Athenaeum – The Library Re-imagined

The Research Biennale 2021 (22 February – 1 March 2021) is a showcase of student research at the RCA. This brings together for the first time PhD, MPhil and MRes students from across the College, highlighting the urgency, vitality and ambition of research across art, design and architecture. The Biennale platform takes the work beyond its final outcomes, to consider the processes, methods and contexts for this array of research. What you will encounter will include finished works/outputs, text pieces, written texts, workshops and provisional thinking. This is one of the largest concentrations of art and design research students within a university setting. The RCA hosts an extraordinary community of nearly 300 research students, undertaking research projects across the expanded fields of Art, Design, Architecture, Humanities and the Applied Arts. They are supported by a team of at least 240 academic staff, an amazingly ambitious technical team, a team of scholarly publication support in the library and an IT team keeping us all connected and working both in on- and offline modes and many more. The students featured here are a special cohort of researchers, having navigated their way through the current global pandemic; we are proud to present them to you here and hope that you enjoy exploring their work as much as we do working with them to realise their research ambitions. The world of art and design research is full of potential for changing the world and more. Across the week there are a number of opportunities to meet with the students and research graduates from the RCA as well as other events and activities; please visit the Events page for details. Come and join us for these and find out more. You can navigate the platform using the keyword picker, by name and by discipline, allowing different routes through this rich and powerful work.

Athenaeum: The Library Re-imagined: MONDAY 1 MARCH 2:00PM: Join us for the launch of Athenaeum: The Library Re-imagined, a collaborative publication created by the RCA MRes Communication Design Pathway. Working in dialogue with RCA library staff, the group set out to rethink the idea of the library during the pandemic era – as a site not only for encountering and categorising certain kinds of knowledge, but also a space (virtual or not) for dialogue and community.

“Athenaeum: The Library Re-imagined, is a collaborative publication created by the MRes Communication Design Pathway at the Royal College of Art, and is part of their Research Biennale 2021. It addresses overarching questions emerging from the global pandemic. Working in dialogue with RCA library staff members Angie Applegate and Tom Cridford, students on the Pathway experimented with imaginative approaches to what the ‘expanded library’ of the pandemic era might be, and what approaches, skills and forms of imagination communication design can offer. How does the definition of the library change when we move beyond its physical walls (or does it)? How might we design more equitable, sustainable, imaginative systems for creating and facilitating the sharing and creation of knowledge? Within this publication, it is not only the library as conventionally construed – shelves of books housed within four walls – that has been subject to reimagination by the Communication Design Pathway. The contributions in Athenaeum reflect on the act of reading, for instance, what constitutes a safe space, and what it would mean for books to ‘perform’ using 3D typography. They pilot new modes of thinking about what the library could feel like and sound like, what new opportunities for community building might emerge if we searched for books via memes rather than the Dewey Decimal System, if we encountered library collections serendipitously while walking outdoors, what a library of emotions and experiences might look like, and much more. The word ‘athenaeum’ has been lent to many types of institutions with the collection, generation, and sharing of knowledge at their foundation, including libraries. The ancient Roman Athenaeum, however, was a school. This merging of library/school is at the centre of the Communication Design students’ publication. Together, the chapters in Athenaeum act as a kind of ‘how to’, not in the sense of a definitive set of steps for achieving a single defined outcome, but as a set of shimmering possibilities, guiding us toward someplace new.” – Emily Candela, pathway leader

For myself ‘Athenaeum – The Library Reimagined‘ represents a collection of external voices and each entry in Apotheosis represents my own inner-most voice. The internal voice symbolises connecting with one’s inherent inner-tacit wisdom and hidden-knowledge through the self-archival process of documenting both fictional and non-fictional memories, thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Through the act of sharing and disseminating via modern verse, the internal then becomes the external. Apotheosis is symbolic of: ‘a library of the self’, which when presented as part of the RCA group project, becomes a ‘library within a library’.

Apotheosis Chapter within Athenaeum: RE:Birth:

Athenaeum – The Library Reimagined: