• The materialists

Mclean, Flora, 2021, Conference or Workshop, The materialists at RCA Cross-College Research Symposia 2020-21, London, UK via Zoom, 5-6 Oct 2021.

Abstract or Description:

“Fossil fuels will one day give way to renewable energy. That means we need to find new material systems that are not petroleum-based. I believe that those material systems will be biological, but what matters is how we design and build them.” (Chieza 2017)

Within Flora McLean’s research practice, she has been exploring novel ways in which technical discovery and application can be informed by the identity of materials, their histories and assumed functions. In recent years she has been expanding this inquiry by considering how each School, programme and research centre at the Royal College of Art may employ its own lexicon and methods of introducing materials within their teaching, practice and research. And so to widen engagement during the global pandemic McLean sought insights from subject experts via an online platform.

Through securing the support of the RCA Research Knowledge Exchange & Innovation staff funding McLean conceived, planned and delivered a cross-College research symposia during the global pandemic from February to November 2021. Entitled The Materialists, the 2-day online event on 5-6 October aimed to increase communication and collaboration of academic, technical and research staff across the whole College through facilitated presentations and discussions on regenerative, innovative and circular uses of materials. Alongside McLean’s presentation of new uses of materials for hat-making, she moderated 18 speakers from industry, academia, research & development and RCA alumni, curated across six themes: woven, grown, elastic, mould(ed), air and non-woven (membrane). A parallel aim was to build a digital lexicon of materials for use in remote working scenarios. Speakers were targeted for their physical making practices so as to learn from their embodied experiences. They were invited to present physical realisations of their work pursuant to two questions: how can we capitalise on the cross-use, re-use and alternate-use of materials throughout the College to generate resources useful for all disciplines. And by extension, how can we expand this journey of experimentation into re-branding, re-naming and re-discovering materials for new applications.

The intention behind the online conference was twofold:
1. To initiate and spark the beginning of an online material lexicon/library/archive/resource for everyone’s use.
2. To provide a welcoming and open environment where the research community can present and discuss their work using materials, particularly those who use them for purposes in which they were not originally intended.

To increase impact, a dedicated Instagram account was created to document progress and establish a digital tool for staff, researchers, students and industry professionals alike. It has already been used for the RCA MA Fashion 2021-22 cohort by McLean and other fashion staff for tutorials, to initiate staff discourse, and to enrich examination feedback. The tool has proven popular with the Fashion Bio-platform and other students working with biomaterials for design application. It has enabled some MA students to realize possibilities of working with moss and other aspects of nature in their practices, which has since developed into a key theme within the fashion programme.

Future plans include a physical exhibition of the speakers’ work at the University of Westminster, expanding the range of the digital tool, and developing a working laboratory of ideas, people and thinking around unconventional material uses for sustainable applications.

Natsai Audrey Chieza, ‘Fashion has a pollution problem – can biology fix it?’, TED@BCG Milan, October 2017

ContributionNameRCA ID
SpeakerMcLean, William
Speakervan der Graaf, Kees
SpeakerChadwick, Aran
SpeakerSayed, Ehab
SpeakerTorres, Manel
SpeakerNurk, Linda
SpeakerMausbach, Artur1810030014590
SpeakerSajid, Mohsin1410030005257
SpeakerArroyo, Maria
SpeakerRoss, Charles1910030029856
SpeakerPotts, Alice
SpeakerGoodbun, Jon0210831861312
SpeakerDorfer, Nina C1810030028243
SpeakerAlderson-Bythell, Louis1810030027349
SpeakerCrosbie, Nick
SpeakerYufei, Liu (FeyFey)
SpeakerChaltiel, Stephanie
SpeakerMondoa, Catherine
ResearcherGuerin-Garnett, Nigel
Official URL: https://instagram.com/the.materialistsarchive?igsh...
Subjects: Other > Technologies > J500 Materials Technology not otherwise specified
Architecture > K100 Architecture > K190 Architecture not elsewhere classified
School or Centre: Research & Innovation
School of Design
Funders: Royal College of Art
Uncontrolled Keywords: materials; archive; lexicon; sustainable; biomaterials; new technologies; novel applications; knitwear; woven; plastic; inflatable; moulded; grown
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2022 13:30
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2022 13:32
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/5023
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