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?
Form 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 and 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)?
Studio image: Google Street View of the entrance to Berthold Lubetkin’s Highpoint I. Banner: Hans Op de Beeck, Staging Silence (3), video still (detail), 2019
Dissertation Studios 2020–21
Studio 01: Another Place
Out of a direct treatment of place, whether subjective or objective, emerges another place. It is neither new, nor fixed in time, but it has remained unexplored, scarcely documented – piles of lime and useless cicadas.
Studio 02: Feminist Approaches
The Dissertation Studio 02 seminar series will address feminist practices within architecture, history and activism.
Studio 03: 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 04: 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 05: This is my truth; show me yours: Post-truth, propaganda and bulls**t
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 "bulls**t". We will consider the usefulness of these ideas, and how they can be explored in creative practice.
Studio 06: The Practice of Space – Writing Atmospheres in Art and Architecture
Nico de Oliveira
Dissertation Studio 06 looks at space as practice, since each location is a mutable entity framed as a moment in time, populated by individuals and shaped by their actions as artists, musicians, curators, designers, architects, writers and spectators.
Studio 07: 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 08: Speak, Form.
Dissertation Studio 8 asks: How is it that form might speak? This studio looks at the power of rhetoric, of the medium as message, of the figure as discourse.
Studio 09: 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 10: Sport and Aesthetics
Dissertation Studio 10 will examine the concept of aesthetics as applied within that most everyday activity: sport.
Studio 11: Le Marteau Sans Maître (The Hammer without a Master)
In a networked world where knowledge and information seems to be accessible everywhere and in any form; and where people in distant places appear to speak to us in real time from our computer screens, Studio 11 tries to imagine an ‘immediate’ and performative experience of the world – outside language and not shaped by our intellect and will.
Studio 12: Material Culture and Transcultural Exchanges
Dissertation Studio 12 is concerned with the increasing complexity of the material and symbolic flows of fashion, textile, artefact and commodity.
Studio 13: B(read)
Focussing on two of life’s key ingredients, reading and bread, this Dissertation Studio offers sessions that will encourage you to experience and experiment with both.
Studio 14: Rewilding
In this Dissertation Studio, we will examine some of the many ways in which art, architecture, and design connect to the discourse on rewilding.
Studio 15: “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 16: A Material World
This Dissertation 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 17: 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.
Studio 18: Modes of Human Exchange (Being-with and without)
This studio considers the current (exceptional) conditions of human exchange in a broader historical/social context, highlighting how facial/bodily gestures and the decorum of their physical/ambient surroundings have provided essential clues to the way we respond to, and interact with, the ‘other’.