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Writing (MA)

Harald Smart

Harald Smart is a writer and editor from Edinburgh, currently based in Hackney, East London. He uses writing to step into images and to imagine conversations. 

Prior to studying at the RCA, Harald served as Junior Editor of the art and fashion bi-annual, Buffalo Zine. During his time on the Writing programme he oversaw the relaunch of the College’s student-run publication, ARC.

Degree Details

School of Arts & Humanities

Writing (MA)

My writing frequently looks to images for guidance, I like to transcribe the words (and worlds) they hold. I am also drawn to the hidden histories of marginal individuals and groups, excavating the visual and written traces they leave behind. I want to write close to these traces, to explore and contribute to unofficial, ever-expanding archives of subversion. 


Much of my writing to date has focused on queer image makers who have used their creativity to override societal and spatiotemporal restrictions, allowing themselves momentary spaces of solace. In doing so I have occasionally created such spaces for myself. My Final Major Project, Attempts at Closeness, hones in on two such interventions, made by the artist David Wojnarowicz and the dancer Michael Clark. 


My texts blend visual and textual analysis with autofiction, poetry, monologue and dialogue. As a result they are patchworked and polyvocal; they pull disparate voices together, build hybrids.



Attempts at Closeness comprises two essays and two shorter autofictive texts. The project as a whole is concerned with the themes of queer utopias and queer temporalities and represents my attempt to ground these complex ideas through close analysis of two artworks: Hail the New Puritan (1986), a film starring the dancer Michael Clark, and Arthur Rimbaud in New York (1979) a photo series by the artist David Wojnarowicz. My interest in these texts is rooted in their playful, profound agitation of the limits of space and time, and what I feel are the meaningful contributions they offer to the ongoing discourse around queer temporalities and queer utopias. My interest is also personal, and I have drawn occasional parallels in the text between the content of each work and my own experience as a gay man and a queer individual.

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Attempts at Closeness comprises two essays and two shorter autofictive texts. The project as a whole is concerned with the themes of queer utopias and queer temporalities and represents my attempt to ground these complex ideas through close analysis of two artworks: Hail the New Puritan (1986), a film starring the dancer Michael Clark, and Arthur Rimbaud in New York (1979) a photo series by the artist David Wojnarowicz. My interest in these texts is rooted in their playful, profound agitation of the limits of space and time, and what I feel are the meaningful contributions they offer to the ongoing discourse around queer temporalities and queer utopias. My interest is also personal, and I have drawn occasional parallels in the text between the content of each work and my own experience as a gay man and a queer individual.

Medium:

Text

Size:

Long read

In response to the brief for our third writing workshop, Writing London, I travelled to the site of a bar in St James’s that had been owned by my great-great aunt, Olwen Vaughan. Olwen opened the Petit Club Français as a haven for French exiles during the Second World War and remained its proprietor until her death in the 1970s. The resulting text combines an account of my search for the bar’s former address on a brisk October evening with responses to some miraculous footage found on YouTube of Olwen holding court there in 1942. Underpinning the piece is an appreciation of the role such night-spaces can play in fostering kinship and community for marginal groups, and of the work carried out by those, like Olwen, who fight to keep them open.

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In 2020 the MA Writing cohort brought the RCA’s student magazine, ARC, out of dormancy, relaunching it online with The Dirty Issue. As project manager I oversaw the six month process, delegating tasks between the editorial teams and signing off on creative decisions. The above text was written and recorded for Montez Radio last September as part of a special two-part ARC take-over. It details the project’s lifespan from conception to delivery, and unpacks our multifaceted approach to the chosen theme: dirty.

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Text