Saturday, 21 December 2013

TEXTS / CITIES - TVAD in partnership with Photography UH - Thursday 23rd January, 2014

TEXTS / CITIEs: from the 1970s to the present

TVAD Research Group in partnership with Photography UH, University of Hertfordshire

Thursday January 23rd, 2014
B03 FMM Building, College Lane Campus, Hatfield, Herts AL10 9AB.

Convened by Dr Daniel Marques Sampaio and Michael Heilgemeir, University of Hertfordshire

Attendance is free, but delegates must register in advance by emailing or with the following information: Name; Affiliation/Institution/Role; Email address; Any special dietary requirements; Any special access requirements.

Cities have often been compared to palimpsests, their streets, buildings, and subways pleated, crumpled, written and rewritten over and over again: as material texts, poïesis. What is at stake in this conflation of city and text? Can the city be read, does it indeed operate like a text? How do urban spaces relate to artistic, political, or economic texts and ideologies, and vice versa? What transformations occur between the designing and imaging of urban spaces, and the building and eventual inhabiting of those spaces? How do the technologies employed in designing and imaging architectural and urban spaces (computer modelling and simulation, CGI renderings of future buildings, etc.) contribute to the ‘idea’ or representations of a city? In what ways can data and imaging influence understanding of, and policies within cities?

This seminar brings together scholars within an interdisciplinary range of art, design, and media practices to examine, analyse and interpret the complex relationships between texts and urban spaces in contemporary culture and society.


10 am: Arrival, FMM Building
10.40 am: Introduction, DMS & MH
11 am: Dr Erica Liu (University of Hertfordshire): “Rebranding Cities, using narratives to transform city image through the Olympic Games”
11.40 am: Carl Fraser (University of Sheffield): “Public realm, critical spatial practices”
12.20 pm: Dr Barbara Brownie (University of Hertfordshire): “Words Within Worlds: Kinetic and typographic cityscapes in television idents and credit sequences”
1 pm: Lunch, FMM foyer
2 pm: Dr Rebecca Thomas (University of Hertfordshire): “A city in pieces”
2.40 pm: Dr Marta Rabikowska (University of Hertfordshire): “Urban narrative through the lens of the camera”
3.20 pm: Jaspar Joseph Lester (Royal College of Art) and Julie Wesserman (Sheffield Hallam University): “Tegel: Speculations and Propositions”
4 pm: DMS & MH, response and closing remarks, followed by group discussion
4.20 pm: Coffee and tea, FMM foyer
5 pm: Close.

