Heritage and Symbolic Time

Saturday 10th Sept, 14.30-16.00, Room CG09

Chair: Zoe Hendon, Middlesex University

Papers in this session explore the ways in which time is ‘consumed’ symbolically through ‘heritage’ and through the design of objects which exhibit evidence of use and wear.

42134488_skouMaterialising time: Craft, patina and the symbolic consumption of time through designed objects
Niels Peter Skou, Associate Professor, Department of Design and Communication, University of Southern Denmark
E: nps@sdu.uk

In 2003 Jurgen Bey designed a ’74-minutes’ cup for the traditional Dutch ceramics company, Royal Tichelaar Makkum, as part of his ‘1,132 minutes service’, where the name of the individual parts referred to the time it took to make them through the application of traditional craft techniques. In 2006 British designer Laura Bethan Wood designed a series of ‘Stain’ teacups where a secret pattern revealed itself inside the cup as residue from the tea settled inside it over time in order to give aesthetic value to marks of use and wear.

These two cups both explicitly address time as duration and can be linked to a general cultural theme of ‘slowness’ as it is presently expressed in concepts like ‘slow design’, ‘slow living’ and ‘the return of craft’. But they do it in very different ways. By giving an exact measure of the production time, Jurgen Bey’s cup seems in a way to affirm the Marxist notion that the value of a product is the quantity of work invested in it and that even though it is ‘slow’ the production method is controlled and reproducible. In comparison the Stain cup visualises time as a natural phenomenon that is productive in itself but in an unintentional way.

It seems obvious to view such examples and movements as reactions against the acceleration of modern culture and the elusiveness of industrialised consumer goods. Hereby they refer to historical anti-industrial movements, in particular the Arts & Crafts Movement. I will argue, however, that what sets the modern examples apart is exactly the way time is thematised and communicated in and around the objects. Jurgen Bey’s cup not only displays production time in its naming but also in the way different production phases like the underglazing is visible in the final product. This sets it apart from the traditional craft product that normally strives to eliminate production marks in the final result. The cup bears witness to a double process where the ceramics company shifted its focus from anonymous craftsmen to renowned designers, but where it then became part of the storytelling of how the designers deliberately chose and learned themselves traditional techniques.

Both examples may thus in spite of their materiality be seen as ways of dematerialising design by highlighting the processes the objects are part of. What is consumed is not the object itself but the time it occupies, and the ability to stretch this time is seen as its main quality, which, especially in the case of Jurgen Bey’s extremely expensive service set, is connected to a form of luxury. In a cultural situation where time is experienced as a scarce resource, they can thus be conceived as part of an economy of symbolic consumption of time, which may be viewed as a form of conspicuous consumption (Julier, 2014). They illustrate, furthermore, that the visualisation of the immaterial concept of time takes place in the interaction between the material objects (as signs and marks of production and use) and their contextualisation (in the form of naming and framing). The paper will address these themes more thoroughly by examining further examples of neo-craft, slow design and durability in order to investigate how the symbolic communication and consumption of time is staged through the shaping and promotion of designed objects.

Displaying invisible heritage: the past and present of the Chinese Residence in Nagasaki
Lung-hsing Chu, Assistant Curator, Southern Branch Department, National Palace Museum, Taiwan
E: sing@npm.gov.tw

Designing graphic arts to represent a historical heritage that exists in the present is always a fascinating issue for a designer. The image will be displayed on streets or in traffic hubs such as airports not only to attract people to visit but also to symbolise a cultural significance of the city or country where it is located. However, the issue could be complicated when displaying a heritage that only existed in the past. This paper is centred on the Chinese Residence in Nagasaki, discussing how the heritage is being displayed from the past to the present.

During the Edo period, only Nagasaki allowed foreigners, Chinese and Dutch exclusively, to do business in Japan. By then, De Island for the Dutch and the Chinese Residence for the Chinese had become hubs for dealing with materials from the East and West. However, following political policy change, seashore expansion and the destruction of fire, these two significant sites disappeared in the cityscape of Nagasaki. In recent decades, De Island was recovered as the face of the past with the help of architectural models and graphic arts made in the Edo period. As to the other location, the Chinese Residence, only a stone column indicated it as a historical site. Today, visitors can imagine the past face of the Chinese Residence through the exhibition in the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture. In my opinion, there still remains some space for discussing the ways of displaying the heritage of the Chinese Residence. The case in the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture basically relies on the materials discovered in Japan. Nevertheless, a view from the perspective of another side could bring and trigger a new vision of the Chinese Residence.

