We live like little balls of putty, pushed upon, shaped, impressed. We harden over time. Become less liable to pick up fingerprints when things touch us. But less so these days, we stay soft for longer.
Together we will explore how contemporary consumer culture presses against us and where (and whether) there is space to push back. Figuring through the spoils of postmodernism seeing where there is room for dissent, subversion and mischief within received cultural forms.
We’ll take a playful approach to our research materials. Recognising the political potential of humour, levity and a lack of formality. You’ll collect stuff and we’ll discuss it together. The things you bring will be texts, garments, art works, memorabilia, YouTube clips, lyrics and whatever else. Through collective conversation we will poke, prod and unstitch these things to see what they’re made of, how they function, and the cultural impact they have, reading critically as a way to help us frame our discussions. This is our research, it is an approach evolved from the early feminist consciousness raising groups. The collage of culture and theory you create in the first few weeks will reveal the thrust of the research aims that form the basis of your dissertation.
We encounter culture in fragments. Shards of things clatter against each other in our brain bags and the resulting noises and frictions are our ideas. We knit these together into writing. We mix our metaphors to express the incongruous complexity of thinking through a specific subject in detail and laying it down on the page. In her seminal book Cyborg Manifesto Donna Harraway proposes a system of partial information as opposed to stratified hierarchies of knowledge as the way to a truly intersectional kind of cultural production and we take the same tack. Which is all to say, how we write and research is a reflection of how we think and write.
This studio takes a sideways look at the intersection of youth culture and late capitalism considering the impacts and influences of desire, the cartoon, consumerism and cuteness in shaping our contemporary experience.
Readings and materials
- Affective Economies by Sara Ahmed
- The Wretched of the Screen by Hito Steyerl
- Sad Sack by Sofia Al-Maria
- K-Punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher
- The Sex Appeal of the Inorganic: Philosophies of Desire in the Modern World by Mario Perniola
- Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting by Sian Ngai
- No Logo by Naiomi Klein
- Shopping: A Century of Art and Consumer Culture edited by Christoph Grunenberg and Max Hollein
- Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant-Garde by Esther Leslie
- The Fashion System by Roland Barthes
- Raw Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl by Tiqqun
Keywords: consumerism, visual culture, cartoon, desire, youth, cuteness, contemporaneity, subversion
Studio Image: 'Suck it up' …
Studio Image by Matilda Moors. Altered phone wallpaper from cutewallpaper.org. Banner: 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.