Dr Erica Liu (University of Hertfordshire): “Rebranding Cities, using narratives to transform city image through the Olympic Games”
Cities create compelling narratives of themselves to bid for the hosting of mega events such as the Olympic Games.  The winning city often needs to undertake drastic changes in cityscape and sometimes the city’s image in order to materialise these compelling narratives.  These narratives are more than text, graphics, photographs and videos; they are visions and inspirations of a country propagated from specific social and political contexts.  Cities have identifiable images, for instance, Paris is perceived for romance, Milan for style, New York for diversity and dynamics, Washington for power, and Tokyo for modernity. The objectives of rebranding a city sometimes challenges these established images; especially when the images carry negative connotations.  Former Axis power countries have hosted Olympic Games to signify conciliation and rehabilitation – Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964, Munich 1972.  The 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa and the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France signified social changes and a symbolic unity in dividing communities.  The narratives used captivated the emotion of the global communities; and transpired into a unique branding experience that became legacy.  Through rebranding during mega events, cities expressed the way they inspired to be, and the way they wished to be perceived by global audiences.  The agility and longevity of the outcomes, however, depends on variable factors such as the persistence of marketing campaign and the consistency of policy making and implementation. Olympic Game host cities such as London and Beijing will be used as case studies.
Carl Fraser (University of Sheffield): “Public realm, critical spatial practices”
The public realm of London has been transformed since the 1970s, politically, economically and socially. We now live in a completely redefined set of shared public spaces to those which existed previously. Most significantly the relationship between spaces, their occupation and the notion of ownership and disruption have entered into a new phase.
This paper will work with the themes which are explored in my PhD, the understanding of public realm protest as a spatial strategy of disruption whose narrative can be read as an indicator of the changing relationship between citizens, their representatives and powerful institutions, drawing on the protests which occurred in London between 2010 and 2012 as examples of this shifting relationship, and asking questions over the efficacy of public space as a concept and a field of practice. The paper will develop the notion of protest as a critical spatial practice. Critical… “an evaluative attitude towards reality” (Peter Marcuse); spatial… “the space of social practice, the space occupied by sensory phenomena, including products of the imagination such as projections, symbols and utopias” (Henri Lefebvre); practice… “transverse tactics do not obey the law of the place, for they are not defined or identified by it… one can distinguish ‘ways of operating’ – ways of walking, reading, producing, speaking, etc” (Michel de Certeau).
Through this theoretical understanding of physical public space I aim to compile a series of ‘situated knowledges’ (Donna Haraway) around the contemporary production of protest within public territories of action.
Dr Barbara Brownie (University of Hertfordshire): “Words Within Worlds: Kinetic and typographic cityscapes in television idents and credit sequences”
In fluid typography, letterforms emerge from apparently abstract or pictorial arrangements, challenging viewer’s assumptions about the nature and meaning of on-screen objects.  Increasingly in film credit sequences and television idents, this fluidity occurs in architectural environments. Computer-generated cityscapes, which initially present themselves as architectural, become typographic as letters and words emerge from the scene.
Directly-filmed and CGI models of cities can be treated as navigable environments, containing verbal meaning which may be revealed through kineticism or parallax. MPC’s Channel 4 idents (2004-2013), in which the figure ‘4’ emerges from computer-generated architectural environments, and the opening credits for Sin City (2005), in which an aerial view of skyscrapers reveals them to be arranged as a collection of letters, initially present architectural landscapes. In spectacles comparable to theatrical illusion, viewers are invited to seek out verbal meaning within these cityscapes.
This paper will apply Eduardo Kac’s discussions of ‘fluid signs’ (originally applied to holographic poetry) in the reading of credit sequences and idents. Fluid events will be compared to theatrical illusion, in which the illusionsit’s tools – the ‘city’ – are shown capable of spectacular and unexpected transformation. The emergence of letterforms from these scenes will be explored as a paradigm shift, from city to text.

Dr Rebecca Thomas (University of Hertfordshire): “A city in pieces”

This presentation will examine the curiously overlain city of Nicosia (Cyprus), especially in relation to a recent visit there (June 2013), and the potential narratives to be generated from that trip. Although one might claim that all cities are by definition layered with numerous histories, constructions and erasures, in the case of Nicosia the layering is particularly acute. As with Berlin in an important period of its history, and Jerusalem even today, Nicosia is a city whose territory is penetrated by a wall. This border turns the city into a kind of force-field of opposing energies and points of view, creating immense tensions between the separate segments, but also a heightened sense of political and personal identity and engagement. The existence of the wall, and the visitor’s awareness of the Turkish zone (which it is forbidden to enter) may repel the outsider, but at the same time it morbidly acts as a means of attraction. Wandering about the city, one is constantly reminded of its partitioned, traumatic nature, a “coherent” geographical location simultaneously fissured, rife with the potential for further conflict and division.

T S Eliot’s phrase “Unreal city” (from The Waste Land, 1922) feels very relevant. Its “unreality” comes from the on-going territorial and cultural clashes, but also from the posters and graffiti used to express these differences, deployed in texts and images found throughout Nicosia but especially in the areas close to the barricade. Visiting Nicosia brought home the power and importance of graffiti and other unofficial forms of communication as ways to “give voice” to otherwise unrepresented ideas. One reason for my visit, to be discussed in my paper, was to contribute to an international conference on typography at the city’s university, a discussion theme of great relevance in such a place of repressed but proliferating voices.   

Dr Marta Rabikowska (University of Hertfordshire): “Urban narrative through the lens of the camera”

In this argument a visual narrative of one south-eastern suburb of London will be analysed, while the context of performativity of urban ethnography will be critiqued and philosophized in light of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology and Michail Bakhtin’s theory of polyphony. The city and its polyphonic fabric are represented here in an observational documentary produced by the author.  Her footage will undergo a detailed analysis in parallel to her self-reflection on the processes of research. Methodologically, polyphonic narrative, as identified by Bakhtin in Dostoyevsky’s novels, will allow for an insight into the fragmented identity of an urban community. The aim of analysing the film footage is to observe what the camera ‘sees’ and how the city narrative is affected by perception. The city is regarded as ‘being’ which cannot be separated from the observer, and which unfolds performatively to the camera, if prompted by an act of filming. Through a close analysis of the video representation of the metropolis’ suburb, the author tries to ‘see’ through the politics of belonging, which governs the narrative of exclusion and inclusion.

