Congratulations to the Design History Society Ambassador

Recent graduate Rowan Adamson reflects on her degree in History of Design and Material Culture as a springboard for her role as a new Ambassador for the prestigious Design History Society, the leading organisation that promotes and supports the study of design histories, both in the UK and internationally.

After graduating with my master’s degree in the ‘History of Design and Material Culture’ from the University of Brighton in February 2023, I am pleased to announce my appointment as ‘Ambassador’ for the Design History Society. The DHS is the leading organisation that promotes and supports the study of design histories, both in the UK and internationally. My role will be to promote the DHS through engaging content (primarily through the Blog – including reviews, reports, interviews, thought pieces, visual essays etc) and updating social media channels, as well as organising an event for post-graduate/early career researchers and students to engage with the society in an informal and casual setting.

In addition to my master’s degree, I hold an undergraduate degree in ‘Textile Design’ from Gray’s School of Art (Robert Gordon University) in Aberdeen. Grounded in design and craft principles, my educational background has been instrumental in informing my research with a particular focus on utilising the archive through the lens of creative methods and making practices. Making the transition from a practical studio based undergraduate to an academically challenging and theory led post-graduate forced me to reassess my research methods and led to a deeper understanding of object theory, exhibition design and museum processes. For my master’s dissertation, titled “Memory, Materiality, and the Collection: Exploring the relationship between object and artist within contemporary art and craft,” I delved into creative practices involving found objects and archival material as a tool for inspiration and exploration, interviewing 3 artists/designers and analysing their methods. My research interests span a range of topics, including but not limited to the materiality of the archive, the memory of objects, and Scottish textile design and craft histories.

I loved my master’s degree, and credit the department of History of Art and Design and the Centre for Design History for such an encouraging environment in to learn and question our subject, especially through workshops and seminars along with the excellent staff and my fellow master’s students. With this encouragement I am actively pursuing a career within the arts/museum sector and have recently relocated from Brighton back to Glasgow, where I am continuing my pursuits in the field. The Design History Society allows me the opportunity to stay up to date on the ongoing discourse in Design History, and this engagement serves as a valuable resource as I explore potential avenues for further study and career opportunities.

We are looking for an additional Ambassador to join me; it is an excellent opportunity to be involved with Design History and network with other academics and researchers. Open to anyone with an interest in Design History, please see the ‘Vacancies’ page on the DHS website, or alternatively please email me at radamson15@gmail.com to discuss this further.

https://www.designhistorysociety.org/about/vacancies

https://www.designhistorysociety.org/news/view/welcome-to-our-new-ambassador

 

 

Students’ work on display at Brighton & Hove Museums

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery have opened a new display that features work from MA Curating Collections and Heritage students

“DO NOT TOUCH!!!!” is a display of student posters that all try to challenge the classic signage in museums that ask visitors not to touch the collections. It is on at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery over the next few months.

Caring for Collections and their Users

 

Museum visitors often report feeling out of place or self-conscious in museums, and signage and instructions that dictate how visitors should behave are often part of the alienation and embarrassment that prevents some people from enjoying museums.

Classic signage that MA Curating students hope to avoid

Students on the module ‘Caring for Collections and their Users’ try to take a different approach. As part of their assessment they are challenged to present complex conservation information about caring for objects to museum audiences in an accessible and engaging way. Students can choose to produce a poster that encourages visitors to not to touch, or they can opt to design a set of child-friendly instructions for the safe handling of a mixed range of objects in a schools handling box. Their designs are informed the debates around access, learning, collections research, preventative conservation and audience development that are covered on the module.

Working with Brighton & Hove Museums

 

Each year, students on the MA Curating benefit from conservation workshops run by staff from Brighton & Hove Museums. This year, our long-term relationship with Gaye Conley, Head of Conservation, has led to an invitation to our students to display their posters. Gaye writes

I have wanted to display the students’ work for several years. It’s rewarding to see the outcome of the talks we have undertaken with the students, and it will be fascinating to watch the public engage with the students’ work.

