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John Ashton Motorbike Speech

John Ashton Motorbike Speech

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Published by www.rtcc.org
John Ashton
John Ashton

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Published by: www.rtcc.org on Nov 25, 2013
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02/09/2015

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Royal College of Art
SustainRCA Talks: Breaking through the Barriers
Dyson Lecture Theatre, RCA Battersea, 30 October 2013
Talk by John Ashton (expanded text)
Context The speaker is the last of four. The preceding interventions have converged with wit, energy, and originality on the same central proposition, that a structural shift is needed not only in the economy but in its underlying cultural and political substrates. The importance of open, inclusive power relations has been a recurring theme.
Lise Hovesen 
, a recent RCA graduate, illustrated this with the campaign to save Rotherhithe library, of which she has been a leader.
Otto von Busch 
, thought leader in fashion, design and craft, imagined what fashion might be like if it were a nation state. How might its protocols be redesigned to eliminate exclusivity and coded aggression?
Josephine Gree
, prominent in the social innovation movement, predicted a shift from "pyramid" to "pancake" models of production and exchange, and urged that these be embraced: sustainable development could not be accomplished without them, and social media platforms now made them possible. A young, lively, cosmopolitan audience of around 150 has been responding warmly. Taped now
to the speaker’s podium at stage left, hanging
down in front like a banner, is a clean white sheet. On the table alongside is a large can of spray paint, chestnut brown, bought that afternoon. There is also a sound system connected to an iPod, ready to play.
Gina Lovett 
, who has organized the event, presides and has just introduced the speaker.
 
Motorbike Receding
Reflections on Art, Politics and Climate Change
Hands I
1. Before we get properly under way I wonder if I could persuade a couple of volunteers to come up and join us
. With Gina’s permission I’d like to
start by doing something quite primitive together. 2.
Two female volunteers hesitantly stand up, both near the centre of fully occupied rows of seats.
Thank you both for coming forward without knowing exactly what you are letting yourselves in for. I see you are precisely the two people in this room with the maximum number
of other people’s legs to climb over to get to the front.
Gina, can I ask you also to join our volunteers? 3. Ladies and gentlemen, please give a big hand to our valiant human guinea pigs here.
 Applause.
 4. Now, ladies and gentlemen,
a warning. Please: don’t try
this at home. It is best done wearing surgical gloves - though actually I see we have Marigolds tonight. There will be fumes which if inhaled can be intoxicating.  Afterwards we may need industrial cleaning products. 5.
I’d like to ask you each, if I may, to put on one of these
rubber gloves. Your left hand or your right hand, either will do, but please pull the glove on nice and tight. 6. Now, flex your hand as far as you can, with each finger stretching out, make a real hand shape, and place your
hand flat on the sheet. That’s
perfect, thanks, hold it just like that. Now, this is where it gets interesting.
 
7.
The speaker picks up the paint can, and holds it a few inches in front of the sheet over one of the gloved hands. He presses the nozzle. Nothing happens. He tries again, with the same result. A look of alarm crosses his face. He turns towards the audience.
 8.
Oh dear, I may need some help here. I can’t understand
why no paint is coming out. 9.
 A member of audience shouts from the upper tier:
“ t 
he black plastic has to fall out. Hold the can upside down
”.
The speaker does as instructed and appears relieved as a small annular sleeve that had been locking the nozzle falls to the ground. He holds up the can and presses. A pulse of sprayed paint issues from the nozzle, together with heavy fumes. The speaker relaxes.
10. Thank you sir. That had me worried for a moment.
 And I’m sure nobody would want to suggest
that you or anyone else here tonight might have prior experience of these matters for example in relation to spraying paint on outdoor walls. 11.
Turns back to volunteers.
Now let’s try
again. 12.
The speaker repeats his previous action. This time the can sprays paint. A stencilled outline of the
volunteer’s hand 
 takes shape in rich brown near the upper left corner of the sheet. He repeats the action with the second volunteer, whose hand is about 18 inches away, upper right on the sheet.
 13.
Gina, we’re going to do your hand now. Remember this is the Royal College of Art. Please don’t just put
your hand anywhere. Position it carefully in relation to our other two hands applying all the aesthetic

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