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 2021–22
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: The Critical Thinker’s Guide to You: Making Sense of Writing in Creative Cultures
This studio focuses on the relationship between creative practice and criticism – and how theories and cultural and social networks help shape and define the creative process.
Studio 03: Fashioning the African Diaspora
Elli Michaela Young
Exploring the fashioning of the African diaspora and with a particular focus on the Caribbean Island of Jamaica, this studio aims to think through how fashion and dress is used to grapple with ideas of self.
Studio 04: 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 05: Thinking with Ruins
Thinking With Ruins begins with the idea that to think about ruination allows us to approach subjects that are of interest materially, aesthetically and politically and it allows us to work across scales - from dust to debris to object to landscape.
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: Suck it up
This studio takes a sideways looks at the intersection of youth culture and late capitalism considering the impacts and influences of desire, the cartoon, consumerism and cuteness in shaping our lived contemporary experience.
Studio 08: 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 09: Paths of Desire
“Design needs to be plugged into human behaviour. Design dissolves in behaviour.” Naoto Fukasawa
Studio 10: The Hammer without a Master
Studio 10 explores the strange space between individual and collective, ecological action. It embraces the idea that we think, remember and decide ‘in the world’, rather than in our heads; that we are connected in unexpected ways; and that this connection may be a key to navigating life in an increasingly paradox present.
Studio 11: Sport and Aesthetics
Dissertation Studio 10 will examine the concept of aesthetics as applied within that most everyday activity: sport.
Studio 12: Curating Interiors: The Studio Becoming Museum
This studio explores key concepts of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries – from questions of knowledge, history and nationhood, through to authenticity, agency and value – by means of an exploration of the particular interiors worked in by artists, makers and other practitioners.
Studio 13: Visualising the Future
Cultural history, from high art to kitsch, is littered with visions of the future; some inspiring, some ridiculous, almost all of them wrong.
Studio 14: Technical Pitches: Outside is free
Outside is indeed free, but you need the skills, the kit, the knowledge and ideally ‘the look’ to fit into this world. This Studio will investigate how architecture, furniture, clothing and product design shape the work, living and leisure cultures they support. How these have influenced our relationship to our environment and indeed how this relates to resources at a local and geo-political level.
Studio 15: The Voice of Things
This studio will offer a challenge to the idea that objects are unruly things and need to be brought to heel by labelling, categorising, taxonomising. Instead, it offers an invitation to give voice to the mute and invisible, by listening to objects and treating them as allies.
Studio 16: “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 17: A History of Efficiency
There is nothing inevitable about the way we organise our societies, and we now recognise that transnational and historically embedded structures of economic efficiency are killing the habitable planet. This Studio explores the trade-off between efficiency and creative flourishing in structures of extraction, production, property, commerce and law; and asks where these efficiencies sit in our bodies, behaviours and feelings as both long-standing cultural legacies and contemporary harms.
Studio 18: A Material World
The Studio will consider how textiles in fashion, furnishing, art, and beyond are embedded in our cultural traditions and give us insight into ourselves and our society. We will ask about their relevance in terms of the environment, gender issues, wellbeing and consumption.