Wicked Possibilities – Sarah Macbeth

Sarah Macbeth

Wicked Possibilities: Designing in and with systemic complexity webinar

Creative response

For information on the creative collaborators please see UoB_Student_Profiles

My responses to the Wicked Possibilities webinar take inspiration from Sister Corita Kent, an artist whose work, although previously not acknowledged, is now considered an important contribution to the Pop Art movement. There is a dichotomy present in Kent’s work which was often highly political and, at the same time, referenced the everyday or ephemera, such as packaging, shop front and street signs and commercial branding. These sources hint at a post war era when design was more widely used to influence consumption. Kent was a nun, a teacher and pedagogical innovator. Despite being politically challenging, or perhaps because of this, her work was not part of the critical conversation of the art world at the time[1].

My responses Dream and Power speak to the themes I consider important to the debates around wicked possibilities, a sense of urgency, the apparent uncertainties and the work needed that takes us outside our comfort zone. The need for conversations, conversations that are messy and complex. Also, the need for care, being mindful of the tensions that exist, for example between power and difference. Like Kent’s work, there is tension in the way words are reversed, jumbled up and displaced but also unlikely pairings find some coherence.[2]

I have actively cited the work of women. In the works I quote women writers who have contributed to or commented on the environmental movement in some way – Lavinia Greenlaw and Rebecca Solnit.

Dream – This piece references John Woods description of meta design as ‘a licence to dream’[3]. In A Field Guide to Getting Lost Rebecca Solnit writes about the loss of control when you are lost and adds that “looking forward you constantly acquire moments of arrival, moments of realization, moments of discovery.”[4]

Power – The tensions between power and difference that we have to work with. Lavinia Greenlaw looks to a future where nations and borders are changed or are no more. Today the lines from her poem The Recital of Lost Cities [5] speaks to the migrant crisis as much as it does the climate crisis, both being completely interconnected.

[1] Dackerman, S., & Corita. (2015). Corita Kent and the language of pop. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Art Museums. 17.

[2] Ibid ., 198.

[3] Tham, M. “Wicked possibilities.” Presentation at Wicked Possibilities: Designing in and with systemic complexity [webinar], University of Brighton, UK, July 15, 2020. Available at https://vimeo.com/436882571

[4] Solnit, R. (2006). A field guide to getting lost. Edinburgh: Canongate. 22.

[5] Greenlaw, L. (1993). Night photograph. London: Faber and Faber.


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