Published

Living with art at Kettle’s Yard

MR took me to Kettle’s Yard for my birthday 🎈 without either of us knowing too much about it. I had seen the identity developed by Apfel, and our landlord Nina had mentioned it. Excerpts on its history from the website below.


Between 1958 and 1973 Kettle’s Yard was the home of Jim and Helen Ede. In the 1920s and 30s Jim had been a curator at the Tate Gallery in London. Thanks to his friendships with artists and other like-minded people, over the years he gathered a remarkable collection, including paintings by Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Alfred Wallis, Christopher Wood, David Jones and Joan Miró, as well as sculptures by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Constantin Brancusi, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

At Kettle’s Yard Jim carefully positioned these artworks alongside furniture, glass, ceramics and natural objects, with the aim of creating a harmonic whole. His vision was of a place that should not be

“an art gallery or museum, nor … simply a collection of works of art reflecting my taste or the taste of a given period. It is, rather, a continuing way of life from these last fifty years, in which stray objects, stones, glass, pictures, sculpture, in light and in space, have been used to make manifest the underlying stability.”

Kettle’s Yard was originally conceived with students in mind. Jim kept ‘open house’ every afternoon of term, personally guiding visitors around his home. In 1966 he gave the House and its contents to the University of Cambridge. In 1970, three years before the Edes retired to Edinburgh, the House was extended, and an exhibition gallery added. The House is by and large as Jim left it. There are artworks in every corner, and there are no labels.

Published

This not That

Redistribution of power

[ not perpetuation of power ]


work together

[ not in isolation ]

foster constructive collaborator dialogue

[ not hostile client monologue ]

support the public interest

[ not private interests ]

embrace multiplicity

[ not singularity]

complicate

[ don’t simplify ]

produce critical reflections

[ not narrative descriptions ]


Quality of process

[ not quantity of outcome ]


holistic labour

[ not division of labour ]

fenced work week

[ not overtime ]

scheduled responding to emails

[ not a perpetual flow ]

permit unstructured time

[ reduce billable projects ]

daily walks

[ less sustained screen-time ]

more primary research

[ less secondary/online research ]

●

After Rosalie Schweiker‘s Rules for Work

Published

Toward a Common Practice—Introduction

This paper presents practice and theory that inform a non-exhaustive proposal for alternative design practice. The research was not prompted by a moment of epiphany or driven by a focused line of enquiry. It was motivated by a deep, unarticulated sense of discontent and disempowerment with the conditions and systems of graphic design practice after ten years in industry. To provide brief geo-political context, it is worthwhile noting that I was raised in an apolitical family, studied a Bachelor of Design at the Queensland College of Art (2003-05) and have worked in permanent and freelance roles in Brisbane, Melbourne and London. My experience is primarily in editorial, exhibitions and branding within design studios, agencies and publishers.

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Published

Toward a Common Practice—Chapter 1: Acceleration (or) Extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds

While speed refers to the rate at which something occurs, the rate to which it now refers is almost exclusively quick. This simple transformation, that speed now means going fast, in itself speaks volumes of our accelerated age.

Jeremy Millar and Michiel Schwarz (1)
Detail from Naoya Hatakeyama’s Blast series, featured within the end papers of Speed—Visions of an Accelerated Age. (2)

This chapter aims to validate a suspicion of acceleration; it argues our acclimatisation to this condition; expresses concern for its impact on the mind and body; and examines the three realms of conflict raised in the research question – individual reflection, labour and common space.

Published alongside a twinned exhibition at The Whitechapel and Photographer’s Galleries in 1998, Speed—Visions of an Accelerated Age gathers essays and art that address ‘the defining theme of our age’. Editors Millar and Schwarz write, ‘Speed is all around us; we can feel its effects even if we are unable to see it. Speed is both forceful and immaterial, like the turbulence from a moving vehicle, like the thrust of a jet, like a good idea. Speed can blow us away’. (3) Comparably, actress Fanny Kemble recounts her first railway journey in 1830, ‘You can’t imagine how strange it seemed to be, journeying on thus without any visible cause of progress other than the magical machine, with its flying white breath and rhythmical, unvarying pace’. (4) As speed continues to ‘blow us away’, it is no longer ‘strange’ but our habitual mode of existence.

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Published

Toward a Common Practice—Chapter 2: Deceleration (or) Observations on the feeling of the beautiful and the sublime

This chapter explores walking as a method of deceleration; it traces the historical significance of walking for aesthetic pleasure; discusses examples of deceleration in art practice and contemporary culture; it interprets the ‘slow’ nature of walking; and finally, explains the use of digression and association as a strategy within the research.

I can only meditate when walking, when I stop I cease to think. My mind only works with my legs.

John Jacques Rousseau (1)

The intentional act of walking for aesthetic pleasure has a specific history within Western culture, beginning with ‘the wilful wanderer’ in the eighteenth century. Literary individuals sought to align themselves with the Sophists and Peripatetic school of Ancient Greece, and philosophical reflections on the intellectual benefits of walking were emerging from Burke, Kant and Rousseau (2). From the outset this particular type of walking was rooted in privilege. It is not the history of ‘the tramps, the hobos, the vagrants, the dispossessed, the fugitives, the harmed and the jobless’ (3). Being freely chosen, it was mostly undertaken by a healthy, white, educated male of a certain social and financial standing that permitted reasonable free time, access and safety.

