Thursday, 7 June 2018

Between ‘Revere’ and ‘Remove’

Students on the DHeritage programme at University of Hertfordshire met for one of the regular programme of workshops on 14th May 2018. Convened by Professor Sarah Lloyd, the programme for the day focussed on the concepts of ‘Remembering and Forgetting’.  It brought together students and staff at UH involved in the DHeritage with several external speakers addressing issues of ‘memory’ within their research. The day covered issues of migration (Dr Eureka Henrich), slavery (Dr Jessica Moody) and the heritage of tomorrow (Dr Esther Breithoff) in addition to contributions from students dealing with these questions in professional practice.

By chance, the workshop coincided with one of a series of evening debates organised by Intelligence² and Historic England and held in Westminster Revere or Remove? The Battle Over Statues Heritage and History’. This discussion, led by historians and journalists, addressed the subject of memory, and how such a contested concept is dealt with publicly, particularly in the multicultural and multi voiced 21st century context.

Managed by Jonathan Freedland, Guardian columnist and author, the Panel comprised Peter Frankopan, Research Fellow at Worcester College, Oxford; writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch; author Tiffany Jenkins, Honorary Fellow at the University of Edinburgh; and David Olusoga, Historian and Broadcaster.  Each presented a position statement generated initially in response to the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign (https://rmfoxford.wordpress.com), which has recently campaigned to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College in Oxford, and the decision to remove a statue of confederate general Robert E Lee from a park in Charlottesville, USA.  In many ways the responses and positions described were personal and reflected the experiences of the speakers.  Olusoga spoke with passion about the statue of merchant and slaver Edward Colston in Bristol, contrasting his own confidence in dealing with such memorials with that of others without his depth of historical knowledge.  He deconstructed the purpose of such statues and demonstrated both their erroneous portrayal of history and the changing nature of their meaning in contemporary society.  He urged the removing of Colston to a different site where his legacy could be debated in a context based on learning, not on the reverence that is hard to avoid when a viewer is physically required to ‘look up’ to a statue.  Jenkins took the position that relocation of statues simply relocated the issues. She noted the poor aesthetic quality of many such memorials and invoked the concepts of current relevance and the passing of time as determinants of the appropriate actions and responses to memorials.  As the contested statues are primarily in public places, her position was to leave responsibility with the public.  Where memorials are wanted they will be cared for, where no longer relevant they will be neglected and decline.  This approach reflects an emerging debate within the museum and heritage world regarding the potential for ‘managed decline’ of objects and places which are difficult to maintain for a range of reasons.  The need to forget as well as to remember was referenced although in a situation where the issues which some statues symbolise clearly continue to remain unaddressed, it seemed premature to move directly from ‘revere’ to ‘remove’ without further consideration.


All of the panellists at some point found themselves at risk of entanglement with the intricacies of this debate.  Hirsch urged the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes but also described the importance of monuments as part of the relationship of the present with the past.  Frankopan offered the view that the ‘winds of history’ mean that all statues will eventually fall, and that indeed, it is their ultimate function.  All felt that there should be some critique of each circumstance and a greater understanding of the history that each monument represents.  While an obvious response to the situation under discussion, this led inevitably to a discussion of the limitations of history teaching and public knowledge and to the fact that many statues are symbolic reductions of complex situations.  Their original meanings may have been lost and may be of limited relevance for the majority of those who view them today.  While some statues have little meaning at any one time, some have disproportionality significant meaning, becoming symbols of contemporary concerns. Olusoga pointed out that the Bristol statue of Colston was erected two hundred years after his death.  In this situation is the statue more realistically considered as something of the 19th rather than the 17th or 18th century?  Jenkins in particular cautioned about the dangers of being ‘enslaved to the past’.  If Bristol was provided with a statue of Colston in the 1890’s as part of a battle for power within the city’s merchant class, then it seemed entirely possible by the end of the debate that by removing it, Bristol could be signifying a sense of itself for the future, not seeking to remove an unpleasant figure and an unpalatable sense of its past.

Edward Colston, Bristol ©Barbara Wood

Reflecting on the workshop and the evening debate it seems as if the issues of both were less concerned with the meaning of statues and memorials at the time of erection and more about their function in establishing new identities for places and for society for the future.  A contributor from the audience, part of a campaign group aiming to remove the Colston statue spoke about the fundraising to establish a memorial to the 32000 people who died because of Colston’s’ activities and a museum of slavery in Bristol.  Meaning changes and develops even within living memory. Centuries after they were established, many of the remains under discussion seem inconsequential in themselves. It was their currency in the present that was important. It is surely our opportunity and responsibility to erect statues and memorials to what is important today, if - as Frankopan pointed out - anybody is interested enough to do that. 

