Tuesday, 4 April 2017

In and Out of Sight

The latest set of installations in the Gallery brings together the work of four artists: Catherine Bertola, Cath Campbell, Jo Coupe, and Jennifer Douglas. Near the gallery entrance, walls are lined with Douglas’ large canvases of distressed canvases coated with hues of grey floor paint upon which varying marks have been made. In the alcove opposite, Coupe’s sound installation fills the upper gallery space with the sound of the artist’s voice, humming in imitation of the different buzzing of 50hz and 60hz electricity transformers. The hums sound a chorus that fades in and out, becoming, at times, indistinguishable from the background noise of the fans of the workshops. Coupe’s large photographs, that capture the visible effects of electromagnets on a camera, lead us into the main part of the gallery, where Campbell and Bertola share the space.

Campbell has filled the main floor area with a tar-paper shack, inspired by a found photograph of John Steinbeck, taken during his time spent in a migrant camp conducting research for The Grapes of Wrath. The shack houses another sound installation, that plays a dislocated soundtrack for the silent film to be screened in the neighbouring room. The sound is a migrant voice, singing a song that incorporates subtitles from the film, as it narrates a journey that follows the route of dustbowl migrants. Separating the two parts of Campbell’s project, Bertola has painted directly onto the gallery walls, using ash, an image of the interior of a stately home that was lost to fire. Her other works on display are smaller, framed photographs of other grand interiors, also destroyed by flames.

These artists have worked independently in the development of their contributions to the shared exhibition, and did not directly collaborate. Campbell describes making no attempt to force the separate works to “fit together”, and yet, serendipitously, “it comes together”. As the works were installed in the gallery space, connections became apparent, and key themes emerged to unite the separate projects.

The most apparent shared theme is the built environment. All of the artists have, in their own way, engaged with habitation and architecture. Interior surfaces (predominantly floors and walls) are a focus for all four artists, with each artist exploring their chosen surface in a different way. Some works, like those of Coupe and Bertola, consider the recording and depiction of interior surfaces, while others, like those of Douglas and Campbell, refer to the occupation and use of those spaces.

Bertola and Campbell present two very different domestic spaces. Campbell’s modest shack references a drive to carve out habitable space in a hostile environment, far from the comfortable and profusely ornamented stately homes that are pictured in Bertola’s interiors. The side-by-side location of these two artists’ work emphasizes the extreme contrasts between two ways of life, in the pioneering United States and the well-established UK.

Both Bertola and Coupe employ forms of self-reference in their treatment of walls. Drawing from a photograph of a lost interior, Bertola has stenciled the wall with a greyscale imitation of wallpaper, running down to a flat depiction of a dado rail. The gallery floor is extended, as trompe l’oeil, into an image of the floor from Bertola’s source photograph. The painted dado rail and floor converge, evidencing that Bertola’s subject is not an interior itself, but rather, that interior as it was captured at a particular moment, through a particular lens.

Coupe’s photographs, printed on aluminium, depict the white walls of another gallery, photographed at a time when the artist’s camera was affected by the switchable magnets that she was using for another project. The photographed wall texture is visible through the rainbow of colour that is a side-effect of magnetic interference, revealing the similarity between this photographed surface and the white wall on which the print is currently hanging. Framed by the white wall of its current location, the image invites us to consider the contrast between the gallery wall and an identical surface, filtered through the lens of a malfunctioning camera. Thus, the eye and the camera are revealed as two different ways of viewing a surface, each capable of producing a different image of the same subject.

Coupe’s sound installation also engages with the built environment, albeit less directly. Although the sound is itself abstract, Coupe has approached the project as a sculptor, aware of the relationship between sound and space. The humming that emits from her speakers echoes around the surrounding walls, drawing an audible picture of the space. When installing the sound, Coupe was conscious of the competing sounds that exist within the Gallery, from the whir of the workshop fans to the hum of the cafe fridge at the other end of the room. With so many similar sounds, Coupe’s layered recordings become part of the architecture of the building.

