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. We will deploy a variety of different approaches, including material culture studies, co-ethnography, poetics, cultural studies, and phenomenology, in considering a series of case studies of overlooked, marginalised and ephemeral objects. Our aim will be to confront the hegemony of the anthropocentric and reawaken a sense of wonder in the everyday.
If you want to write about objects then this studio could provide you with conceptual and methodological tools. You may want to write about designed objects or natural objects, but we will also consider photographs and fine art as examples of material culture as much as aesthetic objects. The focus will be on the quotidian, the throwaway and the domestic, rather than the grand, spectacular and overwhelming.
- Appadurai, A. (2013) The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
- Baudrillard, J. (1996) The System of objects, London: Verso
- Bogot, I. (2012) Alien Phenomenology or what it’s like to be a Thing, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
- Brown, B. (2001) ‘Thing Theory’, Critical Inquiry, 28:1, 1–22
- Candlin, F. & Guins, R. (2009) The Object Reader, London: Routledge
- Edwards, E. & Hart, J. (eds) (2004) Photographs Objects Histories: on the Materiality of Images, London and New York, Routledge
- Gibbons, J. (2007) Contemporary Art and Memory, London: IB Tauris
- Highmore, B. (2002) Everyday Life and Cultural Theory: an Introduction, London: Routledge
- Highmore, B. (2009) The Design Culture Reader, London: Routledge. Kwint, M., Breward, C. and Aynsley, J. (eds) (1999) Material memories: design and evocation, Oxford: Berg
- Miller, D. (2013) The Comfort of Things, London: Polity
- Miller, D. (ed.) (2002) Material Cultures: Why some Things Matter, London: Routledge
Norman, D. A. The Design of Everyday Things, Cambridge Mass.
- Preda, A. (1999) ‘The Turn to Things: Arguments for a Sociology of Things’, The Sociological Quarterly, 40:2, 347-366
- Schwenger, P. (2006) The Tears of Things, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
- Shapton, L. (2009) Important artifacts and personal property from the collection of Leonore Doolan and Harold Morris, including books, street fashion and jewelry[sic], London: Bloomsbury
- Steedman, C. (2001) Dust, Manchester: Manchester University Press
- Stewart, S. (1993) On longing, Durham and London: Duke University Press
- Turkle, S. (ed) (2007) Evocative Objects: things we Think with, Cambridge Mass.: MIT
Novels you might like to read
- Baker, Nicholson The Mezzanine
- Perec, Georges Life: a User’s Manual
The title of the studio comes from the French poet, Francis Ponge. His work is available in translation and it useful to look at for an idea of the range of things one can write about and how to write about them.
Page 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.