Ika Schwander is Central Saint Martins’ winner of the Foundation Diploma in Art & Design’s London/Paris project, supported by Eurostar. London/Paris is an annual collaboration between Central Saint Martins and The Paris College of Art Foundation programmes, and this year students were asked to respond to the theme of ‘cultures of youth’.

How did you come up with the idea for this project?

I wanted to understand the public’s views towards youth, but I wanted a response from people that I wouldn’t normally be in contact with – people who I wouldn’t usually ask questions, or who wouldn’t answer them in real life. Texting can be an unbiased, anonymous medium and it allows for short, unfiltered and more accurate responses from the public.  So I thought that would be an interesting way of opening up communication.

How did your ideas develop?

My idea of communicating with strangers through texting came right after my first Skype session with my Paris partner. We spoke a lot about the concepts associated with ‘the youth of today’. Our discussion was based on the societal differences between the ‘current’ youth and previous generations. One thing I found interesting was how the majority of my generation have been recorded digitally and preserved for the years to come.

Can you tell us a bit more about how it was produced?

I posed a question to the public, by putting up posters in various locations around the city, such as underground stations, toilet doors, bus stops and street walls. The posters read: ‘If you could say one thing to the youth of today, what would it be? Please text this number: 07554901377 with your response.’ It was a communication between two strangers and so the responses were not influenced by any potential social consequences. Many people feel more detached from their actions in the virtual realm and don’t always witness the direct ramifications of what they do or say. The art does not demonstrate my views, but a wider range of views towards ‘the youth’. I want to carry on with this method of collecting texts. From the outset of this project, I promised myself I would not select or filter any of the responses for the final work. The art is therefore totally representative.  It is a statement to our youth – something I hope they will read.

What difficulties did you encounter in putting it together?

Asking the audience a question and so giving them control of the project was new territory for me. I was apprehensive to see what kind of messages people would send or whether they would respond at all. Although, if no one had replied it would, in itself, perhaps reflect their attitudes to ‘the youth’ of today. When I received messages that I didn’t agree with, it was sometimes challenging to value those messages the same as the other messages.

The theme of the brief was ‘cultures of youth’. What does that mean to you? 

I believe there are things about youth cultures that will remain the same, regardless of time period – things that define ‘the youth’. Of course, the world in which the young live evolves. In some ways, it is impossible to define ‘the youth’ of today and I wouldn’t dare try to. But it is something I find fascinating, because the time that you’re young will never come back.

Part of your prize is a trip to Paris, what are your plans?

I am going to Paris after the final exhibition with one of my fellow 4D classmates. We are planning on visiting galleries, skateboarding and collaborating with one another, as well as the city.

Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

At the moment I am trying to create a religion/god. I want my god to be able to fly away, to do things I am afraid of; it will be a freer form of myself. I am still developing this idea and so am not sure of the final outcome yet.

What are your plans post-Foundation?

In September I will hopefully be starting a theatre course in the Netherlands. I will always practice both fine art and theatre, I don’t want to neglect either discipline. I want to work in many different places and be as fluid with my movement as I am with my arts.

Work from London/Paris: CULTURES OF YOUTH is on show in the Window Galleries from February 27 – April 5.

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