I would like to begin by expressing complete solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement. We must dig out the roots of injustice and oppression, in all its forms, and make reparation for those wrongs.
This cross-disciplinary studio considers how power, politics, identity, and mass culture theory intersect with a range of arts practices such as photography, architecture, design and fine art, film studies, fashion and music, sound, pop art, and theatre. These practices have the ability to intersect, transgress, and connect with social and political change in both local and global political landscapes, creating new practice through the circulation of mass media, image, text, and public performance, by politicians, artists, designers, performers and audiences. Students this year have embarked on a wide range of topics concerned with protest, gender and race, translucent fabrics and female dress codes both as a visual fashion tool and a metaphor for modesty, repression, freedom; rethinking the curriculum, women in the film industry; Tupac Shakur, Kanye West – representation; black race crime as represented in film, rap, in the media; rock music as torture; and the possibilities keep on growing as many artists, musicians and designers use social media platforms to empower and educate; social media is now core to our understanding of the world and the events and practices which shape our identities.
As many artists, musicians and designers use social media platforms to empower and educate, social media is now core to our understanding of the world and the events and practices which shape our identities. The arts in conjunction with social media enable new forms of art with a world-wide reach, revealing the current political climate as one of elite power, racism, and sexism. So one student studied Lady Gaga’s relationship and career through her social media. So it is fair to say this studio encourages students to explore protest, public art of the past and present and engages in actively challenging the status quo.
Examples of recent work include female architects attempting to break through the glass ceiling of their profession; female rappers in Afghanistan protesting against child marriage; Kanye West and Donald Trump as products of, and creators within a predominant, often racist media culture; and the ownership of album art and design. Just this year students have embarked on a wide range of topics concerned with protest, gender and race, translucent fabrics and female dress codes both as a visual fashion tool and a metaphor for modesty, repression, freedom; rethinking the school teaching system and curriculum, women in the film industry; Kanye West – representation; the semiotics and pioneering achivements of Gustave Klimt black race crime as represented in film, rap, in the media; rock music as torture; and photography as art activism. It actively invites projects which turn preconceived ideas around and it looks for new truth.
As you can see this studio particularly invites topics which analyse the conjunction of various arts practices and disciplines as powerful tools to help us to understand our world, providing responses to, or criticisms of capitalism and elite power. Artists, performers, and designers powerfully perform the self through social media, while their outputs also reflect and respond to issues of identity politics and social change. Santiago Sierra, Nan Gordon, fashion designers such as Coco Chabanne, groups like Public Enemy, and singers like Nina Simone and Fela Kuti emblematise or represent the struggle of marginalised people against societal oppression.
Teaching is through lectures and seminars, introducing key concepts in cultural and historical studies, and tutorials. You will explore with your studio leader a range of research methods, cultural theories, and approaches, and consider the politics of creative practice and critical thinking. This studio is suitable for students across the School's courses from a wide range of backgrounds.
I am not prescriptive; I offer you a buffet of ideas and we ask you to think of your own project and your own research journey. I am with you every step of the way and we do it all together. We work first on general group exploration of ideas and issues which is inspirational and we feed off each other. Then we do very detailed coaching to help you formulate your ideas towards the planning and writing of the dissertation – step by step.
Image: Anonymous stencil of a quotation from a letter from Leopold 1 of Belgium to his niece, Queen Victoria. Available: Beware of Artists & Things You Want to be True
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’.