Barbara Wood
Doctoral Candidate (DHeritage Programme)
@CuratorSW 

References
DeSilvey, C. (2017) Curated Decay Heritage Beyond Saving. University of Minnesota Press.

Jenkins, T. (2016) Keeping their marbles How the treasures of the past ended up in museums and why they should stay there. Oxford University Press. 

Monday, 16 April 2018

Research in the School of Creative Arts

The TVAD Research Group is just one of several research groups in the School of Creative Arts at the University of Hertfordshire. Staff move freely between groups examining Contemporary Arts Practice, Design Research, Media Research and the Digital Hack Lab as well as TVAD. Read more about the groups on our website here: https://www.herts.ac.uk/apply/schools-of-study/creative-arts/creative-arts-research

Some of our researchers were interviewed last year about their work and its significance for a film made by Freddie Gerrard-Abbott with Jak Kimsey and Antoine Proust. This film introduces the research of Dr Dan Goodbrey, Dr Pat Simpson, Dr Silvio Carta, Kim Akass, Prof Marty St James, Dr Steven Adams, Prof Simeon Nelson and Prof Grace Lees-Maffei. Hear them talking about their research in this film:

Research in the School of Creative Arts: An Overview from School of Creative Arts on Vimeo.

Find out more about TVAD's researchers, including Dan Goodbrey, Pat Simpson, Silvio Carta, Steven Adams and Grace Lees-Maffei on the TVAD researcher profile pages here: Link

Monday, 26 February 2018

DHeritage Professional Doctorate in Heritage Recruitment Now Open for September 2018!

DHeritage, the University of Hertfordshire's unique Professional Doctorate in Heritage, is now in its fourth year. Our programme enables heritage professionals working in the public and private sectors to reflect on the industry, broadly defined, and make an original contribution to knowledge and understanding in the field based on their professional practice.
Our students work across the heritage area, and are engaged in impactful heritage studies research on topics such as authenticity and authority, dark tourism, conservation and restitution, digital heritage and how museums serve and represent local communities, to name a few. Read about their research here: http://tvad-uh.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/DHeritage 

DHeritage is hosted by the Department of Humanities with contributions from world-leading staff working in History, Philosophy, Education, Creative Arts, Hertfordshire Business School and the University’s flagship Heritage Hub, among others, and including Prof Sarah Lloyd, Prof John StylesDr Susan Parham, Prof Jonathan Morris, Dr Nika Balomenou and Prof Grace Lees-Maffei. DHeritage is offered part-time and is delivered through campus-based workshops and online equivalents. This doctorate is available for home (UK and EU) and international students. The University of Hertfordshire is twenty minutes from London by train, and is served by national rail and Luton, Stansted and the other London airports.

**New for the 2018 entry is our distance-learning registration, which provides a complete suite of online workshops in addition to some campus participation.**   

We are now recruiting students for the 2018/19 academic year. Applications are invited by Monday 28th May for a September 2018 start:


  • Read more about DHeritage here: http://www.herts.ac.uk/courses/doctorate-in-heritage and on the Heritage Hub site here
  • Contact mail Programme Director Professor Grace Lees-Maffei for more information about DHeritage, a guide to preparing a research proposal and an application form: g.lees-maffei@herts.ac.uk 
  • Apply direct: http://www.herts.ac.uk/apply/how-to-apply-for-a-course#directly


  • We look forward to welcoming you to DHeritage at the University of Hertfordshire!



    Monday, 12 February 2018

    The Braun Identity: The Emergence and Development of Braun Design in the 1950s


    The transformation of West Germany from post-war-austerity to international design powerhouse remains one of the more remarkable events in the history of twentieth century design. In just a few short years, the relatively isolated realms of industrial design, consumer product manufacturing and the gute form (good design) movement coalesced into a potent force for change. At the centre of this change and in the larger historical narrative that situates and describes twentieth-century German design, the consumer product manufacturer Braun enjoys an almost mythical status. Following the company’s formulation of a new design program in the mid-1950s, Braun products have been showcased and celebrated at more exhibitions than any other comparable company. This achievement led the global media company Forbes to recognise the company as being responsible for one of the greatest demonstrations of design culture. For some scholars and critics alike, Braun’s products from this era reflect basic human values including authenticity, integrity and honesty. For others, they are the very incarnation of German perfectionism. Braun, according to Bernd Polster, “is not merely a trademark; it stands for an all-encompassing concept”.





