Things in Time

Friday 9th Sept, 14.30-16.00, Room CG09

Chair: Dr Francesca Murialdo, Middlesex University

In recent years, since the beginning of the twenty-first century, ‘Thing Theory’, ‘Speculative Realism’, ‘Vibrant Matter’ and ‘flat ontologies’ have challenged ways of thinking about objects and their inter-relations. Papers in this strand relate to ongoing research at the RCA, and suggest ways in which these difficult and sometimes inconsistent theoretical fields can assist in ways of thinking about history and things in time.

The papers consider the implications of ‘style’, demonstrate uses of ‘forensic’ methods as a pedagogic strategy, speculate on the ‘internet of things’ and consider the effects of space/time compression

ninatrivediporttraitrcawebsite_500_x_500.width-300 Barry CurtisPeriod Styles, Obsolescence and the passage of Things in Time
Professor Barry Curtis, Royal College of Art; Nina Trivedi, Royal College of Art and Syracuse University London
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This paper considers the concepts of ‘zeitgeist’ and periodisation with a particular interest in how metaphors of ‘evolution’ and transformation have been used to describe the trajectory and adaptation of ‘things’ and stylistic categories in history. It considers the vital part played by the literature of ‘period styles’ in the genesis of design history, the importance of the idea of ‘anonymous design’ and the strategies developed for understanding objects and ensembles as mediators of sensibility. Drawing on the work of Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Giedion it speculates on the ways in which the insights of more recent theories that conjure with ‘flat ontology’, ‘vibrant matter’ and ‘quasi objects’ were foreshadowed. Speculating on categories of the ‘obsolescent’ and ‘futuristic’, it examines the claims of ‘speculative realism’ and the insights afforded by the appeal of objects that are dislocated in time.

naomi_house_crop.width-300Monika Parrinder photoTraces, Clues and Palimpsests: A Forensic Design Pedagogy
Naomi House and Monika Parrinder, Middlesex University and Royal College of Art
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Exploring the ‘palimpsest’ as a device for interrogating the designed environment as a multi-layered entity, this paper will consider its pedagogic value for design, design history and design cultures.  Engaging the student as detective, we propose forensic methods as a ‘way in’ to design and designing that includes survey and surveillance, the employment of intuition and narrative reconstruction. Approaching the designed environment as palimpsest reveals the capacity of time to fold back on itself, retrieving elements of the past rather than effacing it and also re-engaging the obsolescent – where ‘an obsolete building is in place but out of time’ (Cairns and Jacobs).

A forensic, interrogative mode draws on methods designers and design historians are often already engaged in but, by speculating on the spaces of design as a pseudo-crime scene we can reveal hidden relationships between people, things and environments – through the collection of clues and the interpretation of traces as signs of more complex processes. At the crime-scene everything is of potential significance, bringing into focus a flat ontology of things and the ‘vibrancy of matter’ (from Jane Bennett). And yet, for detectives as for design students, the time-line of the procedure is key – gathering information, establishing priorities and registering effects – as the investigation moves from the ‘scene’ to the ‘forum’.

Employing the designed environment as classroom – for designers, a space to design in and for design historians, an active site for learning about design – we aim to challenge the traditional schism between disciplinary territories.

42134488_ben_koslowski2Decompressing the Self
Benjamin Koslowski, Royal College of Art
E: T: @benj_kos

This paper looks to methods of architectural representation to unpick the phenomenon of space-time compression in social media. The landscape of perception of the digital age is one of high speeds and rapidly shifting distance, and individuals gain degrees of visibility often unintentionally in the use of digital social media. Spatialisation, miniaturisation, and mapping are tested to understand the shifting position of the individual, mediated by technologies of the self. Designed objects and spaces emerge as a witness to the research process, helping to frame intangible situations and the individual in their interactions online. Turning slippery streams of interaction into observable spatial situations and physical objects, this paper investigates ways to de-compress the personal spaces of interaction. The aim is to overcome the distances and temporal shifts brought about by store-and-forward technologies to help better grasp individual positions in networked sociality.

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