Students on the Public Sphere pathway come to study at the Royal College of Art from all over the world, forming a huge expansive art network from South America to South East Asia. Since we all felt a need to reconnect with the physical side of the city after COVID, our pathway sessions were spent on the streets of London where we walked, observed and talked. Could we, who came to the capital from such diverse and remote places, find a common way to understand this city? We looked for signs of repressed histories of migration and enslavement, workers struggles and communal institutions and encountered the shadow of state power and wealth accumulation wherever we went. We described the monuments, standing across the river, celebrating generals of colonial wars and noticed that too many London museums stand on sites of former prisons. We thought about the buildings that were built in identical clusters for 300 years and about the expensive glass towers that replaced the red brick council estates of the mid 20th century. We followed the Westway road in its path, cutting through neighbourhoods like a noisy rusty knife. Public Sphere students mostly discovered that London is the same as, and also completely different from, their hometowns. London is defined by the same accumulations, intensities, enclosures and possibilities for resistance that any modern city is built on. But its empirical history also enabled us, a group of global wanderers, to come together from all around the world and to spend a year thinking about who we could be against this mammoth.
- Dr Pil Kollectiv