Materiality and the passage of time

Friday 9th Sept, 11.30-13.00, Room CG09

Chair: Emma Dick, Middlesex University

How is the passing of time expressed and experienced through the materiality of objects? How does our understanding of the age of an object influence our reaction to it? And how might our (physical, tactile) perceptions of the ‘age’ and ‘timelessness’ of the material world be challenged by digital technologies or 3D printing?

42134488_erdoganfordDesigning Stone: Temporal Representation of a Timeless Material
Seher Erdogan Ford, Assistant Professor, Temple University, Philadelphia
E: W: Institutional Website

Generally speaking in terms of material culture, stone, as applied in architecture, has typically been used to evoke an image of timelessness and therefore immutability. However, its physical properties as a component of built work unavoidably change over time. Various modes of architectural representation have traditionally portrayed stone in a singular moment, or more often as ageless, contributing to an abstract perception of the material, and thereby eliminating the understanding of it as an architectural artifact in a temporal continuum. This paper offers a critical overview of the established modes of representation dealing with stone, and suggests ways in which emerging technologies are able to portray the changing qualities of the material throughout the process of aging. This investigation is particularly significant for architectural heritage sites where stone embodies different layers of history and multiple identities.

In “Drawn Stone,” Robin Evans elaborates on the function of the drawing template not only as a facilitator but an active generator, where the representation of stone was historically integral to its fabrication. While this discussion is primarily on the formal configuration of masonry construction, it refers to the discourse on the role of drawing in design, and what Mario Carpo, in The Alphabet and the Algorithm, identifies as the artisanal and intellectual authorship conducted through visual representation in architecture. Tim Ingold, in Making, conceptualizes the process of building as an ongoing transformation of the physical substance, during which the “finished work” constitutes merely a legal designation as the artifact continues to “grow and decay.” If the narrative shifts from one of permanence to one of transformation, what role does representation play in this continuum? Illustrative depictions by the artist Piranesi and the architect H. H. Richardson convey the possibilities of imbuing temporality upon the documentation of architecture in a subjective but purposeful manner.

This paper offers an overview of how the visual representation of stone was in fact historically integral to its production and situated between the image and the artifact. Examples from archeology as well as architecture illustrate the way visual representation in two disciplines experimented with temporality at similar scales of objecthood but vastly different scales of time.  A brief survey of media, from analog to digital, leads to the discussion of how current technologies in digital reconstruction experiment with ways of depicting textural qualities of stone. Finally, a case study of a 5th century Byzantine basilica church in present-day Istanbul, later converted to a mosque, explores the challenges with conveying complex material histories and exemplifies the need for implementing emerging multimedia technologies.

The true nature of the built environment is in flux and demands a similarly dynamic form of representation. Through the consideration of visual as well as tactile perception, and the incorporation of heterogeneous data, emerging technologies are better poised to portray temporality in the representation of architecture. This is particularly critical for our understanding of and the scholarship on architectural heritage considered not as isolated points in history but along the arc of its historical trajectory.

A Discussion on Methodology of Dating Everyday Objects in Design History Studies
Elif Kocabiyik, Lecturer, Faculty of Fine Arts and Design, Department of Industrial Design, Izmir University of Economics

Determining the accurate dates of objects furnishes the necessary basis for their further interpretation in a way that ‘methods of dating objects’ becomes prominent as a subject in disciplines such as art history and archaeology. However, it is not much encountered in design history studies. This paper thus reveals a dating method developed to determine the dates of Turkish cigarette packets; further, it compares and discusses the dating methods in different disciplines to define the dating methods in design history studies.

In the PhD thesis of the author, a collection of 1,161 Turkish cigarette packets were studied to understand how their design changed from 1900s up to the present. The dates of cigarette packets in the collection were of critical importance for the research; however, only 653 packets had dates written on them. In order to work with as many cigarette packets as possible within the collection, a dating method for the packets had to be developed, as a result of which, dates and date ranges of 450 packets could be determined.