    Revised logo - Wolfgang Schmittel 1952.


    The story of Braun’s meteoric rise in the early 1950s and 1960s has been reiterated so often by historians that it has seemingly become accepted in the popular consciousness. Undeniably, Braun’s pursuit of a particular set of ideals was so remarkable that in a single decade it transformed the German company from a small, though well-established, consumer product manufacturer, into the ultimate standard-bearer of West German modern design. During this period, Braun were unrelenting in their adoption and implementation of a global philosophy. Their ability to exhibit more than physical products — to link their design output to a lifestyle, world-view and even pseudo-philosophical system — made them synonymous with a type of design excellence that would become West Germany’s calling card for international and cultural acceptance during the 1950s and 1960s.

    Braun’s process of transformation began with the formulation of a new company philosophy in the mid-1950s. Under the direction of brothers Erwin and Artur Braun and Dr. Fritz Eichler, Braun’s cultural and structural realignment quickly expanded well beyond the design and manufacture of consumer products. Spurred forward by their creative relationship with the educational institution Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm (Ulm School of Design), Braun began to not only implement a holistic design pattern in their products, but they began to pay detailed attention to other elements of the industrial and consumer purchase process. Such elements include an almost unprecedented (for the era) fascination with graphic art, typeface, packaging, point of sale merchandising, exhibitions and visual communication in print advertising. Throughout the mid-1950s and 1960s, these processes were examined, refined and standardised, before finally becoming what graphic designer Wolfgang Schmittel describes as “the consolidation and realisation of a profusion of ideas and impulses to form a clear conception of the company”. This supposedly “clear conception” implemented through a modern lifestyle and communicated to the world through its visual communication (advertising), is the focus of my present dissertation.





    Braun Phonosuper SK4 (Snow White's Coffin) - 1956
    Designers: Dieter Rams and Hans Gugolet
    Images: HfG-Archi Ulm, Ulm.



    These ideas about morality and honesty in representation are close to the heart of the research question my dissertation seeks to answer. One of the very few academics to have critically evaluated Braun’s attempt to visually communicate a lifestyle in their advertising, is Erica Carter. In her article: The Aesthetics of Rationality - Braun in 1950s West Germany, Carter revaluates the widely-held view that Braun only played one role in post-war West Germany: that of the leader in consumer product design and technical innovation. She argues instead that the impact of the company on post-war modern design in general, should be revisited within the context of political, economic and social debates of the time. This requires acknowledging the power Braun wielded as a force for culture generation and transmission. In this way, Carter reaffirms that the company’s new direction presented the consumer with a lifestyle, one which she specifically terms a “Braun lifestyle”, marketed through a specific strategy in their advertising campaigns. Indeed, Carter even proposes that Braun’s approach to “lifestyle marketing” was so potent that it “paved the way for future generations of lifestyle promoters”. The argument illuminates the disparity between HfG’s guiding vision for design (honesty and morality), and Braun’s own corporate and design philosophy, which was distorted by the consumerist and capitalist framework in which they operated. The company’s efforts to promote a gute form lifestyle, however laudable, served to shape an entirely new set of social norms, pressures and burdens.



    Braun D 55 Stand and various products - 1955
    (mockup installation at the HfG)
    Image: HfG-Archiv Ulm, Ulm. 


    It remains to be argued if indeed Braun sought to perpetuate a specific consumer ideology, or if they reinforced any dominant political agenda in post-war West Germany through their advertising. Currently, the assessment is that Braun had made a deliberate move into the same philosophical space occupied by the HfG; a space in which honesty, integrity and functionality were essential, and incorporated into their advertisements at a foundational level. However, though this move was undoubtedly commendable, the new advertising direction exposes two conflicting dimensions. The first, and perhaps the most obvious break from the Max Braun era, is that from 1955 onwards, all Braun advertising material adhered to one reference concept –developed by Otl Aicher of the HfG in Ulm. Second, and an aspect which is central to the analysis of the main material of this thesis, is that the products are shown in their corresponding idealised environment, acting as document evidence of a modern lifestyle – a Braun Lifestyle. Thus, to pursue these issues, and uncover the layers of significance embedded in Braun’s advertising, they must first be conceptually transformed from physical objects into vessels of meaning. The introduction to my theoretical framework will be my task for the next blog…



    'High Fidelity: Information for Architects' - advertisement - 1962
    Image: Braun Archive, Kronberg.

