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. 

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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."

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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.

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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 





Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Prof Rebecca Houze, TVAD Visiting Researcher 2016-17, Returns!

This week is a busy one for TVAD as we welcome our Visiting Researcher 2016-17, Professor Rebecca Houze, back to the University for her second visit. Prof Houze will engage with staff and students at all levels during her visit, including experiencing MA students' work at ‘The Light Fantastic’, our Postgraduate Interdisciplinary project exhibition opening in the Art and Design Gallery on Tuesday 7th February 2017, and working with first year undergraduates on the Graphic Design and Illustration BA Hons programme as part of the Critical and Contextual Studies module. Rebecca will also talk about her research on US National Parks in a panel presenting heritage-focussed research from the Professional Doctorate in Heritage (DHeritage) students at the History Department annual conference at Cumberland Lodge. We look forward to another enriching visit and thank Prof House sincerely for taking the time out from her commitments at Northern Illinois University, USA to work with us in Hertfordshire. 






















PROGRAMME
TUESDAY 7th FEBRUARY 2017

6 pm – ‘The Light Fantastic’ PG Interdisciplinary project exhibition opening, Art and Design Gallery.

WEDNESDAY 8th FEBRUARY 2017
10 am – 12.45 pm – Prof Rebecca Houze to join Level 4 Graphic Design and Illustration for a workshop about her monograph New Mythologies in Design and Culture: Reading Signs and Symbols in the Visual Landscape (Bloomsbury Academic 2016).
12.45 for 1 pm, lunch provided. TVAD Talks series. 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.




THURSDAY 9th FEBRUARY 2017

10 am - Workshop with Eva Sopeoglou and the First-Year Interior Architecture BA Hons students.

3 pm to 4.45 pm, TVAD Reading Group. Session with TVAD and School research staff and PG students focussed on supportive peer review of work in progress. If you wish to participate, please send texts for circulation to the other participants to Dr Grace Lees-Maffei g.lees-maffei@herts.ac.uk

5 pm – Design Talk: Jim Heverin (Zaha Hadid Architects Director). Convened by Julian Lindley. A154 Lindop.














FRIDAY 10th to SUNDAY 12th FEBRUARY 2017

Department of History Annual Conference, Cumberland Lodge, Windsor Great Park, convened by Dr Katrina Navickas, School of Humanities (k.navickas@herts.ac.uk)











SATURDAY 11TH FEBRUARY 2017

4.30pm - 5.45pm - SESSION SEVEN - DHeritage workshop - presentations and discussion by the DHeritage students. 
Panel convened by Dr Grace Lees-Maffei, at which DHeritage students briefly present their work in 15-minute slots. Prof Houze to discuss ‘The Open Air Museum From Ethnographic Village to National Park’. 

8.30pm - SESSION NINE - Film showing, 'The Destruction of Memory', and discussion.
The film will be introduced by Sarah Buckingham. It includes interviews with the Director-General of UNESCO, the Prosecutor of the ICC, and international experts across various disciplines. http://destructionofmemoryfilm.com/
















For more information, contact the TVAD Research Group Leader, Dr Grace Lees-Maffei g.lees-maffei@herts.ac.uk