Student posters on display at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

Student Success

 

In the space available, Brighton & Hove Museum staff chose three posters produced in recent years. Ellie Bedford designed ‘Museum in a Box!’ to support a school session to help children safely handle objects; Paige Franklin designed ‘Look at Me!’ for an art and design gallery that has fragile objects on open display, and Elliot Thorn produced ‘Vase on a Plinth’ to help people see the consequences of touch, and what might happen if they bring food into the gallery. All of the posters use bold graphics and clear text to encourage visitors to feel welcome in the museum, and informed about how to care for our shared heritage.

Ellie writes,

The poster design was a fun challenge! I enjoyed bringing together all of the curating skills and academic theories that we had learnt, and applying them to a practical task. It’s very rewarding seeing it in print!

‘Museum in a Box!’, Ellie Bedford, 2022

 

‘Look at Me!’, Paige Franklin, 2023

Elliot writes,

Designing the poster was a fun experience. It was a challenge to figure out how to convey meaning without written language. One of my aims was to make the poster accessible to people whose first language wasn’t English, so clear visual storytelling was important. Overall, I’m happy with the end result!

 

‘Vase on a Plinth’, Elliot Thorn, 2022

 

Their university and museum tutors couldn’t be prouder! Congratulations all!

 

 

 

New Student Exhibition: From Disney to ‘Disneyfication’

BA Art History and Visual Culture and BA Fashion and Dress History students Vasilii Bruni, Albert Holloway, Niamh Carden, Olivia Ratcliffe and Camille Scribner announce their new exhibition, now on display at Pavilion Parade at the University of Brighton

From Disney to ‘Disneyfication’ is an exhibition curated to highlight how Disney established a multi-media monopoly, from its humble beginnings in the 1920s to the global franchise it is today. It considers the impact of ‘Disneyfication’ on materials from theme parks brochures to Mickey Mouse illustrations.

From Disney to Disneyfication display case

Disney as a franchise is at the forefront of rapid Western globalisation, a huge part of twentieth-century media consumption. It has been catapulted into an advertisement empire by the consumerist lifestyle of the 21st century. Our aim with this exhibition is to illustrate the narrative of Disney as a company and its undeniable influence on the Western mass market.

The term ‘Disneyfication’ comes from the field of sociology, meaning:

the homogenization of entertainment into something simplified, controlled and “safe” – reminiscent of the Walt Disney Brand.”

The exhibition includes artefacts produced pre-Disneyfication and post-Disneyfication, including a Mickey Mouse annual from the 1930s and a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs-inspired dental hygiene advertisement to encompass the commercialisation and distribution of entertainment through different media.

The exhibit also aims to highlight the sanitisation of mainstream media, championed by mega corporations. It features artefacts from the Marvel and Star Wars franchises showcasing their previous merchandise before their standardised “safer” format that is recognisable as being a product of the Walt Disney Company.

Although we want to call attention to the monopoly Disney has on mega media franchises, we also want to celebrate the universal affiliation with its well-known fictional characters and universes. Disney has been a household name for generations, so we chose items that were recognisable and familiar to all, from casual fans to cult followers. We wanted to ensure that all visitors will have at least one memory they can fondly recall when looking at our display.

Since my childhood, Disney has always been a factor in the media I consume, like the movies I would watch and the books I would’ve read. It is an integral part of lots of people’s childhoods and even going into many of our adult lives, especially now as they branch out and own media such as Star Wars, which is something that I still watch and enjoy. It’s interesting to see how it has changed and developed to appeal to a wider audience and this is why I think it’s a highly interesting topic to base our exhibition upon”, Olivia Ratcliffe, Group Researcher

Starting the 13th of December 2022 students and staff of the University of Brighton will be able to visit the exhibition at the Pavilion Parade building located in the City Campus.

Poster for From Disney to Disneyfication

 

New Student Exhibition – Alison Settle: An Observation

BA Art History and Visual Culture students Lori Bennallick, Ellie-Mae Carter, Romina Valerio Martinez and Holly Owen announce their new exhibition, now on display at Pavilion Parade at the University of Brighton

Alison Settle: An Observation is an exhibition curated to highlight Alison Settle’s importance in fashion journalism and to celebrate her journey as a great influence in the fashion industry. In this exhibition, you will find newspaper cut outs from The Observer, which inform us of Settle’s achievements. There are also digital portraits and a mimic response of one of her potential outfits. Furthermore, the exhibition will include a copy of the famous book “The Clothesline” by Alison Settle, which includes a range of information about her role in the fashion industry and as editor of British Vogue. This curated collection will be a homage to her career as a journalist. Alison Settle became a significant link in fashion between Britain and France. High-end fashion lines such as Schiaparelli and Balmain have described Alison Settle as “The Queen” or “La Reine”.

