Daily Mind-ful 26 May 2017 (Central Saint Martins Graduation Show)
I make it down to London to catch the graduation show at Central Saint Martins between housefuls of guests; in Saint Pancras, a surprisingly high end train station, I ask the information desk about the closest exit to the Central Saint Martins campus and the Eastern European attendant has never even heard of the university; this is exactly the kind of thing which provokes outrage among Brexiters — and for good reason; there’s a ton of construction going on around the CSM campus; I FINALLY make it to uber-trendy Indian restaurant, Dishoom, but because it’s before 12 noon, they’re not serving rice, only breakfast foods. That’s a HUGE disappointment — because I’m Asian! My friend, Silvy, who graduated from Central Saint Martins last year, tells me that the students are getting ripped off by the university because the maximum face time with their tutor is 30 minutes per term, meaning a grand total of 90 minutes per year. That’s terrible. But making things far worse, she recounts how her tutor was expressly prohibited by the school’s management from spending additional time with any single student because it would make all the other tutors look bad. Teachers are not permitted to do the equivalent of uncompensated over-time because it makes all the other teachers look bad. It means that well-intentioned tutors are expressly proscribed from making themselves available for additional office hours with students, even on a voluntary basis; that’s a terrible indictment of the school’s culture: the deans are clearly more concerned about keeping order and maximizing enrollment rather than looking out for students’ interests; the same inadequacy of resourcing applies to the studio space allocated to students; there’s not enough of it, so most students do their projects at home; Silvy describes her experience at CSM as “a huge rip-off”; #CSMcome is the worst social media hashtag ever! We’re among the first people to enter the exhibition space and the students are still getting ready; I commit myself to filming positive feedback only but it’s hard NOT to be critical of many of the projects; Silvy reminds me that these are students and that I shouldn’t lay into them too hard; there’s way too much gratuitous incorporation of technology; the projects by the following students impressed me, for different reasons: Jessica Oag-Cooper, Hannah Willcocks, Olwyn Carroll; Silvy shows me a typical room allocated for 45 students’ studio space: it’s obviously inadequate; Central Saint Martins doesn’t emphasize technical skills or craft and that’s obvious from the graduation show (unfortunately); we visit a room upstairs is signed with a content warning outside the door – that these exhibitions might shock. They’re pretty tame and only slightly thought-provoking, transposing the sound of porn to footage of food consumption and swapping virtual guns for three-dimensional, “real” ones in a video game; the video art is probably the strongest corpus of work among all the genres on show; 80% of the projects I saw were impenetrable and left me feeling puzzled; the others were disappointing because they lacked originality or impeccable execution; there were less than five projects I would have termed outstanding; to speak with total honesty, I was seriously underwhelmed by the entire thing and I’m not sure whether it was worth the huge schlep out to Saint Pancras from the country; I rush back home to welcome my friend Michael from Hong Kong; he had to lug an entire suitcase to England in order to bring me a handbag I ordered from D’Auchel, a new accessories company based in Hong Kong; the reversible tote bag has been made entirely by hand and is comprised of hand-stitched leather panels in three different colors; John models it to singular effect.