    Carter, E. (1995). How German is She? Postwar West German Reconstruction and the Consuming Woman. University of Michigan Press.
    Polster, B. (2010). Braun: Fifty Years of Design and Innovation. Axel Menges.
    Schmittel, W. (1978). Visual Process: Development of a Corporate Identity. Konrad Baumann.

    Ian Owen is lecturer in Architecture at the School of Creative Arts, University of Hertfordshire.


    Tuesday, 30 January 2018

    What does migration mean in the UK today? – Poster project by University of Hertfordshire students

    What does it mean to leave everything behind to start again? What happens when the problems of victimisation, lack of work, or exploitation – the very reasons that compelled one to migrate in the first place – are experienced in a newly adopted country?

    Faced with the question of ‘What does migration mean in the UK today?’, second year University of Hertfordshire (UH) graphic design and illustration students were tasked with representing such issues in a single poster. Working individually, the project ran for two months and was part of a larger brief where the students also wrote essays addressing a range of ethical issues in design.




    The brief for this work was intentionally broad. And as can be seen from this selection, the outcome was a wide range of responses, from the personal and autobiographical, to news stories, to designs that touch on the aims and ambitions of the Migration Museum itself.

    Many UH students are either migrants themselves, or the children/grandchildren of migrants. As such, for some, the project opened a space to speak to family members about their migratory experiences. For others, it was a chance to respond to the dominant tabloid narratives of ‘othering’ that have been so prevalent in recent press coverage of the current ‘migration crisis’.

    In this digital age, one can often forget how the poster has long been a vehicle for the dissemination of (mis)information about the subject of migration. Whether as government propaganda, or grass-roots campaigns seeking to challenge the mistreatment of migrants, the poster has the ability to condense a complex range of issues into a single graphic space. As many of these student designs reveal, it still remains a powerful visual tool.

    Chosen by Curator Sue McAlpine, a selection of these posters are currently on display along the stairwell and entrance corridor to the Migration Museum at The Workshop, 26 Lambeth High Street, London, SE1 7LB. http://www.migrationmuseum.org










    Monday, 8 January 2018

    'Hand in Hand: Design History and Victorian Studies'

    I'm delighted to have been invited as keynote speaker for the British Association for Victorian Studies annual conference at the Centre for Victorian Studies, at the University of Exeter, 29-31 August 2018. The conference theme is 'Victorian Patterns' which will no doubt be of interest to historians of all kinds, and especially my fellow design historians. My keynote talk is titled 'Hand in Hand: Design History and Victorian Studies'. 

    Although industrialisation had gained momentum during the 17th and 18th centuries, it was during the C19th that the effects of the industrial revolution were most apparent throughout British society and culture. The successes of mass production in equipping a massively expanding Victorian population were accompanied by far-reaching failures ranging from inhumane labour conditions, and social inequality to compromised aesthetics and quality. These failings were lamented by the design reformers of the C19th in a relay race of aesthetic guardianship from A.W.N. Pugin, to John Ruskin, William Morris and his followers in the Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic Movements. This period is therefore hugely significant for the history of design, and for design history. (Indeed, industrialisation has been so central to the design historical project that those nations to have industrialised late, or little, have been neglected by design historians, who have preferred to focus on the first industrial nations, chiefly the UK, the USA, and Germany. This Western bias has only recently been challenged and addressed through efforts to internationalise design history.)


    Design historians have much to learn from Victorian Studies, therefore, and vice versa. While Victorian Studies focuses on a period of study, and the various area studies explore geographical domains, design history is concerned with the history of design both as a practice and as a series of outputs. In using design to find out about the past, and in using various kinds of history to find out about design, design historians research inclusively across neighbouring fields including - in addition to Victorian Studies and area studies - heritage studies, material culture studies, cultural studies, the histories of technology, architecture, culture and craft, gender and women’s studies, and environmental humanities. Design history’s interface with some of these neighbouring fields has recently been considered, but the commonalities and distinctiveness of design history and Victorian Studies have yet to be comparatively explored.


    In this talk, I will reflect on the methodological and historiographic implications of a comparative, or collaborative, approach to and through these sister fields using the case study of hand making and machine manufacture in the Victorian age. This is drawn from my current research on the hand in design history, including discourses on craft and mechanization, the Victorian design reformers, and modes of displaying industrial heritage, for publication in my forthcoming monograph The Hand Book (The MIT Press 2019). 


    I am looking forward to the BAVS conference already. I hope to see you there. The call for papers is as follows:


    Poster Designed by Marc Ricard