A dress from the University of Brighton’s dress teaching collection, evoking the type of dress Settle would have recommended to her readers

The “Alison Settle: An Observation” exhibition will showcase from Tuesday 13 December at Pavilion Parade, where all students and members of staff will have access to attend. Pavilion Parade is located in the heart of Brighton, Old Steine. This allows easy access to students and members of staff that live nearby. This exhibition has been organised and curated by four current second-year students, Romina Valerio Martinez, Lori Bennallick, Holly Owen and Ellie-Mae Carter. The artefacts in this exhibition have been carefully picked out and placed to result in an impactful storytelling production of Alison Settle’s career.

Curator Holly Owen is certainly “so pleased with the outcome of this exhibition because women like Alison Settle should be recognised and celebrated for their achievement.” Settle was a female journalist and editor of British Vogue for over a decade, repeatedly encouraging and advising women about fashion and trends. The significance of this exhibition is to shape it as a celebration of how Alison Settle, as a woman, was able to defy gender norms within journalism.

Curator Ellie-Mae Carter sees this exhibition as “perfect for a fan of fashion” and also describes it as a “fashionable take on a prominent female journalist.” The items in the exhibition show that Alison Settle was recognised by the media and took on an important role in the fashion world.

O’Sullivan describes Alison Settle as the “Grande Dame of European Fashion”, which translates to the “Great Lady”. She was seen as a fashion journalist icon whose opinion mattered and influenced many middle-class women. Fashion magazines such Vogue were seen as very elitist and attracted a mainly a middle upper-class audience. One of Settle’s main goals for the fashion industry was to create a platform where British Vogue would become a more practical and affordable concept so that it could impact a much bigger audience.

The images below show clippings from the newspaper The Observer, where Alison Settle’s work was published. Not only was she a great influence for the fashion industry, she also raised many societal issues such as women’s rights with the power she had obtained as a journalist. As stated previously, this exhibition is not only about her celebration as a fashion icon but also as a powerful woman who was able to impact many and use her power to raise many issues and defy gender norms.

 

New Student Exhibition: Kids’ Entertainment – Nostalgia and Modernity

BA History of Art and Visual Culture students Tiffany Barron, Poppy Phelps, Olivia Heim Romero and Alfie Mancell announce their new exhibition, now on display at St Peters House Library

What memories do you have as a child? Perhaps reading a book before bed, or playing a card game with your family at Christmas time? These early childhood memories of game playing are the focus of our exhibition ‘Kids’ Entertainment – Nostalgia and Modernity’.

Bringing together items from both past and present, the exhibition aims to explore the change in childhood across a time period between the early 1800s until present day. With focus on games, nursery rhymes and books, we hope to communicate the relatively quick change that has occurred over the past 200 years. With the rise of social media, quick delivery times and speedy trend cycles, early childhood has never been more changeable. Hours spent playing board games have been replaced.

Items have been chosen in pairs in order to highlight this contrast. The modern card game UNO sits alongside the 1950’s Faraway Tree with the aim of highlighting the change of pace in card games. Having UNO accessible to play for general public adds an element of participation to allow viewers to become more engaged with the topic. Similarly, the 1969 book The Hungry Caterpillar is accompanied by its 2000’s counterpart in the form of a stuffed animal depicting the main character the Caterpillar himself. These are just a few examples of the items that are being used to create the point of the exhibition.

J.C. Sowerby and H.H. Emmerson, ‘Afternoon Tea’, London, Frederick Warne and Co, from the St Peters House Library Collection

Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, from the collection of St Peters House Library

In creating this exhibition it was also important to make it accessible for its target audience. Given the option between two university locations, it was important to choose a location that was both physically accessible and had a lot of foot fall. For that reason, the University of Brighton’s St Peters House Library was selected for its central city location and disability access.

