Bucky Miller reflects on his time in London as RCA exchange student
Thu. February 25, 2016
Each fall, Royal College of Art, London (RCA) sends one graduate student to study at UT Austin, and the Department of Art and Art history sends one graduate student in their third semester to study in London. Bucky Miller, M.F.A. candidate in Studio Art, studied in London last fall.
First, an American man wearing all denim and an eye patch picked me up at Heathrow and took me to meet Genie, who was to live my life for a while. I was in London as an exchange student at the Royal College of Art Program in Sculpture, where I would spend four months working and researching through the seemingly limitless layers of history that describe that city.
The majority of the pictures I made during my trip, the majority of the research I accomplished, will hopefully find their own versions of sense over the coming months. But some pictures are outliers—one-offs or tangents that could easily slip through the cracks. I shared some of these tangents on the website of the Walkative group. Here are a few more:
THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART
I was housed alongside nearly seventy M.A. students inside the RCA Sculpture studios. The student body is so large that I don’t even think I met everyone in Sculpture, let alone the other disciplines, but I miss the ones I met. It is quite an international group, and I was one of only a few Americans.
Once, standing outside the pub opposite the RCA, I heard a man with an American accent say, “do you know Ari?”
“Sorry?” I said.
“Is your name Bucky? Do you know Ari? I’m Matt. I think I met you in Arizona in like 2006.”
(Studio Table) Here is a detail of my studio table. The studio spaces at the RCA are communal, and I was surrounded by wonderful people: one from Chile who made a sinking Moai and was charting the Rhubarb Triangle, one from Germany who was collecting novelizations of Dirty Dancing from the £1 store, one from South Korea who made a campfire without fire, and one from Japan whose art defies explanation but who seemed to be ruining televisions toward some fruitful end. In other parts of the building, somebody was preparing to launch a duck decoy with a brick while some others were conducting a ballet starring camp chairs.
At one point I made a drawing out of a bran flake. I tried to bring it home in a box of tea but it didn’t survive the flight.
London contains—by my count—276 museums; these gave me a map for my research. I went to as many as I could—up to five in one day—acting simultaneously as tourist and collector, getting lost in displays and wall text until I realized that I had forgotten to eat and scrambled off to find a sandwich. Actual museums that I visited, with made-up yet accurate names, include:
- The Middle-Class Living Rooms Museum
- The Museum of Famous Fat Men of the 1940s
- The House Where Freud Died
When I go over the blur of floor plans in my head, attempting to separate all those collections, I am surprised at how little overlap there is. Still, I believe these places can be united—not just museologically, but through fiction.
There are also museums that are built entirely out of photographs, but I will write more about that at a later date.
LIFE IN LONDON
I lived in Waterloo with Barbara and Simon. They had two cats, called Gilbert and George. I had my pig, Pig, who learned to fly in the downstairs kitchen. I learned to love QI. Sometimes there were visitors. Once, there was a Hanukah party.
Somebody informed me that all swans in England belong to the Queen, and that tampering with a swan was a serious offense. Generally I am more nervous that a swan will tamper with me. These two factors—combined—may explain why I did not photograph any actual swans.
I felt more comfortable photographing the other waterfowl in the Royal Parks, and it seemed a lot of the tourists had the same idea. It was one of a few indulgences I permitted myself; I didn’t ride the London Eye or take a Haunted Bus Tour, but the birds were free.
This is me. At one point I agreed that I was a heron. Heron Bucky still lives in London, patrolling the banks of the Thames for fish and discarded Shrek plushies, while I’m back in the States. I miss him.
It was immediately clear to me that pigeons in London are surprisingly handsome. This fellow, who is really pretty average by London standards, hung out on the balcony at Tate Modern. I lived relatively close to the Tate and found myself there all the time, taking in their massive collection bit-by-bit. One day I might only look at Arte Povera stuff, the next Nam Jun Paik, and one specific Dorothea Tanning painting on the third. There were at least a couple visits where I only looked at the pigeons, who had a great view out over the Thames at a point where the buskers sang American folk songs.
This bird is a horse. It is about the size of a typical London swan, but I’m pretty sure it does not belong to the Queen. Photographed for scale.
I’d been in the UK for less than two weeks when I wound up on a farm in Cuckfield, West Sussex, for a performance art festival. In this picture, a performer hides in the lettuce patch, wearing lettuce and talking on a lettuce phone about the latest happenings in British politics (Jeremy Corbyn had just been elected leader of the Labour Party). All the work was heartfelt, different, and, for me, slightly mind-bending. Overall the day was produce-heavy: I was given blackberries straight from a bush, I photographed a cabbage, I sang to a pear, and I fell in love with a cauliflower.
London contains a lot of art. So much art, in fact, that I’m not sure how to distill it here.
Before I left Texas I made loose plans to travel, to see more of Europe. It didn’t really happen. I did make it to Cambridge once—and here’s their Polar Research Institute—but I was completely consumed by the ecstatic act of existing inside of London. I saw no reason to leave.
All images courtesy Bucky Miller.
Michael Smith performance, screening, and discussion at Yale Union
Wed. February 17, 2016
Michael Smith performs at Yale Union on March 4, 2016. A screening and discussion will be held the following day.
Felice House discusses recent work at Aquinas College
Tue. February 16, 2016
Felice House (M.F.A. in Studio Art, 2011) discusses her work in Sum You, Some Me, an exhibition on view at Aquinas College, on WGVU public radio.
Sarah Canright presents work in group exhibition at Launch F18
Wed. February 10, 2016
Sarah Canright presents work in the exhibition, At Home, at Launch F18. The exhibition includes work by Canright in addition to Ohad Meromi, Takeshi Murata, Ara Peterson, Sally Saul, and Michelle Segre. At Home will be on view February 10 – March 6, 2016.