Jaspar Joseph Lester (Royal College of Art) and Julie Wesserman (Sheffield Hallam University): “Tegel: Speculations and Propositions”

Tegel: Speculations and Propositions a culmination of our interest in the way collaboration, interdisciplinary research, and experimentation can produce new spatial knowledge. Over a period of eighteen months, a selected group of international artists and writers focused their attention on Tegel airport, they observed how it is used, they engaged in new activities and imagined how the building might function in the future. This book and DVD is the outcome of what might be described as an open-ended enquiry and, as such, embodies new perspectives on, and approaches to, urban renewal, regeneration, social organisation, mobility and the legacy of modernist architecture. This approach to site is central to imagining how art practice can slow down, re-orientate and redefine the successive cycles of master plans and regeneration schemes so that we can begin to consider what is at stake in the spaces we occupy. The paper interrogates the ethos embodied in the utopian design and the legacy that it leaves. The paper explores the influence of an architecture that embodies an age and an ideal, and reflects the politics of the city.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Looking Good? Aesthetics and Iconicity in Design History

9th January 2014, 3-5 pm, Aud 4, Eilert Sundts Hus, University of Oslo.
In this lecture, part of the University of Oslo's Estetisk Seminar, Dr Grace Lees-Maffei, Reader in Design History and TVAD Research Group Leader, will discuss what iconicity means in the context of design and how it relates to aesthetics.

If Kant associated aesthetics with the senses, and the scholarship of aesthetics has foregrounded taste and value, or beauty, then an aesthetic approach to design history can be understood as privileging the visual. The history of design is rich in examples of work which may be harnessed to a view of design practice as an aesthetic enterprise. This is particularly foregrounded in an approach that equates the history of design with a history of styles in which, for example, neoclassicism is followed by Gothic, or Gothick, and then a flurry of Victorian eclecticism including Gothic revival, Neo-Gothic, and the Arts and Crafts Movement and its variation, followed by the various modern ‘isms’.

However, it is also seen in the recent fashion for icon design in mass and popular consumer culture. By no means reserved for design, today the terms ‘icon’ and ‘iconic’ are applied remarkably liberally to describe a surprisingly wide range of things, from the music of Beethoven’s 5th symphony to the fragrance of Chanel No. 5. Both of these things—a symphony and a scent—may be described, to some extent, as designed, but iconicity is perceived not only in objects, images, sounds and scents which are manufactured. It is a status also accorded to natural phenomena, such as the pumpkin, which are rendered iconic not through designers’ intentions, but through their consumption (both literal and symbolic) and mediation.

Anyone wishing to understand the iconic by looking at the various phenomena to which the label is applied would have difficulty finding some common characteristics in their physical properties, although it is instructive to consider some shared formal properties of design icons and it is possible to understand more about iconicity, the quality of being iconic, by referring to the history of icons. This lecture briefly reviews the roots of iconicity in design and then proposes the identifying characteristics shared by religious icons and design icons alike as functions of reception: representativeness, recognition and reverence. It explores the words ‘icon’ and ‘iconic’ and the processes of iconization by which iconicity in design is conferred before examining some case studies of iconic design which are representative of wider issues in design discourse, taken from Lees-Maffei's forthcoming edited book Iconic Designs: 50 Stories about 50 Things (Bloomsbury Academic, April 2014) and her essay 'Design History and Theory' forthcoming in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, second edition, edited by Michael Kelly, and forthcoming from Oxford University Press in the summer of 2014.

Dr Grace Lees-Maffei's research centres upon mediation as a focus in design history. Her work is available in Design at Home: Domestic Advice Literature in the UK and the US since 1945 (Routledge, 2013), Made in Italy: Rethinking a Century of Italian Design co-edited with Kjetil Fallan (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), Writing Design: Words and Objects (Berg, 2011) and The Design History Reader, co-edited with Rebecca Houze (Berg, 2010) and in journals including Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, Women's History Review, Modern Italy and the Journal of Design History. Forthcoming titles include Iconic Designs: 50 Stories about 50 Things (Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), Reading Graphic Design in Cultural Context: An Introduction, co-authored with Nicolas P. Maffei (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015) and Designing Worlds: National Design Histories in an Age of Globalization, co-edited with Kjetil Fallan (Berghahn, 2016). Dr Lees-Maffei is Managing Editor of the Journal of Design History, a member of the Peer Review College of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Advisory Board member for The Poster.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Mini-symposium 'Design & Fashion Historiographies in the Netherlands'