Firstly, this discussion reveals how the Chinese Residence had been displayed in the past from the Japanese, Dutch and Chinese perspectives. Secondly, through the exhibition in the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture, it gives an example of how the Chinese Residence is represented in modern times. In the end, by giving examples showing how De Island is depicted in Nagasaki, Leiden and Amsterdam, I would like to illustrate how heritage is assembled in different exhibitions to achieve a timeless image.

Renewal and Retreat: Heritage-Style Street Furniture Design in 1980s Britain
Dr Eleanor Herring, Lecturer, Design History and Theory, Glasgow School of Art
E: ellieherring@gmail.com

In 1979 Margaret Thatcher entered government with a huge mandate for change. Under her leadership, the Conservative Party began dismantling the post-war vision of a powerful welfare state – with its belief in state-ownership, public service and centralised committees – replacing it with a different set of values based on the primacy of the individual, free enterprise and financial deregulation. These ideological changes had a specific effect upon the design of the public realm, which became subject to market forces and was consequently stripped of its assets. The commercial sale of the British telephone network, for instance, meant that in streets across the country Giles Gilbert Scott’s iconic red telephone kiosk was replaced with an alternative British Telecom model bearing advertising on its metal back. The ensuing public protests saved some of the kiosks, but the act was considered by many as a direct assault on nationalisation and even on the very fabric of British identity.

However, at the same time as Britain’s red boxes were under threat, simulations of the past were becoming more commonplace. Unlike post-war efforts to modernise street furniture – advocates of which wholeheartedly rejected ‘bogus “olde-world” treatment’ in their vision of the future – the political climate of the 1980s was more than willing to commodify the past. Many municipal authorities consequently reintroduced cobblestones, Victorian-style street lamps (complete with make-believe gas flicker), fake cast-iron bollards and ‘heritage’ litterbins with the lettering and municipal coat of arms picked out in gold paint. These aestheticised versions of the past found widespread application in civic spaces once dominated by modernism. They were believed to complement every townscape and represented a means of reinstating the past – as well as Victorian values – within the public realm. In Theatres of Memory, the Marxist historian Raphael Samuel described this phenomenon as ‘retrofitting’. For Samuel, these objects were ‘a kind of talisman of historicity’, but that underneath their ‘period dress’ was actually modernisation in disguise. New ‘old’ street furniture signalled a change in ideological occupancy, just as municipal authorities tried to signal a change in occupancy with modernism during the 1950s.

But heritage street furniture raises certain questions: why choose a simulation of the past over the ‘real’ past? How can the past inform the present without resulting in unintended pastiche? And does nostalgia continue to shape the design of the street today? This paper will examine how heritage-style street furniture design incorporates the past into the public realm. It will specifically analyse these objects in the context of the Conservative policies of Thatcher in 1980s Britain, where pitched roofs, neo-Victorian decoration, and other changes in the built environment reflected a change in ideology. By looking closely at the role of government, conservationists, members of the public, civic societies and manufacturers, this paper will examine changing attitudes to heritage, and explore the extent to which the roots of heritage-style street furniture are ultimately connected to post-war modernism.

Further Reading

Herring, E (2016 – in production) Street Furniture Design: Contesting Modernism in Post-War Britain, London: Bloomsbury.

Herring, E (2015) ‘The acid test of good town design: designing street furniture in post-war Britain’, Annual Design History Society Conference ‘How we live, and How we might live’: Design and the Spirit of Critical Utopianism, California College of the Arts, San Francisco, California.

Herring, E (2014) ‘Street Furniture and the Nation State: A Global Process’, in: A Matter of Design: Making Society through Science and Technology. Proceedings of the 5th STS Italia Conference. An Open Access Digital Publication by STS Italia Publishing.

Herring, E (2014) ‘Sick Serpents and Concrete Giraffes: The Critical Debate on Street Furniture Design in Postwar Britain’, in: Farias P and Atkinson P (eds) Design Frontiers: Selected Papers of the 8th ICDHS Conference. Mexico: Designio.