Douglas’s attention is focused on another part of the interior: the floor. Her canvases are coated with floor paint, then scratched and marked in imitation of the marks left by people as they move regularly through an interior space. Like Coupe, Douglas also approaches her work as a sculptor. Her practice begins with explorations of materials in relation to form and space. She sees her canvases not as paintings but as “sculptures on a surface”.

These varied approaches to built spaces, including domestic and gallery spaces, unite these artists in unforseen ways. Attention to inhabited space is just one of many ways in which the various works converge and connect, and over a series of blog posts I will be exploring these convergences in more detail, prompted by conversations and responses from invited guests. You can read blog posts about the individual artists, and the dialogue surrounding this show, here: https://uhartsresident.wordpress.com/blog/

Thursday, 23 March 2017

DHeritage student successes at History Department Annual Conference

The DHeritage Programme at the University of Hertfordshire is now in its third year, with three cohorts of part-time students working in heritage roles professionally and working, too, on new research into heritage-related issues for their professional doctorates. Campus-based DHeritage students meets for four or five bespoke heritage workshops during each academic year, and in addition they are encourage to attend three residential programmes: the Spring and Summer Schools hosted by the Doctoral College's Researcher Development Programme, and the annual History Department conference held each year in February at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park. This year, DHeritage was very well represented at the conference and what follows gives a flavour of the proceedings.

Dorney Court at dusk, February 2017.
We began with a pre-conference tour of Dorney Court, kindly organised by third-year DHeritage student Helen Casey. Dorney Court is one of England's finest Tudor manor houses and remains in private ownership. Our tour guide explained the layers of history and material culture contained within this extraordinary family home and the problems of upkeep. The tour offered a special glimpse into an often hidden world and a life very different to that of most of us.

The academic sessions began with Prof John Styles' talk ‘Fashion to a Timetable: The Origins of the Modern Fashion System’. Prof Styles opened by noting that writing on fashion has proliferated as a result of Berg’s (now Bloomsbury's) publishing activity, and that much of this writing has focussed on identity. He traced this intellectual tendency back to the influence of Stephen Greenblatt’s book Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare (1980). Identity is not the only lens through which to view fashion, however. Another way to think about the history of dress and textiles is as indicative of fashionable change based on innovation and trade in textiles. Fashionable change in western dress of the early modern period is perceived as being in contrast to a sense of staticity in the rest of the world. The amount of choice allowed even to poorer women is indicated by, for example, the c. 1000 printed cottons in the Foundling Hospital collection for the years 1758-9 alone. There were annual changes in woven silks in Lyon, c. 1700 and annualised fashion made timing crucial for sales success. In 1681, the directors of the East India Company were aware that European women would prefer to buy and wear inferior silks than last year’s silk, while making a single silk could take more than four months.

The annualised fashion cycle arose in the 17th century for three reasons:
  1. Mercantilism - Colbert promoted French manufacturing in three ways, including the removal of tax barriers, and capturing foreign markets with monopolies with the intention that Lyon would supplement Italy as the major fashion centre.
  2. Court Dress - Louis XIV's ceremonial approach to dress involved a court dress code, rituals such as the levee and the couchee, and an insistence that members of the court bought French goods. Staff who kept the King's wardrobe were interested in fashionable change because they sold the king's old clothes for personal profit.
  3. Magazines and the fashion press - It was expensive to print images, although they were the best medium for the dissemination of fashion.
Next, Dr Ceri Houlbrook presented her fascinating project 'Concealed Revealed: Material Objects Hidden in Walls':
A hidden shoe up a chimney breast. A mummified cat in the roof space. A child’s cap in a wall cavity. A horse skull under the floorboards. These are just some of the secret objects people have discovered when renovating their homes – undoubtedly quite surprising finds considering the odd (indeed, sometimes quite disturbing) nature of the objects, coupled with their unusual locations.
Read more about Ceri's research in her project blog: https://theconcealedrevealed.wordpress.com 

Saturday morning began with two presentations, Emma Battell Lowman & Adam J Barker's 'Writing History in the Settler Colonial Present' and Paul Lynch, ‘Behind the Curtain: A Glimpse of Life in East Berlin.' Paul's talk ranged from details of the complex security of the Berlin Wall, to amazing archive of photographs taken by the Stasi so that after searching people's homes, they could put the things back in the same places and erase any evidence of their searches. Photographs in this archive include a Western coffee maker, which was at once grounds for suspicion and a source of refreshment, a US serviceman’s coat, posters of the pop star Madonna, and an unmade bed. Lynch also discussed the Oscar-winning 2006 film The Lives of Others, writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's story of Stasi officer Gerd Wiesler. 

