1-2pm, Thursday 6th February 2020
M2 Boardroom, Grand Parade

John-Patrick Hartnett

AGI as canon: professional distinction and the question of difference


This paper examines the place of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) within the context of debates regarding the canon of graphic design history, which have developed since the design historian Martha Scotford published the seminal study ‘Is there a Canon of Graphic Design History?’. Scotford sought to analyse why the field of graphic de-sign history, at that time ‘coming out if its infancy’, was unconsciously producing a canon that celebrated the achievements of a narrow group of designers at the expense of exploring the true scope of activity within the field. AGI’s history can be understood as a unique sub-section of graphic design history in general – a record of the work and practices deemed ex-ceptional by a group of highly distinguished practitioners, as distinct from academic histori-ans. AGI’s history also reflects many of the same biases that Scotford and others have iden-tified at the core of the subject, a history that has largely been defined by the achievements of Western white males. Analysis will seek to demonstrate how the ‘elite’ nature of AGI is not simply related to professional distinction, but also the privileged position that its mem-bers are in socially and economically. Drawing on scholarship from the Decolonising De-sign group (Ansari, 2018), Wen Huei Chou (2006), Tony Fry (2015), and Arturo Escobar (2017), it will be considered whether the possibility of aspiring toward a ‘pluriversal’ stand-ard – as oxymoronic as it might sound – would be a worthwhile goal for AGI, in light of its recently stated aims to establish a more diversely representative platform for the world’s foremost designers (Maditla, 2018).

Rachel Maloney
Female voices in the Archive: working with the Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A Museum
This talk will discuss Rachel’s current research fellowship with the V&A Museum. Rachel’s research project ‘Looking for the Matriarchive’ is focused on uncovering the female narrative of materials held in the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) collection housed in the V&A archives.
This talk will focus specifically on the Burnip album from the RPS Collection. This Victorian photograph album has been intricately hand-decorated and carefully assembled, presumably by the mysterious ‘Mary’ whose name is embossed on the album’s leather-bound cover. Unravelling the narrative of ‘Mary’ has revealed connections and insights into the lives of women from the 1870’s (when the album was made), to the modern day. This photograph album has its own rich history which is intertwined with the story of two remarkable women, Mabel Burnip and Ethel Williams.
Rachel will discuss the importance of physicality and presence within archival photography collections and how important the tactile nature of working with archival materials can be to the researcher. And in conclusion, how this connection can enable new dialogues to  evolve.
All welcome, bring your lunch
No Booking required