Student squats in chip shop for degree project

Sculptor invites examiners to visit his art installation
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The Independent Culture

Most art students spend months preparing their final summer degree show, in the hope that it will lead to them being "discovered" as the next big thing.

After all, Isabella Blow bought Alexander McQueen's entire collection as he graduated from Central Saint Martin's, and Charles Saatchi discovered Damien Hirst while he was a Goldsmiths student.

Pablo Wendel, a Royal College of Art sculpture student who will shortly be assessed for his Masters degree coursework, has adopted a high-risk strategy. His degree submission amounts to him squatting in a derelict fish and chip shop for a fortnight.

Mr Wendel, 29, has today invited his examiners – who include the college's eminent head of sculpture, Richard Wentworth, former student of Henry Moore – to tramp over to the site to assess the squat-turned-art-installation, which is situated next door to the RCA in Battersea, south London.

Mr Wendel attempted to make the short journey from the college to the squat easier for his examiners by creating a rickety adjoining staircase made out of junk wood from the back of the RCA to his front door. Unfortunately it was dismantled by college staff who deemed it a health and safety hazard.

Wendel is trooping on regardless. The idea, he said, was to live in the derelict building until the end of his degree show, without leaving, except to take the odd shower at the RCA. His college administrators may not be impressed by the interventionist act but Wendel said the owner of Young's Chip Shop has been supportive. "I noticed this empty space when I began my course and I'd always thought it would be nice to use it as an art space. There was a lot of garbage in it which I cleared out," he said.

Now he hopes that Wentworth – an artist and teacher who cast an influence over the "Young British Artists" of the 1990s – will also be impressed by his submission, on which his two-year MA will be judged, along with two other pieces.

"The idea was to connect the two buildings – the college and the empty space, which can be seen as a transition, from studying to the outside world. The stairs, before they were dismantled, were a symbol for structure and hierarchy," he said.

Wendel has made other audacious "art interventions" in the past, most notably in 2006, when he disguised himself as a "terracotta warrior" and stood among the ancient sculptures at the heritage site in Xian, China, until he was spotted by police and removed from the scene.

Yesterday, a statement from the RCA confirmed that they had removed a "hastily constructed wooden staircase that had been erected from a non-college building and fixed to one of the college's metal fire escapes".

The statement sounded concerns over the hazardous nature of his submission, but a spokeswoman said the art project would still be viewed as a legitimate art project for the degree show, which is open for public view until 4 July.

Wentworth is no stranger to such interventionist acts himself: he took over a plumbing supply shop in north London in 2002, converting it into a base for visitors to explore and engage with the area.

Hirst, as a student in his second year at Goldsmiths College in 1988, staged an early show in a disused London Port Authority administrative block in London's Docklands. The exhibit, Frieze, was visited by Saatchi as well as the gallery directors Norman Rosenthal and Nicholas Serota. Hirst curated the show, comprised of other student's work, and his own contribution consisted of a cluster of cardboard boxes painted with household paint.

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