The presentations continued with Simon Langsdale's 'St Albans is dying in a blaze': Bribery, Corruption, Theft and Embezzlement in a Hertfordshire Market Town 1835 - c.1853' and Bridget Long's, 'London Asylum for Girls (Asylum for Orphans and other Deserted Girls of the Poor) and their needlework training in the second half of the eighteenth century.' Long began with the observation that the weaver could weave thread faster than the spinner could spin. Spinning was therefore the biggest occupation for women in early modern England, occupying 1.5 million women. Impoverished girls taken in by the Foundling Hospital were taught to spin, while their male counterparts were sent off to the Navy. Economic historians have had difficulty quantifying the amount that spinners spun, and we don’t know how well they were paid. Trimmer, writing on the 'oeconomy of charity' had a school of industry in which industry meant spinning.

The Spinstress, 1782-6, by George Romney, of Emma Hart, later Lady Hamilton, Lady Nelson

Saturday afternoon saw two DHeritage sessions punctuated by Dr Friedrich (Rudi) Newman's talk '"Hoy, Hoy, Where are you coming to?" – The Great Thames Disasters', in which he shared research which forms a chapter of his new book and made the audience concerned about the safety of their own excursions on the water!  

Memorial card for the Princess Alice which sank near Woolwich, September 3rd, 1878

Four DHeritage students presented their doctoral research in the final panel of the day: first years Sarah Buckingham and Janine Marriott, second year student Charlotte Reynolds, and Helen Casey, who is in her third part-time year of study.  

DHeritage students (L-R) Charlotte Reynolds, Helen Casey, Janine Marriott and Sarah Buckingham
In her presentation, 'Public Engagement with and attitudes to sites of memorial, death and remembrance. A toolkit for Public Engagement' Janine Marriott explained how sites of burial, memorialisation and remembrance have long been associated with learning and public engagement, from the Victorian Garden Cemetery and its ‘improving influence’ through to modern day visits to battlefields for enthusiasts, or school trips to Auschwitz for study of world history. Although increasingly popular and acceptable heritage destinations, such sites are not always included when research is undertaken or studies are published in the heritage field. These sites are not traditional heritage venues like stately homes, museums, galleries or archives but often comprise elements of these and heritage models can be partially applied to them. Increasingly sites of remembrance such as cemeteries, battlefields, prisons, former concentration camps, or even places where an event like the September 11th attacks occurred, are becoming firmly established as part of the heritage landscape.

Janine's study of a range of memorialisation sites seeks to gather together the different ways that people learn and experience these sites and how they interact with what can be extremely challenging and provoking places. Such places are often labelled ‘Dark Tourism’ or ‘challenging history’ because death is a major theme and is regarded as taboo. Among specific heritage communities there is, therefore, a growing array of experience and learning, but no pooled body of knowledge. Janine will explore a number of case studies, and produce resources and research that can be used to advise and support such venues when engaging the public.

Sarah Buckingham asked 'How might the major crisis for heritage in Syria prompt a reconsideration of both our principles and practical approaches for major interventions to rehabilitate heritage sites in response to war, natural disaster or following extensive abandonment or dereliction?' The question is posed with particular reference to the involvement of traditional trades and crafts in rehabilitation works, and how that might affect concepts of authenticity and integrity. The debate prompted by the destruction of major monuments and world heritage sites in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East by the “Islamic State” or as a by-product of conflict has the potential to prompt a significant reconsideration of contemporary approaches to heritage and its conservation, raising questions as it does particularly about the concept of 'authenticity', and how that influences its treatment. Questions of whether to reconstruct destroyed or partially destroyed sites rest heavily on the issue of authenticity – that is, it is implied, the importance of largely or wholly original fabric in something like its original disposition. Where sites have been blow up and cleared by bulldozer, the argument goes, authenticity can lie only in the fragmented remains. Many historic buildings and places, including key archaeological sites in Syria, have often been the subject of considerable interventions both historically and in the more recent past and the apparent authenticity may be in part illusory – this is not always factored into this argument.