Wednesday, 11 December, 17.00 – 19.00 hrs at the VU University Amsterdam, room HG14a-33 (in the main building), De Boelelaan 1105, 1081HV Amsterdam

The mini-symposium is organised by the MA Design Cultures VU University and the Design and Fashion Platform of the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis (NICA). Entrance is free, but seats are limited! Please RSVP: 
Recently, design and fashion are becoming increasingly accepted subjects of study in Dutch universities. This academic institutionalization raises questions as to the disciplines' pasts. We can identify two parallel but unconnected historiographies, i.e. the first elaborating on product and graphic design simultaneously and the second on fashion design. How has design and fashion been researched in the Netherlands? According to which theoretical and methodological traditions and in which institutional settings? Why did they develop independently of each other and why have not they yet merged? In which ways do Dutch historiographies of design and fashion differ from canonical (British) design historiography?

These topics will be explored at the mini-symposium "Design and Fashion Historiographies in the Netherlands." Building on the lectures on Dutch design historiography organized by the Design History Society Netherlands in 2012, two keynote speakers will delve into design and fashion historiographies in the Netherlands, which will be further elaborated during a round table discussion with experts representing different facets of the field. The aim of this meeting is to explore, together with the participants, the breadth of the fields as well as the interest in further investigating their pasts today.

Keynote speakers
- Prof dr Anneke Smelik (Radboud University Nijmegen)
- Dr Frederike Huygen (independent scholar)

Round table participants
- Dr Ellinoor Bergvelt (University of Amsterdam)
- Dr Christine Delhaye (University of Amsterdam)
- Dr Javier Gimeno-Martínez (VU University Amsterdam)
- Dr Grace Lees-Maffei (VU University Amsterdam, Hertfordshire University)
- Drs Joana Ozorio de Almeida Meroz (VU University Amsterdam)

- Yara Cavalcanti Araujo (VU University Amsterdam)


- Prof Anneke Smelik writes about film, fashion and media and has published over a dozen books and over a hundred articles. She is project leader of two NWO-programmes on fashion: 'Dutch Fashion in a Globalized World', and 'Crafting Wearables'.  She researches how the image of the body changes in visual culture and in fashion, through changed norms about beauty and perfection, or through an increasing approximation between humans and machine, as e.g. in fashionable  technology, science fiction films or digital photography. She develops new theoretical approaches to fashion studies from a materialist and a deleuzean perspective. She is at present the coordinator of a new master programme on Creative Industries at the Radboud University Nijmegen.

- Dr Frederike Huygen studied art history in Leiden and Amsterdam with a specialisation in design. In the early 1980s she became curator at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam where she built a collection on design and organized exhibitions. She was also editor of the magazine Items and published many articles and books. Since 1996 Huygen works as freelance researcher and writer. In 2013 she received her doctoral degree on a dissertation about the graphic designer Jurriaan Schrofer.

-Dr Ellinoor Bergvelt is a specialist on collections, museums and (interior) design. See: ‘Van art decowerkgroep (1971-72) naar batikproject (2012), theorie en praktijk van wetenschappelijk onderzoek’ (since 1 February 2013). She was (co-) editor of Van neorenaissance tot postmodernisme (1996); Industrie en vormgeving in Nederland 1850-1950/Industry and Design in the Netherlands (1985-1986); 80 jaar wonen in het Stedelijk (1981); Goed Wonen. Een Nederlandse wooncultuur 1946-1968 (1979); Amsterdamse School. Nederlandse architectuur 1910-1930 (1975). Recently she has been working on the global influence of batik since the 19th century (Batik as an example of cultural crossovers – Dutch East-Indies / Indonesia – the Netherlands – West-Africa – Yinka Shonibare); an article on that subject will be published in an Encyclopedia of Asian Design by Bloomsbury (Berg) in 2015.