Being located in the foyer of the University of Brighton’s St Peters House Library, we knew that our target audience would most likely be students and academic professionals. Looking at that group, the majority of our target age range would sit within their late teens and twenties. Taking this into account, it was felt that it would be useful to incorporate social media into the exhibition.

Social media is a key element in changing childhood experiences. Parents often use iPads as tools for both education and distraction in today’s modern age, an extreme change from the early 1800s and even from the early 2000s when members of the exhibition team were growing up. In having social media as part of the exhibition highlights the speed at which resources are accessible. Not only does it relate to the topic but it also makes the exhibition more accessible to those who cannot be there or struggle with reading small text labels. Through the use of QR codes attached to the items, viewers will be able to access more in-depth explanations and histories of the items should they so wish. This also means that the viewer could alter the text size on their phone should sight be an issue.

 

 

 

New Student Exhibition: HIV Positivity: Work of those Affected

BA Visual Culture students Imre Bitirim, Ruby Cumiskey, Simona Moccetti and Samantha Williams announce their new exhibition, now on display at St Peters House Library at the University of Brighton

HIV Positivity: Work of those Affected is an exhibition curated to inform and celebrate science, society and the people who have fought this horrific disease. On display there are artworks by two artists who have suffered and sadly passed away due to AIDS related illnesses, Mark Leslie and David Robilliard, as well as more pieces from the St Peters House Library Archives. As this is a powerfully emotive subject, the curators have done everything in their power to make this exhibition accessible for all and have appropriate trigger warnings when necessary.

From December 13 2022 students and staff members of Brighton University will be able to visit St Peters House Library, located on Richmond Place, for an intimate exhibition on the HIV and AIDS epidemic. This exhibition has been set up and organised by four second-year students from the Visual Culture course, Simona Moccetti, Imre Bitirim, Samantha Williams and Ruby Cumiskey.

“We felt it important to give back to this cause by raising money for World AIDS Day. To do this we have placed a charity box at Pavilion Parade and have linked relevant sites where people can donate money,” says curator Ruby Cumiskey.

HIV is still a major health issue globally, and it is thought that 38.4 million people are still living with HIV today. But thanks to science, people can live a healthy life with the correct medication, and with experimental drugs and through extensive research, five people have now been cured of HIV. But this wouldn’t be possible without charitable donations.

“Making our display inclusive and accessible was one of our main goals and we worked hard to make this possible.” Simona Moccetti, curator.

The chosen facility to display the exhibition is St Peters House Library, because it is wheelchair friendly, and has a wider range of people passing through. Within the display are QR codes, with instructions on how to use a QR code, the web address for those unable to use QR codes, and a leaflet if the person does not have a phone or access to the internet.

“These artists you see here [in the exhibit] maintained colour in their lives, although an incurable disease attempted to deprived them of such. Therefore, we felt it necessary to have the vitrine visually light and colourful, although the subject matter may be distressing. We wanted to pay homage to these artists the same way they explored their battle.” Imre Bitirim, curator.

A Tumblr page has been created to accompany the exhibition. One of the QR codes on the display will lead the viewer to the page, where they will find more photos and information of the items, film, TV and documentary recommendations that include stories and information on HIV and AIDS. On the site there are also links to pages where people can donate money to relevant causes. There is also a section where the public can post questions and comments either about the display or about personal experiences they’ve gone through.

“We have selected multiple objects from the St Peters House Library archives, as these objects contain personal experiences whist living with HIV/AIDS.” Samantha Williams, curator.

World Aids Day Poster, 1994, from the collection of St Peters House Library

The items that have been carefully chosen to go into this exhibition include a poster from 1991 that shows many different variations of the red ribbon, which is a symbol of support and solidarity for people who suffer with HIV and/or AIDS. There will be a book with personal photographs from an artist called Mark Leslie, who contracted AIDS and recorded his body going through the painful changes with photography. A book and CD by artist and poet David Robilliard, sadly another artist who suffered from the virus and unfortunately passed away, is also included. There will be an extra QR code linked to Robilliad’s spoken poetry in the display. And finally, a modern comic book about a normal person living with HIV and taking the PREP pill, is included. This comic book is informative as well as enjoyable to read and look at.

A Andrews and J Amaro, Just a Pill, 2020, from the collection of St Peters House

This exhibition aims to be a celebration of people, society and science and not a deep dive into the virus itself. It hopes to be educational, enlightening and sentimental as it has affected so many human beings in the past as well as the present. It is not a topic to be forgotten.

