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. Artistic practices intersect, transgress and connect with social and political change in both local and global political landscapes, creating new meanings through the circulation of mass media, images, text, and public performances, by politicians, artists, designers, and performers and audiences.
Social media is now core to our understanding of the world, and the events and practices which shape our identities, and many artists, designers and musicians use social media platforms to empower and educate and powerfully perform the self. Social media functions as a primary way of forming the self and of interacting with larger societal and political issues in a direct and visual way. The conjunction of arts with social media enables new forms of art to be made, with a worldwide reach, revealing the current political climate as one of elite power, racism and sexism. In this way, artists’, performers’, and designers’ outputs can powerfully reflect and respond to issues of identity politics and social change. Issues of gender, race, disability, class, anti-capitalism and politics are examined as stereotypical representational lenses.
This studio enables a wide variety of exciting studies to be undertaken: it considers how various political and cultural perspectives have shaped creativity and performance, historically and contemporaneously, and examines our responses to those, often through artistic activism. We address current political issues taking place. These include national identity and Ukrainian political art, Russian protest movements and the cost of living crisis. In previous years, we have addressed important issues such as the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the Covid-19 pandemic and child marriage protests in Afghanistan.
We have looked at fast fashion and politics, through the careers of fashion designers such as Coco Chanel revolutionising clothes for working women and Law Roach, who is renowned for his passion for giving Black people opportunities within the fashion world. As well as exploring artists, activists and musicians such as Santiago Sierra, Nan Goldin, Public Enemy, Nina Simone and Fela Kuti who emblematise or, through their artistic practice, represent the struggle of marginalised people against societal oppression.
A transformational coaching approach and pedagogies such as reflective practice, spiral learning and in-depth discussion are applied, providing students with transferable skills which can be used after graduation in professional practice, through joyous research. Teaching is through lectures and seminars and tutorials. Key concepts in cultural studies, historical studies and media studies will aid your exploration of your chosen topic. You will examine with your Studio Leader a range of research methods, cultural theories, and approaches, and consider the politics of creative practice and critical thinking. The studio encourages students to take control of their learning and targets brave discussion and issues of equality. Previous dissertation topics have included safe spaces for queer artists, women in architecture, endometriosis, the (mis)representation of queer women in art and media, identity, feminism, the civil rights movement and pole dancing. As a lecturer and student, I myself understand and have experienced the anxieties and confidence issues associated with higher education studies and have developed successful working methods to break through this. This studio promotes equality, justice and inclusivity, accessible to and suitable for students from a wide range of backgrounds and across all of our art, architecture and design courses.
Indicative reading list
- Invisible Women, Caroline Criado Perez
- Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, Stuart Hall
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge
- Queer City, Peter Ackroyd
- The Importance of Music to Girls, Lavinia Greenlaw
- Disability Visibility, Alice Wong
- The Sound of Being Human: How Music Shapes Our Lives, Jude Rogers
- Towards Gender Equality in the Music Industry: Education, Practice and Strategies for Change, Sarah Raine and Catherine Strong
- Marxism and Disability, oddy Slorach
- Singing for Equality: Musicians of the Civil Rights Era, Diane C Taylor
- Study in Culture, Giles Middleton
- Very Capitalist Condition: A History and Politics of Disability, Roddy Slorach
- Race Matters, Cornel West
- Where are the Women Architects?, Despina Stratigakos
- Disability and Art History, Ann Millett-Gallant
- Extra Bold – A Feminist, Inclusive, Anti-racist, Nonbinary Field Guide for Graphic Designers, Multiple Authors
- Race and Modern Architecture, Irene Cheng
- Making Space: Women and the Women and the Man-Made Environment, Matrix
- The Mixed-Race Experience: Reflections and Revelations on Multicultural Identity, Natalie Evans
- The Art of Feminism (Updated and Expanded): Images that Shaped the Fight for Equality, Helena Reckitt
- Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies, Kobena Mercher
- Gender Trouble, Judith Butler
- Music in Words, Trevor Herbert (Referencing Book)
- Music Equality Forum
- Access All Areas Music Industry Groups gender equality pledge article
- Race and Identity – Art history teaching resources
- All Things Equal website
- Equality Time website
- Equality and diversity in classical music
- WOMEN COMPOSERS ARE MOVING APM MUSIC LIBRARIES TOWARD EQUALITY
- International Study Spotlights Striking Lack Of Diversity In Classical Music Performance
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 2022–23
Studio 01: The Pensive Image
Do images in the information age displace texts and become the main vehicle for expressing thought? How do images communicate? What are they are saying? Can images write histories?
Studio 02: Sport and Aesthetics
Dissertation Studio 02 will examine the concept of aesthetics as applied within that most everyday activity: sport.
Studio 03: The Bone Pile. Archive and Myth as Methodology
Starting with the archive as a ‘commons of imagination,’ Studio 03 is testing the bonds between the personal and the collective, the interconnection of heterogeneous histories, archival temporalities and deep places of myth and storytelling.
Studio 04: Public Protest – Spaces of negotiation
How do we shape the city? How do we claim, occupy and inform spaces as people who live, work and play? All places have a history of negotiation over territory and its use – which helps to bring them into their current form. Understanding this legacy through acts of dissent and protest can better uniform us about the places that we inhabit.
Studio 05: “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 06: 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 07: Feminist Approaches
In this studio you will be invited to take a feminist approach to your dissertation and its topic, whatever that topic might be.
Studio 08: 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 09: Sartorial Culture
This studio examines the intersections and relationships between objects and their visual and discursive representations through the lens of the history of fashion and dress. It locates fashion, or fashionable dress, in the conversations about it, the images portraying it, and the artefacts left in its wake.
Studio 10: “Everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology”
Studio 10 questions the role of technology in our lives and investigates the environmental ethics concerning how we relate to, and operate within the world and each other.
Studio 11: The Hammer without a Master
Studio 11 explores 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 unravelling some of the paradoxes of modern life and culture.
Studio 12: 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 13: 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 14: Futures Past and Present
Cultural history, from high art to kitsch, is littered with visions of the future; some inspiring, some ridiculous, almost all of them wrong.
Studio 15: A River with Standing
What happens when a river is conceived as a living entity instead of the prevailing perspective of human sovereignty over nature? What political impact may this unprecedented legal status have on the ecological crisis? What do Indigenous cosmologies contribute to current posthuman philosophical debates?
Studio 16: “I can’t see the wood for the trees:” Ecology as Methodology
This studio aims to provoke discussion about the ’reality’ and the ‘myth’ of ecology: the ease with which one can theorise about it, and at the same time the persistent challenges of enacting it as an everyday lived condition of human (and more-than-human) existence.
Studio 17: 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 18: The Poetics of Making
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 19: The Erotics of Infrastructure
Studio 19 questions how our body and subjectivity is formed through our encounters with infrastructure. We will explore what constitutes contemporary infrastructure, such as the digital sphere, financial products and how these may impact the formation of our subjectivity and social organisation.
Studio 20: A History of Efficiency
There is nothing inevitable about the way we organise our societies. Changing the harmful structures of economic efficiency, which are making the planet uninhabitable, is up to us. This studio is for students who are interested in exploring any aspect of the climate emergency.