The transformation of the private garden from ‘the formal and highly structured, to the informal and naturalistic’ simultaneously fostered the democratisation of walking practices (4). The medieval garden was situated within a walled fortress in which occupants reclined, in conversation or listening to music. The Renaissance and Baroque gardens complemented safer, more palatial residences that encouraged sitting and walking, however, the order and geometry imposed on the landscape promoted formality rather than autonomous experience. In the eighteenth century, walls were substituted for the ha-ha, an inconspicuous ditch marking the perimeter of the property and enabling views of the countryside beyond. Winding paths were introduced and sculpture was curtailed – ‘the subject of gardens was becoming nature itself’ known as the Jardin Anglais (5). Notably, the burgeoning interest in nature that empowered unprecedented physical and mental freedoms coincided with the onset of the industrial revolution. And while it began as an aristocratic preoccupation, its inherent accessibility made it popular amongst the working class too.

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Published

Toward a Common Practice—Chapter 3: Digression (or) A portrait of the artist as a young man

This chapter considers how digression might manifest in design practice; it briefly considers the historical role of design in society; it offers examples of designers exploring alternative modes of practice; it provides definitions of digression and association; and outlines how this might inform a positioning of practice – fields of interest, research methods, disciplines, process and organisation.


The Rietveld Chair, captured here in Red, Yellow, Blue is an exemplar of De Stijl aims – to create a universal visual language from asymmetrical planes of primary colour (1).

In the first half of the twentieth century the Constructivists, De Stijl and Bauhaus made attempts to improve everyday life through design. In the second half, the discipline became entwined with commerce – fostering the prevailing misconception that this is its sole function (2). Design as an economic service is, most often, consistent with the view of it being a problem-solving activity. Ana Paula Pais of Slow Research Lab takes a divergent position. She writes, ‘design(ing) entails locating, and challenging the conditions of our current realities while creating alternative conditions that allow for new realities to happen’ (3). Here, we see design defined as a problem-setting activity, one that questions existing power structures, rather than perpetuating them. Jack Self expands, ‘Kant says that ethics and aesthetics are one. When you make an aesthetic proposition, you’re also making a moral and an ethical proposition, and you’re expressing your ideas about the world through that form’ (4). How might a commercial practice be ethically responsible? And how might a research practice remain economically viable?

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Published

Toward a Common Practice—Concluding Statement

In this research paper I have established that the literary strategies of digression and association, rooted in the act of walking, provide possible (if but theoretical) ways for an alternative design practice to consider the states of individual reflection, labour and common space for both designers and users.

As outlined in Extraordinary popular delusions… we live in an ‘accelerated age’ (1), shaped by technological progress and economic policies that are subservient to market forces. Within this context, graphic design is positioned as an invaluable tool in the unbridled commodification of everyday life and the reinforcement of dominant power structures. Lamentably, Late Capitalism is so insidiously inextricable from daily norms that its manifestations can be difficult to identify, examine and challenge – our passivity and disempowerment contributing to its success. Good design is good business, but as practitioners we often neglect to ask ‘…for whom?’.

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Published

A digressive practice

This statement of intention, written for assessment purposes during post-graduate design research, lived on a website that formed the practical outcome. The website was the first use-case of adopting an index, as its means of navigation, to organise knowledge.

I am an Australian designer based in London. I am interested in graphic design: as a form of critical analysis and inquiry; applied to everyday social conditions and values; and unfolding as artefacts and experiences. My work is informed by a curiosity for people and place, language and landscape.

An early study compiled instances of marginalia, meditating on the notion of the page as a common space, and marking it a contentious act.

Common Practice presents an intention, a methodology and a terrain. It is a proposition for a design studio and ongoing research concern which:

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Published

Lines not short, not straight, crossing and touching

A meditation on the verb ‘to traverse’, written during post-graduate research exploring connections between walking and labour.

In an increasingly dematerialised and production-oriented culture, how might the act of traversing inform the possibilities of labour?

Walking shares with making and working that crucial element of engagement of the body and the mind with the world, of knowing the world through the body and the body through the world.

Rebecca Solnit in Wanderlust(1), pg. 29

Despite, or perhaps because of, its infrequent appearance in the landscape of everyday language, the verb ‘traverse’ pleases both the ear and the mind. Tongue pressed briefly to the roof of the mouth, T–R–A, like a plucked guitar. Then a bitten lip, a fling and a hiss, V–ER–SE. My delivery is voiced with an emphasis on the second syllable, TRA–VERSE, disclosing geographic origins and at the same time performing. A phoneme thrown, outstretched, into the nearby yonder.

To traverse is, at the very least, to set out. The Oxford English Dictionary outlines it as ‘travel across or through’, which points past any modest beginning to a centre. But what is the quantifiable breadth of across? And what, in fact, are we travelling through? If I step onto the porch, have I traversed? Or must I also progress past the door? And the foyer? And the hall? It’s difficult to comprehend the scope of this centre in an age that offers return flights to Ibiza for the price of a Uniqlo t-shirt.

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