Culture is our making
Culture at the School of Art, Architecture and Design is a cross-school enterprise. It frames the thinking in the making. Making is part of our DNA and has been since the inception of its parent institutions. It lies at the absolute heart of our pedagogy. Making is where learning begins, through making decisions and choices, engaging both with the matter at hand and the constituency of makers.
In a sense, all the different forms of cultural enterprise relate back to this primal thing. We make friends, we make decisions, we make dinner, we make love, we make policies and political decisions, we make institutions and governments, we make exquisite metal objects, chairs to sit on, things that work and works of art, we make ephemeral sounds and moving images, we make spaces and buildings, pavilions, landscapes and cities to dwell in. Together they constitute our culture of making.
Ideas are cast through words and writing. So Culture engages with how we make history and theory, how we construe the cultural landscapes we live in, how we give voice to our values. It is not an armchair discipline. We make ideas where we find them: in the archives and museums, out in the city and back on the streets, in the myriad places where people live their lives.
Sir Ken Robinson famously argues that our current educational system is designed to squash creative talent. Cities like London provide an antidote: they foster creativity; they brim with variety. So we use London as our library, the city as our seminar room. Indeed the inspiration for Culture at our School as a ‘culture’ is London because London is both a world city and a world within a city. We have the biggest collection of cultural resources our doorstep, from actual treasures to a diversity of people to an abundance of ecologies; from world heritage sites to circus fleas, bell foundries to opera houses, nearly three hundred museums and as many again libraries, twice as many galleries and named localities, not to mention all the extraordinary artefacts, buildings, artworks, folk, events and situations we encounter every day.
In 2012 we began building a Faculty-wide programme called CCS (Critical and Contextual Studies) to complement the design studios. The specific curriculum and teaching delivery remains firmly under the wing of the seven subject clusters but our undergraduate programme now shares a common structure in things like learning outcomes, resources, study skills, timetable, and assessment types, weblearn and online submissions through Turnitin (summarised in our Handbook Cass Writing). In September 2014 our shared framework allowed us to launch our unique invention, the ‘Dissertation Studio’, twenty-four of them, all of which were open to final year undergraduate students across the Faculty. Students could choose to work with someone from their subject area or any of the other discipline. They did both in equal quantities. See: Archive of Dissertation Studios.
Each Dissertation Studio offers a thematic topic in a seven-week course that takes them out on visits, rehearses them in how to do research, how to assemble a topic and structure a thesis. They offer a wide range of approaches from continental theory to interviews with East End makers, from histories found on London Walks to drawings tucked away in archives, from the cultural DNA of objects and images to the consequence of gender or the anthropocene.
Research across the school reflects our deep commitment to social engagement. We have a PhD programme with award winning students and a research based masters course, the MA by Project. We support a spectrum of staff and student led research projects that are developed in and around the teaching studios and are fostered by our close associations with leading edge practices and institutions. Research underpins our live projects, adds value to our links with industry, and forms the basis of our partnerships. Research is part of what we do. Culture is responsible for running the School Research Committee and helping calibrate the synergies between research and teaching, research and practice.
We are looking at how we share what we do more broadly, particularly our pedagogical approach and our research and postgraduate forms of study. Plans are afoot to construct a different kind of offering that is inherently less monolithic and exclusive than the current degrees structure. The details have yet to be confirmed but suffice it to say the new programme will be up and running by the spring and represent another step jump in the ecology of the school. This programme will take its bearing from the range of work represented in the Dissertation Studios, their close cousins in the postgraduate programmes and our current research activities. But it will also instigate another level of play: working with more institutions and partners, introducing new ideas and topics, finding new people and situations to work with. Culture aims to work outwards and grow its community out of its common interests.
Dissertation Studios 2019-20
Studio 01: ideas in places
This studio prescribes a direct treatment of place, whether subjective or objective.
Studio 02: Narrative and Storytelling
This studio focuses on modes of storytelling and narrative conventions. We will particularly consider how narrative intersects with, and informs, identity.
