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Alternative Student Shows in London

Ian Martin reviews London’s best student shows

Haggerston School of Architecture and Pop-Uppery ‘Symbiosis is the key that unlocks the door to the non-biosis room. It allows us to enter and furnish that room with the accoutrements of fluid philosophical exchange, scattered casually across Mumforded floorboards,’ proclaims the school’s brochure, unnecessarily.

The stand-out project is Permissable Space, an experiment in applied symbiosis by students from a third year unit who spent six months giving/receiving piggybacks, feeding themselves and drawing using one another’s hands. The results are mixed and exciting. Can there be such a thing as permissable space? What might that look like? How would a ‘notional, beta theatre for everyday interaction’ validate the participants? There are no easy answers.

University of Not Quite Fitzrovia Some bleak themes here, exploring the relationship between a society in recession and its artistic fabricators. Units from the university’s Department of Milled Inspiration got together informally from time to time, decided on a Roald Dahl theme and eventually produced ‘The Awesome Organic Orbiting Orphanage’. Stark, thought-provoking, with an early modern soundtrack.

Emirates School of Design Compliance, Chelsea Harbour As part of its inferred cultural mandate to pull back the boundaries of Islamic conservatism while remaining friends with the Prince of Wales, a neatly-dressed second year unit was asked to adapt the same building form (disused lime kiln in the Cotswolds) to the needs of three diverse user groups (cats, women, robot butlers). Design solutions ranged from the exquisite yet informal luxury environment of a potentate’s lair (cats) to the quiet, stylish simplicity of a temporary resting place for the socially revered (robot butlers). As an amusing postscript, a ‘lime kiln for the ladies’ was left unconverted in jovial acknowledgment of women’s sovereignty in the home.

University of the Spatially Epic, ‘Everywhere’ In the vanguard of a new generation of ‘no-brick’ universities, this internet-based academic verification hub continues to push and challenge, but in a totally non-aggressive way.

Their end-of-year exhibition demonstrates exactly what may be achieved through spiritual liberation and strong leadership. Recently, the new dean of plasmic arts - an interactive CGI owl called ‘Bono’ - set the entire third year an enigmatic task by squawking ‘Loosen the brainstraps! Loosen the brainstraps!’ over a Prodigy remix. Unit 4+2* took this brief** and ran with it through a wheat field, creating pre-ironised crop circles and a crudely executed giant cock and balls. That was not all. In a balancing move aimed squarely at Flickr, the unit also photographed 1960s office buildings and then captioned them.

*Unit 4+2 are Des Tylor, 38, former sales representative for a top-end vitreous goods supplier, currently looking to push forward Brand Des, and his mates ‘Warby’, ‘Penker’, ‘Big Sal’, ‘Usual Sal’, ‘Meaty’, ‘Professor Brains’ and photographer Justin Ilby of Ilby Media, Nottingham.

**and some drugs

Royal Free Mind Hospital’s School of Retro Grooves, Hampstead The third year catastrophe modelling unit divided itself into ‘friction’ and ‘non-friction’, then swapped, then came together for a final brainstorming picnic. The result is The Confirmary - a house that tells you who you are, constructed from local materials including dead human skin harvested from the Northern Line.

Central Saint Tobys, Free Acton Amazing restaurant serving the very best in Atheist Indofusion. Fish and vegetables, artfully arranged in discrete flaps, charred outside, believable in the middle.

Oh, the student work, you say? This is a very neat collection of measured drawings and essays on the theme of Antiquity And What It May Teach Us. It has been warmly approved by Michael Gove, secretary of state for education. ‘Britain needs more academic institutions such as this,’ he says on the website, between forkfuls of delicious pollock. ‘The historic architectural narrative of this nation has for too long been suppressed by moral cowards, Marxists and the packed-lunch brigade. No longer. This is Year Zero for rigorous historicism and pudding. Waiter! Another carafe of this excellent Viollete-le-Duc!’

The Mayor of London also appears on the website, guffawing in a bicycle helmet.

Ectoplasmalogical Association, W1 A penguin lies in a pool of blood on a marble slab. In an abandoned 19th century laudanum warehouse, swarming rats form the Nike symbol. A vast, gassy mind-balloon is lofted into a prog-rock sky, guyed to the earth by cables of thought.

If this is the sort of thing you’re after, there’s a fuckload of it at the Ectoplasmalogical Association’s summer show.

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