Behind RCA
Issue 2

My friends and I could not participate in Across RCA. As first year students, most of us were too lost to know our way around school. But hey, so what! If we could not get across it, then we could go behind it.

Behind RCA: that’s what we call our occupation of the railway arches at the end of Cabul Road, next to the Shillington Gardens, here in Battersea.

We decided that it had to be a guerrilla act and so it wasn’t advertised. The idea was to have something to look forward to during that empty week and to publicly display our projects in an unpretentious way. The event was a mix of works from messages on the arch walls and a Fluxus-style performance to formal photography suspended from vines. People meandered around from piece to piece. The texture of the bricks, the plants falling over the wall, the metal supporting the railway, and the train going by every now and then - what a picturesque setting it was!

When we look back, most of us liked Behind RCA’s spontaneity. What started as a modest act became something quite special for all members. One of the students said she loved the auto-curatorial aspect; where people presented their art wherever and whenever it seemed right to them. Our works related with the public space and the architecture. Another said that it was refreshing to see an event where only art and camaraderie existed.

Along with curious eyes walking by, in my opinion, what made that evening memorable was the bond and the energy exchanged between those of us there. An artist wrote messages with black tape on a whim. Without the pressure of formal criticism, works like this felt more authentic. Spending time in the street and relating with the space in the way we did, transformed a seemingly sterile site into a unique exhibition for the residents in the area.

For some of us, coming from more informal cultural backgrounds, to respectfully claim a public space without permission felt familiar. But in London, this is rare because the streets are more regulated by the police. Besides, as much as I like the pub, true bohemia sprouts on the kerb.

And now, with the first event behind us, we have agreed to host another Behind RCA before the Summer break. But, by then: God knows what it will look like.

          Jojo Villas, Photography by Zehua Wang