite a substantial sum for young artists during their studies, with this years show raising over £90, 000. The shows main pull is the amount of celebrity artists that still submit work and this year was no exception, with the likes of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Yoko Ono and Greyson Perry.
With a show such as this there is a difficulty in critiquing aesthetic as every detail of originality through curatorship is regimented through an age-old display model. I've been attending the show for 3 years and not once has the layout or the running system ever changed. This may be why the show neatly fits into the structured remit of a typically unadventurous RCA project. Steeped in tradition it's a show or rather showcase of work that doesn't beg you to unnaturally 'think.' It begs no questions and demands no authority. In fact the RCA Secret exhibition seems to barely make a blip on the London Arts Calendar at all. This is not to discredit its role, what it lacks in adventure and doesn't command in ambition, it makes up for in representation. I'm not talking about the obvious possibility of owning an original Hirst or walking away with a sketch by Quentin Blake, I'm talking about the role of representing art practice from outside of the London art network. Smaller practices up and down the country get the opportunity to become involved in a international show in a well known arts institution. This could be seen as charity in itself.
'The artist, freed from the burden of subjectivity, present their gifts from the other side of themselves, swaying as they do the timbre of the multitude.'
Richard Falls, November 2007
In this sense there is a structural coming-together of artists and their work, the unifying of latter known and famous artists under one roof with one rule and completely anonymous. This is the glory of the RCA Secret show. The fact that a smaller artist practice can rest on the same ledge and next to a well known artist is a dynamic that is rarely seen within the constructs of a central London art space. This isn't just a subtle comment for the shows success but the reason why year-in-year-out people find time in their busy schedule to visit it, and more importantly artists find time to create for it. What it lacks in theme and curatorial direction it makes up for in an autonomous appreciation of image as image not on merit of name as image. Another point of justification for the success of this show doesn't have to come from the amount of money it generates for RCA students, but as a bench mark moment of appreciation for works outside of London that wouldn't and doesn't get a voice within London. Saying this the very anonymous nature of the show could counter balance that. To reflect on the Richard Fall quote above is to justify that the small offerings by each individual artist are symbolic elements of the multi-faceted paralleling of practices throughout the UK and beyond. A major force in the art world this is not, but as a tributing factor that maintains and keeps alive many unspoken moments of artistic production and progression RCA Secret it is.