The popular expression “I can’t see the wood for the trees”, which means to be unable to understand a situation because you are too involved or enmeshed in it (in its details), at the expense of the bigger picture, offers a methodological framework for thinking about the idea of ecology. In response to this common problem, the studio will examine the relationship between the whole and its parts – their separateness and their inter-dependency – in creative thinking, and how this can assist our conceptualisation of ecology.
We use the idea of the forest as a metaphor of ecological thinking (with each tree forming part of a larger ecosystem) and how the process of ‘clearing’ the forest, to make way for human habitation and infrastructure, fundamentally alters our understanding of inter-relatedness in the world, the basis of all ecology. The aim of this dissertation group is 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. Hence, the studio is designed for students who wish to have a more informed understanding of the meaning of ecology; its relevance today and the challenges and contradictions it brings to the environmental crisis which we face on a daily basis.
The module will be conducted initially as a series of short lectures followed by seminar discussions and readings of key texts, from which you will be asked to propose a topic in your creative area for a dissertation that responds critically in some way to the ecological debate. You will be exposed to some of the leading writers (philosophers, anthropologists and environmentalists) working in the field, and how the increasing urgency of the climate crisis is provoking a fundamental rethink about the role and meaning of human agency in the environment through areas as diverse as economics, biochemistry, art practice, architecture, astrophysics, anthropology and philosophy.
- Timothy Morton, Ecology without Nature (Harvard University Press, 2009)
- Timothy Morton, Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence (Columbia University Press, 2018)
- Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (University of Minnesota Press, 2013)
- Bruno Latour, Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime (Polity, 2018)
- Bruno Latour, Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime (Polity, 2017)
- Philippe Descola, Beyond Nature and Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2014)
- Robert Pogue Harrison, Forests: Shadow of Civilisation (University of Chicago Press, 1993)
- Tim Ingold, Lines: A Brief History (Routledge, 2016)
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.