The Conflictorium: A radical museum experience

‘The wall of conflicts’ display at the Conflictorium, 2018, image by Shubhsadhwani, licensed under the Creative Commons

MA Curating Collections and Heritage student Preksha Kothari reviews the Conflictorium in Ahmedabad, praising its politically engaged role in Indian political life.

Time and again, conflict and dissent have been viewed through the lens of caution, and commonly, as concepts that are dangerous to society. The museum setting is often uncomfortable in addressing notions of politics and activism. However, a unique museum in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India has sprung up with these very ideas at its core.

Nestled in an old suburb of Ahmedabad, the Conflictorium is the brainchild of Avni Sethi and is supported by three social organisations, Janvikas, the Centre for Social Justice and Navsarjan. Housed in the Gool Lodge, the museum strives to be a place where one can be introspective and come face to face with conflict in the inner self and their environment. The museum encourages its audiences to engage with and express discord rather than ignore it.

The Conflictorium attempts to trace the violent history of the state of Gujarat, which in popular memory is often perceived as a peace-loving region. The 2002 Gujarat riots, which are considered the bloodiest clash between the Hindu and Muslim communities in India, are seen as an anomaly. However, Sethi aims to bring people into confrontation with the oppressive and brutal past of the state and show how it has been largely ignored in Indian society. The museum sits in the vicinity of places of worship for different religious faiths and is located close to residents of underrepresented communities. One glance at the Gool Lodge and it is clear that the museum team has deliberately not gentrified the space and kept it open to everyone. This is in tandem with the core belief of the Conflictorium. The exhibits are not kept in vitrines and rope barriers are not present either. This allows visitors to touch each object and craft their own conversation with it.

The museum comprises both permanent and temporary displays. The permanent exhibits include the ‘Conflict Timeline’, ‘Empathy Alley’, and ‘Moral Compass’ among others. The Conflict Timeline portrays the history of clashes since the making of Gujarat. The Empathy Alley contains silhouettes of important political and cultural figures in the making of the country, including M.K. Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar, representing how different ideologies were expressed in pre- and post-independent India. Moral Compass is a room where an authentic copy of the Indian Constitution is placed, openly accessible to any visitor. While the world’s longest-written constitution is often mistaken for a religious text, the museum hopes to make people aware of their rights through Moral Compass and make them conscious citizens.

Apart from these displays, there are poignant community exhibits that invite audiences to participate while visiting the museum. The Memory Lab acts as a path for visitors to leave their deepest feelings inside empty glass jars, offering a safe space where they can write without judgment. The Sorry Tree is a sacred fig, called peepul ka ped in Hindi. It is located in the museum premise and visitors can hang “I am sorry” notes on the branches, based on the belief that forgiveness is a powerful feeling. Recently, the museum has hosted temporary exhibitions such as “Death and Disease,” which explores the issues of the caste system in India with an allegory to the Covid-19 pandemic. Besides exhibitions, the museum invites artists, poets and writers to host talks and workshops on themes ranging from gender binaries to forests and wildlife.

What started as a college project for Avni Sethi has transformed into an internationally recognised institution that is spearheading a movement for society. Sethi was awarded the Jane Lombard Prize for Art and Social Justice 2020-2022 by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics. Also, the Conflictorium recently opened another space in the city of Raipur, serving as a medium for difficult conversations to be had in that city. Here’s to hoping that the many more such Conflictoriums find their inception in different parts of India, and maybe the world.

Read our FAQs to decide which is the right course for you

At Brighton we offer two degrees in this programme area: a Fashion and Design History course and an Art History and Visual Culture course – find out more from lecturer Dr Veronica Isaac about them and what and how you’ll learn.

Here, lecturer Veronica Issac, who has a background in the museum sector and worked for the Department of Theatre and Performance at the V&A Museum for over 10 years, answers key questions on what you can expect from a degree at the University of Brighton.

I haven’t studied history of art or fashion before. Does this matter?

No! We’re looking for students who are excited to learn and open to engaging with news ideas and sources. We also inspired by the different perspectives and knowledge everyone brings to the course.