Julier, G (2014) The Culture of Design, 3rd Edition, London: SAGE, pp.93-94.

Historicism and Retro: The Question of Timelessness in Design (2)

Saturday 10th Sept, 9.30-11.00, Room CG09

Chair: Professor Kjetil Fallan, University of Oslo

How do we understand the passage of time in relation to notions of ‘retro’ designed objects? Or in relation to ‘revivals’ of the design of previous periods?  How should we understand nostalgia?  Where are the boundaries between the authentic, the antique, the artificial and the a-historical? This is part two of two panel theme.

Freaks of Fancy, Revisited: Nineteenth-century Ornamented Typography in the Twenty-first Century
Arden Stern, Assistant Professor, Humanities and Sciences, ArtCenter College of Design, California

E: astern2@artcenter.edu T: @ArdenStern

Designers and design historians alike have debated and theorised design’s engagements with past forms, yielding a robust literature on revivalism across design discourse. This literature has focused primarily on three phenomena: handcraft revivalisms of the late nineteenth century, mid- and late-twentieth-century aesthetic revivals of modernist avant-gardes, and the postmodern pop-historical appropriations of the late twentieth century. Few critics and scholars have analysed aesthetic revivals of the nineteenth-century commercial graphics not associated with modernism, which have made notable reappearances in the mainstream graphic design of the United States and elsewhere since the turn of the twenty-first century.

These nineteenth-century ornamented types and compositional strategies originally emerged and flourished in the context of the industrialisation of the printing trades, and as such were disparaged by craft reformists like William Morris and other fine printers like Theodore Low De Vinne. Such typographic forms were for the most part marginalised by modern graphic designers throughout the nineteenth century, notable exceptions including the neo-Victorian typography and illustration of New York’s Push Pin Studios. However, the turn of the twenty-first century saw the launch of online collections of digitised letterpress fonts, the publication and republication of several volumes on topics related to nineteenth-century typography and printing, and increased attention to and corporate mimicry of heritage letterpress printing.

This paper builds upon and also interrogates existing scholarly frameworks for revivalism through an analysis of twenty-first-century mobilisations of nineteenth-century ornamented typography in American graphic design. In particular, the paper reconsiders postmodern frameworks of historicist appropriation, including discourses of Neo-Victorianism and retro culture, in conversation with media archaeology and recent scholarship on craft. The analysis focuses upon two genres of neo-nineteenth-century typographic revivals: heritage letterpress fetishism, and revivalist authentications of digital design practice. While the former is nostalgic, with nineteenth-century typographic materials representing an imagined return to authentic handcraft, the latter is future facing, engaging antiquated styles to confer legitimacy upon the new. Key examples include the Adobe Rosewood font, which is a digital version of the Clarendon Ornamented typeface released by the William Page foundry in 1859, and also an ongoing RAM truck advertising campaign that showcases digitised nineteenth-century ornamented metal types.

This paper argues that to build graphical associations between contemporary multinational capitalism and industrial print culture, and thus to decipher digital design culture through pre-digital design forms and practices, constructs purposeful continuities between past and present by aligning nineteenth- and twenty-first-century modes of production. These alignments, balanced precariously on fraught cultural divisions between handmade/machine-made and authentic/artificial, are resolutely ahistorical, yet speak volumes about the dynamics of information capitalism, de-industrialisation, and recession in recent US history. As such, contemporary graphic design engagements with nineteenth-century ornamented typography present provocative possibilities regarding not only how historical forms are mobilised in the context of the current political and economic moment, but also how typography can be harnessed to redraw the boundaries of historical periods and reconstruct the flow of time.

42134488_tredwayTimeless and Tasteful Tableware: Historicism and the Contemporary Table at Tiffany & Co. 1955-80
Tom Tredway, Assistant Professor, Department of Design, California State University
E: tom.tredway@csulb.edu

“We work also to achieve a quality of timelessness in our design.”