Helen Casey's research explored 'Digital decisions – lessons from the recent past about using the technology of the future'. Around 2000, Helen told us, heritage writers made predictions, positive and negative, about the digital future. Some argued that heritage would be democratised through access to all. Others despaired that we are creating a digital black hole into which all of our data will disappear. Gordon Reid's article 'The Digitisation of Heritage Material' (2000) is apposite here. Writers compare the advent of the internet with that of the printing press. Helen reviewed the ideas of Peter Haddad, director of the technical service branch of the national library of Australia (2001), Ross Parry's 'Recoding the Museum: Digital Heritage and the Technologies of Change' (2007) and Dr Ruth Taylor of the National Trust, writing in Alison Hems and Marion R. Blockley's edited collection Heritage Interpretation (2006). Helen has a raft of questions about digitisation: Have people cooperated or worked in their own silos? What has ended up online – democratisation or black hole? What about interpretation, what information surrounds the digital objects? Are virtual visitors the same as real ones when museums still need footfall. Factors determining digitisation include cost, time, expertise, fear of obsolescence, etc. She plans a series of semi-structured interviews with heritage professionals and her method will blend grounded theory with narrative analysis, and policy analysis.

This panel closed with a presentation by Professor Rebecca Houze, TVAD Research Group Visiting Researcher for 2016-17. Prof Houze shared her research into the US National Parks Service. This project examines the European origins of the US National Park Service Rustic buildings within a broader context of industrialization and travel, looking specifically at the transatlantic relationship between Europe and North America that developed in the nineteenth century. It takes as its model and point of departure art critic Rosalind Krauss’s influential 1979 essay, 'Sculpture in the Expanded Field,' which seeks to understand Earthworks, such as the large-scale environmental projects by Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, and others during that period, as a new form of sculpture. Likewise we may think of the lodges, camps, train depots, trails, roads, gateway entrances, and other structures in the United States National Park Service Rustic Style, built between the period of the turn-of-the century lodges and the modernizing upgrades of the Mission 66 program after World War II, collectively as an 'open air museum.' The key characteristics of the open air museum are its self-conscious situation and dramatic presentation in the landscape in the form of architecture and staging of transportation routes; its deliberate juxtaposition of primitive with civilized, above all, through the evoking of a lost or disappearing indigenous past, signified by native flora, fauna, and peoples; and in the US context, its didactic, mythologized narrative of American national identity by constructing and dramatizing the landscape as antiquity and place of origin.

Prof Rebecca Houze discussing the visual presentation of the US National Parks

The project identifies common structural features of the open-air museum, particularly in its manifestation as National Park in the United States. It begins with a meditation on lodges and camps as places to stay within the parks, and their broader relationship to other dwelling types, including the log cabin, rural farmhouse, and tent. The best-known rustic lodges were developed after the prominence of grand resort hotels in the last part of the nineteenth century, many of which were modelled on aristocratic Victorian prototypes. The early twentieth-century examples, by contrast, incorporated native building materials, and forms appropriate to the cultural and climatic traditions of the regions that they represented. The lodges of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Mt. Rainier, and the Grand Canyon explore a new American architecture with roots in the Shingle and Stick Styles, as well as the British Arts and Crafts tradition. These modes are related both to a nostalgia for the log cabin, associated with the self-sufficiency of the pioneer against hostile nature, as well as with the moral and intellectual achievements in American political life, as in the case of President Abraham Lincoln’s own humble beginnings in his childhood log cabin. While connected to the log cabin on the American side of the Atlantic, the lodges also draw upon romantic European perceptions of the wooden farmhouse, and in particular the Scandinavian and Alpine chalet, which had been popularized as a charming, fanciful form of building in both Europe and North America for much of the nineteenth century. This association, easily seen in the many treatises on landscape architecture and domestic dwellings published during that period by Andrew Jackson Downing and Henry Hubbard, is complicated by the fact of European immigrant carpenters who were employed to construct and furnish the new lodges in the park, suggesting possibly closer connections between the European and American structures. Much less is known about the workers themselves than the architects who designed and concession companies who financed these buildings.

The day ended with a screening of Tim Slade's powerful film The Destruction of Memory (2016), introduced by Sarah Buckingham, who also chaired a group discussion afterwards. The film includes interviews with the Director-General of UNESCO, the Prosecutor of the ICC, and international experts across various disciplines. The following group discussion centred on what is worth saving, hierarchies of value, and authenticity and inauthenticity in reconstruction processes.

Robert Bevan in The Destruction of Heritage, dir. Tim Slade
On Sunday morning some members of the group attended services at the Royal Chapel in the grounds of nearby Royal Lodge while others participated in a practical workshop on writing and publishing academic articles followed by a postgraduate student talk on completing and submitting your thesis. In the final session we played the 'impact game' which encouraged us to think about new ways to engage different audiences with our research. 

DHeritage staff and students closed the weekend with a short walk around the Cow Pond, and looked ahead to next year. The History Department conference this year saw a wealth of information shared about material culture, not only in the papers presented by DHeritage students and by Prof Rebecca Houze for TVAD, but also by the members of the History Dept. who are not directly involved with the DHeritage Programme. The material turn is apparently in full effect at the University of Hertfordshire!

Monday, 6 March 2017

In and Out of Sight: Catherine Bertola, Cath Campbell, Jo Coupe and Jennifer Douglas

Two TVAD researchers, Dr Barbara Brownie and Dr Grace Lees-Maffei, are involved with events supporting this new exhibition at UH Galleries, which runs from 18 March - 6 May 2017 in the Art and Design Gallery, College Lane, Hatfield.

UH Galleries tells us that "In and Out of Sight is a dynamic exhibition encompassing drawing, sculpture, film, installation and live works by four artists from the North East of England. Performance is the starting point for this new work and, while none of the artists  would describe themselves as performers, increasingly they are realizing the role of performance inherent in the research, making or presentation of their work."  Read more...

Get Involved:
Round Table with Catherine Bertola
Thursday 27 April, 1-2.30pm, Art and Design Gallery
Join us for an informal discussion with Catherine Bertola and historians Dr Grace Lees-Maffei and Dr Rachel Rich about the performative nature of domestic space. Booking not required. FREE!
Closing Event with Artists' Talk
Tuesday 2 May, 4-7pm, Art and Design Gallery
You are invited to a celebratory viewing of this evolving exhibition as it draws to a close. All four artists will be in conversation with writer Lizzie Lloyd from 4-5pm. Booking not required. FREE!
Read our blog! 
You can follow the development of the exhibition and read interviews with the artists and articles discussing the themes of the exhibition on our dedicated blog written by Dr Barbara Brownie.
Sad Bones (unknown interior #3), Catherine Bertola 2013
Copyright © 2017 UHGalleries, All rights reserved. Image courtesy of the artist and Workplace Gallery
UH Galleries
UH Arts 
University of Hertfordshire
Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL10 9AB
United Kingdom.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Sarah Evans and David Kefford: Collaborative Drawing

Last week, Aid & Abet (AKA Sarah Evans and David Kefford) facilitated an experimental drawing session in the Art & Design Gallery. Inspired by Surrealist and Dadaist games, Evans and Kefford invited participants from across the School of Creative Arts to collaborate, led by the research question, "what happens when you combine, collide and layer multiple artworks?"

Participants were presented with an array of mark-making materials, boxes of everyday objects, overhead projectors, and reams of paper on which they were invited to project "3-4 small scale objects", and "trace around the silhouettes". They were then invited to cut sections from printed images, produced in advanced by the artists, and to combine these with the traced silhouettes. Although beginning with these very precise instructions, participants were free to subvert the guidelines and make unexpected decisions about the treatment of the available objects and materials. They invited audiences to engage in a dialogue, not with words, but with actions and images. Kefford describes this as "call and response" - a process in which one participant (or Kefford himself) creates a mark or image, and then invites others to respond by altering or building upon what he has created. 


