Today I returned to London College of Communication for the autumn term and the final year of my MA course. It was a long day, we chatted with the new cohort about the postcard project see Au revoir – Andrew and then we split off into our respective groups.
There was a good energy today, we discussed reading and I mentioned seeing the recent exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery – André Kertész: On Reading to which Anna produced the book On Reading. Individually we had to spontaneously find a text that we could read out to the group and then discuss, this was related to our final major projects. The session became a pseudo-tutorial seminar where we talked through the research we had done so far.
I explained to the group that I had the idea for my major project from reading The Crisis of Criticism, ed. Maurice Berger. One of the essays (title and author to come) suggested through its authorial voice that the author was gay. This was confirmed further in the essay, then by a subsequent web search of the author and his bibliography. From this seed, I am formulating a research question based on the idea of whether there is, could or should be a gay authorial voice in design writing. I am also keen explore, perhaps in a more semiotic analysis, the notion of what constitutes gay design in terms of basic design elements that constitute a visual language such as colour, typography, form and whether stereotypes are an inevitable outcome. The inverted pink triangle for example, a symbol of Nazi oppression in WW2 is the most potent symbol of gay activism through subversion of a sign.
I explained to the group that I visited the Gay Icons exhibition at the National Protrait Gallery, a fascinating exhibition, some great images, however I was disappointed with the choice of selectors, all over the age of 40 and as a result there was an element of predictability in their choices. I can’t knock the NPG it is testament to the age we live in that an exhibition of this nature can be held in a mainstream institution.
On 1 October I went on a gallery tour entitled ‘Queer Perspectives” with artist Sadie Lee. Her fellow guest guide was the writer and academic Professor Richard Dyer. He gave an illuminating talk and afterwards I approached him and asked if he would be willing for me to contact him in future about my research. Richard talked about Oscar Wilde, and the exhibition in 2000 at the Geffrye Museum in Hackney ‘The House Beautiful’. As we were exiting one of the gallery spaces Richard pointed to a mosaic tiled floor and said ‘this could have been designed by a gay person, but does it matter? How do we know? When talking about the portrait of Mozart, he tells us that a musician friend said that Mozart had to be gay because his music has so many flourishes and embellishments. Is gay design like music, hard to define?
I read out the contents page of Richard’s book ‘the culture of queers‘ to gain an insight into the possible positioning of the author in relation to the subject, chapter 5 – It’s in his kiss!: vampirism as homosexuality, homosexuality as vampirism – raised eyebrows and a few chuckles from my classmates.
As the session was about reading, I chose chapter 1 Lives and Works of ‘Foucault A Very Short Introduction‘ (Anna has issues with Very Short Introductions). I find this interesting as there are two readings of his life, one version speaks of his academic success and the other of him as a tortured homosexual. A third version speaks of his life as a political and social activist. Anna suggested the first version is the accepted ‘canonical’ version of Foucault and the second is a marginalised view where people don’t like to think of him in that way. In ‘Hallucinating Foucault‘, Anna tells us that his exploits in San Francisco bath houses are made explicit.
Paul Hallam suggested to me that Icons would be a good starting point or working theme for my research and if we think of Foucault as a philosophical icon, then the first reading of his lift, that of academic genius would be the one that has been canonised, not the version of him as a homosexual.
Anna read a passage from Jeanette Winterson‘s ‘Art Objects‘ that discusses the relationship between the writer and the reader and the semiotics of sex. Both Hallucinating Foucault and Art Objects are on my wish list.
Well tiredness has overcome me, a long but productive and stimulating day. We are on the major project road, as Sheena Calvert told me, don’t look down and don’t look back!
Oh and final thought…. My quote of the day was uttered by my good self, when at one point most of the group were searching or adding a piece of info to their iPhones and Blackberry’s, I told the group it was like the technological version of “apple and blackberry crumble’ to which Anna replied ‘oh I love crumble’ to which I agreed to make some for her, with Spelt flour!