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Materiality / Immateriality

Edited by Hollie Chung

 

Part of being a Design Historian is to understand the materiality of an object, to excavate its origin, to what extent it is fit for purpose, and to ascertain the wider social and economic conditions of its employ. In so doing objects can and should be explored in light of demand, production, craft, economic climate, commercial activity, and consumer reception etc. But how do we account for taste, memory, sentimentality and belief? These factors often have a transformative effect: identification as an object, is changed to a belonging and its materiality is altered from an elemental distinction to postulations of tactility, embodied experiences and sensoriality. Much of what creates an object is formed after its crafting, existing in an ‘aura’ that while immaterial, is highly perceptible. Addressing these aspects is a unique trait of Design History and often enlightened by its transdisciplinary nature. This column aims to heighten notions of experience and how this contributes to an understanding of object agency.

All submissions are welcome, if you would like to address that which is immaterial in objects or design, are interested in human-object interaction, or would simply like to argue the point (or lack of) a focus on the immaterial please do write. Similarly, if you are interested in contributing to this discussion and would like some ideas on potential topics or case studies please get in touch. This column offers a flexible and forgiving space to exercise, explore and stretch the boundaries of such inquisition.


 

Tools of the Trade

Lydia Pyne   On 27 October 1964, Dr. Emil Haury threw an engraved trowel in the air amid great fanfare from his students, field crew, and fellow archaeologists. Where the trowel struck dirt, Dr. Haury had Jones Williams, a 72-year-old Akimel O’ohham worker, turn over the first shovelful of sediment, inaugurating a new field season

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Flesh & Marble: Materialising the Body in 18th-century Satirical Prints

Dr Danielle Thom   Marble, paper, flesh. The ambiguous relationship between the sculpted body and the living body in 18th century Britain was explored most effectively through works on paper – particularly the many satirical prints which flourished in this period. Before examining these satirical works, it’s worth looking at non-satirical and idealised representations of

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Wax at La Specola:
Not For Those With a Nervous Disposition

Hollie Chung   The conservation of Renaissance wax modellos is a tricky business this time of year, with the sweltering heat of summer threatening to melt Giambologna’s handcrafted renderings of classical mythology. While this is far from ideal, the slight glistening of oils on the surface of writhing bodies caught mid-action proffers a living quality

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Mediating the Gap:
HENRI MATTISE – THE CUT-OUTS

Hollie Chung   Henri Matisse ‘The Cut-Outs’ exhibition at London’s Tate Modern charts the final seventeen years of the artist’s life through an impressive collection of media formed of shapes cut from painted paper. The exhibition itself has received critical acclaim, with the works and artistic oeuvre receiving poetic praise internationally. That said, the accomplishment

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The Memory of My Wardrobe

Ida Taavitsainen   Ida Taavitsainen’s photographic project ‘The Memory of My Wardrobe’ is looking at family history through clothes inherited by friends and members of the family.   For as long as I can remember, clothes and fashion have fascinated me. Besides the few style mistakes every teenager makes, my interest in fashion has always

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Marking Design Part 2:
Objects in the Sea of Time

Sophie Cope   Saucepans, dog collars, candle boxes, nutcrackers and shoe brushes – this is just a selection of early modern domestic objects that have survived inscribed with dates. From the late sixteenth century there was a great rise in the number of dated objects. Dates could be engraved, painted, or moulded onto an object.

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Marking design part 1:
The writing’s on the wall

Hollie Chung   With Valentines day but two weeks away, you might be wondering how best to express your undying love for that special someone; and for many of us this will see the sort of soppy behaviour we tend not to condone the other 364 days of the year. However, where a box of

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Life is a Box of Chocolates

Hollie Chung     With the holiday period coming to an end, and our waistlines greatly expanded, we realize the last few weeks has constituted a time of great excess, and regrettable gluttony; a gluttony fuelled by the receiving of ever-larger boxes of chocolates, fruity preserves, and more festive biscuits than you can throw a

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Putting a price on money:
A contemporary abstraction of value

Hollie Chung   In recent history the materiality of money has experienced an insolvency of substance. Where the physicality of currency was once understood in terms of its corresponding intrinsic worth as in the case of precious metal coins, it is now divergently experienced online with little or no real materiality to its name. Throughout

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Fashion, Freud and Foucault:
Thoughts on the immateriality and embodiment of dress in museums

Jo Tierney   ‘The living observer moves, with a sense of mounting panic, through the world of the dead…We experience a sense of the uncanny when we gaze at garments that had an intimate relationship with human beings long since gone to their graves…clothes hint at something only half understood, sinister, threatening; the atrophy of

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