Joseph Kohlmaier

Studio 21: The Nonsensical Realm III

Edible Metaphors: Cooking, Soundscape of Modernity seminar, 2015

Dissertation Studio 21 is open to any topic and students from all disciplines. It is run by Joseph Kohlmaier, who is the Head of Critical and Contextual Studies (CSS) at The Cass. Joseph has a background in architectural history; fine art and photography, poetry and music/performance art; and public art projects. He is founding director of graphic design studio Polimekanos, and artistic director of Musarc, one of London’s most progressive choral ensembles. Joseph also runs Field Studies, an international Easter workshop that explores sound and performance in the context of the city.

More generally, the studio adopts the notion of 'performance as education' as a line of enquiry. Students this year will engage with a number of ideas and texts that investigate the periphery and support structures of learning and knowledge itself. Rather than a series of seminars, it is run like a small, peripatetic arts organisation. The studio also adopts London as a seminar room, and sets up collaborations with other alternative teaching, learning and curatorial programmes such as Evening School. It supports students by framing individual topics within a network of people and situations beyond the studio that make their research relevant, and allows them to test out ideas.

This year, the studio will engage with the idea of metaphor in art, architecture, design and music. All the disciplines that are taught at The Cass can be seen as metaphorical systems – but so is cooking. So much so that at some point, the idea of reason and function is buried under a heap of philosophical play, tradition and ritual.


In 2015/16, Dissertation Studio 21 student Philippa Longson was awarded the Cass School Best Dissertation and submission to the RIBA Dissertation Medal for her dissertation Are you my mother? An exploration into the bonds between people and places.

In 2014/15, Dissertation Studio 21 student Marco Nicastro was awarded the Cass Architecture Dissertation Travel prize for his dissertation Colonising the City. Informal Reactions and Parasitism in the Urban Environment.

Summer preparation

  1. Read Paul Valéry’s Course in poetics: First lesson
  2. Download Janet Cardiff’s The Missing Voice (Case Study B) to your phone, and go on the sound walk starting outside the Whitechapel Gallery.
  3. Watch Artavazd Pelechian’s movies on YouTube, and read more about the film-maker
  4. Watch The World by Jia Zhangke
  5. Listen to Bob Gilmore’s documentaries on contemporary composers
  6. On 4 August or 1 September go to the Hunterian Museum in the afternoon; then visit John Soane’s Museum by candlelight (both on Lincoln’s Inn Fields)
  7. Subscribe to Art Licks and go to an exhibition or event of your choice each week
  8. Explore UbuWeb
  9. Watch Peter Kubelka’s talk The edible metaphor
  10. Come to Musarc’s performance at the Whitechapel Gallery, 30 July (info and tickets)
  11. Go completely off grid for two days. No phone, no email, no Facebook, no twitter. Write a letter to someone important.

Outline of the first seven weeks of study

Weeks 1-7: During the first seven weeks of study we explore a number of early modern thinkers whose work has led to a critical transformation in the way we think about art and the creative process, such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Paul Valéry, Henri Bergson and Jonathan Dewey.

We discuss a broad range of artists, composers and architects whose practice bridges poetry, ritual, performance, activism and intervention, for example Joseph Beuys, Gordon Matta-Clark, John Cage, Christopher Alexander, Stephen Willats, and Peter Kubelka who famously taught a masterclass on ‘film and cooking as an art form’ at the Städelschule, Frankfurt, between 1978 and 2000. We will cook and eat together too, undertake a number of walks and visits and explore collaborative practices in research and (creative) writing. Each week we will have a visitor or a guest to guide us on a walk, come to an archive with us or lead a workshop.

Reading list

  1. Clastres, Pierre, Chronicle of the Guyaki Indians [1972] (London: Faber and Faber, 1998)
  2. Valéry, Paul, 'The course in poetics: First lesson’ [1937], in: Ghiselin, Brewster ed., The creative process (New York: New American Library, 1958 [1955]), pp.92-106
  3. Uexkuell, Jakob, ‘A stroll through the worlds of animals and men’ [1934], in: Schiller, Claire H. ed., Instinctive behaviour (London: Methuen, 1957), pp. 5-80
  4. Barthes, Roland, Mythologies [1957] (London: Vintage Classics, 2009)
  5. Dominique Laporte, The history of shit [1978] (Cambridge, Mass. Flusser, Vilem, Vampyrotheutis infernalis [1987] (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2012)


Tutor Joseph Kohlmaier

Tutor Biography

Joseph Kohlmaier

Senior Lecturer

Joseph Kohlmaier is a Senior Lecturer in the History and Theory of Architecture.

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 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: What Not to Wear?

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 Contemporary Art: From the Wunderkammer to Installation art

Nico de Oliveira

Studio 6: Curating Contemporary Art examines the impact of curatorial practice on art.

Studio 7: Fashioning culture: clothing and the shaping of identity

Dr Lesley Stevenson

Studio 7: Fashioning culture will examine critically the links between fashion, clothing and identity.

Studio 8: Pleasure, Excess and Dirt

Edwina Attlee

Studio 8 explores ideas of category, definition, identification and belonging through the examination of a series of objects and behaviours that appear to be in the wrong place instead of the right place.

Studio 9: The Continuing Lives of Objects

Danielle Hewitt

Studio 9: The Continuing Lives of Objects uses debates about change and preservation explore ideas within architecture.

Studio 10: Critical Theory and Critical Design. Artefacts, Images, Sites, Processes in Graphics and Illustration

Dipti Bhagat with Christopher Emmett

Studio 10 requires deep commitment and completion of critical theory and design for graphic design and illustration.

Studio 12: London Walking

Clare Qualmann

Studio 12: London Walking looks at walking as a mode of creatively appropriating the city, with particular attention to our own city, London.

Studio 14: All in the best possible Taste

Dr John Cross

Studio 14: 'All in the best possible Taste' examines the historical influencers of taste, style and fashion.

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 19: Material in Motion

Heidi Yeo

Studio 19: Material in Motion will explore why an audience will put time, money and thought into acquiring an object.

Studio 20: Image ethics: Form, meaning and context

Dr Nick Haeffner

Studio 20: Image ethics: Form, meaning and context explores the aesthetics of the image and its role within fantasy, desire and social memory.

Studio 21: The Nonsensical Realm III

Joseph Kohlmaier

Studio 21: The Nonsensical Realm is a cross-disciplinary studio. This year it will engage with the idea of metaphor in art, architecture, design and music.

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: A Common Thread examines the relationship between textiles and everyday life, including its design, trade, sustainability and more.

Studio 24: Words in Space

David Price

Studio 24: Words in Space reflects on the role that words play in our visual world, performative spaces and the urban environment.

Cass Studios archive by year