External News

23 December 2019

“Design Is Private/Design Is Public” The Twenty-Ninth Annual Parsons/Cooper Hewitt Graduate Student Symposium on the History of DesignCooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New YorkApril 2 and 3, 2020.

Privacy and publicity have long played a role in the history of design. This year’s symposium will consider the transparent or thickly layered ways in which this happens. From Adolph Loos’ design for Josephine Baker’s swimming pool to Philip Johnson’s Glass House, from the Fourdinois sideboard displayed at the 1851 Crystal Palace exhibition to Armand-Albert Rateau’s Art Deco dressing table—or even to Thomas Heatherwick’s recent viewing structure for Manhattan’s Hudson Yards, seeing, being seen, enactment and embodiment, surveillance, containment, and subtle and overt forms of communication and collaboration reverberate throughout design solutions whether in private or public forms.

We are seeking papers that address the creation, promotion, or dissemination of objects and spaces, material or virtual, created from the period of the Renaissance to the present day and representing a negotiation of public and private. How does design, for example, become a dialogue between an object and its public, an object and its maker, or between client and designer, whether the client is the Pope or an anonymous user? How are varied publics quietly delineated by their associations with objects? How do vocal issues of audience and user feedback affect a designer and design? How does design—whether through damask curtains or remote controlled technology such as drones—enable or invade privacy?

Papers can consider historical or contemporary individual designers and patrons in relation to the creation of site-specific homes, factories, world’s fair pavilions, theme parks, churches, or museums displaying private or public collections. Retail spaces, from global flagship stores to local pop-up ones, might be analyzed for the ways in which they advertise brand identity while maintaining individuality. Graphic work, in print or online form, offers other examples of the tactics by which design can make actors of objects, functioning as instruments of exchange or tools for mobilizing political networks. We intend to address theories of production and reception as well as intersections of race, class, gender, ability, and other identities as they are engaged privately or publicly in design.

Proposals are welcome from graduate students at any level in fields including art history, history of design, design studies, fashion studies, history of the decorative arts, Urban studies, cultural anthropology, history of architecture, consumer studies, design and technology, media studies, museum studies, food studies.

The symposium’s Catherine Hoover Voorsanger Keynote speaker will be Alice T. Friedman, Grace Slack McNeil Professor of American Art and director of the McNeil Program for Studies in American Art at Wellesley College. She also serves as co-director of the Architecture Program. Her courses focus on the history of European and North American architecture, with an emphasis on social history, gender, and cultural studies. Friedman is the author of numerous books and articles on domestic architecture, women’s history, and patronage, including House and Household in Elizabethan England: Wollaton Hall and the Willoughby Family; Women and the Making of the Modern House: A Social and Architectural History; and, most recently, American Glamour and the Evolution of Modern Architecture.

The Keynote address will be given on Thursday evening, April 2, 2020, and the symposium sessions will be held in the morning and afternoon of Friday, April 3, 2020.To submit a proposal, send a two-page abstract, one-page bibliography, and a c.v. to: Sarah A. Lichtman, Director, MA Program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies Voorsanger2020@gmail.com

Deadline for proposals: January 21, 2020

The symposium is sponsored by the MA Program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies offered in conjunction with Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and Parsons School of Design.


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