Should I apply for the Fashion and Design History course or the Art History and Visual Culture course – what are they key differences?

If you already know that you want to specialise in Fashion and Design History then this is one of very few BA courses in which you’ll have the opportunity to do so. Choosing this course will give you access to modules which focus specifically on debates and research connected with fashion, dress and textiles. If you’re not certain, you could actually choose either, as there’s still enough flexibility when you choose option modules in Level 5 (Year 2) to decide to study a module from the Fashion and Design History, or the Art History and Visual Culture course – so there’s scope to build up a range of experience in both areas.

What should I put in my personal statement / cover letter?

We want to know about you and why you want to study at Brighton. What interests you about the course? Is there anything specific you hope to learn or experience? Is there a particular reason you want to study in Brighton (the area, the teaching staff, the things you will have the opportunity to learn about). We’re also keen to understand what experience and ideas you will bring to the course – What do you enjoy studying? What life experience do you have which might be relevant to the course? Do you write, draw, make? All these skills – and more – are relevant and helpful. Do you have any longer term ambitions which this course might help you to achieve? We want to know this course is a good fit for you, and that you’ll enjoying growing and developing during your time here. One of our students has written a blog post sharing tips based on their experience of writing a personal statement, which you can read here. We also have a dedicated page here on our website about this. 

Is a placement part of the course?

There is the opportunity to undertake a 30 hour placement with an organisation from the third sector or public service sector (not for profit) as part of the course. You are matched with a host (generally from the local area and connected with arts and heritage) and have a clearly defined role and focus for your placement. The aim of the placement is to give you the chance to gain professional skills which will boost your employability. They also you a great chance to learn about which areas of work you enjoy and where your strengths lie.

How is the course taught?

The courses are taught through a combination of lectures (delivered by staff and inspired by their ongoing research), seminars (discussions in smaller groups with fellow students, often with some preparatory reading or research tasks) and workshops which often involve object handling (led by staff and external specialists and focussed on gaining specific training or skills, or experimenting with particular research methods). You will also have the opportunity to go on class visits to relevant art galleries, museums and heritage sites. 

What introductory reading do you recommend?

There’s nothing specific you need to read to be ready to study here, but if you’re interested in Fashion and Design History, there are wonderful resources online you can explore – Google Arts and Culture https://artsandculture.google.com/ and the Fashion History Timeline https://fashionhistory.fitnyc.edu/. It’s hard to choose a specific book as it would depend so much on whether there was a particular time period, or aspect of fashion which interested you, but some books I love are: The Birth of Cool, by Carol Tulloch and Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion, by Hilary Davidson. If you’re keen for further recommendations, ask us at open days and we’ll happily provide you with a list! You’ll also have access to fantastic range of texts in the library when you study here and plenty of time to read more about your subject.

How soon after I apply will I know if I have a place? – 

Universities are due to respond to applications submitted by 26 January 2022. This is the generic deadline although we aim to respond as soon as possible. UCAS Clearing opens on the 5 July 2022, this is when students who have not already received an offer from us may contact us to check if there are still vacancies and apply through clearing to be considered for a place.  

Exciting news! Our MA graduate Arisa Yamaguci wins a prestigious award

Reporting on MA History of Design and Material Culture graduate Arisa Yamaguci’s successes, including completing a PhD, winning a prestigious award and making important contributions to the study of dress history.

On March 26th 2022, Arisa Yamaguci, graduate from the University of Brighton MA in Design History and Material Culture, was awarded her PhD from Seitoku University, Matsudo, Chiba, Japan. She was also given the honour and prestige of receiving The President Award at graduation, which recognises highly esteemed accomplishments.

Allie joined our MA Design History and Material Culture programme in 2014, researching a dissertation titled: Japonisme in France, Japonisme in Japan: issue of the cross cultural design and consumption of silk textiles 1880 – 1914 and its related museum exhibition in Kyoto and Paris.

Her PhD from Seitoku University built on this MA research, but with a focus on the reception and use of the kimono in Britain in the late 19th and nearly 20th centuries.

Advertisement in the Bexhill Chronicle May 1914 for the local department store Miller and Franklin’s ‘real Japanese kimonos’.