In this process, work is never finished. When one participant ends his or her creation, another may continue to develop or transform it. An image may be fragmented or disassembled, then overlapped, combined, and reassembled in new ways. It is "transient; never really fixed". This constant evolution inevitably results from a desire to a focus on the process rather than the outcome. "The final work is in the moment", says Kefford,  and in "the experience. We do not produce tangible objects, but are more interested in the moment of making and being."


As in many collaborations with audiences, questions of ownership arise. Sarah and David do see themselves as authoring the project, but are creators of the conditions for the production of work, rather than producers of the work itself. They provide the materials and set the stage for the collaboration, as well as providing guidelines for participants. To that extent, they define the nature of participation. Kefford describes finding a balance between the desire to invite participants to contribute "on their own terms", and the need to constrain their contributions. The artists see the collaboration as "democratic", and "non-hierarchical", but also recognise that "if anything goes... it could become chaotic".

There are, therefore, "conditions" of participation. They share images of their own previous work, in the hope of guiding participants to work in similar ways.  They have also posted a specific list of instructions on the gallery walls, telling participants how many objects they should use, providing an order in which the various stages of creation should take place, and even imposing overall aims on participants' activities, guiding them to "create new abstract patterns through association". These conditions lead to "expectations about the process, but not the outcomes". Evans and Kefford "steer and "shape" the process to suit their own sensibilities, but also celebrate unexpected responses.

One way in which they maintain control over the outcome is by limiting the availability of materials. Mark-making materials are only available in black and white. This, says Evans, is how they ensure that "everything feels like part of a single, cohesive artwork". The artists' participation at the start of the session guides others to use materials in similar ways. As a result, participants from a range of backgrounds find themselves instinctively turning to the same methods and gestures. The work of one participant becomes indistinguishable from that of another, and the artefacts spread across the gallery feel as though they are products of the same mind.


For Kefford, one benefit of collaboration of this kind is the opportunity for learning that arises from watching how participants respond to the task. He invites them to interfere, and embraces unexpected responses, desiring to learn alternative approaches to the materials and tasks laid out in the gallery. On this occasion, the artists were thrilled to see how participants made unexpected use of the discarded remnants of printouts of their previous work, turning them into three-dimensional forms. After the artists had cut out objects from these printouts, participants retrieved the negative shapes that were left behind and twisted them into sculptural forms, arranging them in ways that cast interesting shadows on the walls. These unexpected, sculptural responses, says Evans, were made possible by the quality of the light in the gallery and the thick paper of the printouts, both of which were serendipitously discovered by participants, and unplanned by the artists.

Evans notes that audiences gain by observing as well as watching. During their time in the gallery, a number of observers chose to watch but not participate. Kefford identifies the value in watching, both for the artist and the observer. The presence of an audience transforms the project into a work of performance art, giving value to the methods of production as well as the outcomes.

Though Evans and Kefford have invited participants and observers into their Cambridge studio in the past, Evans notes that the experience in the UH gallery was very different. This was an "opportunity to upscale", and Evans found working at this scale particularly informative. She noted that, in such a public setting, the artist cannot hide. She and her process are exposed to the scrutiny of passers-by, making her hyper-aware of how her work looks at every stage.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

TVAD Talks 2017 Update

Out monthly research seminars, TVAD Talks, continue on the second Wednesday of each month during term time. We are half-way through the 2016-17 series of TVAD Talks and a couple of changes have been made to the programme, so an update is timely. Please find details of the three remaining TVAD Talks for this academic year. All are welcome to attend TVAD Talks - please RSVP with TVAD Research Group Leader, Dr Grace Lees-Maffei, g.lees-maffei@herts.ac.uk for catering purposes.

Weds 8th February 2017 - Femke de Vries, HKU University of the Arts Utrecht, (www.FemkeDeVries.com) ‘DICTIONARY DRESSINGS: Clothing definitions decoded and translated towards alternative fashion perspectives’. Respondent: Professor Rebecca Houze, Northern Illinois University.

