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  • Emerging Design Practice Meets Cutting Edge Curating

Williams, Gareth, Conference or Workshop, Emerging Design Practice Meets Cutting Edge Curating at Learning at the interface: Museum and University Collaborations, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1-2 July 2010. (Submitted)

Abstract or Description:

This paper considers examples of design practice emerging from higher education and its reception by museums, addressing their different educational philosophies and theories. It will also consider the symbiotic relationship of the designer as ‘avant-garde form giver’ and the museum as ‘arbiter of the avant-garde’ in the sense that some work appears to be created for the purposes of museum endorsement and display.

Future-oriented design students constantly reconfigure practice. Established conventions of industrial design, craft work, mass- or one-off production, and even newer fields such as computer-related or interaction design, rapidly seem inadequate terms to map emergent practices which sometimes subjugate the production of objects to the creation of experiences or events. But history-oriented museums privilege objects, are formulated around established taxonomies, and have difficulty assimilating practice that does not conform to existing conventions or contexts. Therefore, in order to gain access to the museological canon, emerging design practices need cutting edge curating. In this context it is also pertinent to ask what types of design practice are not, or never can, be acceptable in the established museum context.

The paper will focus on case studies of work by very recent graduates of the RCA. Jen Hui Liao’s Self-Portrait Machine (2009) creates a symbiotic relationship between artist and machine where both parties together create the artist’s self-portrait. Through it we can examine issues of personal identity and self-representation in a mechanized world. Is it a technological commentary, a media device, a sculpture, an example of advanced product design, a robot, or an artistic representation of any or all of these? Is, in fact, the machine itself subordinate to the portraits it makes and where can it be positioned in a museum? Thomas Thwaites’s Toaster Project (2009) comments on the production of high volume, low cost, industrially-made electrical appliances. He determined to replicate a toaster by sourcing and fabricating all his own materials and components, from the iron ore for the metal frame, to the copper for the electrical wiring. The outcome was both a documentary archive of his process, and a barely functional simulacrum of a toaster. Museums collect product design as evidence of industrial development and social life, but where does Thwaites’s commentary fit in this discourse?

Both examples address core interests of museums but in themselves are hard to ‘collect’. The paper will argue that parallel activities of events, exhibitions, residencies and responses to permanent collections may bridge the space between emerging design and museums. It will also posit that ultimately the commissioning of such events and practices directly influences the type of design made purposefully for museum display, and that interdependence exists between designers and their curators.

Subjects: Other > Mass Communications and Documentation > P100 Information Services > P130 Curatorial studies
Other > Mass Communications and Documentation > P100 Information Services > P130 Curatorial studies > P131 Museum studies
Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies
School or Centre: School of Design
Copyright Holders: Gareth Williams
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2011 15:40
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2011 16:26
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/577

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