Allie  is now a Lecturer at the University of Tsukuba. On March 27th she was a member of the virtual panel “Fashioning Misunderstanding – Transcultural Engagements and the Material Culture of Fashion,” chaired by Toshio Watanabe, University of East Anglia, at the annual Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, with presentations by Elizabeth Kramer, Northumbria University , Sarah Cheang, Royal College of Art, Keiko Suzuki, Ritsumeikan University  and Arisa Yamaguchi, University of Tsukuba on “Fancy Dress Described” (1879-1896.)”

Allie is currently developing a book proposal for a UK publisher with a provisional title of Kimono Circulates: Sartorial Japonisme and the Experience of Kimonos in Britain 1865-1914.

Corbin Shaw’s latest exhibition ‘Nowt as Queer as Folk’ at the Guts Gallery, London

Piers Courtney, final year BA (Hons) Visual Culture student reports on artist Corbin Shaw’s exhibition Nowt as Queer as Folk at the Guts Gallery, London.

In the newly relocated Guts Gallery, situated opposite automobile repair shops under the arches of Hackney, artist Corbin Shaw’s newest exhibition Nowt as Queer as Folk stands in solidarity with its working-class surroundings. It’s a fitting exhibition for London’s most exciting new gallery, founded to combat London’s major institutions, a business model the gallery describes as “socio-political austerity.”

Shaw first came prominence creating St George’s flags that criticise the toxic masculinity of his own upbringing, working class routes in Yorkshire that mirror my own. The flags inscribed within the blank spaces, with the survival tactics of a young man growing up in austerity “GET A JOB, GET A CAR, GET MARRIED, GET A MORTGAGE” or simply “WE SHOULD TALK ABOUT OUR FEELINGS.” The simplicity of Shaw’s poetry has gained traction within the political background of rising right-wing politics, rising poverty through the economic turmoil of the pandemic and the scenes of rowdy young men shouting through the streets following England’s national football teams’ journey to the Euro 2020 final.

His latest instalment has a similar eloquence, but instead it is inspired by Adam Curtis’s 2021 film Can’t Get You Out of My Head, the documentary outlining the history of folk music and it’s hijacking of musicians such as Cecil Sharp, who used folk music to bolster British pride whilst spreading messages of right-wing radicalisation and racism.

Corbin Shaw, Nowt as Queer as Folk, Guts Gallery personal photography by author, 19 Feb 2022

Shaw uses iconography and cultural elements of folk as a social commentary of rural communities such has his own in Harthill, South Yorkshire. Shaw weaves in his usual slogans from his upbringing such as “PLAYING ON THE PARK UNTIL IT GETS DARK”, but instead of against the background of English nationalism, he plays upon the practice of ‘well flowering’, a pagan custom in which a water source, such as wells, are adorned with flower petals as an appreciation to the Gods for a consistent water supply. Whilst also adding badges to the tapestries, and creating vibrancy, Shaw plays on the myth of contemporary and historical village life, by juxtaposing practices as well-flowering, or adding ribbons to public drinking penalty notice signs to mimic a maypole. By accompanying working class slang with passages of rural myths, Shaw is reminding us of the instability of progress, illustrated by the roots of Brexit through nostalgic ideals of an imperial and independent Britain advertised by right-wing TV personalities.

Corbin Shaw, Nowt as Queer as Folk, Guts Gallery personal photography by author, 19 Feb 2022

The romanticism of Shaw’s tapestries, however, is what drives the work. As a Yorkshireman living in the south, I couldn’t help but smile at the largest piece, undecorated by flowers or badges. It reads like an echo chamber of memories if you’re brought up in those working-class northern cities; “BABYCAKES YOU JUST DON’T KNOW KNOW” was my first song sent on Bluetooth as a child ‘larking’ on the park. “HELLY HANSEN, TRACKIES TUCKED INTO SOCKS” was not only embroidered, but, coincidentally, was the outfit I wore to visit Guts Gallery that day.

Shaw’s work mirrors that of the gallery’s ideals, “when trying to be a force for change, we must all ask ourselves, do you want to uphold traditional views or models, or join in with change?” The artworld cannot sustain its financial disparity, nor can Britain, change is a must, and it seems to have begun with the sprouting of a flower.

Nowt as Queer as Folk runs from 10th February – 3rd March 2022.