Monday Morning Seminar Series and Display Cabinet

As the title states this seminar series is held on monday mornings, it is designed to addapt to the responses of the audiance with each iteration. The tutors, regardless of their own position on the topic of discussion, always provided an opposition and counter-argument. This was to keep the audiance on their toes and thrust them into defending a position.

Monday 3nd Oct 2016 – Formalism and Relativism

There are many different movements, philosophies and descriptions to explain and analyse creative works. We were introduced to a new partition, that of Formalism and Relativism.


  • Formalism is primarily interested in shape, colour, texture, material, volume and the independant merit of the work.
  • Relativism on the other hand is interested in interpretation, narrative, context, figure and the creator’s biography.

Two opposite corners of the room were designated as formalism and relativism. Then a task was set where we had to sit in the corner that best described our work, this forced me to treat the two as a binary choice. Thus to begin with I was firmly on the formalist side of the room. My decision was based on the ecological use of material. As a formalist the amount, type and volume of a form is vitally important. Where as these are secondary to a relativist, favouring how materials conjure feelings. The premise that relativists are inherently wasteful inflamed the other side. They defended by claiming that the material is not wasted if the positive actions of those who view the work are taken into consideration.

As arguments and counter-arguments were made it became clearer to me that you can’t have one, without the other. Choosing one solely to the exclusion of the other, is in my belief, not reflecting the work accurately. Creative works are often far too complex to simply slap a label on them. Especially as artists challenge preconceptions and the limits of definitions.

A variable to consider is that of the differences between the creator and the spectator. This is something that was discussed in the seminar. What happens if a formalist artist creates a piece of work without context and narrative. When a relativist spectator views it, their eyes might see a pattern or the work might trigger a childhood memory. In an attempt to mentally process the work a context and narrative is made up. Even though the creator did not intend it, what ism is correct? My answer to this quandary is to prioritize one while still recognising the other. Therefore I still remain a formalist but I recognise the relativist aspects of a piece of work.

Monday 10th Oct 2016 – Octavio Paz

The reader for this week was dense and, I felt, difficult to absorb. Nonetheless, I did pick up on a few points.

The piece is written from a pro-craft position, calling art a religion and design a cult. I would completely agree that art is the secular contemporary religion and the museum is its cathedral. But I differ on the notion that this is a negative effect. I’m completly okay with this trend, my only detraction would be that museums don’t fully partake in this roll. This has correlations to a internet video series I watch; called the school of life.

The reader also calls design a cult, as design practices generally follow a principle borrowed from the field of mathematics, where simple equations are favoured over more complex ones, even though both give solutions. In the design world this is translated into the less is more phrase. Anything above what is necessary to complete a purpose is excess.

My thoughts on this are much the same as the art section above. The cult comment does have some truth to it, however I disagree with the negative overtone. The Bauhaus was the birth of design, and most contemporary design practices subscribe to the same or very similar principles.

I find the idea that craft will make any meaningful or long term come back to be a ridiculous one. A civilization will choose the path of least resistance and that which is most economical. Design and mechanical, or a more contemporary version; digital, industry are far more efficient; there is a reason Ikea is so popular.

I disagree with the readers gloomy position on technology. Modernity and technology has in my view raised us up. My position on this comes from my interest and semi-belief in post-humanism.

Monday 17th Oct 2016 – Display Cabinet

There are glass cabinets near the entrance of the 3nd year maker studio. We were given a small assignment to fill a space each in these cabinets with maquettes.

During this week’s seminar we were tasked with putting sticky notes on the cabinets describing what we think of the work and how we would categorise it. Unfortunately, my table design didn’t print fully, and I didn’t have enough time to print another one.

The phrases stuck to my space were: design, fascination with OSB board, design and functional. I’m very happy that others are calling my work functional design.

One if the things I needed to work on is the professional finish of my work. So I placed some wax, oil and dye material tests along the back of my cabinet.

It was difficult to apply the coatings to the boards, as OSB is rough. If I go forward with this material I will be sanding the surface first.

Monday 24th Oct – Material and Materiality with Zoe

The first task of this seminar was to define the two terms.


  1. Empty and void of meaning and status.
  2. The matter in nature; unprocessed by humans.


  1. Values of the material applied to it by humans.
  2. The matter processed and formed into useful items.

I disagree with the status value of a material, a kind of material hierarchy where it is organised by preciousness and rarity. An example of this value system can be seen in gold. it is expensive because is it rare and could be a reason why some people wear it; it gives them an exclusive status.

I subscribe to a more utility value of material. Where gold, with it’s unique scientific properties, would be used according to those qualities and not the whim of prestige.

There is of course the labour part to this. Where an outcome is comprised of low status material. But is higher up the hierarchy due to the time and still put into the outcome. this is often found in upcycling and art; see Sue Webster.

In Julie Brook’s work and much of Andy Goldsworthy’s work, the material is useless out of the context of their work. The objects are formed but material is not used; over time it will be returned to nature.

Monday 7th Nov – The Sublime; think of a time you were in the sublime

We were asked to bring an example of a sublime experience, preferably one based around an object.

Ingrid kicked us off with sharing how an audio installation with its all encompassing sounds brought her, and other visitors, to tears.

The discussion was then opened to the floor. Music and nature were popular bases for an experience. I can appreciate both of these types of experience. They can be beautiful and striking but neither have driven me to the sublime.

There was an interesting example of a group experience. Someone being emotionally moved to tears by parades. I can understand how a mass of people can be an experience. One of the things on my  bucket list is to visit Mecca to watch Muslims pray towards and walk around the Kaaba.

The last point discussed was those who have never felt a sublime experience. This is where I stand, I’ve often be bewildered, amazed or in awe, but never a complete emotional experience that brings me to tears.

I often fall back on a reductionist thinking, a painting might be outstanding and an accomplishment. but it is and always will be just an amount of paint on a canvas arranged in a particular fashion.

Although I have not felt the sublime, I have had some heightened experiences. Audio alone is often not enough to elicit a response. However I have below some visual audio examples that send tingles up my spine.

There is one other experience. Swimming in the sea at night, while it was raining . It was very liberating. I was free, just me and the endless dark liquid expanse. But even then still no tears, just a quiet pondering.


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