TVAD Talks 2016-17 Available to Watch on YouTube
TVAD Talks are published on the University of Hertfordshire's YouTube Channel, in a Creative Arts Research playlist and on the TVAD website. If you missed them or if you want to enjoy them all over again, here are the TVAD Talks from the 2016-17 series:
We started the year with TVAD's Visiting Researcher, Professor Rebecca Houze (Northern Illinois University), who spoke to the title ‘Writing Textiles, Fashion, and Design Reform in Austria-Hungary Before the First World War’. In this talk, Prof Houze introduced her research monograph (Ashgate) which offered a new reading of fin-de-siècle culture in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy by looking at the unusual and widespread preoccupation with embroidery, fabrics, clothing, and fashion - both literally and metaphorically. Houze resurrected lesser known critics, practitioners, and curators from obscurity, while also discussing the textile interests of notable figures, Gottfried Semper and Alois Riegl. Spanning the 50-year life of the Dual Monarchy, this TVAD Talk uncovered new territory in the history of art history, insisting on the crucial place of women within modernism, and broadening the cultural history of Habsburg Central Europe by revealing the complex relationships among art history, women, and Austria-Hungary. Houze showed us a wide range of materials, from craft and folk art to industrial design, and overlooked sources-from fashion magazines to World's Fair maps, from exhibition catalogues to museum lectures, from feminist journals to ethnographic collections. Restoring women to their place at the intersection of intellectual and artistic debates of the time, Houze's monograph weaves together discourses of the academic, scientific, and commercial design communities with middle-class life as expressed through popular culture.
Our TVAD Talk in November 2016 was given by Rebecca Bell (Royal College of Art) on the subject ‘Folk Fever and the Bureaucratic Machine: Craft and Design in early 1960s' Czechoslovakia'. The use of humour and absurdity as a Czech literary device is also seen in applied art and design in Czechoslovakia, such as the popular inter and post-war glass figurines of Jaroslav Brychta. This TVAD Talk focuses on the ways in which Czech cultural tropes, particularly those relating to folk and craft, are explored amongst the ‘network of bureaucratic machines’ in the State design system during the 1960s. They are used to activate new relationships to traditional forms and question ‘this world of absurd omnipotence’. In particular, disillusion, humour and material juxtapositions will be explored within State design projects, but also that seminal 1960s’ Czech form, New Wave Cinema. Karel Vachek’s 1963 film Moravská Hellas (Moravian Hellas), is a part-reportage, part-fiction parody of State approaches to folk festivals, crafts and music in the early 1960s. From a material history perspective, it provides insight into feelings around the State appropriation of folk and craft techniques. As character Dr Pavelčík, Director of the Museum in Uherský Blod, states towards to the end of the film, ‘Ethnography is at its end, everything has perished...It seems to me like a slowly dying cow’. Local storyteller Uncle Lebanek adds that it is ‘some kind of fever’. Meanwhile, designers working for ÚLUV, the Centre of Folk Art Production, are trying to integrate craft and folk methods and themes to negotiate ways of establishing design practices that are both theoretically interesting and commercially viable. Through interior design projects, fashion and design magazines, Bell examines how these aims were realised in the shifting intellectual climate of early 1960s’ Czechoslovakia.
In January 2017, Dr Barbara Brownie (University of Hertfordshire) introduced research in progress for her forthcoming book Spacewear: Weightlessness and the Final Frontier of Fashion. In the new era of commercial space travel, we must rethink our approach to designing clothes. Space, and the artificial environments that aim to replicate it, provide challenges for spacesuit engineers, and that may also increasingly concern fashion designers. These concerns are currently reflected most often at the intersection of reality and fiction, as science fiction speculates about the requirements of future space travel. In recent years, Earth-bound fashion designs have also begun to take a speculative approach to fashion design, which imagines the clothing requirements of future space tourists.
Dr Brownie's TVAD Talk specifically addresses environments with reduced gravity, in which the body experiences weightlessness. Clothes must be reconsidered for the reduced environments of spacewalks, space stations and zero-gravity flights within Earth's atmosphere. Future fashion designers will be required to reassess many of the dressmaking and design processes that are fundamental to fashion on Earth's surface. The weightless garment contains a body, but is not supported by it. Garments contain the body differently in different gravitational conditions, leading to “a newly found balance between the muscles and the tension of fabrics” (Dominino 2003, p. 278). Drape, which is a staple of garment design, is defined as a product of gravity. Designers must consider not only changes to the behaviour of fabric, but also changes in body structure. As the body adapts to reduced gravity, it adopts a neutral posture, and weight is redistributed as the upper body swells and the spine lengthens. In the long-duration space travel that is proposed for missions to Mars, these distortions will be more extreme. Garment silhouettes must necessarily compensate for the redistribution of weight around the body.
Barbara's book, Spacewear: Weightlessness and the final frontier of fashion examines the work of engineers, fashion designers, costume designers, photographers, authors and filmmakers.
The 2016-17 Series continued in February with a presentation by Femke de Vries (HKU University of the Arts Utrecht) titled ‘DICTIONARY DRESSINGS: Clothing definitions decoded and translated towards alternative fashion perspectives’. 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. TVAD Visiting Research Prof Rebecca Houze contributed as a respondent to de Vries' TVAD Talk.
You can read more about Femke's work at her website www.FemkeDeVries.com and her TVAD Talk is available to view on the University of Hertfordshire's YouTube Channel, in the Creative Arts Research playlist.
In March, TVAD Chair Prof Grace Lees-Maffei (University of Hertfordshire) presented some writing in progress on the topic of ‘The Written Object’. Lees-Maffei began by recognising that words are constantly present throughout the design lifecycle. They accompany the design process, in formal client briefs, in informal exchanges between members of design teams, in CADCAM software and specifications. Words are used to market and advertise designed objects, images, and services. We use words to describe what we do within, and how we feel about, the designed environments in which we all exist.
These verbal processes have been recognised to some extent by design historians in the field’s recent mediation turn. Since the Production-Consumption-Mediation paradigm was posited in 2009, new research has emphasised the importance of words in understanding design. Design journalism, for example, has been critically important in shaping the ways in which we conceive of, and consume, design. And web 2.0, for instance, has complicated the notions of authority upon which design journalism and design criticism have existed. Bloggers and vloggers are now recognised as prime influencers, and their influence extends more and more into mainstream media.
We can identify some new directions for the study of the written object, or more inclusively, words and design. The relationship between design and literature has so far remained largely untouched by design historians. Literary sources do not rely for their status, influence and authority upon the veracity with which they describe design, but they have a great deal to tell us about design, and design of the past. By the same token, we might examine the literary and aesthetic merit of design criticism and design journalism. Lees-maffei closes with a rhetorical question: Is it possible to communicate about design in a non-verbal way?
The final TVAD Talk of the 2016-7 series was given by Dr Nicolas P. Maffei (Norwich University of the Arts) in which the focus was ‘The Responsive Brand: Uniformity and Flexibility in Logo Design’. From the uniformity of modernism to the embrace of difference, this TVAD talk explored 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, Maffei 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). Watch Nic's TVAD Talk here: