Royal College of Art

Tai Shani

The RCA commissioned NextShoot to make a series of short profile films about tutors working in different academic disciplines under the title 'Meet the RCA'.
The Brief
The RCA is proud of the quality of its tutoring staff, many who have previously worked in or had a practice in the sector they teach about, or who continue to do so.

When we were commissioned to make a short profile film about artist and RCA Contemporary Art Practice tutor Tai Shani, she was working towards her exhibition for the Turner Prize 2019 as one of the four short-listed for the award. By the time we completed the video she was the joint winner of the competition alongside the three other short-listed artists, following their plea to the judges to recognise the causes of ‘commonality, multiplicity and solidarity’ and to split the prize evenly.

Our brief - to make a film about Tai’s teaching, her work and the cross-fertilization between the two - had been injected with a real-world example of Tai’s practice and approach.
Meet the RCA. Tai Shani Meet the RCA. Tai Shani
Meet the RCA. Tai Shani Meet the RCA. Tai Shani
Our Approach
After a number of conference calls with Tai and the Digital Content team at the RCA, we laid out a set of questions for an interview and a script structure that allowed us to include a variety of Tai’s work.

The interview itself took place in Tai’s studio. The space - with plenty of natural light for artistic endeavours - was challenging for filming, but after some ingenuity to control the sunshine we settled on two very nice frames.

Tai spoke freely and with passion. She told us about her family of artists and performers and how art has always been the vessel through which she understands the world. She explained how writing is the core of the work, her interest in the epic, science fiction and world-making and how her interpretations of the tone of an idea dictate the medium of its final output.

When we came to the edit, we had a plethora of materials relating to Tai’s work - some of it video - including her piece ‘DC Productions’ (2014-18) and the work which this evolved into for the Turner Prize 2019, ‘DC: Semiramis’.

As with other films in the series we looked to explore Tai’s approach to her teaching, which she described as conversational with the goal of giving her students the tools to conserve their integrity and to discover new ways to build themselves as artists.
The Results
We didn’t film any broll sequences for this project and we were unsure if the final video would have enough visual variety. We needn’t have worried. The multi-media assets of Tai’s work brought colour, intrigue and texture to the film.

We were very pleased with the content of the completed video and it was a pleasure to work with Tai on this film at time that her work was receiving a great deal of attention. For the RCA, whose alumni include painters Frank Auerbach and David Hockney, artists Tracey Emin and Jake and Dinos Chapman and the sculptor Henry Moore, here was a tutor making an artistic statement that was finding a large, receptive audience.

Above all we hope that for students considering a place on the Contemporary Art Practice course the video demonstrates the passion and conviction of its teaching staff. For Tai her work is the core of everything she thinks about. In her words ‘‘I can’t imagine surviving without being engaged in the way that I am with my work.’ Surely that’s the teacher we all want and need.
Meet the RCA. Tai Shani Meet the RCA. Tai Shani
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