“Consider relationships of dependence, my sister suggests. ‘You don’t own your body – that’s not what we are, our bodies aren’t independent. The health of our bodies always depends on choices other people are making.’ She falters for a moment here, and is at a loss for words … ‘I don’t even know how to talk about this, she says, ‘the point is there’s an illusion of independence.”
— Eula Biss, On Immunity
“I encouraged them to think of the moment of not understanding what someone says as a space to learn. Such a space provides not only an opportunity to listen without ‘mastery’, without owning or possessing speech through interpretation, but also the experience of hearing non-English words. These lessons seem particularly crucial in a multi-cultural society that remains white supremacist, that uses standard English as a weapon to silence and censor.”
— bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress
A feminist approach recognises that discrimination exists – in spaces of learning as much as in spaces beyond the institution – and affirms that by ignoring it we are culpable of repeating it. In this studio you will be invited to take a feminist approach to your dissertation and its topic, whatever that topic might be. This might mean investigating the work of women within your practice or discipline, or rejecting histories that privilege the single ‘genius’ be it designer, author or artist. It might mean, as Eula Biss suggests, considering your research topic as part of a constellation, looking out towards a wider net of connections than previously considered, or perhaps tying your topic more closely to someone else’s.
In the context of architecture, Marianela D’Aprile calls for investigations into "the history of women’s organisations in architecture and design… or a survey of the design of spaces used predominantly by women (nurseries, domestic violence shelters, single-sex schools)… the majority of women who interact with buildings are not architects; there is more to be gleaned about the role of architecture in women’s lives by looking at their experience" (Marianela D’Aprile). Whatever your focus or background within the school, we will read and work together collaboratively to help you find your own approach.
bell hooks talks about the importance of welcoming languages beyond English into the seminar room – I would like to do this too; and to think about what this inclusion means; what silences might be undone, what censorship resisted, what new forms created? You might want to join this group to tell a story that has been absent – or you might want to find another way of telling stories.
Previous dissertations have dealt with topics as wide-ranging as: gender in English skateboarding, the history of zines in the riot grrl movement (focus on Brazil), kitchens as sites of resistance – through a Spanish tortilla cooked by three generations, and myths of masculinity in architecture (focus on the UK workplace).
- Sadie Plant, Zeros and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture (Harper Collins, 1997)
- Rozika Parker, The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine (Bloomsbury, 1984)
- Michel de Certeau, Luce Giard, Pierre Mayol, The Practice of Everyday Life: Volume 2. Living and Cooking, trans. Timothy J. Tomasik (University of Minnesota Press, 1998)
- Trinh T. Minh-ha, Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism (Indiana University Press, 1989)
- Rebecca May Johnson, Small Fires: An Epic in the Kitchen (Pushkin Press, 2022)
- Holly Pester, Go to reception and ask for Sara in red felt tip (Test Centre, 2015)
- Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives Beautiful Experiments (Serpent’s Tail, 2019)
- Dolores Hayden, The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Design for American Homes, Neighbourhoods and Cities (MIT Press, 1981)
- Leslie Kanes Weisman, Discrimination by Design: A Feminist Critique of the Man-Made Environment (University of Illinois Press, 1992)
- Annie Ernaux, The Years, trans. Alison L. Strayer (Fitzcarraldo, 2018)
Image: Lubaina Himid’s We Will Be (1985, detail). Banner image: Hans Op de Beeck, Staging Silence (3), video still (detail), 2019
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.