This studio encourages dialogues around the cultural production at a time when narratives founded on certainty have ceased to make sense. It asks how creative practice can contribute imaginatively to dealing with the complexity of new narratives, transitional conditions and ‘wicked problems’.
Interpret this quote freely as a starting point for a conversation on artistic modes of knowledge:
"[...] the only distinction worth drawing is not between practice and theory, but between those modes of practice that are not intelligent, not inherently and immediately enjoyable, and those which are full of enjoyed meanings"
John Dewey (1929)
We will critically explore concepts and products of modern and contemporary culture that are ambiguous, divisive, fuzzy, the inherently complex and contradictory.
- Can modes of creative practice be culturally purposeful when following socially disruptive agendas?
- How do objects, buildings and artworks communicate a rich and layered form of knowledge?
We are also interested in historical objects, structures, artifacts and processes that cannot retain their meaning over time or where the original meanings are lost and must be re-imagined.
- What does enjoyed meanings imply in relation to history, memory and myth?
- Are current generations conditioned by the enjoyed meanings of the past?
From and content
Writing is a form of creative practice that allows us to engage with the joy of complexity. The dissertation project merges your reflective practice with the creative process of writing. Students will be encouraged to develop their individual topic around their chosen case studies.
The text will emerge from dialogue around your proposed investigation, close observation, the critical evaluation of social processes, the purposeful interpretation of art work, buildings and artifacts, the unexpected discoveries we make when visiting places and reading texts.
Suggested readings, resources and preparatory activities
Interpret the brief according to your field of interest. Find a quote in a book, and image or an object in an exhibition, or visit a place that challenges you. Take a few notes. Bring something you want to discuss, ideally including a question mark. These suggestions are for inspiration only. We will cover these themes in seminar sessions:
- Difficult Narratives: About some interesting ways of telling a story, you can find those on YouTube: HyperNormalisation (2016) by Adam Curtis (any of his films will do) and/or Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) by Werner Herzog.
- Knowledge and Making: The quote above is from the essay “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking.” (1992) by Richard Buchanan. An introduction to ‘wicked problems’ can be found on Wikipedia. More on the subject in the context of design and making. If you want more on John Dewey I recommend the essay “By Nature and by Art.” (1944). Another interesting reading relating to scientific and mythical thinking is the first chapter in The Savage Mind by Claude Levy-Strauss (1962).
- Critique and Concept: Have a look at the at the work of the contemporary artist Jon Rafman who claims: “Rarely has reality needed so much to be imagined”. To add context read about the idea of simulation in Jean Baudrillard’s “America” (1981). Dwell into the language at the far end of modernity with Alexander Pope’s Essay on Criticism (1711).
- Complexity and Contradiction: To start to investigate how meaning is constructed without the imposition of dogma look at Linda Hutcheon’s book Irony’s Edge (1994). What does Umberto Eco imply in the last sentence of his essay “Postmodernism, Irony, The Enjoyable”(1994)?
Image: Jon Rafman, 9-eyes, 2009-ongoing; online artwork
Studio 01: ideas in places
This studio prescribes a direct treatment of place, whether subjective or objective.
Studio 02: Narrative and Storytelling
This studio focuses on modes of storytelling and narrative conventions. We will particularly consider how narrative intersects with, and informs, identity.
Studio 03: The Conquest of Joy
This studio encourages dialogues around the cultural production at a time when narratives founded on certainty have ceased to make sense.
Studio 04: Bullshit, propaganda and post-truth
This studio will look at the emergence of the notion of ‘post truth’ and explore links between other ideas around propaganda and Harry Frankfurt’s argument about ‘bullshit’. We will consider the usefulness of these ideas, and how they can be explored in creative practice.
Studio 05: Meaningful Work
This studio will consider the value of making -in itself, independent of the product or outcome, exploring the idea of craft as meaningful work.
Studio 06: Writing Rough
What are the outer limits of the essay? Write on the edge of the possible in a rich, researched and evidenced discussion which creatively explores the expanded field of the essay.
Studio 07: Thinking with Ruins
This studio pays heed to these cultural forms and persuasions but asks, how might we productively think with ruins in the present?
Studio 08: The things you can tell just by looking (or, Oriented Writing)
Writing tells us who we are and how each of us thinks and interprets the world.
Studio 09: Le Marteau Sans Maître
Digging through the deepest layers of archaeological time, André Leroi-Gourhan (La geste et la parole, 1964) concluded that for millions of years, human culture and technology evolved without complex language, rational planning or abstract ‘thinking at a distance’.
Studio 10: Globalism
For good or ill, we live in a global world. Whilst this may appear to be obvious, globalism is only a relatively recent term as is the phenomenon itself. What do we mean by this? How did we arrive in this place?
Studio 11: Performative Acts: Art, Architecture and Writing
Nico de Oliveira
In the last decade or so we have moved from objects to subjects or audiences. In parallel, the word performative has been adapted from a theoretical term to a key rubric within the discourse of contemporary art, architecture and beyond.
Studio 12: Decay, Repair and Back Again
Things break down and decay. In this studio you will experiment repair as strategy to negotiate breakdown, and you will practice mining patina and weathering for information and stories.
Studio 13: ‘If I stay silent nothing will change’: Identity, Politics, Social Change and Creative Culture(s)
This cross-disciplinary studio considers how power, culture, politics, identity, representation, activism, social media, and mass culture theory intersect with a range of arts practices, including photography, architecture, design and fine art, film studies, fashion and music, sound, pop art, and theatre.
Studio 14: A Material World
As the title suggests, this Studio will be based on the processes that are intrinsic to the design and making of textiles, however it will also be looking at the materiality of these textiles as objects.
Studio 15: Souvenir
This studio is concerned with those objects that are lent a particular enchantment because of their relationship with the past. It considers the role of memory and how it is embodied in cultural artefacts.