This paper briefly reveals the developed dating method for Turkish cigarette packets. It then overviews the research process and classifies the dating methods as ‘inside the box’ and ‘outside the box’ studies for dating the object. ‘Inside the box’ studies refer to technology, manufacturing techniques, materials, style (graphics, composition-structure, motifs, colour, texture etc.), and info-data (texts) variables studies that directly come from the object itself, while ‘outside the box’ studies refer to the data gathered from literature and documentation, people (specialists, designers, etc.), decision-making institutions and other collections of objects.

Based on these studies, the paper further discusses the following questions:

  • What does ‘the date of an object’ refer to? How can it be undertaken within a design history study?
  • Is there a discourse of dating methods for everyday objects in design history field? Can this developed dating method (for cigarette packets) be generalised for similar future studies?
  • What are the dating methods in different disciplines such as in art history and archaeology (even in biology) that could guide the way to the development of dating methods in design history field?
  • How are the sources/references/evidences that can be used for dating methods in design history studies different from the ones used in other disciplines?
  • What is the role of ‘style’ among the dating methods of design history studies?

In so doing, this paper aims to contribute to the issue of dating methods of everyday objects in design history studies.

Version 2Material survival and the evolving paradigm of the design archive
Sue Breakell, Archivist, Design Archives, University of Brighton
E: W: Institutional Profile

For Petra Lange Berndt (2015) “the term ‘material’ describes… substances that are always subject to change, be it through handling, interaction with their surroundings, or the dynamic life of their chemical reactions”. This paper looks at materiality as a means not only of drawing subtler forms of knowledge from the archive of design, but also of considering broader evolutions of the landscape of the landscape of the visual arts archive over recent decades.

Ideas of materiality have received considerable creative and critical attention in the visual arts over recent years, as seen in the recent Whitechapel/MIT collection of writings on the subject (2015). Nevertheless, particular questions of materiality in relation to the visual arts archive – residues of the creative process, or the social documentation that surrounds it – have received less attention. Responses to the elusive physical qualities of objects, a rich source of curatorially based creative practice described by artists such as Susan Hiller, do not have equivalents for archives, despite the distinctive ‘allure’ (Farge, 2013) ascribed to the archive. And yet archives can reveal materially something that is much more than the mechanics under the bonnet of the finished work.

Drawing on several strands of recent research, the paper will consider examples where material qualities come to the fore in an encounter with the archive: through the overall physical presence and shape of an archive beyond its component evidential parts. It will also look at the presence of the archive’s creator, not only through their privileging of some kinds of records over others (for example, visual records over text-based documentation), but also through physical annotations and commentaries left in the archive, interjections which form a direct communication with the present.

Using examples primarily from the rich collections of the University of Brighton Design Archives, the paper will consider how materiality expresses an archive’s history, and how such characteristics, evidential values and relationships can disrupt conventional archive-based historical narratives. As archives become more knowingly curated, what stories can the material aspects of archives tell, as potential repositories of a kind of tacit knowledge? The paper will also consider ways in which the impact of digital materiality complicates ideas of the original and the authentic, and the mediations through which archives are encountered in the duality of the digital/analogue present.

Further Reading

Breakell, S (2016) ‘Exhibiting ‘the taste of everyday things’: Kenneth Clark and CEMA’s wartime exhibitions of design’, in: Farrelly, L and Weddell, J Design Objects and the Museum, London: Bloomsbury.

Breakell, S (2011) ‘Encounters with the self: on the nature of archives’, in Hill, J (ed) The future of archives and recordkeeping: a reader. London: Facet Publishing.

Breakell, S (2015) ‘The exercise of a peculiar art-skill’: Kenneth Clark’s design advocacy and the Council of Industrial Design’, Visual Culture in Britain, 16(1): 42-66.

Breakell, S and Whitworth, L (2015) ‘Emigré Designers in the University of Brighton Design Archives’, Journal of Design History, 28(1): 83-97.

Erdogan Ford, S (2016; in production) ‘A Lesson in the Education of a Craftist: Modularity’, Proceedings of National Conference on Beginner Design Student.

Erdogan Ford, S (2016; in production) ‘From Monument to Embodiment: A Social Case for a more Expansive Representational Strategy for Architectural Heritage’, Proceedings of the Architectural Research Association International Conference, July.

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