Dictionary definitions are generally experienced as factual and rational and in the case of clothing show no connection to the mythical character of fashion. They describe the characteristics of the items, the modes of use and/or the relation to the body but fashion or style is not mentioned. For example: “Handschoen: bekleding van de hand” (Literally translated to English as Glove: covering of the hand). It becomes clear that a hand can be covered by putting it in a pocket, by bandaging it or by sitting on it, turning a pair of trousers into a glove for they cover the hand and therefore suffice to the definition.In this on-going project the nature of the dictionary definition as a ‘zero condition’ of a piece of clothing is used not to find a general truth of a piece of clothing, but to re-read clothes and explore an alternative fashion vocabulary. This vocabulary will take the shape of an image archive, theoretical and design-led approaches by experts and students brought together in a publication, website, workshops and catalogues of these workshops.

Weds 15th March 2017 – Peter Thomas, Middlesex University and Dr Grace Lees-Maffei, University of Hertfordshire, ‘The Poster Session as Fusing Theory and Practice in (Art and) Design Education: Exhibiting an Occluded Genre’

This talk presents our research on the pedagogical benefits of poster sessions for teaching contextual studies in design education. The academic poster has been used most extensively in the sciences, but we argue that its particular pertinence in design education is undervalued to date. Design students have visual and design skills which can be applied to the production of a poster, but also their verbal experience of speech acts such as ‘crits’ (studio evaluations) and speaking to design outputs in a client pitch can be applied in the talk which takes place in poster sessions. Because the production of posters and the poster sessions where they are displayed and discussed draw on skills which students use in the studio, they have the capacity to bridge theory and practice when used in contextual studies for design students, in content, form and process.

Much of the secondary pedagogical literature on posters is fundamentally about ‘how-to’ design a poster; it is instructional. Our focus here is, rather, on the pedagogical affordances of the poster and poster session. While the how-to material focuses on the production of an outcome, our approach focuses on the poster as process, bridging theory and practice and affording a site for talk. The instructional approach we deem as being principally of benefit to the learners / makers of posters, and the learning benefits we expect to be of interest to teachers, as well as learners to some extent.

Posters are, in some senses, what Swales calls an 'occluded genre', in that they are often used to support the development of a more high stakes text, and in these cases are to an extent comparatively hidden. Our students have found the process of research and making a poster, talking about it and talking to other students about their posters in dedicated poster sessions to be very useful in developing ideas, and learning to express their ideas, about contextual studies topics as part of the preparation for an essay. We base our talk on primary pedagogical research we have conducted with undergraduate design students in two North London universities and with postgraduate students of design cultures in a Dutch university, and a review of the relevant secondary literature across a number of academic disciplines.

Weds 10th May 2017 – Dr Nicolas P. Maffei, Norwich University of the Arts, ‘The Responsive Brand: Uniformity and Flexibility in Logo Design’

From the uniformity of modernism to the embrace of difference, this talk explores the historical shift from static to dynamic logos, from universal international brand identities to more flexible and responsive corporate personalities. This transformation occurred over a period extending from the nineteenth century to the present, and includes the roots of branding, the ideals of modernism, the emergence of the critical consumer, the development of the responsive corporation, and the co-creation of brands in online landscapes. From Peter Behrens’ designs for the German Allgemeine Elektrizitäts-Gesellschaft (AEG), in 1907, considered the first corporate identity, to Paul Rand’s flexible and humanizing identity developed for International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) after WWII, this talk reviews the rise of the unchanging logo and, in turn, the multivalent brand-mark. In addition, the design responses of corporations to the vocal and ethically informed consumer are surveyed via the anti-branding movement, which has targeted Starbucks and McDonalds among other corporations. Nike is examined through local reinterpretations of the global brand. Gap’s failed logo of 2010 shows the power of the online consumer and the need for companies to listen and respond. Finally, brand reactions to the responsive consumer – characterized by chameleon-like logo transformation and an emphasis on user interaction and co-production of meaning, are investigated through the designs for telecommunications company Ollo (Bibliothèque, 2012), the identity for the Tate museums (Wolff Olins, 1999), and Experimental Jetset’s Responsive ‘W’ for The Whitney Museum (2011).

For more information, Contact Dr Grace Lees-Maffei, TVAD Research Group Leader and TVAD Talks Convenor, g.lees-maffei@herts.ac.uk