- Dr Christine Delhaye is Lecturer in Cultural Theory and Policy in the Cultural Studies programme, Department of Arts, Religion and Culture at the University of Amsterdam, where she is program chair of the MA Cultural Studies. She teaches courses on cultural theory and cultural policy. Since last year she also teaches the Fashion theory course. Her fields of research are situated at the intersection of cultural globalization, urban cultures and fashion. Last year she published, together with Ellinoor Bergvelt the article  'Fashion exhibitions in the Netherlands: between visual spectacles and community outreach’ in: Fashion Theory: The journal of Dress, Body & Culture, 2012. As from this academic year onwards, she is also co-ordinator of the research group Fashion/representations in global context in the Faculty of Humanities.  

- Dr Javier Gimeno-Martínez is Assistant Professor at the VU University Amsterdam. His research interests encompass design and fashion as related with consumption, gender and national identity. Since the end of his PhD, he has been conducting research on the shifting cultural status of industrial design and craft from the 1950s up to today with Belgium as case study. Industrial design, as cultural activity, was considered during the 1960s as an edge phenomenon of the crafts industry. Conversely, craft was often related to the field of sculpture. However, design has gradually taken over the leading role and by the 1990s craft activity was moved to the background. Designers or design critics are not the only active agents that shape the design landscape, but also the institutions for design promotion disseminated their own concepts on applied arts and design. Museums, award schemes and state-funded institutions are studied as actors that shape and reshape the perception of design and craft. This research was funded by the Research Foundation – Flanders from 2007 to 2010.

- Dr Grace Lees-Maffei is Visiting Professor of Design History and Theory in the MA Design Cultures, where she teaches the course 'Design, History and Culture'. She is also Reader in Design History at the University of Hertfordshire, coordinator of the Theorising Visual Art and Design (TVAD) Research Group in its work on relationships between text, narrative and image and Managing Editor of the Journal of Design History. Grace’s research interests centre upon the mediation of design, through channels including domestic advice literature, corporate literature, advertising and magazines. Dr Lees-Maffei is author of Design at Home: Domestic Advice Books in Britain and the US since 1945 (Routledge, 2013), editor of Writing Design: Words and Objects (Berg, 2011) and Iconic Designs: 50 Stories about 50 Things (Bloomsbury, 2014) and co-editor of Made in Italy: Rethinking a Century of Italian Design (Bloomsbury, 2013) and The Design History Reader (Berg, 2010).

- Drs Joana Ozorio de Almeida Meroz is a PhD candidate and lecturer at the Design Cultures department of the VU University Amsterdam. Her research project, "A History of the Construction of the Idea of 'Dutch Design' (1970-2012)," advances from the premise that Dutch Design is the product of a discursive construction rather than the natural result of a 'typically Dutch' identity or culture. Accordingly, the research traces the development of ideas about Dutch Design as well as the actors involved in the production and institutionalisation of those ideas, particularly in relation to Dutch international cultural policy. This research is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) programme Mosaic. She also supervises MA theses and co-teaches "The Arts and Crafts of Dutch Design," and the Design module of the BA "Media, Kunst, Design en Architectuur."

- The Design and Fashion Platform of the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis (NICA)
In contemporary culture design and fashion continue to grow in importance and popularity. However, design and fashion have long been neglected by the Arts and Humanities as a field of academic study. The Design and Fashion Cultures Platform aims to encourage academic interest and research in design and fashion as they are embedded in their cultural and material contexts. The focus will be on the study of product design, graphic design, and fashion, taking into account the complex, globalised, chain of production, sale, and consumption. The Platform also wishes to explore the wider cultural field in which design and fashion operate and the ways in which they become meaningful and even constitutive of consumer’s identities. The platform combines theoretical, historical and comparative approaches to design and fashion, and welcomes all researchers and students interested in the field. Organizers: Anneke Smelik (Radboud University Nijmegen), Javier Gimeno-Martínez (VU University Amsterdam) and Joana Ozorio de Almeida Meroz (VU University Amsterdam).

- The Master Design Cultures, VU University Amsterdam
Since 1 September 2010, the Faculty of Arts of VU University Amsterdam, offers the first fully accredited, internationally oriented Master’s programme Design Cultures. The MA programme Design Cultures is all about the study of product design, graphic design and fashion in a broad diverse cultural context. The focus is on both the designer as ‘author’ and the complex chain of production, sale, consumption and criticism in which design operates and derives its many different meanings. Design Cultures restores design as the core object of academic interest without detracting from the cultural and material context in which it operates. The programme combines a generalist, comparative approach to design with a clear focus on history and theory.