Studio 03: 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 04: Bullshit, propaganda and post-truth
This studio will look at the emergence of the notion of ‘post truth’ and explore links between other ideas around propaganda and Harry Frankfurt’s argument about ‘bullshit’. We will consider the usefulness of these ideas, and how they can be explored in creative practice.
Studio 05: 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 06: Writing Rough
What are the outer limits of the essay? Write on the edge of the possible in a rich, researched and evidenced discussion which creatively explores the expanded field of the essay.
Studio 07: Thinking with Ruins
This studio pays heed to these cultural forms and persuasions but asks, how might we productively think with ruins in the present?
Studio 08: The things you can tell just by looking (or, Oriented Writing)
Writing tells us who we are and how each of us thinks and interprets the world.
Studio 09: Le Marteau Sans Maître
Digging through the deepest layers of archaeological time, André Leroi-Gourhan (La geste et la parole, 1964) concluded that for millions of years, human culture and technology evolved without complex language, rational planning or abstract ‘thinking at a distance’.
Studio 10: Globalism
For good or ill, we live in a global world. Whilst this may appear to be obvious, globalism is only a relatively recent term as is the phenomenon itself. What do we mean by this? How did we arrive in this place?
Studio 11: Performative Acts: Art, Architecture and Writing
Nico de Oliveira
In the last decade or so we have moved from objects to subjects or audiences. In parallel, the word performative has been adapted from a theoretical term to a key rubric within the discourse of contemporary art, architecture and beyond.
Studio 12: Decay, Repair and Back Again
Things break down and decay. In this studio you will experiment repair as strategy to negotiate breakdown, and you will practice mining patina and weathering for information and stories.
Studio 13: ‘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 14: A Material World
As the title suggests, this Studio will be based on the processes that are intrinsic to the design and making of textiles, however it will also be looking at the materiality of these textiles as objects.
Studio 15: Souvenir
This studio is concerned with those objects that are lent a particular enchantment because of their relationship with the past. It considers the role of memory and how it is embodied in cultural artefacts.
News from the School
London Met students redesign early years teaching rooms
As part of a second-year internship, London Met’s Interior Design course students redesigned the rooms to support modern teaching methods.
The Ministry for Common Land
Exhibition co-developed by London Met academic asks whether we could use citizens’ assemblies to develop new strategies for land ownership and use.
Ecology as Public and Mental Health
A discussion as part of London Met’s new interdisciplinary research initiative, Finding Ecologies, explores how we create environments in which we and others can flourish.
The climate crisis and gender inequality: an intimate relationship
'How Women Can Save the Planet', a new book from London Met’s Professor Anne Karpf, will be launched at an event on June 10.
Look Listen Make Things
Major artwork and solo exhibition by London Met Associate Professor Bob and Roberta Smith to be shown in the Harris from 4 June - 2 October 2021.
Contesting Global Fashion through China
Professor of Transcultural Arts and Design and Director of CREATURE, Wessie Ling, will give keynotes at a major fashion conference and for the Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen.
London Met joins Tower Hamlets' Cultural Consortium
London Met is one member of the new initiative, which will transform the public spaces of Tower Hamlets through community-led initiatives.
How We Live Now: designing feminist cities
A new installation at the Barbican explores a series of important questions about our public spaces and designed environments, and who they serve.
Deej Fabyc has curated and will be performing in ‘Operation Edna’, a live, multimedia art event exploring shelter and ageing proudly.
Carpet design success for second-year student
Nanci Byrne-Lynch, a textiles student, has been shortlisted for the COVER Carpet Design Awards 2021.
London Met Theatre grad Simon Phillips is the star and co-screenwriter of major new film.
London Met students give back to the city
Clinics offering legal advice, sports injury assessment and rehabilitation, and community art projects are on offer for all Londoners, under the supervision of qualified experts.
Echoes in time
London Met's graduating Theatre Arts students will deliver an online theatre festival on 13, 14 and 15 May 2021, streaming live from Shoreditch Town Hall.