8 September, 10:15 - 11:15am

Our upcoming Student Forum event ‘Hear Your Peers’ provides students at all stages of their studies with the opportunity to present their research at the 2022 Design History Society Annual Conference ‘Design & Transience

We warmly invite everyone to attend this hybrid event either in person at the Izmir Institute of Technology, Turkey or online via Zoom

Chaired by Marta Filipová, Conference Liaison Trustee of the Design History Society

Register via Eventbrite

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Re-staging a Biennial "You and I, Don't Live on the Same Planet" 12th Taipei Biennial at Centre Pompidou-Metz - Gabriela-Alexandra Banica, MA student at SOAS (attendance in person)

The paper is set to analyse the re-staging of the 12th Taipei Biennial at Centre Pompidou-Metz in France 06.11.2021-04.04.2022 focusing on the differences between the exhibition design and curatorial practices attached to the initial exhibition and the one the public saw in France. How can a contested state represent itself in a “global situation of indeterminacy and volatility that reflects on the transience of populations, natural resources, information, heritage and settlements”? Is re-staging the solution?

The “You and I, Don’t Live on the Same Planet” exhibition has been designed to be a metaphor for a planetarium. But, this time, the visit is not about observing the stars but about exploring different versions of Earth. The show is highly political as its starting point is the fact that: “nations are no longer fighting one another on the same geographical stage. Everything unfolds as if there were no common world to fight over, but rather a generalized fight about the very definition of what the world is made of. ‘Nature’ is no longer the background to geopolitical conflict, but rather the very thing that is at stake (...)Thus, we are witnessing a massive extension of conflicts and an extreme brutalization of politics. The ‘international order’ is being systematically dismantled”.

Gabriela-Alexandra Banica is currently working on finishing her MA in Taiwan Studies at SOAS. She has a BA from the University of Bucharest. She is interested in arts and politics and especially in analysing the two in the setting of contested states. She has a particular interest in Taiwan and the struggles the island faces in order to international represents itself from a cultural and artistic point of view.

(Design) History Repeats Itself: Exclusivity in the Canon and the Classroom William Watson, undergraduate student at the University of Arkansas (attendance online)

This past spring semester, I took Dina Benbrahim’s course Design Histories in which we each conducted a semester-long research project about an underrepresented design historical topic and then managed a collaborative Instagram archive of our research. After taking a contemporary African art history course the previous semester, I was inspired to explore African art further and in the context of design, as the majority of the design canon we are taught is predominantly white, male, and Eurocentric. With Dina’s provided resources and my own research, I was able to broaden my understanding of the design canon and the racist, patriarchal systems that determine it.

My research was focused on African design and inclusive typographic practices. Throughout this research project and this course, I was able to critically examine the historic exclusivity of the design canon and how it permeates the systemic oppression of people of colour to this day. And while I did gain substantial insight from my research, what was most enlightening was my classmates’ reaction to the assignment.

Throughout the semester, Dina received various sexist comments and accusations of “reverse-racism” from several of my predominantly white, conservative peers concerned with the validity of teaching a pluralistic view of history outside of the Eurocentric canon. I realized that the very exclusivity and blatant racism I had been researching, was present and active in our own classroom. I am proposing this topic in hopes of discussing this harsh reality that even in our own field, among our own peers, these oppressive power structures are still prevalent and need to be dismantled, starting with education.

William Watson is a second-year undergraduate student studying graphic design at the University of Arkansas. Watson also works as a designer for the school’s diversity and inclusion committee and, starting this spring, as an intern at the Feminist Lab. Watson has found a real passion for design and a desire to learn about its historic and contemporary implications.

Setting the Table, Kyla Paolucci, MFA student at the Vermont College of Fine Arts (attendance online)

Tablecloths are designed objects linked to their cultural origins. They symbolize patriotism and pride just as much as flags might. They can mark a collective ideology or, at their worst, chart empires. Today, the red-and-white checked tablecloth that has become iconic in Italian culture of post-war America represents authenticity and togetherness. From entertainment like The Sopranos to branding for pizza parlours across an array of different cities, the tablecloth is part of a formula that communicates Italian-American identity. However, the textile’s origin story has a deeper history before becoming American fashion while centring around the labour of women.

Called gingham from the Malay term genggang, the textile is often dated back to the 1600s in Dutch-colonised Malaysia as the setting of its original production — though existing centuries prior. Through an India-based British trading company, The East India Company, gingham started to be shipped gradually to English merchants. France and Denmark followed suit and the fabric made its way around Europe and colonised America. Being a simple weave of pre-dyed fibres, it was easy to produce compared to the other weave designs being created in the region, enabling more people to become aware of its versatile properties and replicate its template.

Raised in Rhode Island, Kyla Paolucci is a Rhode Island School of Design alumna and a New York-based graphic designer. Paolucci currently studying for an MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Decoding the Eye: Surveillance and Surrealism in East Central Europe, Jennifer McHugh, PhD researcher at the Winchester School of Art (attendance online)

This presentation draws from my PhD research around graphic design production and circulation in postwar East Central Europe, and in particular posters created in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Investigating posters as pivotal forms of expression and subversion, this also considers the mechanisms used by designers in communicating within and around environments of censorship.

Focusing on a specific occurrence within graphic design during the 1950s and 60s, the ‘eye’ frequently appears. This paper studies surrealist and abstracted visual techniques as political commentary, embedded in the design objects – posters – and inscribed with layered meaning. In doing so, a reading between the lines draws out the nuances and complexities of graphic production for designers working around official institutions and through informal networks as a form of self-historicization.

Jennifer McHugh is a PhD researcher at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, investigating posters and design production in postwar East Central Europe and contemporary archives practice. Her research interests include graphic design and designer networks, geographies, cultural identities and visual presentation of knowledge. With an academic background in design history, cultural heritage and linguistics, Jennifer has worked in areas of documentation and archives of graphics and design, museums, migration and identity politics.

Freedom and Subjugation - a Case Study of a Building and its Interior, Barbara Hornik, BA student at the Academy of Fine Arts Gdansk (attendance online)

The subject is a prefabricated residential block. It is a history woven in an architectural space, determined by design decisions made by its inhabitants, or else, authorities. The ideas of truth and imitation are explored as experienced through designed objects. It is an analysis of what it means to maintain an authentic identity while living in a prefabricated residential block during the communist regime of 1960s Poland.

While residents endeavour to create individualised spaces, the structures they inhabit are stigmatised by the dominant ideology. With import severely limited, certain objects prevail as symbols of communist living: a Turkish rug, a Russian TV, Polish decorative crockery, unit furniture stretching along entire walls. Each represents a different type of nostalgia: for openness, togetherness, for an identity, and a modern future.

As time passes, the country is engulfed by the phenomenon of ‘pastelosis’ - the painting over of communist estates in eggshell, light pistachio, cool vanilla. Once symbols of an era, the buildings come to embody political emancipation. Their aesthetic qualities, however, remain a subject of contention. Qualities of the coating, just like the history, connote imitation.

Barbara Hornik was born and raised in southern Poland. She graduated in History of Art (BA) from Goldsmiths College, University of London, in 2016. She then worked in the culture and education sectors in the UK. Since 2021, Barbara has been a student of Design (BA) at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk, Poland, where she currently resides. Barbara is interested in designed objects and spaces in the context of maintaining individual identity through familiarity and accessibility, both intellectual and physical.