George O’Brien, Vice-President and
Design Director, Tiffany & Co., 1973

Walter Hoving, an experienced and innovative merchandiser with deep knowledge of the history of the decorative arts and design, purchased a controlling interest in Tiffany & Co. in 1955 and turned to Van Day Truex, the former president of the Parsons School of Design and a widely respected authority on design, as his Design Director and primary aesthetic advisor. This paper explores Hoving’s design philosophy and the complex and sophisticated relationship between taste, timelessness, historicism and contemporary life in Tiffany & Co. tableware created under Truex’s direction.

Hoving felt the high standards of the European aristocratic system of cultured patrons, inventive artistic advisors, and highly innovative craftspeople collaborating to create exquisite objects of taste had been lost in an industrial mass-market system driven by the lowest common denominator of mass taste, fads, and the pursuit of sales above all else. Hoving sought to recreate this lost aristocratic system to the greatest extent possible in a contemporary corporate context. He advocated for all corporate executives to be better educated in the history of art and design as well as aesthetics in order to develop their design judgement, which he found sorely wanting. Executives with this training would then have the confidence in their own taste to place design policy in the hands of a high level, well-rounded designer knowledgeable about the history of design and aesthetics and able to guide other designers as well as manufacturers in articulating the company’s point of view.

Timelessness and a deep appreciation for history were both important components of the Tiffany & Co. point of view. Hoving strove for aesthetic consistency over seasonal changes in style, was largely unconcerned with the passage of time, the latest fashions, or trends, and favoured design executives who seamlessly incorporated the past into the present. Tiffany & Co. also hosted important exhibitions of antique design, regularly presented public lectures on the history of jewellery, and frequently invited society hostesses and interior designers to combine Tiffany & Co. stock with their own personal antiques and heirlooms to create table settings for the public that effortlessly blended the old and the new. Truex’s approach to the design of silver, china, and crystal for Tiffany & Co. combined early modern design principles and forms with a slightly conservative modern sensibility, all filtered through a lens of elite taste. It combined elements of historicism, modernism, and the vernacular to create a varied but cohesive point of view that often reinterpreted seventeeth- and eighteenth-century ideas of luxury, elegance, taste and wit for a contemporary audience that aspired to the Tiffany & Co. lifestyle.

Tiffany archivist Annamarie Sandecki at work at Tiffany's flagship store on New York Fifth Avenue.

“In Bracelets, or Brooches, Some Richly Ornamented with Diamonds”; 150 Years of Women’s Watches from Tiffany & Co.
Annamarie Sandecki, Archivist, Tiffany and Co. Archives
E: Annamarie.sandecki@tiffany.com

Unlike the pocket- or wrist-watch worn by men, from 1847 until 1997 the shape or form of women’s watches has fluctuated wildly. Influenced by fashion and social mores, women’s timepieces shrank or grew, were worn prominently or hidden away, and were simply or lavishly decorated. Utilising the Archives of the American luxury goods retailer Tiffany & Co., this paper will explore two topics: the design arc – from chatelaine to lapel to chain to wrist – of American women’s timepieces, and women’s 150-year evolving relationship with their personal timekeeping devices.

By examining traditional business records (design sketches, advertisements, catalogues, press releases, sales records) as well as etiquette manuals and fashion periodicals, this paper will examine what factors influenced the design, purchase and ownership of American women’s watches.

Further Reading

Stern, A (2014) ‘Domesticating the Global: Sign Writing and Visual Culture in Lusaka, Zambia.’ Design & Culture, 6.3.

Stern, A (2012) ‘Arial: An Apologia.’ Theorizing Visual Studies: Writing Through the Discipline, Elkins, J, McGuire, K, Burns, M, Chester, A, and Kuennen, J (eds), New York: Routledge.

Tredway, T (2013) ‘Europe and North America 1945-2000,’ with Kirkham, P, Larsen, CA, Lichtman, SA and Whalen, C, in: History of Design: Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400-2000, Kirkham, P and Weber, S (eds), Yale University Press.

Tredway, T (2013) ‘Inside Out: Elsa Schiaparelli, Interiors, and Autobiography,’, in: Biography, Identity and the Modern Interior, Sparke, P and Massey, A (eds), Farnham: Ashgate.

Tredway, T (2013) ‘Zsolnay Porcelain Manufactory,’ and ‘Design Within Reach: Granit Collection,’ in: Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, Design, and Beauty, Kirkham, P, Moore, P and Wolfframm, P, Chronicle Books.