Ektoras Arkomanis

Studio 5: Imperfect Theories

Floor Mosaics in the Church of Santa Maria and San Donato, Murano, Italy, c.1140

Studio brief

Things can lead to theories. They can point to a way of seeing artefacts or objects that is more significant than the thing itself. In the twentieth century the notion that art and architecture speak for themselves was superseded by the idea that theory did the talking. Today, theory is often regarded as an autonomous discipline or even as a form of practice; artists, architects, designers and filmmakers produce theory-conscious work.

We will be looking at theories which are imperfect because they have materialised and so they have lost their purity or absoluteness; or, at examples of artefacts in which theory is latent, not explicit.

You can examine, critically, any work that can be seen as theory or that presents an interesting relationship with theory; eg conceptual works, hybrids, replicas, forgeries, artefacts that allude to Utopias, function-less architecture, manifestos, etc.

Summer preparation

Over the summer you can:

  • enrol in the British Library
  • have a first look at the readings, films and websites mentioned below and more, according to your own topic
  • visit some exhibitions for inspiration
  • identify two to three potential topics; identify the theoretical qualities in each of these topics and write a short paragraph for each, which describes them – how do these ideas transcend the objects/artefacts and point towards something bigger?

Outline of the first seven weeks of study and reading list

  1. Consciousness and the ephemeral: We visit this year’s Serpentine Pavilion by Francis Kéré, we read the poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird (1917) by Wallace Stevens and the essay The Knocking on the Gate in Macbeth (1823) by Thomas de Quincy and we discuss your topics. (Due: 200 words about your topic)
  2. Thesis and originality: We watch F For Fake (1975) by Orson Welles and/or The Century of the Self (2002) by Adam Curtis and we look at the Wikipedia entries ‘Originality’ and ‘No original research’. We discuss tradition, originality and referencing in the work of art and in dissertations. (Due: Bibliography relevant to your dissertation)
  3. Medium and representation: We visit the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), we read TS Eliot’s poem The Waste Land (1922) and we look at Museum Photographs (1993) by Thomas Struth. We discuss changing contexts, the effect of time on artefacts, the medium of your chosen subject and how it relates to the medium of the dissertation. (Due: advanced outline and literature review)
  4. Pin up/presentations (Due: 5 images, 5 minutes talk by each student)

Weeks 5-7: working in reading groups and with the tutor.


Image: Floor Mosaics in the Church of Santa Maria and San Donato, Murano, Italy, c.1140; arrangements which evoke cosmic systems but are averse to theory as we understand it today.


Tutor Ektoras Arkomanis

Tutor Biography

Ektoras Arkomanis

Senior lecturer, History and Theory of Architecture

Coordinates Critical and Contextual Studies (BA), MA Architectural Histories, Theories and Interpretations. Professional Diploma in Architecture – RIBA2 and Architecture BA.

Dissertation Studios

Studio 1: Another India

Harriet McKay

Studio 1: Another India will examine, reflect upon and critique the historic use of "exotic" motifs in design.

Studio 2: Contemporary Ecology

Nabil Ahmed

In Studio 2 we will explore environmental topics through the lens of art, architecture, spatial practice, media and design disciplines.

Studio 3: Music is the Weapon: Performance, Culture and the Music Industry

Christina Paine

Studio 3: Music is the Weapon: Performance, Culture and the Music Industry is an exploration of race, gender, class and more in music.

Studio 4: Not allowed

Emma Davenport

Studio 4: What Not to Wear? will investigate the roles that dress and fashion play in our workplaces.

Studio 5: Imperfect Theories

Ektoras Arkomanis

Studio 5: Imperfect Theories allows you to critically examine any work that can be seen as theory or presents an interesting relationship with theory.

Studio 6: Curating as a Spatial Practice: From the Wunderkammer to Installation art

Nico de Oliveira

Studio 6: This dissertation studio is designed to help students who are interested in curating as a broad subject, as well as those who wish to contextualise their own practice within the scope of displaying art.

Studio 7: Souvenir

Dr Lesley Stevenson

Studio 7: This studio is concerned with those objects that are lent a particular enchantment because of their relationship with the past.

Studio 8: Post – card

Edwina Attlee

Studio 8 will look at one element of that system – the picture postcard – from a number of different perspectives.

Studio 9: ‘The Form of the Text’

Danielle Hewitt

Studio 9: Together we will explore the space of criticism; acknowledging our point of encounter with objects, places, sites and processes and the relationship between text, writer and reader.

Studio 10: Constellating

Sinead Evans

As creative practitioners we digest and produce images every day – as citizens of the digital age we consume between hundreds and thousands of images each day. This dissertation studio will slim down your daily diet to one image.

Studio 11: Science Fiction Futurity

Luke Jones

Speculative descriptions of the future reveal a magnified — or distorted — reflection of the fears and desires of the present.

Studio 12: Alternative Fashioned Modernities

Lezley George

Much is happening in the world today that foregrounds questions pertinent to our identities in a globalised world.

Studio 13: Desire, Trauma, History

Jonathan Whitehall

How does the relationship of memory to fantasy affect history? What are the links between desire, sexuality and trauma? How are these relationships played out or negotiated in visual and written practice? These questions will form the beginning of our enquiries into artworks, films and literature.

Studio 14: Design and Nature: Forms of an Entanglement

Gabriele Oropallo

We will look at how the idea of nature has been constructed over time and place, and study its impact on design practice in an age marked by the sustainability imperative.

Studio 15: Music, Technology and Ideas

Lewis Jones

Studio 15: Music, Technology and Ideas encourages you to explore how and why we make music, including its origin, relationship to technology and more.

Studio 16: Narrative and Storytelling

Jon Baldwin

Studio 16: Narrative and Storytelling will see you produce storygraphs, storyboards and various forms of narrative analysis in the seminars.

Studio 17: Knowing Audiences

Jeremy Collins

Studio 17: Knowing Audiences will encourage you to study an audience group using qualitative research methods in your investigations.

Studio 18: Time and the Image

David Howells

This workshop will address some perennial problems of writing in the field of visual culture.

Studio 19: Material in Motion

Heidi Yeo

Studio 19: This studio will explore a reading of objects focusing on the interplay between materials, the objects they form and their context.

Studio 20: The Liminal

Andrew Hewish

This Dissertation Studio examines instances of the liminal as they occur in critical theory and culture, and is open to any topic and students from all disciplines.

Studio 21: Reading the library (and nothing but the library)

Joseph Kohlmaier

This year, Studio 21 will stage an unusual experiment. It will move, unpack, catalogue, and perform readings from one private library; and make this library, without exception, the single resource for all the research and writing in the studio.

Studio 22: Meaningful work

Paul Harper

Studio 22: Meaningful work explores the value of making and the idea of craft as meaningful work.

Studio 23: A Common Thread

Gina Pierce

Studio 23: In A Common Thread, we unpick and examine the importance of textiles and how they underpin culture, industry, and global connections.

Cass Studios archive by year